Archive for the ‘Published Work’ Category


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

The original Pop Idol returns, Will Young releases his fifth studio album, Echoes, at the end of August. Young hasn’t made big waves since his second album Friday’s Child when it reached five times platinum status and provided him with the massive single ‘Leave Right Now’ and ‘Your Game’. However, all of his album releases have gone Top Ten in the UK and been certified platinum. The openly gay popstar clearly has a devoted and loyal fan base, but can Echoes propel him back to the success of his early days? The entire album is produced by electronic and synthpop producer Richard X, so the collection should be more attention grabbing than Young’s last rather unmemorable effort, Let It Go.

 

‘Jealousy’

First single, ‘Jealousy’, has already created some excitement amongst the Young fan-base, perhaps due to the upbeat feel of the song. It’s a simple, breezy, emotional tinged synth pop with an 80s feel. The song does have a certain charm, but is unlikely to have the masses yearning to hear it over and over again.

5/10

 

‘Come On’

The tempo and mood is accelerated on ‘Come On’, combining the synth sound with an almost Florence and the Machine ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)’ drum beat with an element of ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. While the song certainly shares some similarities with the aforementioned songs, ‘Game On’ feels modern, radio friendly and certainly more addictive than ‘Jealousy’.

8/10

 

‘Runaway’

Sister track to ‘Jealousy’, ‘Runaway’ is breezy with mellow 80s synths circulating around Young sticking to his higher register. This is pretty catchy, with a hypnotic melody.

6/10

 

‘Lie Next to Me’

It’s ballad time and ‘Lie Next to Me’ will make Will Young fans happy enough. It’s quite dream-like, with Young relying on his voice to carry the song. The production is almost like a boy band Christmas single from the late 90s or early 00s. The emotion comes across in Young’s vocal, but the lyrics are almost too simple to really evoke an emotional reaction. Some people will absolutely love it, some may not. I’m somewhere in the middle.

5/10

 

‘Safe From Harm’

Almost Scissor Sister sounding, ‘Safe From Harm’ has a slightly darker element to it than the first four tracks. The synths are complimented by a simple piano played melody and Young uses his voice more variably, which is a breath of fresh air at this point.

7/10

 

‘Good Things’

Will seems to have jumped eras and gone from the 80s into the mid 90s. ‘Good Things’ sounds inspired by George Michael’s classic hit ‘Fastlove’, which knowing his audience is possibly a stroke of genius. A pretty decent example of adult pop, I can already imagine my Mum listening to this on repeat.

8/10

 

‘Happy Now’

The first song to not rely on synth-pop is ‘Happy Now’. Usually I listen to a song while I write about it… I have to say I listened to the whole of this track and had only written one sentence. What can I say about ‘Happy Now’? It’s a pretty slow to mid-tempo song about Will singing about being happy now. The instrumentation is quite refreshing at this point and Will sounds more comfortable here than on some other points on the album, but it is a little dull.

4/10

 

‘Hearts on Fire’

Another tempo change, ‘Hearts on Fire’ is an understated dance number that I can imagine being played in Soho’s coolest bars. The melody is darker than most of the album and the whole song has a certain dangerous and intriguing sexuality about it.

8/10

 

‘Personal Thunder’

Another dark, brooding number, ‘Personal Thunder’ cements Young’s position as the current answer to being what George Michael was during his Older period. The emotion behind ‘Thunder’ is enchanting.

8/10

 

‘Losing Myself’

This is possibly the most 80s sounding track on the album to this point. It could almost be a hit factory produced mid-tempo ballad. It’s not bad.

6/10

 

‘Silent Valentine’

Featuring the most unique and original production on the collection, ‘Silent Valentine’ is transformed from just another synth-heavy electronic slow number, to a gradual captivating track that is one of the most memorable featured here.

