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James Clarke Five - Parlour Sounds (The Beautiful Music)

1 January 2020

The liverpudlian, multi-instrumentalist James Clarke (James Hughes) is a constant figure in music for almost four decades. Regardless of what James has put his creative hands on, one thing is guaranteed, it will never be boring, mundane or forgotten. Since the days of The Cherry Boys and their colossal “Kardomah Café”, both reviewers and fans have watched his trajectory with interest. Recently, sizzling under the surface of the mainstream, garnishing a cult status is the James Clarke Five

Launched by James in 2003, with the bombastic single “Get Out of Bed”, The James Clarke Five went on to release some of the best music of this decade. Albums such as Fly My Pretties Fly! (2008), and  Sexbombe Über Alles (2013), which cemented the outfit on the radar of those in the ‘know’, and those wanting to experience something new and exciting. This brings us up-to-date and delving into the JC5’s latest work of sublime beauty, the long-playing, long-lasting Parlour Sounds. In 2019 the album justifiably received a physical release via Wally Salem’s The Beautiful Music label, making it a sought after release towards the end of the decade. 

From the start, this album has the words ‘modern classic’ tattooed on it’s very core. Eleven tracks which are relentlessly good, with inspired sounds and dynamic themes. Summoning the nostalgic guitar pop of the Kinks, in some respects The Jam with a healthy dose of soul deep within the mix. Opening with the stomping “What Do You Know About Ray?”, the enjoyment becomes electrifying, it is old-school, but it is also firing with an originality. The Liverpool-twang is unmistakable, and brings a warmth to the affair. For fans of the sixties it is like being reintroduced to an old friend. 

The foot-tapping continues into “Rock and Roll (Took Me to the River)”, and then with a gentle opening “Under My Skin” launches with pounding drums, with a sing-along urgency and “na-na-na” echoing throughout. Dancing skillfully into the lush strings and piano of “Mairead”, displaying further dimensions to the JC5’s technique. Before picking up the pace again and capturing sunshine in a chorus with “Jade”. However, the melodic, addictive extravagance of “There’s a Rainbow” is certainly one of the standouts in this filler-less affair. – “How many times to I have to say, I don’t belong here anyway” 

The most British of titles “The Redemption of Casper Green” holds hints of the music hall genre, with enough ideas infused within that it becomes uplifting, even transcendent. This flows into the instrumental “Jade Fade” which sounds like a playful theme tune to a car chase. Though the music as a whole does inspire images of miniskirts, mini coopers and Piccadilly Circus, that is simply a consequence of its quality. Until it comes to a close, with the jangling guitars, and stretching falsetto of “Just A Smile”, you realise very quickly that Parlour Sounds is an adventure more than a standard album of tracks. With new sounds on the horizon, the JC5 will not rest on their laurels, and instead are pushing forward, capturing new audiences under the spell of their prowess.

1.  What Do You Know About Ray?
2 . Rock and Roll (Took Me to the River)
3 . Under My Skin
4 . Mairead
5 . Jade
6 . Someone out There Somewhere
7 . There’s a Rainbow
8 . Theme from “The Main Chance”
9 . The Redemption of Casper Green
10 .Jade Fade
11 .Just a Smile

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