Who is Lamont James?
In an age of ‘by-the-numbers’, disposable pop, Lamont James’ music resonates like a thunderclap across the ether. Think The Velvet Underground meets Burt Bacharach via, say, Big Star, and you begin to have a sense of what James is trying to accomplish. His lyrics are clever and compelling; his sound is pure rock ‘n’ roll and classic pop – but with a truly modern sensibility.
And his melodies will burrow their way into your brain.
James is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who is equally at home behind a drum kit or on a guitar. He is also a classically-trained pianist and singer. By the tender age of 5, he had begun his musical career, creating his first compositions while attending the Royal Conservatory of Music.
As a touring pro with thousands of performances to his credit, Toronto-born Lamont James called the world his home for the better part of a decade. Traveling Europe and living in Chile, New York City and Toronto, he performed in various incarnations, redefining himself with various bands and honing his craft, finding his voice.
Until he simply hit a wall.
Tired, and disillusioned with the business of music, James returned to school. In a bid to secure a ‘straight career’, he earned an M.Sc. and began working in the field of speech-language pathology, doing voice-over work on the side.
“I thought I was done with music… Apparently, it wasn’t done with me.”
The music, however, refused to be silenced. Upon his return to Toronto, James commenced the process of writing and recording his debut solo album in earnest. Driven by a powerful vision for this album, James worked doggedly whenever and wherever he could, recording Poppies in studios, basements, apartments, via email—whatever it took…
“The songs wouldn’t leave me alone. They demanded attention”.
James indeed plays most of the instruments on the record, but also enlisted the aid of such distinguished players as Kurt Schefter on lead guitar, legendary Toronto bass player Mike Zingrone and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra string and horn sections.
When recording, he insists on doing all his own vocals, saying, “It’s better to do my own backing parts because I have an easier time than others putting up with me in the studio.”
Whether alone or accompanied by some of the finest musicians Toronto has to offer, Lamont James offers an exciting new fabric to an often threadbare genre. This is intelligent music. It is music for grownups.
Lamont James is Power Pop at its finest!
A new album is in the works, so stay tuned…
Rock and Roll Saves Lives
‘POPPIES’ – A review by writer / filmmaker, Mark Logan.
I am listening to the debut album of Lamont James, a Toronto based musician who has recently released an impressive batch of songs.
James’ music seamlessly blends epic 70’s pop/rock stylings underpinned by lush baroque orchestration, and infused with sun-filled harmonies.
What immediately strikes the listener is the confidence of the work. Also known as a drummer, James has physically and figuratively stepped out from behind the kit, penning and performing infectious and well-crafted songs.
More impressively, he has managed to produce a complex and nuanced album that raises the level of the material with sensitive arrangements and sophisticated, layered sounds that surely should be the terrain of a more experienced producer. If this is the effort of a DIY basement musician, James is destined for larger things.
A fan of Pete Townshend, James utilizes French horns in “She’s Going Higher” that evoke “Quadrophenia” but transcend any clichés with the sheer verve of the song. Like Townshend’s, his canvas is large and complex and James sets the bar high as he reaches and mostly attains lofty heights on the shoulders of his heroes. “Song of You” is another case in point.
“Maisie” is a whimsical confection that in an alternative universe could be an upbeat theme song for a popular television show. There is a Beatle-esque/Penny Lane line that surfaces, but the infusion of banjo roots the song. This is Kinks-like in its exuberance.
Time and time again, James’ raw musical ability wins the listener over. His harmonies are sublime and … his voice has impressive range that is rare these days; and one gets the impression that it has room to grow.
Let there be no doubt, there is rock and roll; James is a great drummer after all. “Beat Sauce” is perfect and just when the chewy three chord riff is about to prove repetitive he throws in a complicated guitar break that lifts it off the ground.
“Sun Brings You Home” is like the bastard love child of Townshend’s “Can’t Explain” who grows up listening to the Knack. James’ knack is to mine a very satisfying vein of nostalgic, inventive sounds that are at once familiar and yet new. Familiar, because they are good songs played really well and there used to be a lot of good, well-played music around. This isn’t some trendy knock off.
Is it commercial? You bet. Can you hear all the instruments and understand what the singer is saying? Amazingly, yes! It has tear-ass guitar solos and it even reminds us how good “Picture My Face” was.
Even the ambient “Käuzendüx” and the stripped down “Look Up To The Bull” are weirdly effective, demonstrating the range of James’ interests.
All in all, sonically superior. Who knew? Most of us, actually. Now it is the world’s turn to discover Lamont James.