Album: James Morrison, The Awakening (Island)

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The Independent Culture

Presumably hoping for a little of that Rockferry magic to rub off on him, James Morrison's third album is produced by Bernard Butler, to neither party's great credit, I'm afraid.

The songs are mostly just nondescript airwave fodder, clogging up the aether for months to come: several open with the kind of "soulful" humming or wordless oohing that's invariably a sign of creative bankruptcy. And though blessed with a serviceable timbre, Morrison's delivery is bland soul-by-numbers, littered with echoes of Stevie Wonder ("In My Dreams"), Terence Trent D'Arby ("Say Something Now") and the coda from Van Morrison's "Caravan" ("Beautiful Life"). It's as if he's learnt the technical grammar and inflective vocabulary of soul-style singing, but isn't able to make it into a coherent language that actually unlocks the emotions.

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