Culture, Music, Review

James ‘The Campfire EP’ review – reigniting the fire in an old classic and new favourites

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Featured Image: Lewis Knaggs

After sixteen studio albums and over 25 million copies sold, indie-rock legends James have almost four decades of musical hits. The breakthrough release of ‘Sit Down’ may have propelled their rise to fame in 1991, but it is their continued ingenuity that has kept them at the top. Their latest tour sold over 60,000 tickets; the numbers certainly speak for themselves. 

Partly recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic, All the Colours of You, was produced by Grammy Award-winner, Jacknife Lee (U2, REM, Taylor Swift, Snow Patrol, The Killers). It’s the first time that James and Lee have collaborated and their partnership was actually a stroke of chance. Bringing a new perspective to their sound, Lee worked remotely from his studio, contacting Jim Glennie and Tim Booth – the latter actually being his Topanga Canyon neighbour. Through their collaboration, they’ve paved a fresh direction for James while retaining their original and much-loved sound. 

The Campfire EP, contains three acoustic versions from their latest full-length album, All the Colours of You, as well as a reimagined version of their fan-favourite classic, ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ – featured on their eighth studio album, Millionaires (1999), which was certified gold by the BPI and peaked at number two in the UK album chart. Offering an even more intimate insight into their tracks, the acoustic nature perfectly fits the warm and inviting atmosphere of a campsite. They filmed and recorded the tracks earlier this year at Broughton Hall in the Yorkshire Dales. 

The opening track for the EP, ‘Miss America’ is even more hard-hitting than before thanks to the acoustic sound which forces you to focus on its cleverly-crafted lyrics. Lead singer Booth sings “Miss America says live the dream/ So long as you’re born white/ Killed the natives and jailed the slaves/ Moved more to the right.” Commenting on the state of America, it opens with a haunting violin. Its melancholic instrumentals fit the sombre message of the song perfectly. James has always had their roots in protest songs and this couldn’t be more apt.

Photography: Lewis Knaggs

Booth has previously dedicated ‘Recover’ to “all those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic or otherwise”. Booth’s vocals in the acoustic version overlaid with powerful backing vocals from Chloe Alper and Debbie Knox-Hewson are decisively haunting. In a year tainted with fear and loss, music is what we naturally turn to for comfort. The repetition of “We will remember” becomes increasingly powerful every time. 

Beginning with a whistle, ‘Magic Bus’ signals a change in the EP with a thumping beat. It almost sounds like Booth is incanting a hypnotic spell with the near feverish background vocals from Alper and Knox-Hewson. It finishes with an overlay of melodic vocals repeatedly singing “Alright”, with unabridged enthusiasm drawing you into the last second. The new version of this track is as perfectly executed as their original dance-pop version.

Their reimagined version of ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’, begins as a soft soulful number before stepping up after the first minute. It’s an ode to romance and is the perfect addition to the EP. The new vocals from Alper and Knox-Hewson certainly deserve a mention, as they fit exceptionally well on the track. 

There may be an age-old proverb stating, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, however, perhaps we’ve found an exception to that rule. The EP may only be four tracks long, but it successfully covers a range of topics from politics to sickness, and love.

Singer Tim Booth has previously said: “The beginning of the new James 9 piece began at Broughton Hall. The sessions there felt magical. Here is a slice of the magic that we created around a campfire one evening …”

Available to purchase exclusively at the James store, it is a must-buy for any fan of James – regardless of how long you’ve followed their meteoric journey. It’s also a limited edition which makes this already special release an even more essential purchase. They are individually numbered and also include a QR code to download The Campfire EP videos.

James’ latest EP The Campfire EP is available to stream on Spotify.

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About the author / 

Camilla Whitfield

Fourth Year BA English with Overseas Study | Music Editor | Manchester & Leipzig | Music & Gig Enthusiast

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