James Day - Better Days (2006)

James Day
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Soul music's heydeys of the 60s and 70s were filled with great singers, but arguably the genre grew to new heights on the backs of songwriters.  From Smokey Robinson and Holland-Dozier Holland in Detroit to Curtis Mayfield in Chicago to David Porter and Isaac Hayes in Memphis to Gamble & Huff in Philadelphia, songwriters paved the way for the golden age of Soul and created songs that are now considered the musical centerpiece of an entire generation - black and white.  The last 15 years have been less kind to Soul Music, as, other than Babyface and a couple others, it is tough to name songwriters who have created the kind of classic material that folks will be singing 30 years from now.  So when an extremely talented songwriter comes along, he or she should be cherished.  That's what made Introducing Gordon Chambers a treat last year and that's what makes James Day's first full-length CD, Better Days, one of the best albums of 2006.  He is, flat out, a

Soul music's heydeys of the 60s and 70s were filled with great singers, but arguably the genre grew to new heights on the backs of songwriters.  From Smokey Robinson and Holland-Dozier Holland in Detroit to Curtis Mayfield in Chicago to David Porter and Isaac Hayes in Memphis to Gamble & Huff in Philadelphia, songwriters paved the way for the golden age of Soul and created songs that are now considered the musical centerpiece of an entire generation - black and white.  The last 15 years have been less kind to Soul Music, as, other than Babyface and a couple others, it is tough to name songwriters who have created the kind of classic material that folks will be singing 30 years from now.  So when an extremely talented songwriter comes along, he or she should be cherished.  That's what made Introducing Gordon Chambers a treat last year and that's what makes James Day's first full-length CD, Better Days, one of the best albums of 2006.  He is, flat out, a great songwriter. 

Day knocked many folks out with last year's Remember When EP, and here he shows it was no fluke.  The best two tracks of that disc ("Don't Waste the Pretty" and the irresistible "Brick By Brick") return on Better Days and the title cut from the EP is redefined here as a brilliant ballad breathtakingly performed by Catherine Russell.  Day also adds a half dozen new compositions, and they are uniformly strong (check out especially the title cut, "Can't Argue Like This" and "Will You Still Believe").  Even quality material can get lost with the wrong singer, but Better Days boasts a first rate cast of vocalists, especially Jeff Ramsey, Audrey Wheeler and Russell.  The new disc also has far richer and more compelling arrangements that Day's lower budget EP, with nice touches like the sax solo on the title cut, a forlorn harmonica opening on "Remember When" and Jim Gately's fine guitar work on "Will You Still Believe?" 

Better Days is ostensibly a salute to 80s soul music, but really comes off as a timeless disc of quality pop and soul music, superbly performed.  Musical world, please meet James Day.  He'll be around awhile.  Very highly recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 
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