8/10

 

‘I Just Want a Lover’

Considering this is almost entirely an electronic album, there are very few cub-worthy moments, but this is definitely one of them. Appealing to a more mature ear, and perhaps a crowd at a swanky cocktail bar rather than your local Oceana club, ‘I Just Want a Lover’ picks up where ‘Good Things’ left off. ‘I just want a lover, nothing that is complicated. I don’t have to know you, we don’t have to talk about it’ Young sings as the song closes. Could this be Will’s sexiest moment yet?

8/10

Read the full review at Eyewear

 

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Charlie Simpson’s Young Pilgrim

Reviewed by James Christopher Sheppard

Charlie Simpson is a name many will know. Some from his days as a third of teen bopping band Busted and some will know him as front man of alternative rock band Fightstar. Either way, Simpson has been known since 2002 and has been a part of five studio albums. At the age of 26, Charlie is releasing his first full-length solo release and it sounds pretty distanced from anything the singer/songwriter has been involved in before.
‘Down Down Down’
First single from the album is a good indication of what is to come. The song is entirely acoustic driven, with thick as treacle vocals, laden with emotional depth. The folk-rock ballad is stacked with multi-layered harmonies and builds to a gentle climax.
10/10
‘Parachutes’
‘Parachutes’, also the second single, picks up the pace and builds on what ‘Down, Down’ has already established. This is possibly the most radio-friendly and mature that Simpson has ever sounded. Brilliant.
10/10
‘All at Once’
‘All at Once’ at first entices with it’s toe tapping beats, but the sound soon turns to a sorrow filled as the song of heartbreak progresses. Simpson’s vocals sound confident and crystal clear, with the song completely utilising his unique tones.
9/10
‘Thorns’
Gentle, with a subtlety that draws you right in to the melodic dreamy higher tones of vocal harmony going on in the background, ‘Thorns’ is a careful ballad. The softer verses against the more exuberant choruses work wonders here.
9/10
‘Cemetery’
The fifth track shifts the memento into a new direction. ‘Cemetery’ is a combination of pop-rock-folk, which makes for a charming reminiscent song and one of absolute authenticity. Simpson’s voice is pushed to the limit, experimenting with his higher range and occasionally showing moments of strain, which surprisingly, adds to the song.
9/10
‘Hold On’
The most mellow moment of the album so far, ‘Hold On’, is lead by multiple layers of Simpson’s harmonies against a backdrop of strings, arranged by the renowned string arranger, Audrey Riley. A well crafted smooth ballad.
9/10
‘I Need a Friend Tonight’
The second string lead track, with assistance from Riley, is simple and melodic. ‘Friend’ is mid-tempo, soft and changes the mood of the album somewhat, as Simpson and the song both remain quite delicate and fragile. It’s hard to decipher whether ‘Friend’ is Simpson claiming he has found or is looking for religion, or if he is claiming he is lost and still can’t find his way home. I’ll let you decide, but it’s a pleasant song all the same.
7/10
‘Suburbs’
The tempo picks up a little with ‘Suburbs’, but the song in all it’s simplicity does little to further what is already great about Young Pilgrim. ‘I need you now, I need you now’ Simpson repeats. It’s possibly the least remarkable song on the album, but it still is not bad.
6/10
‘Sundown’
The temp change was only temporary as we are back down to the balladry of ‘Hold On’. ‘My heart is yearning for you dear’- this strikingly scarce track is one of the most powerful on Young Pilgrim in terms of pure passion.
9/10
Read the rest of the review at Eyewear

Written by James Christopher Sheppard 

It’s exactly 15 years since the Spice Girls burst onto the British music scene with ‘Wannabe’ and stormed to number one. In July 1996 an unknown all-girl pop group were suddenly all over television and radio promoting a song more pop than pop itself, about really really wanting a zig-a-zig-ah and friendship never ending. The sentiment was fresh and girl power was born. The group were hard to miss, with each girl having their own individual style, which at the time was practically unheard of in the pop world. Prior to Ginger, Baby, Sporty, Scary and Posh, the commercial music industry, particularly in the UK, was dominated by indie pop bands like Oasis, Blur and Radiohead, the super divas Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, and boybands that dressed the same like Take That and Boyzone. Despite their beginnings as a manufactured group, Geri, Melanie C, Emma, Melanie B and Victoria broke away, wrote their own songs, got themselves signed and did it their way. The Spice Girls represented freedom, fun, girl power and individuality and the world loved it. In celebration of this 15 year anniversary, I’m going to look at some of the highlights that have come from this phenomenally successful group of girls over the years.

