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JAMES ROBERTS Everything You Know Is Right CD (Dell'orso)

It seems Delta are no more, but all is not lost, because James Roberts is still involved in music and has teamed up with a diverse collection of musicians (ex-Delta keyboardist Louis J Clark, Allison Brice of folk-rock band The Eighteenth Day of May, Alex Lee of Suede, and Corin Dingley of electronic project Alpha) for this, his debut solo album. Whilst the songwriting style often harks back to early Delta (particularly Yeah So, If Time Was All and Laughing Mostly, which actually is a very early Delta song), many of the arrangements are quite a departure from anything James has done before, largely due to Corin Dingley's input. The album manages to successfully combine the late 60s/early 70s laid-back rock sound known and loved by long-term Delta fans with ambient/electronic elements; an unusual mix to say the least, but one that actually works really well. Also appearing here is some very beautiful melancholic and minimally arranged balladry.

I was very excited to learn that Laughing Mostly would be on here. This is a song that dates from the early 90s and is one that Delta used to frequently play live in the early days. It's always been amongst my favourite songs of theirs but was never actually released. I was, therefore, really chuffed to know that it's finally found a home on this album. The original 70s-style rock arrangement has been replaced by some very modern laid-back electronic bleepery and synthesized orchestral sophistication which will no doubt come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the song in its earlier form, but it's such a classic track that it shines no matter how it's presented.

The rest of the album is, I'm pleased to say, of a similarly high standard. Although I did like a lot of what late-period Delta were doing, I never felt they were quite the same band any more. But this new solo offering is a real return to form; despite its stylistic differences from Delta (arrangement-wise, rather than songwriting-wise), the overall quality is without a doubt up there with the very best to have come from the band. This really is a hugely impressive album, which continues to show what an incredibly talented songwriter James Roberts is. The songs are delivered in a way that is impassioned and genuinely soulful; the arrangements are both luxurious and innovative and completely complement the songs themselves; and the tunes are some of the most memorable I've heard in ages (I've been getting songs like Meet on the Peak, If Time Was All and Laughing Mostly going round my head non-stop for the last few days). The more I listen to the album, the more impressed I am. It's still only February, but I have my doubts that there will be much out this year that comes even close to the greatness of this album.

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Text Kim Harten, 2006.