is the tenth studio album
A studio album is an album made up of tracks recorded in the controlled environment of a recording studio. A studio album contains newly written and recorded or previously unreleased or remixed material, distinguishing itself from a compilation or reissue album of previously recorded material, or...
by British alternative rock
Alternative rock is a genre of rock music and a term used to describe a diverse musical movement that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular by the 1990s...
James are a British rock band from Manchester, England. They formed in 1982 and were active throughout the 1980s, but most successful during the 1990s. Their hit singles include "Come Home", "Sit Down", and "She's a Star" as well as their American College Radio hit "Laid"...
. It was released on April 7, 2008.
Recording and production
After a successful reunion tour, as well as playing a variety of festivals over summer 2007, James teamed up with producer and musician Lee 'Muddy' Baker
Lee "Muddy" Baker is a UK-based singer-songwriter, producer, performer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.-Early years:...
to start work on a new studio album (Baker was previously most notable for his work alongside James' singer Tim Booth
Timothy John Booth is an English singer, dancer, and actor best known as the lead singer from the band James.-1980s:Booth was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England and attended Shrewsbury School...
on Booth's 2004 solo album, Bone
The band, with the help of Baker, built their own studios at the Chateau de Warsy in France, a studio that consisted of a main studio as well as personal studios for each member of the band in their rooms. This allowed each member to constantly feed ideas back to Baker in the main studio. Baker also allowed the band to jam at leisure, a technique that has been credited with creating some of the band's most successful songs including "Sit Down
"Sit Down" is one of the most famous songs by James, released in 1989 by Rough Trade Records. In its seven-minute original form, the song only reached number 77 in the UK Singles Chart...
" and "Sound
"Sound" was the first single taken from Seven, the fourth studio album by the Manchester band James.Released in November 1991, it reached #9 in the UK Singles Chart, the second of the group's three top 10 hits to date...
". It also ensured a sense of spontaneity that has often been a major selling point for the band.
During this brief time the band wrote 120 possible compositions. According to the band, eight of those were created in a single five hour session, an impressive feat by any standard. The songs that grew from these compositions were then mixed by Baker, who added additional parts such as backing vocals (often his own). These sessions eventually became Hey Ma
. James have said that they believe this to be as good, if not better than any previous efforts.
Material prior to release
The first tastes of the new album could be heard as far back as the 2007 reunion tour when the band decided to play a then new song, "Upside". After its debut, it became an instant fan favorite. No further new songs (excluding the two new tracks from the Fresh as a Daisy
compilation which was released alongside the reunion) appeared until a secret gig in London prior to the festival tour, which saw the debut of two new songs entitled "Not So Strong" and "Traffic". (Fans were surprised to see that neither of these songs were in the final track list for Hey Ma
After the festival tour, James played two nights in Hoxton Bar and Grill on September 10 and 11. These two shows were composed entirely of new material, including every track from the latest album. Despite the obvious desire of people to make recordings of the new material, James insisted that people did not. Thankfully for the band, a recording of the two Hoxton gigs has yet to see the light of day.
On February 25, 2008, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie's radio show previewed the album's first single, "Whiteboy". Fans were divided in their opinions regarding the song's unusual mixing. However, this was later attributed to the recording being a preview as opposed to a final copy. The final mix of the song was soon put up on the band's Myspace page.
March 19, 2008, saw the first preview of the second track, entitled "Hey Ma", when it was used as the music for a You Tube video made in aid of the charity Help for Heroes
Help for Heroes is a British charity launched on 1 October 2007 to help provide better facilities for British servicemen and women wounded since September 11, 2001. It was founded by Bryn Parry OBE and his wife Emma Parry OBE after they visited soldiers at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham...
. The song was undoubtedly picked because of its strong connection to the ongoing War on Terror
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...
. Only one day later, DJ Janice Long
Janice Long is an English radio broadcaster currently working on BBC Radio 2. Her show is on Sunday to Thursday nights from midnight to 02:00. She is the older sister of TV and radio personality Keith Chegwin.-Early career:...
played "Waterfall" during her radio broadcast on BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio 2 is one of the BBC's national radio stations and the most popular station in the United Kingdom. Much of its daytime playlist-based programming is best described as Adult Contemporary or AOR, although the station is also noted for its specialist broadcasting of other musical genres...
On March 13, the tabloid newspaper The Sun
The Sun is a daily national tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and owned by News Corporation. Sister editions are published in Glasgow and Dublin...
printed an article reporting to a ban on the use of the album art on billboards, because of fears concerning the baby and the gun images found on the album's sleeve. While the ban still remains, the band still refuses to change the cover.
Later, Darren Hughes, the designer of the album art, issued a statement on the ban:
You need only to have a passing acquaintance with the headlines to be aware of the unfolding horror show of gun culture amongst kids in the UK. Whilst the media are quick to show condemnation and, in the governments barricading of not just our airports but now our train and bus stations and schools with metal detectors, armed police and dogs, their strong armed 'climate of fear-inducing' response. But we seem less able, less curious to raise the vital question, as to what has brought our country, our culture our kids to be so taken with guns?
Larry Gott, the lead guitarist of the band, has said that the ban would not affect the release and publicity of the album in any way, and that an alternative had already been planned in case such a situation did occur.
The cover of the American release did not contain the gun.
- "Hey Ma"
- "Oh My Heart"
- "Boom Boom"
- "Of Monsters & Heroes & Men"
- "I Wanna Go Home"
- "Child To Burn" (exclusive to the iTunes
iTunes is a media player computer program, used for playing, downloading, and organizing digital music and video files on desktop computers. It can also manage contents on iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad....
- Tim Booth – lead and backing vocals
- Larry Gott – electric, acoustic, slide, and e-bow guitars, and additional backing vocals on "Waterfall" and "Upside Down"
- Jim Glennie – bass guitars
- Saul Davies – electric and acoustic guitars, baritone guitars, violin, and additional drums on "Waterfall" and "Semaphore"
- Mark Hunter – keyboards and programming
- Andy Diagram – trumpet, flugelhorn, and additional backing vocals on "Of Heroes and Monsters and Men"
- David Baynton-Power – drums, percussion
- Lee Muddy Baker – additional backing vocals on "Waterfall", "Upside Down", "72", and "I Wanna Go Home", additional drums on "Oh My Heart", percussion on "72" and "I Wanna Go Home", acoustic guitar on "Of Heroes and Monsters and Men", and electric guitar on "I Wanna Go Home"
- Rob Kenny – drums on "I Wanna Go Home"