“Long Time Coming” – Jim Stapley

4 stars (out of 5)

4

Long Time Coming EdThere’s a bit of a buzz going on around Jim Stapley at the moment and, on the evidence of “Long Time Coming”, his debut album after over ten years as a professional musician, it’s more than just hype. He’s been highly recommended by Kenney Jones and the album has been produced by the legendary (over-used term, but justified in this case) Tony Visconti. Taking the album as a whole, it feels like a showcase for Jim’s prodigious vocal talent across a fairly wide range of styles and, in those terms it’s very effective.  There’s no doubting that Jim has a great rock voice; he can do everything from heartfelt ballads to the wails of Percy Plant and it all sounds totally convincing. And he plays keyboards and guitar on the album as well.

The core band for the album is Jim, CJ Evans (drums), Tom Swann (bass), Ricky Glover (electric guitars and vocals), Johnson-Jay Mewik-Daley (electric and acoustic guitar and vocals). Tony Visconti steps in with some string arrangements and vocals while additional keyboards and horns are courtesy of Josh Phillips (Hammond) and James Arben (tenor and bass sax). Last but not least, the string quartet is Rachel Dawson, Sarah Tuke, Polly Wiltshire and Catriona Parker and Mollie Marriott, Rachel Leavesley and Jessica Morgan are the additional backing vocalists. If you think the name of the first backing singer sounds familiar, you’d be right; Mollie is the daughter of the late Steve Marriott.

The album opens with all guns blazing; “No Good Reason” has a guitar riff straight out of the 70s (or the Black Crowes) and a massive chorus underpinned by power chords and it’s followed by “Laid to Waste” which changes the mood with an acoustic guitar intro and a string quartet. “Hurricane” is a power ballad which culminates in a kitchen-sink ending, while “Heartstrings”, possibly the first single from the album, is a reflective piece with acoustic guitar, strings and harmonium supplying the backing.

“New Religion” and “My Way Home” both have a slight country tinge while “Made of Stone” moves the influences forward to the 80s with a massive chorus and a lead vocal/guitar riff duet towards the end. “My Own Worst Enemy” is another ballad with strings before three songs, “Out of Sight”, “Grey Matter” and “Breaking Out” which open with acoustic guitar intros before building up to big finishes. The final song, “Shield”, closes out the album on a low-key note with finger-picked acoustic guitar, brushed drums and cello laying the foundations.

It’s not difficult to pick out Jim Stapley’s influences on this debut album; he’s emulating some superb singers. What is astounding is that he can do it all, he sounds equally at home with the ballads and the all-out screamers and I know from musicians who have worked with him that he can do it live as well. If there’s a niche in the market for a new rock god singer (and let’s face it, most of the originals have collected their bus passes now), then he might just be the man for the job. Maybe the lyrics could move away from the standard rock themes of bad women and finding yourself, but that’s relatively unimportant compared to the superb musicianship and quality of the singing on this album.

This is a very assured debut album, packed with quality playing, singing and instrumental arrangements and should certainly get Jim Stapley’s name out to a wider public whether it’s through Radio 2 (it’s ok, it’s acceptable now) or specialist rock stations. Either way, it may have been a long time coming, but I think we can safely say he’s arrived now.