Mita [Released 13.10.14]
If you pair together a young up and coming singer-songwriter with a veteran rock producer sparks will surely fly. Jim Stapley is no ordinary singer and Tony Visconti is an A-list producer, and ‘Long Time Coming’ is a great record because of the quality and variety of Jim’s songs, which are strong enough to house Tony Visconti’s expansive arrangements and polished production.
‘Long Time Coming’ is full of passionate vocals, great playing and songs that have commercial pull to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Jim explores raw boned, bluesy tinged rock, white boy soul with sandpaper vocals, shades of Americana and heartfelt ballads with a big chorus resolution.
The album treads a delicate balance between all those elements. And while Jim opens in rock bluster mode on ‘No Good Reason’, he’s just as happy on weepy ballads such as ‘Heartstrings’, ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ or the closing Jackson Brown style ‘Shield’. He has both the vocal range and musical vision with which to leave his personal stamp.
From the opening exclamatory yell of ‘No Good Reason’, Jim’s unashamedly draws on such retro influences such as Paul Rogers, Frankie Miller and Steve Marriott, but he has his own vocal styling and above all his own quality songs. He’s also a young man in a hurry, as barely 40 seconds into ‘No Good Reason’ he impressively hits his stride on the booming chorus.
‘Laid To Waste’ has a similar contemporary feel with its quiet-to-loud dynamics as producer Visconti fills the chorus with an expansive string quartet arrangement and a layered sound which gives it a feeling of grandeur.
‘Hurricane’ is a potential single, that opens quietly as Jim portentously sings: “You leave the devil on the corner but he’s never more than a block behind.” As the track explodes, he soars over the repeated chorus and finishes on a descending primal growl.
Not everything works perfectly however, as ‘Grey Matter’ is in danger of being a triumph of bluster over substance. The big choral backing, Bowie style guitar break and ‘wooh wooh’s almost swamp the song, but the lyrics still impress: “let me burst into flames just to smoke you out and get you out of my mind, you’re just a stormy cloud and its raining”. ‘Breaking Out’ too, doesn’t quite convince us that: “its time to fly” , as the song relies a shade too heavily on the bv’s to convince. That said, ‘Long Time Coming’ is strong enough to be Jim’s breakout album.
The album gains strength from its subtle sequencing as evidenced by the change of pace on a brace of songs that showcase a more restrained side of his impressive vocal range.
The beautifully phrased, long distance relationship song ‘Heartstrings’ is worthy of the big string arrangement, as Jim balances feel with gravitas and slips up a gear into a Tim Buckley style falsetto for emotional emphasis. His voice soars again over a sonorous cello and string section, on a chorus that perfectly offsets his soulful delivery.
The complementary ‘New Religion’ is a piano and organ led ballad with gospel backing. Jim meets the challenge head-on in a Steve Marriott and Joe Cocker mode. It’s a great example of white boy soul singing on another album highlight.
‘My Way Home ’ is a rock ballad with an acoustic opening, some vicious slide playing and a Celtic feel, that is notable for the double tracked harmonies and a chorus that Rod Stewart would appreciate. He further rocks out on ‘Made Of Stone’ and brings real presence to bear on the passionate ‘My Own Worst Enemy’.
‘Long Time Coming’ is a major step up for Jim Stapley. His songs have structural depth, big hooks and engaging lyrics, while Tony Visconti’s production never oversteps the mark and makes the best songs sound memorable. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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