A big sound that amounts to very little

by Gazette Reporter

Having spent the last four years away from the limelight, and following the release of his new single, Demons, James Morrison makes a welcome return with his fourth studio album Higher Than Here, out on October 30 through Island Records.
The songs on the new album create a subtle balance between revealing the pain and difficulties that Morrison has experienced in his recent personal life, and the soundtrack to those lazy Sunday mornings that, will make you dance, smile and reflect.
When Morrison broke onto the scene as a soulful singer-songwriter in 2006, even he couldn’t have predicted that he would become the template that allowed a wave of likeminded musicians to enter the field.
He was also famously told by veteran soul producer Jerry Wexler that his raspy, gravelly voice, the product of a childhood illness, had its “own thumbprint” and was so distinctive that “once heard, never forgotten”.
Now, almost a decade on, Ed Sheeran, George Ezra and James Bay are all ruling the charts following the same format; one guy with just a guitar and an incredible voice.
Despite his self-deprecation and humble nature, he was the first to take that format and not only make it work but also became an overnight success story.
Pop gems like You Give Me Something from his first record Undiscovered, made him anything but.
And he won the 2007 Brit Award for Best Male when he was still just 21 years old.
The album starts off promisingly enough.
Demons – an anthem to positive thinking – breezes in with a funky hip hop, autotune now such a stable of 21st century “chart music”.
The main vocals soon take over with a melody that exudes a credible sense of emotion. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, it’s largely downhill from here. Over the next 14 tracks, faux-gospel verses alternate with overblown choruses to create a big sound that amounts to very little.
Even when Morrison sings of real heartache – as on Too Late for Lullabies – he sounds about as deep-down untroubled as peers such as James Blunt or Tom Odell.
A cutting edge from the likes of Paolo Nutini is what you are hoping he may have come back with on this outing but alas it’s not to be.
2008’s Songs for You, Truths for Me brought with it a string of Top Ten singles, including the phenomenally catchy Broken Strings with Nelly Furtado.
His last album, 2011’s Awakening shot straight to Number 1, selling over one million copies worldwide.
However, Morrison offers an uncool brand of easy-listening soul-pop but what he lacks in grit he has previously made up for in rousing songs that have brought him a loyal fan base of easy-listeners.

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