Spice was the must-have album of 1996 if you were at school. With only ten tracks, half of the songs were #1 singles. While people remember ‘Wannabe’, ‘Say You’ll Be There’, ‘2 Become 1’, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ and ‘Mama’, the album also boasts some pretty extraordinary album tracks, like ‘If U Can’t Dance’ and ‘Naked’. Spice was released on 4th November 1996 and went on to sell over 23 million copies worldwide. In just a few months since the girls released ‘Wannabe’, Spicemania was hitting fever pitch. There were Spice Girls chupa chucks, Spice Girls duvet sets, Spice Girls wall-paper, Spice Girls Pepsi cans, Spice Girls chocolate bars, Spice Girls dolls- Spice Girls everything!

Just twelve months after Spice, came it’s second coming, SpiceWorld. If ever there was a part one and part two of an album, it was Spice and SpiceWorld. ‘Spice Up Your Life’, ‘Too Much’ and ‘Viva Forever’ all hit #1 in the UK, whilst ‘Stop’ stalled at #2. SpiceWorld was not only the band’s second album, but also the soundtrack to their movie of the same name. While the movie may have been panned by critics, it still managed to top the UK box office over Christmas 1997 and hit #2 in the USA, stopping behind ‘Titanic’. SpiceWorld seemed to pretty much mirror the success of Spice, selling over 20 million copies and sitting comfortably inside the Best Selling Albums of All-Time list.

In May 1998, during the ‘Spice World Tour’, Geri Halliwell split from the group, which certainly affected the future of the group. As chief songwriter and the master mind behind Girl Power, what seemed to be the passionate creator of the group, had jumped ship. Melanie B was the first of all of the girls to release a solo single, which was the urban ‘I Want You Back’ with Missy Elliot, which struck #1 on the same day as one of the group’s Wembley Stadium shows. Later that year, after almost a year of touring, the four remaining girls recorded and released ‘Goodbye’, scoring their eighth #1 and third consecutive Christmas #1.

1999 was a quiet year for the group, but was the first time we saw Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton and Melanie C step out as soloists. Geri Halliwell released her first solo album, Schizophonic, which closely followed the Spice Girl album ingredients- ten brilliantly catchy pop songs. ‘Look at Me’ hit #2, while ‘Mi Chico Latino’, ‘Lift Me Up’ and ‘Bag It Up’ all made it to #1. Emma’s first release outside of the Spice Girls was a cover of ‘What I am’, recorded with Tin Tin Out, which hit #2, behind Halliwell’s ‘Lift Me Up’. Melanie C initially experienced the least successful start to her solo career. While her duet with Bryan Adams, ‘When You’re Gone’ had a been a huge hit the previous year, Melanie’s first few solo singles, ‘Goin’ Down’ and ‘Northern Star’ were only moderately successful and her album Northern Star charted at #10 and swiftly fell out of the chart. Despite the luke-warm reception to Melanie C’s solo work, when ‘Never Be The Same Again’ was released in early 2000, the song soared to #1 and remained there for two weeks. Northern Star subsequently re-charted and climbed to #4, eventually shifting over 4 million copies worldwide. Northern Star remains the most successful release from any solo Spice Girl.

Three years after Spiceworld, came Forever. The album was heavily R&B influenced, apposed to the previous pure pop sound the group had stuck to. The double A-side ‘Holler’ and ‘Let Love Lead The Way’ hit #1 and the album made #2 but quickly disappeared from the chart and memory. The album was largely seen a failure, both commercially and critically and spelled out the end of the Spice Girls.

