Be Opened By The Wonderful is a perfect capture of the evolution of a project that might well have had a different tracklisting and arrangements had it been recorded after the recent tour which saw over a dozen more songs performed. It eschews the easy path of an orchestral Best Of, giving Joe the freedom to select the songs that he feels work best with the addition of orchestration and a choir and allowing his ear and love of the band to combine to create magic. James are at their best when they work with kindred spirits who understand the unique and complex DNA that make up a band that has shape-shifted through four decades refusing to stand still and compromise.
James have announced details of their “Be Opened By The Wonderful – 40 Years Orchestrated” album and revealed the first track to be taken from it, a version of their 1997 Top 10 single She’s A Star. The album was recorded at Blueprint Studios in January 2023 with the ORCA22 Orchestra lead by Andra Vornicu and the Manchester Inspirational Voices choir, directed by Wayne Ellington. The album was orchestrated and conducted by Joe Duddell, who performed those duties with the band on their 2011 orchestral tour.
Tim Booth says of the album which celebrates forty years since the release of James’ first single Jimone on Factory Records – “Life begins at 40. For our midlife euphoria we recorded a double orchestral album of some of our deepest cuts. If you already have a golden ticket, you’ll be catching this on tour and at Latitude festival. Bring your wings and come ready to fly.”
Joe Duddell commented “Having attended the first 6 years of Latitude Festival, I’m excited to be involved in James’ special Main Stage Show this year in a UK Festival exclusive. James have always been a great band at Festivals, mixing their extensive well loved back catalogue with newer songs which immediately sounds as they too have been around forever.”
Confession time, James have always been a band I love but the last few years I’ve not enjoyed their output quite as much, it’s not quite matched up to songs like ‘Born Of Frustration’. Don’t get me wrong, they have always made interesting, quality records, it’s just been a while since one of them hooked me quite as quickly or totally as this album. I almost felt taken back to my days of sitting on various disgusting night club floors while belting out ‘Sit Down’ (by no means their best song). I’m now wondering if I’ve been fair to some of their more recent albums and am planning to go back and listen to them again.
Enough about me though, you want to know if this album is any good, does it keep up the high standards set at the beginning? The answer is emphatically yes. This is no longer the Indie Rock James of their early career, there are a variety of different genres and soundscapes on offer, with there being no weak link. Standouts for me are ‘XYST’, ‘Isabella’, and ‘Getting Myself Into’ but there genuinely isn’t a song on here I didn’t enjoy, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that.
This is an album that doesn’t just impact you on an emotional level, it also makes you want to dance, to sway to it, to sing along. This is a band on top of their game, they have also been a quality live act, this album should sound excellent when we finally get back to gigs. Go buy, download or do whatever you need to do to listen to this album, it’s worth the effort. Personally I think I will invest in a vinyl copy.5/5 (100%)
British band James’ 16th studio album comes barreling out as a creature created by the tumultuous last couple of years. All The Colours of You discusses the topics that formulated 2020 and 2021—from the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, protests and the murder of George Floyd. The songs go from anthemic to a sweaty club beat, all wrapped up in a blissfully light rock tone throughout.
“Beautiful Beaches” is the change in tone the album needed, something to loosen up the sadness of “Recover.” The track sounds like a warm summer day, a perfect day for the beach. It’s light and airy, with the beat of a coming of age soundtrack, kicking in with a little bit of sadness with the electronic sounds that begin and end the song. The drum beats towards the end are sprightly, making sure to not bring down the energy that the song created.
A funky electronic club-type beat introduces itself with the song “Wherever It Takes Us.” The beat bops up and down, perfectly melting with the rock sound. The vocals are close up and in your face as if Tim Booth (lead singer of James) is telling a very specific and intricate story right to the listener. The song plays out almost like a spoken word poem, with wondrous imagery and a grandiose chorus “we’re all in wherever it takes us.” Towards the middle of the song, a woman’s voice appears, weaving and winding its way through the song, smooth and sultry—perhaps this is the “she” referenced throughout the song. Either way, one thing is clear: she’s “made of stars.”
All The Colours of You captures a lot of real moments from 2020, and along with that, it also captures a majestic “multiverse” of songs that will float its listeners out to space. A delicious mixture of electronic creativity and the sadness that comes with realism, James have created an album that’s relatable, healing and that will offer up a place to escape.All the Colours of You is “made of stars.”
The work this band has produced over the years and their contribution to live music is truly a force to be reckoned with. You may hold close James for many different reasons; for me it’s being the soundtrack to the American Pie era, which makes it all the more exciting to see they’re still part of popular culture and creating narratives on today’s history.
