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Gold Mother - James
Member Name: paranormalhandy
Gold Mother - James
Date: 29/04/09, updated on 29/04/09 (25 review reads)
Advantages: Sublime atmospherics and anthemics
Disadvantages: Pretension may offend, politics may seem clumsy
Perpetually sitting down and coming home, James were and are quite different to the rump of Manc-rock-dance bands, and this is very different to your average 1990 Madchester album.
The original ten-tracker, featuring the songs "Hang On" and "Crescendo", is a dark and swirling collection of songs, kicking off with the anthemic "Come Home". A club favourite with a klaxon trumpet line, it was and is a tremendous start to the album. Following immediately afterwards, the tense "Government Walls" showcases Saul Davies' viola playing, and wrong-foots any listener expecting an easy listen. "God Only Knows", however, is a dated point on the album - its technoid sneering at evangelist preachers now seems every day of nineteen years old. "How Much Suffering" is a fun punk-folk belch of a song which harks bark to their earlier career ("Hymn for a Village" or "Are You Ready?"). Side one ends with the mighty "Crescendo", a semi-improvised almost-instrumental showpiece for Andy Diagram's trumpet; its alternate title of "The Last Whale" encapsulates its sound perfectly.
Side two opens with "How Was It For You?", the closest James ever came to a generic Madchester track - the lyrics are fine, the music has tension, but ultimately their first single on Fontana is a rather dull affair. Track 7 is another lowpoint on the album, the domestic love story "Hang On", which was rightly culled when it was re-ordered and re-released in 1991. The album picks up mightily with the last three tracks though, starting with the shimmering "Walking the Ghost", a direct reflection of James' influences at the time, particularly the cool ambience of Julee Cruise. "Gold Mother" is quite simply bonkers, a medidation on the birth of Tim Booth's first child, with added backing vocals from the Inspiral Carpets - it is the Madchester "Bohemian Rhapsody"! Finally, the album concludes with the lilting, beautiful "Top of the World", a song which would find future echoes in their subsequent work with Brian Eno. Still performed live to this day, it rather appropriately (if pantomimically) usually features Booth "floating" on wires above the crowd while singing.
The 1991 reissue is similar, but has noticeable differences: the appearance of a slightly dancey reworking of "Come Home" (by far the more famous version, as is usually the way), and the absence of the wonderful "Crescendo" and the rather less wonderful "Hang On". Instead, forgettable sub-Velvets single "Lose Control" is shoehorned in, along with the albatross that is "Sit Down". Hugely beloved by the British public to this day, all I would say about "Sit Down" is, if you like it, scour eBay for the original 1989 recording. The four minute piano solo will blow your socks off!
For completion sake, fans may also want to investigate the 2001 reissue, which is a mish-mash of both previous versions ("Hang on" and "Crescendo" are tacked on as extra tracks, but "Come Home" is still in its remix form) along with the legendary ten-minute audience sing-along of "Sit Down" at the G-Mex. However, I would just stick to the (long-deleted but cheap if you get it second-hand) 1990 version, especially if you are a casual fan or interested by-stander. It's the album as the band originally intended.
Summary: Far more than just a fun Madchester album, there's gold in them there album