Also at the end of 2000, came Melanie B’s debut solo effort, the underperforming Hot. While the album produced a couple of top ten hits, ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Feels So Good’, Melanie B’s solo career never really gained any momentum. Just when it was looking like the golden five-year wonder of the Spice Girls was coming to an end, Geri Halliwell released her biggest success to date, her cover of the Weather Girls’ ‘It’s Raining Men’, which stayed at #1 for two weeks and served as the theme to the massive movie ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. Around the same time Emma Bunton released her debut solo album, A Girl Like Me, with lead single ‘What Took You So Long’ which, like Halliwell’s ‘Men’, hit #1 and stayed there for two weeks.

Victoria Beckham was the last Spice Girl to release a solo album. Her self titled album received very poor critical and commercial success and she has yet to make another. Where her singing career has waned, Victoria has become the best known of all of the girls. She is now a very successful fashion designer, television personality and is, of course, married to David Beckham and is mother to their four children. Victoria’s most successful single remains ‘Out of Your Mind’ with Truesteppers, although it is ‘Let Your Head Go’ which seems to be the favourite with fans.

Read the rest of this article at Eyewear


James Christopher Sheppard divulges the tracks he has on repeat.

 

Korn ‘Get Up’ (featuring Skrillex)

At school in the late 90’s, if you liked metal, Korn were a pretty good starting point. Now, seventeen years since the debut, Korn release their freshest single in years. I first heard ‘Get Up’ on kerrang radio and had to double check who it was. The collaboration with master of dubstep, Skrillex, throws Korn’s aggressive thrashing metal sound into brand new industrial waters. This is the best song Korn have released since 2002’s ‘Here to Stay’. Fucking incredible. Watch the video for ‘Get Up’ below.

 

Melanie C ‘Rock Me’

Rock Spice Melanie C finally returns with the first release from her long-awaited fifth solo album, The Sea. ‘Rock Me’ is vibrant, simple, catchy, up-beat and addictive. With her own very loyal following, and sales of over ten million albums worldwide, sporty spice still has a great deal to offer. Watch the video for ‘Rock Me’ below.

 

Within Temptation ‘Sinead’

New single from Within Temptation’s flawless album The Unforgiving is ‘Sindead’- the beat-heavy, industrial tinged dance/symphonic metal track. Yes, ‘Sinead’ is the most cross-over single Within Temptation have released and it’s gaining all sorts of attention. For the first time ever, the band have had official remixes commissioned from the likes of German hard dance band Scooter. The most surprising thing about the remixes is that they actually work. Check out the ‘VNV Nation Club Mix’ video below.

 

Charlie Simpson ‘Parachute’

Fightstar front man Charlie Simpson, will unleash his debut solo album in August and ‘Parachutes’ is the second single, following the mellow ‘Down Down Down’. ‘Parachutes’ isn’t a million miles from the sound of Fightstar, but is enough of a departure to be only Simpson’s. The song is softer and relies more on acoustic sounds to build song to it’s climax. Vulnerable and powerful at the same time. I am truly impressed by the quality of this.

 

Amy Winehouse ‘Back to Black’

For me, ‘Back to Black’ is the ultimate Amy Winehouse song. Following her tragic passing on Saturday 23rd July, this song seems more painful and sadder than ever. Winehouse was a visibly very troubled soul, who sadly lost her battle with depression and addiction. ‘Back to Black’ will stand testament to what incredible art she created, if only for a short time. You will be forever remembered, Amy.

Leave your thoughts about these tracks below. Feel free to send me links to what you’re listening to or would like to see included next time!

Read the full article at Eyewear

 

 


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

The editor of blogzine Eyewear, Todd Swift, emailed me today to inform me that my review of the latest Incubus album, If Not Now, When? has become his most read post ever, with over 4,400 views over the past month. The same post has also generated over 1,000 views here on my personal website. So basically I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone for taking the time to read what I write here- knowing so many people are investing their time in reading my pieces fills me with satisfaction and urges me to carry on.

