Eden James/All the Good ***** Are Taken/Dandy Ram Records
Three out of Five Stars
Although he hails from Australia, Eden James has more in common with those that once dwelled in the darker recesses of New York’s musical underground—bands like the Velvet Underground and Talking Heads in particular. Given an assist from a seasoned coterie of players—Paul Simon’s guitarist Larry Saltzman, David Bowie’s drummer Sterling Campbell and keyboard/accordion player Charles Giordano, the latter a recent recruit to Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band—James cuts an imposing figure, a singer who tends to probe deeper depths of expression through imagery and intrigue.
Although it boasts only eight tracks in all, All the Good ***** Are Taken is an expressive effort, whether mined from the upbeat enthusiasm of the opening track, “Bad Girl,” the emphatic pull of “Dangerous Game,” the bluesier designs of “Stranger,” or the steady stride of “Black Book.” a track that would segue nicely with the Velvets’ “Sweet Jane.” While some of the songs seem to follow a well-trod formula, James’ confidence is clear. There’s reason for that as well; highly regarded in his native Australia, Europe, the U.K. and India, he’s won numerous international awards and performed at several prestigious festivals.
Still, despite the fact that he now resides in the Big Apple—the track “New York” specifically sings the city’s praises—James has yet to make any major inroads in the U.S. His crisp, cool persona may help attract some newfound admirers, especially those that favor the urban chic that Bowie, Reed and David Byrne personified in their later years. And while his is a sound that seems somewhat out of time, typifying an ‘80s exile of sorts, it suggests a charismatic style that ought to work well in his favor.
I’m a villain, I’m a villain, he sings on the song of the same name, making him the epitome of a dastardly scoundrel out to seduce those unsuspecting with his rascally charms.
Hopefully then, the album title won’t become self-fulfilling. James’ crooner-come-later persona is, at its essence, reliably retro, and that could hinder his competitiveness in a modern rock world. Nevertheless, casual cool never goes out of style, and in that regard, James cocksure attitude all but ensures his appeal.