Unless you lived under a stone at the end of the eighties who could forget Wendy James, who exploded onto the British music scene as the fearless front woman of chart-topping alt-rockers Transvision Vamp. She enjoyed top ten hits with “I Want Your Love” and “Baby I Don’t Care” before the band disbanded,
Wendy went on to collaborate with Elvis Costello, James Williamson (Iggy & the Stooges), Lenny Kaye (The Patti Smith Group) and James Sclavunos (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) and has released a number of albums under the band name Racine and also solo. It`s been four year since her last release “The Price Of The Ticket” but she has a new twenty track submission “Queen High Straight” to promote, on which she has written, produced, and mixed all of the songs.
The album enjoys a variety of musical styles and influences from jazz, sixties pop, punk, soul, funk, and blues outings to straight rock outs. This on the face of it sounds quite disjointed but the album actually flows really well.
The title track `Queen High Straight` is a jazzy slinky ballad of sorts with smoky harmonies that made you feel you were stepping into a cultivated cosmopolitan late-night bar or club. A really stylish opener.
`I’ll Be Here When The Morning Comes` has a Django Reinhardt quirkiness about it and felt like a possible theme tune for some comedy or show. The rockier offerings come with `Perilous Beauty` with its distant nigh on remote vocals and fabulous grungy guitar. The quite heavy `Chicken Street` which is a love song but more in a concealed way. `Freak In` is really what it says on the tin, a cracking freak out lyrically and musically. Another rockier number comes with the stop start `Sugar Boy`
The more sixties influenced tunes have `Free Man Walk` amongst them. It verges toward spoken word at times, a different almost throwaway song. There`s some subtle brass on `A Heart Breaking Liar’s Promise` wonderfully melodic. There`s an ingenious quite retro French vibe to `Marlene et Fleur` with its delicate accordion flavourings and Wendy`s seemingly aloof vocals. I really enjoyed `Kill Some Time Blues` a number that could have come straight out of a Ronettes, Shangrt-Las or Shirelles sixties repertoire. Superb.
`Stomp Down, Snuck Up` is a funky piece with a Stevie Wonder vibe and is one of the offerings from what I’d refer to as the Soul Funk Blues section of songs. It has some really intricate guitar chords throughout. The Motown sound is embraced with `Little Melvin` with some honeyed tambourine, organ, and brass tinges. Again, we enjoy some more superb brass with the upbeat `A Heart Breaking Liar’s Promise`. We are eased and almost teased into the marvellous `Here Comes The Beautiful One` where you can imagine the swaying hips and arms waving in the air as people dance along. `Bliss Hotel` is a seedy bluesy laid-back song that is enhanced with some cracking guitar riffs and more soulful brass.
There`s a ballad like melancholic feel about `Testimonial` which gives a platform for Ms. James to prove her varied vocal ability alongside some elegant guitar touches. `Bar Room Brawl & Benzedrine Blues` is an anthemic defiant unapologetic swagger that has some terrific guitar shredding.
I wasn`t quite sure of `Ratfucking` it`s quite light, poppy and bounces along with drums guitar and organ.
Another couple of curve balls were served up with `She Likes To Be (Underneath Somebody) ` and `Cancel It… I’ll See Him On Monday`. The former a laid-back slice of Americana or Country and the latter having a Madness touch about it, both different but nevertheless interesting.
Another track that stands alone is `The Impression Of Normalcy` a speed punk song.
I have to say that this was a vastly different album to what I was expecting, it covers a wide range of styles and genres of music and highlights what an underrated and underappreciated vocalist that Wendy James is. Her songs are brought to life by a talented group of musicians in James Sedwards (lead guitar), Harry Bohay (bass), James Sclavunos (drums), Alex J. Ward & Terry Edwards (horn section) and Louis Vause (accordion)
This is a sophisticated album which has some thoroughly enjoyable musical submissions with provocative lyrics which i`m sure can only reinvigorate justifiable interest in Ms James.
Rating 9 /10