I’d also like to take this moment to add that I am currently seeking any writing opportunities out there. I am eager to published in as many different publications and blogzines as possible. Also, if anyone has any writing/journalistic vacancies in London- or anywhere, and would like to approach me, please contact me at jamessheppard@hotmail.co.uk

Thanks again everyone, please continue to check back, enjoy and comment.


Reviewed by James Christopher Sheppard

Having just completed her massive ‘Aphrodite- Les Folies World Tour’, Kylie Minogue is releasing a stunning boxset of all five of her studio albums released since her career-changing monster hit ‘Spinning Around’ in 2000. Better than any Greatest Hits from the past ten years could be, this literally includes every track released by Minogue since signing with Parlophone in 1999.

Light Years

Including her first Top Ten hit since 1994’s ‘Confide in Me’, Light Years catapulted Minogue back to the forefront of pop. Following almost eight years of musical experimentation and collaborations with Nick Cave and Manic Street Preachers, Minogue put her shiny stilettos and hot pants back on and produced the most unashamedly camp disco album of her entire career. ‘Spinning Around’ hit number 1 in the UK and Australia and similar success followed for singles ‘On a Night Like This’, ‘Kids’ with Robbie Williams and ‘Please Stay’. The album also features live favourite ‘Light Years’, and possibly the campest song ever recorded, ‘Your Disco Needs You’.

Fever

‘La la la, la la la la la…’ Fever was released in 2001 and saw Minogue not only top the charts in five countries and go multi-platinum, but also had top five success in the USA. The classic single ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ now has iconic status and remains one of the biggest selling singles in the world over the past decade. ‘Come Into My World’ won a Grammy and ‘In Your Eyes’ and ‘Love at First Sight’ were also phenomenally huge successes. Following Fever, Kylie was considered an international superstar. Other stand out tracks from the album include ‘Love Affair’, ‘Burning Up’, ‘Fragile’, ‘More More More’, ‘Give it to Me’ and… basically the entire album is flawless electro pop.

Body Language

Never one to unleash the expected, Kylie’s Body Language stunned many, as it did not follow in Fever’s footsteps, or any other record’s footsteps really. The overall sound of the album is the most urban that Kylie has ever sounded, featuring a more American R&B sound than the electro pop people had come to expect from Minogue. While the album scored Minogue her seventh UK #1 with the understated electronic hit ‘Slow’, the rest of the album had a sound of being directed towards an American audience. As a result, the album underperformed in most territories as it just didn’t quite sound like authentic Kylie. Saying that, ‘Red Blooded Women’ and ‘Loving Days’ are treasures that would doubtfully exist without the rest of the album.

X

Mid ‘Showgirl Tour’ in 2005, Kylie was forced to dramatically cancel the remainder of the tour following her cancer diagnosis. For over a year, the world waited to hear of Kylie’s recovery, and finally rejoiced in late 2006 when she hit the road to complete the tour. Four years after the release of Body Language came X, with first single, ‘2 Hearts’ hitting #4 in the UK and #1 in Australia. X is packed full of electro club tracks, like ‘Like a Drug’, ‘In My Arms’, ‘The One’, ‘Wow’ and ‘Speakerphone’. While some criticized the comeback album as lacking the heartache that could have been expected from a post-illness album, the collection was a success and hugely popular with fans as it demonstrates what Kylie does best- electro dance pop.

Read more at Eyewear


James Christopher Sheppard
on his Top Ten musical highlights of 2011

As we hit the mid-point of the year 2011, James Christopher Sheppard takes a look back and charts his top ten musical highlights of the year so far. With stellar performances, standout single releases and albums that will be listened to for years to come, here’s how James’ top ten shapes up, in descending order, starting with the tenth best highlight.

