Since 1995, singer James Christian has had an ongoing solo career in parallel with his career as lead singer / composer / frontman in his band House Of Lords. Ok, so back in 1995, House Of Lords had split up but then again, his debut solo album Rude Awakening (1995) was supposed to be the fourth House Of Lords album and his second one, the underwhelming Meet The Man (2004) was recorded at the same time as the original House Of Lords – minus keyboardist and founder Gregg Giuffria – had reunited and released the even more underwhelming Power And The Myth. Since then, Christian has done both things plus he helps his missus Robin Beck out with her career as well, writing, singing back-ups and tours as her bass player. So it’s quite a busy guy we’re talking about here.
Christian’s last solo album Lay It All On Me (2013) was a very vital and solid solo effort and easily his best since the debut and the fact that House Of Lords are releasing very good albums – their last one, Saint Of The Lost Souls was their best in years and years – hopes for a real knock-out comes for a visit when it’s time for solo album no. 4. Now, Christian have said himself prior to the release of the album that it will be a lot softer and mellower than his day job, more West Coast and Pop and less AOR and Melodic Rock. Well, since I know Christian still sits on some impressing set of pipes and that he and his co-writers knows a great song when they hear it, I really don’t care how soft or hard the album is, the important thing is that the songs are good and with this guy, they usually are.
Opening track “Heaven Is A Place In Hell” gives the album a start in the best of ways. It’s an uptempo Pop/Rock tune with typical James Christian melodies that with a heavier arrangement easily could go for a House Of Lords track. It’s a bit more Pop than what House Of Lords usually brings to the table but it’s a very direct and catchy tune and to me a clear future single. “Wild Boys” is a big Pop song that reminds me of mid 80’s chart rock with lots of synthesizers. The chorus is very hit-laden and again, the vocal melodies could easily be used for Christian’s day job. But with a title like “Wild Boys”, I had hoped for a more raunchy sound. It’s a very good song, though. The album’s title track – and the first single – is a ballad based on acoustic guitar and when the band comes in it takes a laid-back power ballad route with a big Pop feel. It’s a memorable tune and the refrain is very sticky. I really like this one.
“Jesus Wept” is a mid-paced half-ballad that holds a groove, a fantastic main melody and a brilliantly infectious chorus with the hook of hooks. To me, this is single material because it contains major hit potential. “World Of Possibility” is a very laid-back, pop-laden ballad, very smooth and silky – almost too soft and groveling. It’s a good song but it doesn’t hook me up. “Sidewinder”, on the other hand, is a rougher kind of rocker, more guitar driven and hard-rocking than the rest of the tunes so far. It sports a good, meaty groove with a whole bunch of catchiness and it sounds a lot like House Of Lords, to the point of me suspecting it might be a left over House Of Lords tune. It’s a very good tune and the Melodic Hard Rock vibe is a much needed break from the more soft sounds before it. But with “I Won’t Cry” it’s ballad time again albeit a more dark and heavy one and it’s even a bit bluesy. Done in a more Melodic Rock kind of way, it would be perfect for House Of Lords.
Another slower paced, acoustic guitar-driven and laid-back ballad is “If There’s A God”. It’s a bit darker but still very much a Pop song more than anything else. The tune actually sticks with me without being that memorable and it doesn’t sport any hit-potential at all. It’s actually a bit too mellow and moody but a good song never the less. “Love Is The Answer” is a Pop power ballad on the heavier side of Pop that brings an extremely catchy AOR chorus along – a hit in my book. Great tune! “Black Wasn’t Black” is more proper Rock – a hard rocking AOR piece that could just as well have been a House Of Lords tune. It’s pretty punchy, dark and groovy, catchy with an incredible hook – awesome! The album closes with the melancholy and mellow ballad “Amen”, very stripped and dark in sound. Lyrically it feels very personal to Christian but the smoothness and middle-of-the-road sounds of the song makes it quite bland. It doesn’t really do it for me and I think that “Black Wasn’t Black” is a better closer.
As James said beforehand, this is way more mellow, laid-back and Pop than House Of Lords and while I think it’s a good thing – it would be pointless for him to make a solo album that sounds like House Of Lords – the biggest problem with this record is that it’s too laid-back and mellow. I have no problems with the songs – almost every one of those are splendid, very well-written with all the hooks in the world and sports some great arrangements, it’s just that the production here makes the album hard to get into and make it stick. The way it feels now is that the record is very good while listening but afterwards it’s hard to remember the songs and you’re kind of done with it, it doesn’t give you the urge to put it on again and again. The performances on the album, however, are all faultless and Christian do have some impressing set of pipes. It’s a good album but I do prefer House Of Lords every day of the week.
More James Christian reviews:
1. Heaven Is A Place In Hell
2. Wild Boys
4. Jesus Wept
5. World Of Possibility
7. I Won’t Cry
8. If There’s A God
9. Love Is The Answer
10. Black Wasn’t Black