Jamiroquai, Leela James, The Ordinary Boys
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Leela James/
The Ordinary Boys

[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]

THIS WEEK I'VE found myself staring glumly at a stack of new releases, wondering when some plucky soul will next attempt - or more pertinently, promote - a record with aspirations to originality.
 It doesn't help that there's a new Jamiroquai album out. Now, usually there's no point moaning about Jamiroquai albums. Like wedding receptions or bouts of flu, they must be endured every so often. Dynamite (SonyBMG)** draws more heavily on early disco and Eighties soul than usual, and is uncommonly slick, even by Jay Kay's standards. It is, of course, no more explosive than wet laundry. It will sell by the ton, and Jay will buy an original Bugatti T41.
 Which would be just fine, if this kind of pastiche had not become an industry standard, bringing us such human Xerox machines as Joss Stone, who can replicate everything about soul except the bit that counts. Leela James is better than this. From the Alicia Keys/Angie Stone school of tastefully updated classicism, James manages, at times, to infuse her own output with a little of the spirit that fired the music she worships. Calling her album A Change Is Gonna Come (Warners)***, after the magnificent Sam Cooke song, is setting the bar far too high; but the strongest tracks on it are well worth hearing.
 Modern soul has yet to descend to rock's abject level of slavish mimicry (Ding! “Sub-basement: post-punk, new wave and electro.”) Many current bands view the past as a big dressing-up box. Cue The Ordinary Boys, who can expect no more than indulgent smiles when they run into the room shouting, “Look at me, mum! I'm Paul Weller!” It's one thing to be influenced by an earlier band; it's quite another to simply be them, all over again. Brassbound (B-Unique)* isn't a bad record; The Ordinary Boys are proficient enough impersonators. It just isn't their record. It's The Jam's, with a touch of 2 Tone. For a generation that hasn't heard In The City, it'll do. But one day they will hear it, and realise just how ordinary The Ordinary Boys are.

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