James Durbin – Celebrate Album Review
At the beginning of the year, I was able to catch rising talent James Durbin in a cozy Orlando setting. He was in the midst of an intimate, stripped-down tour where he offered a promising glimpse of his forthcoming album, Celebrate.
Somehow over the ensuing months, I missed the album release, which hit the streets in late April, immediately debuting inside the Billboard 100. Better late than never, I finally took it for a spin. The first time I heard these songs in the aforementioned live show, they were quite raw; basically just Durbin, his wonderful voice and an acoustic guitar. This time? Certainly not raw, but rather meticulously produced.
In an earlier interview, I asked Durbin about the more mainstream feel to the title track, and whether that’s what we would see on the album. “The whole record is composed of songs that are very hooky and catchy. It’s all fairly ‘mainstream,’ if that word even still holds value.” (Check out the full conversation here: James Durbin Interview). He nailed it, as the album is packed with nice pop hooks, and a slick well-produced sound.
There are a handful of radio ready tracks on this album, and a slew that should instantly appeal to his legion of American Idol fans. Listening, it really is a safe commercial approach, but after seeing Durbin play these stripped down, I was a bit disappointed that the album felt over-produced.
Simply put, I found the album was just a bit too clean. I missed some of the grit we saw on his debut album and that same passion that oozed out when he performed acoustically. I can’t blame him, and really have no idea whether this incarnation of Durbin is a better reflection of the artist he wants to become, but I’d prefer something a little “dirtier.”
In any event, it’s clear that Durbin is growing as a songwriter and stretching his wings as a musician, as he had ample time to create what he wanted. “The greatest advantage to having more time to make the record was that it gave me more time to write and craft the record itself. On the physical record I co-wrote 10 of the 11 tracks. That definitely wouldn’t have happened without having that solid, creative time span.”
The album kicks off with two strong offerings, the soaring rocker, “Children Under The Sun,” where we immediately witness the growth and broad range of Durbin’s already fantastic voice; and “Parachute,” the first single and a song just oozing with hit potential. It’s an addictive pop-rock anthem in waiting. From that point forward, it really is more of a pop album, but that takes nothing away from the quality of the songs.
For me, one of the highlights is the slick, bouncy “Fool For You,” It’s got a catchy sound and an addictive hook that just screams for Top 40 airplay. Other highlights include “Louder Than A Loaded Gun,” and the tender, touching ballad “Real Love,” where I finally get to hear a bit of that raw James Durbin I missed on most of the album.
It’s an excellent pop record, and if there’s any sense in this world, songs from the album will decorate the Top 40 playlists throughout the year. Fans of Idol will be pleased. Me? I’m still looking for the grit he left behind on the last tour.
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