In the constant stream of new stuff to listen to that arrives here at CB, occasionally a name appears that makes you go “hey, is that HIM ?”. Well that’s exactly what happened when James Stevenson popped into our inbox, and some memoried from a dark and distant (crimped and backcombed hair with eyeliner) memories came flooding back.. would that be THE James Stevenson of Gene Loves Jezebel (among lots of others) fame ??
Yep, that’s the very chap.
Starting off in the 70s with UK punks Chelsea, Stevenson’s CV reads like a who’s who of the UK alternative rock scene. After stints with Generation X, The aforementioned Gene Loves Jezebel, The Cult, The Alarm and a shitload of others. He’s been around for a while, but it’s still taken him 38 years to get round to releasing his first solo effort,
From the first notes of album opener Suzi’s Problem it’s clear that this is one of those albums that’s going to grab your attention. The guitar sound conjures up images of 80s rock clubs as it smolders with a laid back intensity, with a fantastic old-school guitar solo from the days when it wasn’t about how many notes you could batter out, but about how much of your soul you could fit in.
If you had 80s goth flashbacks from Suzi’s Problem then those would be confirmed by next track Go Mister!, an ode to a speeding ticket, and a song that pretty much has it all. Of course the guitar work is exemplary but the groove gets under your skin and some outstanding backing vocals lift proceedings to a whole new level.
Actually, the backing vocals are pretty damn good throughout, but what would you expect from a chorus line consisting of, among others, Tracie “Daughter if Ian” Hunter and Maggi “Sister of Mick” Ronson. Having worked with almost every band of note from the alt-rock firmament it’s no surprise that the whole album sees James call in favours from a stellar array of musicians. There’s way too many to list but the album has alumnii of bands ranging from The Sex Pistols to Jethro Tull (via all points of the musical spectrum in between) lending their considerable talents.
From the rallying call of Come On People, through the anthemic Naturally Wired with it’s wailing guitars and the downright funky Give It Up, to the haunting simplicity of album closer I’ll Know Where I’m Going When I Get There, this album is an exquisite masterclass in understatement. This is Classic Rock meets old fashioned Goth, served up with an accessible, radio friendly vibe. I’m not sure if it’s the perfectly crafted solos, the intelligent songwriting or the engaging melodic feel that makes this so special, but whatever it is there’s no denying that James Stevenson has put together one of the finest albums of the year.