Simon James - A State Of Mind
The last time #TEAMw21 saw Simon James was at The Green Note where he was previewing songs from this album. Four years in the making and produced by ex Bible front man and songwriter supreme Boo Hewerdene, it was always going to be interesting to hear what the results would be. On the night the songs did have a gravitas about them and the subject matters of the songs aired were a little dark, though none the less entertaining
"State Of Mind" clocks in at twelve tracks, each over four minutes long apart from one, there is therefore plenty of room for Simon to bring his creations to life.
Each song seemingly alluding to the human condition and it's various incarnations and frailties.
The album opens to 28 seconds of mood setting before entering into the uptempo bouncy introduction to the title track, a combination of guitar, percussion and fiddle that readies the listener for something quite upbeat. Simon's opening gambit therefore come as a counterpoint to the overall sound, he has a soft soothing timbre which somehow makes the lyrics delivered seem twice as shocking and impactful.
"There's voices in my head again - making up stories that never end
I never know which one to trust - a broken mind is hard to love"
This subject matter is not normally touched upon by many and Simon deals with it with an incredible sensitivity - with two later lines possibly giving the listener an informed insight as to how this condition feels from the perspective of the sufferer as they ask
"Is it quiet when the storm disappears? - is it quiet when you try to fall? to sleep?"
In many way it sets the scene for the whole album, the arrangements are exceptionally well thought out and musically absorbing - the songs contents can be heavy and a little dark in places, all the time guided by Simon's vocals.
"Fragile" opens to a similarly upbeat intro with a delightful mandolin sound, however the subject matter is once again quite dark - with the narrator being with someone as they approach their final hours.
"We'll fight till it's over - I'll stand right beside you till the end
Cos I know your heart is stronger
I promise I'll do my best to find my strength for you"
Blessed with a beautifully moving violin solo the little snatches of events that we hear about really bring home the point
"O how fragile we really are"
Possibly only those who have been though the events described will be able to say just how realistically the descriptions chime with their own experiences.
"Humans" comes with a cleverly picked guitar and piano lines, perfect percussion and additional choir like backing vocals - it is the kind of perfect adult pop sound that deserves to be heard more often.
"After all we're only humans, without barricades to keep us in
In the end when we get though this we know love is the answer always"
It is definitely one of the albums more joyful uplifting tracks.
No matter where you dip into the album you are assured of genuine heartfelt emotions.
"Blood Runs" is set in the world of living with anothers drug addiction - which may sound a little grim yet the tune attached to it is quite beautiful
"You're higher than the clouds I'll be patient till you're my patient"
The devotional cry of the carer is very poignant.
I'll be here - I'll be here for you love"
The overlapping vocals in the closing section is a masterful piece of performance and production - very moving.
"I've Moved On" is a song offering out advice as however it's a bit like hearing from the person who has stolen your car telling you to go light on the clutch. The subject matter though is not cars but affairs of the heart.
"She's like water in your hands - ready to disappear into the sand"
The chorus says "I've Moved On" yet the fondness and vividness of the details recalled suggests that not to be true
It's hard to imagine who would want to be on the receiving end of these pearls of wisdom
"Just be thankful that you're still her man
Cos if you turn your head in the blink of an eye
She'll have fallen in love with another guy"
Each protestation in the chorus of having moved on seems more anguished. and the accompaniment of a sombre piano and strings only seem to heighten that more.
The final key lines of the song seem to reveal the real truth
She's a firework she lights up the night so be sure to keep the flame alive
I know too well how much it burns - when you let her down and she leaves your world"
"Afterwards" deals with the difficult subject of addressing dealing with death, in terms of the realisation that things that were once automatic, like the regular phone call can no longer happen. This features Boo Hewerdene on additional vocals and is an example of how affecting the most simple of arrangements can be. This is a piano, a guitar some strings and 2 vocals yet the beautiful playing conveys so much.
"There it is that moment when - I stand so still, minded that I couldn't call you
Silly old me wishing that it was still yesterday
I would give anything I would give all I have
If I had one more chance afterwards"
It sees Simon vocally on top form, on a stand out track
"A State Of Mind" is a quite amazing collection of songs, with a rich musicality that runs across every track. The subject matter at times is not light, however each track only seems to yield more with each repeated listen.