10

P!nk ‘Fuckin’ Perfect’

New Mum, P!nk, released the second single from her Greatest Hits… So Far!!! album in March, to much critical acclaim. The video portrays a girl with self-confidence issues, who dabbles in self-harm, but ultimately grows into a beautiful women and mother. As corny as it sounds, it really is a moving song and video and incredibly apt for P!nk at this time in her life. I can not wait for the follow-up to the incredible Funhouse album.

 

 

 

9

Britney Spears ‘Hold it Against Me’

Britney smashed back onto the scene after a short break at the beginning of the year with the dub-step tinged monster hit ‘Hold it Against Me’. The song is a new direction for Britney, and while the album Femme Fatale may not live up to the standard set here, ‘Hold it Against Me’ is one of the best Britney singles ever.

 

 

 

 

 

8

Lady GaGa ‘The Edge of Glory’ performance at Radio One’s Big Weekend.

Lady Gaga had run into all sorts of critical indifference at the beginning of the year as the response to the first two singles from her album Born This Way were not met with the same ecstatic reception in the UK that she was used to. While ‘Born This Way’ slowly built on people and sold steadily, it still was the least original single she had put out, and ‘Judas’ didn’t do a great deal to help matters. Cut to May and Gaga headlined Radio One’s Big Weekend in Carlisle and performed a piano only version of third single ‘The Edge of Glory’. With no gimmicks, no crazy outfit or political message, ‘The Edge of Glory’ proved Lady Gaga’s musical talent was still as evident as ever and stands as one of her most emotional and powerful performances to date.

 

7

Blondie Panic of Girls

Returning with their ninth studio album, Blondie proved on their stunning new album that they are still a force to be reckoned with. The band sound younger and fresher than they have done in years, with Panic of Girls being innovative and full of energy. Stand out tracks include ‘Mother’, ‘What I Heard’, ‘Girlie Girlie’ and ‘Wipe off my Sweat’. Get the limited edition collector’s pack if you haven’t already, featuring an exclusive magazine, prints, a poster and bonus tracks.

 

 

 

6

Lower Than Atlantis World Record

The second full-length album from melodic hardcore band, Lower Than Atlantis, arrived in April and saw Mike Duce and his band-mates establish themselves as one of the leading alternative rock bands in the UK, getting air-play from Radio One and Kerrang, amongst others. World Record managed to outshine their outstanding debut, Far Q, with killer tracks like ‘Beech Like a Tree’, ‘(Motor) Way of Life’, ‘Another Sad Song’ and ‘Deadliest Catch’. World Record is only the beginning for these guys, which makes them so exciting to watch. Definitely a band and an album to check out if you haven’t already.

 

 

5

Adele 21 and that Brit Awards Performance

You must have been in a coma for the past six months if you’ve failed to notice to phenomenal success of English singer/songwriter Adele’s second album, 21. The album is now established as the longest running UK number one album since Saturday Night Fever in 1978, that’s sixteen weeks so far, and as it stands 21 is still #2. First single, ‘Rolling In The Deep’, was a huge success pretty much everywhere, and has just spent its seventh week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, while ‘Someone Like You’ rocketed to number one in the UK following the heart-wrenching acoustic performance at the Brit Awards in February. There’s even more to 21 that the massive hits however, with gems such as ‘Turning Tables’, a cover of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’ and ‘Set Fire To The Rain’. 21 is a record-shattering album, with over seven million sales since its release in January, and its obvious why- just seriously good music.

 

4

Incubus If Not Now, When?

Following a five year gap since their last studio album, Incubus finally ventured back into the limelight over the past few months to announce the forthcoming release of their seventh studio album. If Not Now, When? is delicate and mellow, yet mesmerising and powerful, with new Incubus classics such as ‘Adolescents’, ‘Isadore’, ‘ Defiance’ and ‘In the Company of Wolves’ to add to our already lengthy Incubus playlists.

 

 

 

Complete the Top Ten and see the final top three highlights, including Kylie Minogue, Patrick Wolf and Within Temptation, at Eyewear.