Album Reviews

Jamie Lidell – Jim

(Warp) UK release date: 28 April 2008

It came as something of a shock when Jamie Lidell upped sticks from his leftfield Super Collider work, picked up the microphone and put his soulful voice to good use.

The result, the splendid Multiply album, majored on soul and P-funk to often exhilarating effect, and this was enhanced by some way out live shows that found Lidell creating tracks on his own from scratch that very night, putting both vocal and technical virtuosity to extraordinary use.

Jim continues the soulful trend initiated by its predecessor – but immediately begs the question of whether its author has gone one step too far this time. For as admittedly affirming and polished as this album is, there’s little of the electronic maverick, the risk taker – he’s been muscled out of the picture.

The prodigious Lidell voice makes up for this in some way, and you could hardly fail to warm to the way in which the handclaps of Another Day breeze in, the soul credentials there for all to bear witness. The lightly husky tones recall a different era of singing, which, in a year already shaping up to be dominated by retrospective soul sounds, would seem to be a pertinent sense of timing.

Yet one lyric stands out from this opener. “I used to scream when a whisper would do”, begins verse two. A sign, perhaps, that Lidell has chosen to mellow, and that while he throws himself wholeheartedly into the soul music here, an overgenerous application of studio polish means that he hasn’t got as much to play with as he’s been used to in the past.

On Multiply, tracks such as When I Come Back Around dazzled with keyboard solos and a thumping good chorus. Here the piano hammers through a solo on Wait For Me, but it sounds less edgy and more contrived, the emotional input strangely absent.

For sure it’s a harsh approach to take to Lidell’s music, for in the enjoyable open air bluster of Hurricane, or the sweet tones of Another Day, he’s irresistible. It’s just that in offering such accurately observed pastiche, he seems to be closing off the more radical aspects of his musical personality.

So while a cautious welcome is given to this near-flawless interpretation of soul music, it is done with the observation that another record of such polish will be ultimately empty, and more than a little disappointing.

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