James Fresh As A Daisy The Singles
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James became an institution on the British alternative music scene during the ’80s and ’90s thanks to their catchy songwriting and intelligent lyrics. Early in their career, they were praised by the likes of Morrissey and even crashed the acid house-inspired “baggy” scene with the baggy-inspired Sit Down, a hit that helped catapult them to massive fame. Buoyed by the success of that track, however, the band became more experimental and eclectic, changing their sound and creating a unique template for success in Tim Booth’s distinct vocal style and delivery – not to mention his physical prowess in live form. Hits came in the form of the epic Sound, the euphoric Ring The Bells, the anthemic Tomorrow and Destiny Calling and the enchanting change of pace that marked the lush romanticism of Just Like Fred Astaire. Unfortunately, the band decided to split as they seemed to be going from strength to strength, citing solo ambitions as the reason to part company. A farewell tour was memorably delivered but tinged with sadness at the loss of a band that was continually willing to push their sound forward and do something different on the mainstream indie scene. That was 2001 and six years later they’ve decided to reform, hit the road and record some new material. But as a reminder of the story so far, they’ve put out another greatest hits compilation (to rival 1998’s Best Of) in the form of the double CD Fresh As A Daisy: The Singles. As its name suggests, this is all about the hits rather than the personal favourites and picks up the story of the whole career – from early take-notice offerings Folklore and If Things Were Perfect to the songs that defined their biggest successes. What’s most striking about the songs (particularly during the second CD) is just how timeless many of them are. Whereas a lot of “baggy” tracks contain a retro glow that keeps them rooted in the era, a lot of James’ work seems to transcend such boundaries. Sit Down does sound dated and was even rubbished by the band themselves as one of their least favourite recordings – but songs like Sound, Ring The Bells, Born of Frustration and the beautifully under-rated Say Something continue to sound as fresh and inspired as they were way back when… And it’s only through listening to an extensive compilation such as this that you begin to realise how many hits James delivered, from the easy sing-along value of live favourites such as Destiny Calling, Laid and Come Home to the more thoughtful moments such as She’s A Star and Getting Away With It (All Messed Up). Of the two new tracks, Who Are You? expertly combines the vocal theatrics of songs like Sound with an altogether grittier guitar sound to produce a song easily capable of appealing to both their existing following and the uninitiated, and Chameleon is a clever stop-start track that’s delivered with verve. So, whether you’re intending to buy it as a reminder of memories old, or trying to discover what the fuss is all about, or even just playing catch up, Fresh As A Daisy (clever name) is well worth a place in anyone’s record collection.