sun 22/09/2019

CD: James Morrison - Higher Than Here | reviews, news & interviews

CD: James Morrison - Higher Than Here

CD: James Morrison - Higher Than Here

Beige soul-folk star finds a little edge in an unlikely place

Morrison: smooth

James Morrison is undeniably one of pop’s more likeable and unassuming recent stars. Influential too: his laid-back sound has paved the way for recent megastars like George Ezra and Ed Sheeran. How much that constitutes a good or bad thing, though, divides opinion. Some find Morrison's blend of folk and soul relaxing yet intimate; others have said it's so bland it has its own zen. All, then, agree the amiable singer is a little short on grit. Maybe Higher Than Here can offer something a little more raw? 

The album starts off promisingly enough. “Demons” – an anthem to positive thinking – breezes in with a funky hip hop, autotune motif that feels urban. The main vocals soon take over with a melody that exudes a credible sense of emotion. So far, so good. Unfortunately, it’s largely downhill from here. Over the next 14 tracks, faux-gospel verses alternate with overblown choruses to create a big sound that amounts to very little. Even when Morrison sings of real heartache – as on “Too Late for Lullabies” – he sounds about as deep-down untroubled as James Blunt or Tom Odell. 

The irony, though, is that Morrison isn’t so middle-class and privileged. He's struggled to get where he is, which makes it all the more mysterious why he chooses to play things quite so safe. Higher Than Here may amplify Morrison's American soul credentials, but it never threatens to actually move you. Nor does it ever comes close to pulling off the trick Paolo Nutini did with Caustic Love of melding a full-on commercial sound with real gutsiness. Still, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. It comes in those few moments where Morrison starts to depart from his "easy" trademark sound. "Right Here" for instance is so R'n'B you can almost imagine Beyoncé singing it. Remarkably, that rather suits him.

Overleaf: James Morrison's video for the single "Demons"

Faux-gospel verses alternate with overblown choruses to create a big sound that amounts to very little

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Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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I haven't heard the record yet, however I must say I disagree with your review. Simply because you haven't really gone into any detail on what was so wrong about it. I mean you mention gospels and overblown chorus' but you apply that to the whole record rather than pointing out which tracks particular hit a sour note. But it's also confusing as you praise him heavily at the start, slag off the record then point out one track you like by comparing him to Beyonce? I'm not here to be rude, I'm just simply pointing out that a review is supposed to be a guide for people that may potentially pay for an artist's work but this review doesn't really do that.

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