James Blonde 2010 / IAC 2018
Course correction for Californian trio who bowed out without saying goodbye to stay on the crest of a wave.
Soon after their Canadian namesakes came into existence, American JB had embarked on another endeavor – in the last attempt to catch elusive fame because fortune didn’t seem to matter much anymore. Three decades down the line from the band’s formation and about 10 years since their long-overdue debut album, the little ensemble left the past behind to focus on new, mature material. They gathered what was rather grating about text='”International Orange”‘] and turned it into a gripping experience that’s pretty unpretentious – and robust enough to sound fresh even today.
With a smile smeared all over rifferama of “Abbey’s Gone” whose bounce is jubilant, there’s a sense of freedom, and when six strings insert raga in the groove, the record’s pull becomes irresistible, so Eric Westphal’s yelps in “Live It Up” simply intensify what would be infectious anyway. Still, if “New Wave” is casting a glance over its shoulder to the post-punk rock ‘n’ roll revival era, the sonic waves which crash through stereo panorama in “El Dorado” outline not only the sweet insistence of gold rush but also the scintillating, cinematic romanticism of such a quest.
This time repetitiveness serves some pieces well, ramming home the message of “Peace” – a jagged mantra to cleanse a cobwebs-filled head; not for nothing the AOR-heavy “Out Of My Mind” is hypnotic – while an equally raw, albeit gracious, rhythm-and-blues undercurrent runs in “On The Streets” to quite a cosmic effect, as Joe Bettencourt rolls a slider along the board. They had this Delta thing in them, yes, and a splendid “Water From My Eyes” could open another new direction for the trio (though not for their leader, because Eric had explored piano-laden soulful possibilities on his only text=’solo album’]), yet, sadly, the group didn’t produce anything else afterwards – that’s why it’s great to hear a rumbling bonus of “All Night Long” on the record’s reissue.
Maybe one day the band will return and blow those Canucks out of the water. Until then, their limited legacy is to remain a testament to wonderful inconsistency.