JAMES DAY: Natural Things (Label: Expansion)

  • Home
  • Reviews
  • JAMES DAY: Natural Things (Label: Expansion)
JAMES DAY: Natural Things

‘Natural Things’ is James Day’s follow-up to his last Expansion album – ‘Better Days’ – and it carries on where that one left off. That’s to say it’s stuffed with deliciously, crisp, clean modern room soul that will please both dancers and the more cerebral of the brotherhood. Day, of course, isn’t an artist per se. Rather, he’s a writer, producer and arranger – but his secret seems to be in his ears. He has an uncanny knack for knowing what sounds right. He manages to craft music that’s right on the current modern soul vibe. It’s totally contemporary but with deep roots in the magical sounds of the 80s. Equally his status in the higher end of the indie soul scene is such that he can draft in top names to help him create the sounds he has in his head. So, here you can enjoy the talents of people like Jeff Ramsey, U-Nam, Ian Martin, Audrey Wheeler, Walter Beasley, Karen Bernod, Tim Owens, Gavin Christopher and Mikelyn Roderick whose vocal on ‘Speak Love’ kicks proceedings off. The cut has all the ingredients to make it an instant modern room dance classic…but so too have several other tunes. ‘Sponsored By Love’ (with vocals from Dianna Della Cioppa) is a touch faster with a thumping bass line courtesy of Ian Martin who also produces here; the Karen Bernod-led ‘Skin You’re In’ offers more up-tempo moves; while ‘Outa The Funk (featuring Gavin Christopher) is a more down and dirty. There’s lots too for our cerebral friends. Possibly the best is ‘Happy On Hold’. Featuring Jeff Ramsey and U-Nam, it’s a fab mid-paced swayer with thoughtful lyrics. ‘All Kind Of Love’ (the lovely Mikelyn Roderick again) is great ballad while the album’s title cut will perfectly fit the programming schedules at any smooth jazz station. Most surprising tune is ‘Stormy’. Once again the featured vocalist is Ms. Roderick but though the song’s a James Day original, the tone and arrangement could lead you to believe it’s from the pen of Gershwin or Cole Porter. It adds more variety to an already varied soul collection… and that, I think, is where this album scores over its predecessor. It has a rich variety; it changes mood track by track but delivers consistency via Day’s knack to understand what’s relevant on the modern soul scene. This will be one of 2009’s top albums.
(BB) 5/5