Title - 'Alive at Last: In Philadelphia'
Artist - James Lee Stanley
For those not in the know, James Lee Stanley is an American folk singer-songwriter, a highly rated, very talented musician, and was also a regular extra on TV's 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' for six seasons!
The reason this new CD is so poignant to Stanley is that he was actually born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of Italian, German, Cherokee Indian, Scotch/Irish and English heritage, Stanley's uncle taught him to play the ukulele at an early age, and at sixteen he got his first recording contract.
In 1970, Stanley did his first Los Angeles recording session through his friend Cass Elliot of The Mamas & the Papas. Stanley and Elliott remained friends until her death. About his early attempts at songwriting, Stanley has always said, "The Producer told me to write songs, so I did. They were terrible!"
That cannot, however, be said of his brand new album, Alive at Last: In Philadelphia, out now via Beachwood Recordings. As one can guess from its title, Alive at Last is a captured live album of 15 tracks that Stanley did with two of his favorite musicians contributing to the songs, Chad Watson (bass guitar), and Cheryl Prashker handles all manner of percussion instruments.
The album is chock full of songs written by Stanley himself, save for one Michael Smith tune, a Beatles cover, and even a Stones cover. Created in a very relaxed manner, much like three musicians wandering into a studio, deciding not to rehearse in any way, and allowing what comes out to, well, just organically come out.
1. 'Welcome' 2. 'Going Back To Memphis' 3. 'Intro - Worry Bout You' 4. 'Worry Bout You' 5. 'Three Monkeys' 6. 'Intro - Miss You' 7. 'Miss You' 8. 'Into - 'Drive My Car' 9. 'Drive My Car' 10. 'I Don't Want To Talk About It' 11. 'Intro - Easy To See' 12. 'Easy To See' 13. 'All I Ever Wanted' 14. 'Intro - The Street Where Mercy Died' 15. 'The Street Where Mercy Died' 16. 'Intro - Here We Are' 17. 'Here We Are' 18. 'Do It In His Name' 19. 'Intro - Touch Like Magic' 20. 'Touch Like Magic' 21. 'Racing The Moon' 22. 'Intro - The More I Drink' 23. 'The More I Drink'.
Mixed at Beachwood Recordings, Stanley freely admits he tinkered a little with the choice of songs and their results. "Yes, I did whatever studio tricks I thought would serve the tunes, but it is just the three of us, raw, unadulterated and so very musical. I did edit a lot of the dialog as I believe that kind of stuff gets old fast on a recording, but there are a few anecdotes that I believe that you will not only find amusing, but also make you feel like you are there."
From the moment he introduces himself, to rapturous applause, and then feeds beautifully into 'Going Back to Memphis' you know you have something musically special in your hands. There are eight songs that come with intro's, but none more raw, more downright personally honest, than the one that comes before 'Worry Bout You' ["This was inspired by one of my wives. Not my favorite, but a good one, you know! I think that if it hadn't have been for the bangs that she wore, I would have seen the 66 on her forehead and realized what I was getting into! I wrote this after she left, so she didn't hear it for a couple of years"."]
As for stand out tracks, well, in truth, they all are, but if I had to narrow them down, I would say the aforementioned beautiful 'Worry Bout You', the lazy, hazy groove of 'Three Monkeys', a quite stunning rendition of The Beatles' 'Drive My Car', and both the storytelling behind 'The Street Where Mercy Died' and 'Racing the Moon'.