The Great Western
James Dean Bradfield
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As the voice and face of Manic Street Preachers, James Dean Bradfield is a deceptively placid presence, presenting Nicky Wire's platitudes with a humble, plainspoken delivery — something that helped sell the more strident politics and also helped bring the band firmly within the coffeehouse territory, crossing over with Everything Must Go. He may front the band but he doesn't write the words, an odd situation for a group so charged and personal as this, but that does mean Bradfield is the ideal choice for a solo album, since it would promise to reveal a side of him thus far unheard on record. His 2006 solo debut, The Great Western, does indeed fill that bill, presenting a sensitive, vulnerable Bradfield, something that hasn't been captured on Manics albums even when they strayed toward colorless mature-pop. Sonically, this album isn't far removed from This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours — it's anthemic yet soft, dramatic yet hushed — but unlike on the Manics albums since, it doesn't sound labored. The Great Western sounds rather effortless both in its music and lyrics, as Bradfield unhurriedly tells intimate stories that are quite affecting partially because they are so modest. This small sense of scale is frankly a relief after the mock grandeur of Know Your Enemy and Lifeblood, and there's a genuine warmth to this record that makes it Bradfield's most endearing, enduring music since This Is My Truth, which bodes well for the next Manics LP.
Lovely songs by a lovely man...
I've been a Manics fan for well over a decade now and they still remain my favorite band despite my music catalogue being rather enormous. James has always had a Brando-esqueness about him that so few frontmen have, and a voice that never ceases to blow me away. His solo album is our first real peak into his lyric writing skills (let us not forget the beautiful 'Ocean Spray', however) and the mind behind the soulful voice of the Preachers. I am certainly not disappointed. 'Still A Long Way To Go' is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. It's interesting how much more personal James' lyrics are than Nicky's, or even Richey's, are for the Manics, considering he has always come across as a bit more of a mystery. In short, I suppose all I can really say is GOOD JOB JAMES.
the album that turned the manics around
one could almost forget the disaster that was "know your enemy" and forgive the keane-esque (albeit very sweet) tangent that was "lifeblood" and consider james dean bradfield's solo album the proper bridge between "this is my truth tell me yours" and their comeback hit "send away the tigers." full of the gorgeous harmonic variance that made the manics of the mid '90s so enjoyable, and a return to songwriting for JDB that allowed for the best of the manics to come in the latter '00s. too bad itunes only recently added this album to the store, i wouldn't have had to pay twice the usual to have the album imported from the UK... pick this up if you don't have it already.
Born: February 21, 1969 in Pontypool, Wales
Years Active: '90s, '00s
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