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James - Wah Wah Front Cover

Wah Wah - Front Cover Wah Wah - Back Wah Wah - Sleeve 1 Wah Wah - Side a Wah Wah - Sleeve 2 Wah Wah - Side c

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James

Wah Wah

Original Release: 1994

Synopsis

Following the success of their Seven album, Andy Diagram left James to pursue other musical interests, taking the distinctive trumpet sound of that album with him. James’ next tour, an acoustic romp through the USA with Neil Young, had a profound influence on the development of their sound; playing acoustically focusing the band on producing a more simple "stripped and naked" sound.

The other distinctive factor in the sound of their next album, Laid, was the appointment of Brian Eno as producer. Where Seven sounded like a band striving for perfection, "Brian encouraged us to improvise, encouraged us to use takes where we didn't know what we were doing. He made us realise that this imperfection was a good thing." (Jim Glennie, Q 1993).

Eno watched the band rehearse constantly and the raw material he witnessed seemed, as he put it, “In its own chaotic and perilous way, as much a part of their work as the songs that would finally grow out of it.” Guitarist Larry Gott remembers Brian saying, “’What’s the name of that one?’ And when we said, ‘We don’t know, we just made it up’, he was fascinated by that.” Eno set about therefore finding two studios next to each other so that he could develop two albums concurrently – one of structured songs, the other made up of improvisations he had stumbled across in the rehearsal room.

James have often alluded to this being their method of working – indeed, Tim admits that, “Every song we’ve ever created was spawned from improvisation, for the first few years of James, from three hours of cacophony would come maybe two minutes of semi-coherence” – and when the band set to work at Peter Gabriel’s Real World complex near Bath it seemed in Eno they’d found the perfect fit. “We are in the hands of a master,” recalls Tim, “and suddenly the recording process becomes fun. At one point, I think, we have four studios going simultaneously trying to hit our deadline.”

Laid received generally positive reviews in the music press. The stripped-down sound was seen as a welcome return to the band's folky roots and a step back from the perceived stadium rock sound of Seven. The two singles released around the album, Sometimes and Laid, also received positive reviews, but only achieved moderate chart success (No. 18 and No. 25 respectively). A third single release, the double A-side Jam J (from Wah Wah) b/w Say Something reached No. 24.

The album peaked at Number 3 in the UK charts and topped the charts in Portugal (while Wah Wah, released in 1994, reached a very creditable No. 11 on the UK chart before being deleted after just a week!) But the major breakthrough for Laid was in America where the album sold over 600,000 copies as the band spent most of the first half of 1994 touring, starting with a number of support slots with Duran Duran, followed by two headline tours and culminating in an invitation to play Woodstock 2 in August in front of 300,000 people. The title track, a significant college radio hit, was later in the decade, used as the theme tune for the American Pie movies.

Side a

  1. Hammer Strings (02:12)
  2. Pressure's On (04:27)
  3. Jam J (03:33)
  4. Frequency Dip (03:35)
  5. Lay The Law Down (00:58)

Side b

  1. Burn The Cat (06:50)
  2. Maria (04:03)
  3. Low Clouds (00:33)
  4. Building A Fire (02:43)
  5. Gospel Oak (02:48)
  6. DVV (01:05)

Side c

  1. Say Say Something (05:42)
  2. Rythmic Dreams (02:35)
  3. Dead Man (00:58)
  4. Rain Whistling (02:45)
  5. Basic Brian (05:29)
  6. Low Clouds - 2 (00:16)

Side d

  1. Bottom Of The Well (03:16)
  2. Honest Joe (04:39)
  3. Arabic Agony (03:57)
  4. Tomorrow (02:29)
  5. Laughter (00:31)
  6. Sayonara (02:41)

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