Cherry Red Records (label)
28 July 2017 (released)
10 September 2017
Forever associated with Sit Down, James built a strong collection of material before that became a hit and have progressed impressively since. Formed in Manchester in 1982, this collection assembles the band's material before their move to Rough Trade and the start of their chart success.
First up here is 1986's Stutter, which prompted some reviewers to liken James to The Smiths. Production quality hasn't been too kind to Stutter, sounding rather thin and tinny, but you can hear the elements that had those reviewers excited. Tim Booth's unique vocal sounds soulful in places and on the shimmering Summer Song the jangling guitars that would become a trademark are taking shape. There's even a hint to Sit Down, albeit in a much slowed down version on the moody Really Hard.
Their second album, which was released on Blanco Y Negro, almost never happened. After protracted recording sessions in 1987 with Hugh Jones at the helm, Strip-mine was eventually remixed and issued in September 1988. Opening track and single What For sounds delightful even now but at the time was competing against the juggernaut of Stock Aitken and Waterman in the chart battles and on radio playlists. Are You Ready sounds like it was made to be a live favourite, alongside the terrific Medieval. And sure enough the band were soon gaining a faithful audience for their gigs and also for their teeshirts!
Eventually James would ride the Madchester wave, with Sit Down becoming their anthem on the second time of asking. This glimpse into their difficult early years is a fascinating insight, put together as ever in a classy digipak.