José James - Blackmagic

Richard Wink 17/03/2010

Rating: 3.5/5

As I lay in my bed, coughing up gluey globs of mucus and blood, shivering and sneezing, with my whole body contracting, I shudder. Requiring comfort, and soothing sounds.

Thankfully José James answers my feeble prayers with his sophomore release BlackMagic. What I like about James is that he isn't afraid to step out of the comfortable, smoky, silky tones of modern jazz. His soft vocals linger over authentic beats on opening track 'Code', never really moving out of second gear the track is a tactile, sensual stroke of fingers along curves.

The tricky fingered piano that kick starts 'Touch' continues the free flowing theme. There is subtlety on display, the beats on 'Lay You Down' could fit any slow jam from the last couple of decades, but with James at the helm, his voice dictating the pace masterfully, we are taken away from generic commercial R&B and into a more traditional head space.

Let's take a step back, let me remove my cherry red lips from James' arse for a moment. Because if we are to offer some unkind words, then we will say that James is perhaps stuck in the 'playa' past, despite the evidence of progression there are still a handful of tracks that ultimately go nowhere with the bump and grind getting exhausted to the point that it causes an unsightly skin rash. This is despite the exciting Coltrane runaway of 'Warrior', an interpretation of Benga's 'Emotions', a track that is completely alien to the rest of the album.

As James croons “You and I alone” on 'Detroit Loveletter' I'm almost seduced once more, but I can't quite wonder if the reason I'm so enamoured with this album is because I am currently placed precariously in an extremely drowsy state of mind, with the paracetamol, lemsips, cold capsules and throat sweets all swirling around in my gut, acting as some kind of pharmaceutical aphrodisiac.