A personal favourite from All The Colours Of You is the closing track XYST. The dramatic drum beats, perfectly matched with the band’s beautiful harmonies singing “You’re one of us”, create such an eerie sound, and closing with a lion’s roar there’s a real punk element to it and I just love it. James co-founder and bass player Jim Glennie simply calls the music “massive”. Tracks on this album are among the most arena-ready in James’ 38-year history.
Other curveballs are thrown, with the electronic beats of Wherever it Takes Us possibly the best of that particular bunch with its LCD Soundsystem-like intro. Its verses are somewhat uninspiring but the chorus sticks like super glue. Contrastingly, the jangly guitars that are another band trait rarely appear aside from the motorik Isabella.
James also have a noted ability to churn out less propulsive but deeply resonant moments that encourage a sea of cigarette lighters. Duly, three tracks plough a similar field (Recover, Miss America and Xyst) and recall ‘Laid’ classic Out To Get You in either melody, structure or overall staging. Miss America, though, perhaps offers the most compelling lyrical content as Booth sings of the “love of guns” and “man with the tan” that we associate with our American friends.
‘All The Colours of You’ seems to have reversed a slide that pointed to James petering out in unspectacular fashion. Almost 40 years and 16 albums into their career, then, Booth and team are still relevant, still mesmerising and still euphoric…some of the time at least.3.5/5
James have always had an uplifting element to their songs, though on the album opener, ZERO, Booth offers the opening line that “We’re all gonna die”. This reflective track deals with our mortality as drum beat marks the passing of time. “We are ageing like time” he continues. Happy days!
Wherever It Takes You is more spoken word than actually singing though the chorus has that uplifting vibe that you get when the band are in a more upbeat mood.
Magic Bus is James at their best on a track that will become a live favourite when they tour again; a bass driven melodic track that seems to continue the theme of mortality.
Whilst some of their peers might seem to be stuck in the slow lane, James continue to drive ahead on this colourful journey.4/5 (80%)
With their new album ‘All The Colours Of You‘, Manchester indie-rockers James capture us once more. The record showcases the group’s unfailing commitment to songwriting and hooks us from the start.
Tim also delivers one of the most riveting vocal performances to hit the indie chart in recent memory. Similarly, the variety of sounds on show produces a soundscape unlike any other.
Overall, ‘All The Colours Of You‘ is a tremendous indie summertime listen. It also demonstrates that the group is still as popular as they were decades ago.5/5
The grand ambitions of James are definitely in bold on Colours, such as the pressing title track and the uplifting single “Beautiful Beaches”. They have the emotional stadium size more akin to big eighties outfits from when they got their start, than either the slamming pop or intimate indie of today. Yet they also mix that with other elements, such as the beats-into-brightness of “Isabella” or the ditty aspect in “Getting Myself Into”.7.7/10
Two things have remained consistent throughout the band’s history: Tim Booth’s distinctive voice and songs with lyrical depth, which you’ll find in great supply in these songs.
All the Colours of You is James’ latest album, and it shows the band continuing with a more layered and experimental sound, to the point that it’s hard to know where you would file this album in a record store. If a group only has a matter of seconds to catch the listener’s attention, then you can say James accomplished that particular mission. The first lyrics to the opening song “Zero” are “We’re all gonna die. That’s the truth.”
Ultimately, the song’s message is that we’re all going to die, which is why you shouldn’t live unfulfilled. The melody is a swirl of guitar, piano, and strings. While the lyrics are thought-provoking, this song could be condensed from its duration of nearly six minutes. Also, for a song with such a hopeful message, it doesn’t come across as particularly joyful.
In the 1990s, the band recorded Wah Wah, a free-form album produced by Brian Eno. It was something different for James, but they’re still recording in that same spirit. “Wherever It Takes Us” is a good example of this. The melody is unpredictable. The verses’ lyrics are spoken and come across as something you might hear at a poetry reading. The chorus’ lyrics are sung like a church choir to add to the unpredictability.
All the Colours of You is a complex album. While its part pop and part rock, ultimately, it isn’t easy to classify. Some of the songs would fit well in the soundtrack of a film adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel. Other songs would fit better in the soundtrack of a coming-of-age film. Still, for all its complexity, there’s no song you find yourself singing after you’ve listened to the album a couple of times.6/10
All in all, All The Colours Of You is a great addition to James’ vast back catalogue and it’s an album that both old and new fans should love. It’s great to hear them tackling hard themes such as climate change and the covid pandemic in such a stylistic way and the more modern elements that they’ve added sound great, so make sure you check the album out when you can!
Jacknife Lee’s sleek burnishing and mild deconstruction, nodding to dance music and current pop, helps James still sound big if not exactly contemporary. If some subtlety is sacrificed in still reaching for pop’s brass ring, and the curiosity and craft isn’t always inspired, this is another honourable chapter in an enduring career.3/5