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James Macdonald - Naked Soul

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 7 / 2 / 2006



James Macdonald - Naked Soul
Label: Select Label
Format: CD

intro

More minimalistic in tone third solo album from Sydney-based singer-songwriter James MacDonald, but which still maintains the gorgeous melodies and sweet vocals that he has become renowned for


Following on from his last album, the lushly produced ‘Elevator Music For Unrequited Lovers’ , James Macdonald has this time gone for a more basic approach, with some of the songs making the final mix being the first takes. But make no mistake, on this, his third solo album since leaving the Woodshedders and his second for Australian label Laughing Outlaw, the Sydney based singer-songwriter hasn’t gone for a stark production nor are the songs desolate in their structure. Even when Macdonald tackles issues such as the Bush/Hussein issue in ‘Smoking Gun’ his trademark line in gorgeous melodies and sweet vocals are never far from sight. So although being touted as something of a departure from his previous albums those of us who thought ‘Elevator Music For Unrequited Lovers’ was a good, solid album chock full of songs which will stand the test of time and in some ways also a good old fashioned collection of songs won’t be disappointed by this follow-up. Minimalistic it might be compared to his last album but it’s still a far cry from being a bleak collection of songs. Possibly because of Macdonald’s vocals and his way of always coming up with sweet melodies it would be impossible for him to turn away totally from the sound he created over his last two albums. There’s no denying that both Paul McCartney and Neil Finn loom large over Macdonald’s writing and singing. That’s no bad thing. Macdonald stays on the right side of McCartney; his songs never coast into blandness and he has that some of that melodic edge that made Finn’s best work so popular. ‘Naked Soul’ is in many ways a more than worthy follow-up to ‘Elevator Music…’ It explores more musical styles than that album and on songs like ‘Passing Parade’ added instrumentation like the flute bring a further dimension to his work. That flute (played by Macdonald as are most of the instruments on this album) also appears on ‘I Will Be There’ which is just now contender for the best track on the album. The stripped-back accusations made for the album really show up here. There’s a jazz vibe going on and it’s perfect late night listening. ‘Alive’ also follows in this vein, again stripped-back and with some stunning vocals from Deb Cotton who lends her angelic like chords to a handful of songs here not least the dreamy ‘Surrender’ where Macdonald once again proves that he can match McCartney song for song. The more you listen to this album the more it grows on you. The songs are strong so they do register from the first play but, despite their stripped down production, (at least by Macdonald’s standards) there is still enough going on to discover more with each further play. As a bonus after the album’s eleven songs are finished there is a cover of Cat Steven’s ‘Where Do The Children Play?’ which is actually as good as the original. Macdonald’s vocals strangely take on a harder edge than that on his own songs on ‘Naked Soul’ and it does make one wonder if Macdonald should at some point release an album of carefully chosen covers like this. Anyone with a liking for the late 60's work of Emitt Rhodes / The Merry Go Round should check out this latest album from Macdonald. They will be pleasantly surprised.



Track Listing:-
1 Ordinary Life
2 Passing Parade
3 Another Rendezvous
4 Naked Soul
5 I Will Be There
6 Alive
7 Sometimes I Feel
8 Surrender
9 Know A Place
10 Smoking Gun
11 In Her Arms
12 Where Do The Children Play



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