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Stanley, James Lee: Alive At Last: In Philadelphia
How many times have you read a reviewer tell you about an underground sensation, or an undiscovered musical gem? Well I can't deny that in my world James Lee Stanley suddenly falls into both of those categories. For while this acoustic/rock/folk/singer-songwriter's debut arrived the year I was born (if you're discreet I'll tell you that was in 1973), not only is the 2016 album Alive At Last: In Philadelphia the first time I've heard him, it is the first time I've heard of him.
So apologies if JLS (no, not that JLS) is a staple of your listening habits, but here's a (very) quick look back at the man who was taught ukulele in his youth, before gaining his first recording contract at the age of just 16. His first, self titled, album arrived through Wooden Nickel Records but unhappy at how they promoted (or didn't) his releases Stanley negotiated his way out of a ten album deal (those were the days…) after only three. A couple of albums and labels later and the singer and guitarist formed Beachwood, his own record label in 1984, when he couldn't convince anyone that a mix of his music and comedy (Stanley is also a respected comedian!) was the way to go and he's been releasing music through that outlet ever since. Although he did share some of that time as a regular (of many parts) on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Collaborations with everyone from from Cliff Eberhardt to Peter Tork have punctuated a solo career many albums deep, the latest of which (well, I say latest, but simply by reason of being at the bottom of an extensive reviews pile (something has to be) Dove: The Soundtrack To The Novel by M. H. Salter has already seen the light of day since) is Alive At Last: In Philadelphia. The idea was simple, take Stanley's acoustic guitar, voice and songs and invite percussionist Cheryl Prashker and Fender bassman Chad Watson to sit with him in front of an audience and perform without any rehearsals or a setlist. The results leave no doubt in either the songs in questions, or the talent on display, as you're swept away by the simple but complex arrangements and beauty of it all, everything from "Going Back To Memphis" to "The More I Drink" captivating and, in equal measure, great fun. Covers of the Stones "Miss You" and The Beatles "Drive My Car" are exquisite, and yet the originals such as "Easy To See" and "Touch Of Magic" are equally impressive. As is "Talk About It" the song written by JLS and Seberin Browne that 'disco queen' Pamela Stanley (James Lee's sister) took into the upper reaches of the charts across the world in 1983.
The in between song chat is hugely entertaining and humorous, illustrating Stanley's honed, comic timing expertly, but in the end it's merely the dressing on the most sumptuous of acoustic rock/folk live albums you could hope to find. I may not have even heard of James Lee Stanley before receiving this CD, but if he books a show anywhere near me, I'll be the first in the queue for tickets!
2. Going Back to Memphis
3. Worry Bout You Intro
4. Worry Bout You
5. Three Monkeys
6. Miss You Intro
7. Miss You
8. Drive My Car Intro
9. Drive My Car
10. Talk About It
11. Easy To See Intro
12. Easy To See
13. All I Ever Wanted
14. The Street Where Mercy Died Intro
15. The Street Where Mercy Died
16. Here We Are Intro
17. Here We Are
18. Do It In His Name
19. Touch Like Magic Intro
20. Touch Like Magic
21. Racing The Moon
22. The More I Drink Intro
23. The More I Drink
Added: March 5th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: James Lee Stanley online
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