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Album Review

Although Los Angeles singer/songwriter Samantha James claims 1980s cocktail-pop singers Sade and Basia as two of her primary influences, her debut album, Rise, sounds as if her true heart lies in that period in the mid-'90s when those singers' contemporaries Everything But the Girl lost their taste for twee U.K. indie guitar pop and jazzy torch songs and transformed themselves into a downtempo electronica act. It was a transformation that worked surprisingly well, not least because Tracey Thorn's smoky, wine-dark vocals and Ben Watt's knack for languid minor-key melodies both suited the style unexpectedly well. Samantha James is no Tracey Thorn, and her songwriting and production partner Sebastian Arocha Morton is no Ben Watt, but albums like Walking Wounded are no embarrassment as musical touchstones, and James doesn't embarrass herself in her re-creation of the style. The best songs, like the dreamy "Enchanted Life," the lushly tropical "Rain," and the bossa nova-influenced "I Found You," a duet with Celso Fonseca, are those that leave the dancefloor in favor of those dark, intimate banquettes in the quiet corners, where James' honeyed voice and the duo's fondness for mellow late-night atmospheres are best suited. On the more overtly dance-oriented tracks, like "Breathe You In" and "Living Without You," James sounds like just another anonymous dance club diva, and the '80s-throwback rhythm boxes don't help her cause.

Customer Reviews

What a voice...

First discovered SJ through Hed Kandi which included Rise on one of their compilations. This is a fantastic album - west coast lifestyle at its best. Stand out tracks, Rise (obviously), Angel Love, Enchanted Love and the very single-esque Send It Out to the Universe. This album combines the very best of cool chill-out (see Om:Ibiza) and dance. SJ deserves to be massive..she's beautiful and talented..what a combination...

A Rare Diamond!!

What can I say about this outstanding mellow album. Filled with chills and grooves to enjoy all day and night. Samantha James's vocals are very soothing in every single track and this is perhaps one of the most flawless chill out albums I've heard in a LONG LONG TIME! I first heard about this singer on one of the Hed Kandi albums and prayed one day she would release an album. Thankfully she released an amazing album and I urge all HedKandi fans to check this out. In the days of commercialisation with the new Hed Kandi albums, this proves that there is still hope in chill out music! Stand out tracks from me are 'Come Through' , 'Living Without You', 'Breathe You In' and 'Enchanted Life'. Special Nod has to go to 'Send it Out to the Universe' which is just amazing! In all, every single track is brilliant and it is rare to find an album that has back to back quality! BUY IT NOW FOLKS!!!! you won't be disappointed!!!

A brilliant album that all my friends LOVE!

Such a superb album of songs and downtempo grooves. I've played this to everyone from my Mum to my best friend and they all love it. Suitable for poolside listening, dinner party music and Sunday afternoon relaxing. Samantha is a star in the this now!


Born: 1983 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Dance

Years Active: '00s

Dance-pop singer Samantha James is inspired less by the R&B divas one would expect in her chosen style of music than by a subtler breed of 1980s singers influenced by vintage cocktail jazz and bossa nova, such as Basia, Sade, and Tracey Thorn of Everything But the Girl, as well as contemporaries working in the same general style such as Bebel Gilberto or Miho Hatori of Smokey & Miho. Born and raised in Los Angeles, James is the granddaughter of the late David Rose, the orchestra leader and film and...
Full bio
Rise, Samantha James
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Customer Ratings