By Darsha Indrajith
Most good albums have a track that grabs your attention and stays in your head. None of the songs on James Morrison‘s new album, “The Awakening”, however, seem to have that impact and staying power.
The only track that is more noticeable than the others is “Up” simply because it is a duet with Jessie J. The song seems like an unsuccessful attempt at replicating the success of “Broken Strings“, a duet with Nelly Furtado from Morrison’s previous album “Songs For You, Truths For Me”, which is Morrison’s most successful single yet. While it is great to hear a different side of Jessie J, her voice lacks the strength that this song needed to make it a hit. “Up” is about Morrison’s difficult relationship with his alcoholic father, who left when Morrison was very young.
In fact, the majority of the album is inspired by the death of Morrison’s father and how he dealt with it. “Person I Should Have Been”, which reflects Morrison’s Motown influences, was a poem that he wrote after speaking to his ill father.
“I Won’t Let You Go” is one of the better tracks on the album and indicates a shift from the first two songs, which are distinctively darker and death-related. Morrison’s references to his girlfriend and his new role as a father are evident in the chorus: “This is no time to be alone/ I won’t let you go/ If you sky is falling, just take my hand and hold it/ You don’t have to be alone, alone”. The song is reminiscent of Morrison’s first album, “Undiscovered”, in that it seems more raw and emotional than the rest of the album.
The lack of emotion and rawness is the fundamental problem with “The Awakening”. The album deals with intense emotions, yet these are not evident when listening to it. The lyrics, when read separately, are phenomenal, yet Morrison fails to translate his pain into song. This is perhaps due to the use of “soaring strings” that drown out Morrison’s rasping voice and any emotion it conveys.
Morrison’s first two albums conveyed aspects of the soul music that he was inspired by as a child. “The Awakening”, however, lacks soul and substance. It is Morrison’s first album with his new label, Island Records, and a new producer, Bernard Butler. This new collaboration was meant to signal a new direction for Morrison. “I basically just wanted it to feel like a first album, in the sense of me having woken up as an artist and a person,” Morrison said in an interview with Blues & Soul magazine.
While one can appreciate that Morrison wants to move away from love ballads, the emotion he showed in these in simply not present in “The Awakening”, which is why it comes off as a mediocre album. Morrison sounds the same even though he has attempted to go in a new direction and the album is exactly what he did not want it to be – “lukewarm”.
/Credit: Youtube.com – JamesMorrisonVEVO/