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'Therapy' by Jim Lea

Reviewed for www.slayed.co.uk by Ian Edmundson.

THERAPY.
2016 was a fruitful year for Slade fans, as far as Jim Lea is concerned. Jim reissued his 2007 ‘Therapy’ album via the Wienerworld label, in association with Pledge Music.

The 2007 edition of ‘Therapy’ was released (credited to James Whild Lea) on Jim Lea’s own independent label and via his website as a limited small run and, despite the addition of a second live disc at one point to try to build some interest, the ‘Therapy’ album was never really promoted to any great extent and has always remained a relatively obscure release, which is quite surprising, considering Lea’s rather impressive background and career with Slade and the quality of the music therein. A large number of Slade fans didn’t even know about the original ‘Therapy’ release, and it only actually appeared on Amazon a long time after release.

The portrait artwork on the front sleeve was apparently presented to Jim in 1976 and the artist remains uncredited.

Jim Lea is characteristically known to be resolutely silent in the press, unless troubled briefly for a handy quote about Slade’s Christmas classic, and new reports of his comings and goings are few and far between. He values his privacy greatly, doesn’t like the spotlight or crave attention and is loath to say something about himself unless he has something to say. You may sometimes get to hear the odd snippet from the recording studio that he uses to say that he has been in there doing some work. Then you get a couple of years of silence.

Roll on 2016 and the Wienerworld label (who specialise in bringing some really good quality rock releases that are no longer in print back onto the market) announced that the ‘Therapy’ album is to be given a release on their label. I was not initially too impressed by the idea of this album being made available again, even though it still gets quite frequent plays in my home, in preference to most Slade material. ‘Why buy it yet again?’ was the burning question.

As the release date got nearer, a Pledge Music page was opened (a standard practice used by record companies to get the ball rolling to recoup initial outlay and to also entice buyers to buy albums with the added attraction of exclusive bonus material). This piqued my interest greatly.

Two sets of exclusive autographed lyric sheets were made available to pledgers, with the proceeds being donated to charity. Signed copies of the double compact disc set were made available. The first limited run of signed CD's sold out and there was some outcry from people who had not been paying attention and had missed out, so some more were made available. And then some more.

Signed Therapy 2CD set

The first great thing about the Wienerworld ‘Therapy’ reissue - now credited to Jim Lea - was the addition of three studio bonus tracks on the double CD issue. The additional tracks were all previously unheard and created great excitement among Slade fans. Anticipation regarding the bonus tracks caused a flurry of conversation on the Internet. Jim Lea even broke his customary silence to give the back stories of the three bonus tracks.

Lea wrote sleeve notes for the CD edition in September 2016 telling the story of the original release and detailing the sources of the bonus tracks. Suffice to say he seems to have a fair number of unreleased songs stored away in various stages of completion.

“On being asked to add more tracks to the album, I managed to dig up a song called 21st Century Thing. It was found on a cassette of demos which had never been worked on. After a short attempt to re-record it, I gave up and put the demo version on the album which seemed to fit the vibe just fine. Then came something from the digital era in the shape of Thank God It’s Friday Right Now. Coming up the rear is a pop thrash track Am I The Greatest Now. I am proud of the album and found the public reaction very edifying.”    Jim Lea commenting on the bonus tracks.

JIM LEA THERAPY WIENERWORLD 2CD EDITION

It’s up to you, the listener, as to how you interpret the songs on the album and what Jim Lea calls their ‘psychological content’.

Here’s my own take on the songs:

The first track, 'Heaven can wait (for those who pray)' is a gentle introduction to the album. The vocal sound is pure Jim, though it's also rather reminiscent of Robbie Williams. I doubt it's deliberate. The song has a Beach Boys 'God only knows' feel to it, which again I doubt is deliberate.

'Big Family' features Jim on slightly low-in-the-mix treated vocals. A great little melodic little rock song, which stretches his voice to its limits - a good performance. He could have done with getting a crowd in to do the background noise, rather than doing it all himself, but that's not a criticism. The strongest candidate for a single. The song was previously released (entitled ‘Great Big Family’) as a single in Europe by Mama's Jasje.

'The Smile of Elvis' shows that Jim is probably another of these people who believes in the old Elvis myth. He lists a series of old time stars and wishes he was like them to 'become someone'. The vocal is pure David Essex. (Think of 'If I could') The strings – nearly every instrument on the album is played by Lea - hark back to those on old Clifford T Ward albums and are beautiful. Very tasteful.

The list of deceased musos that is 'Deadrock UK' is a stomping song, once it gets going. I'm not sure why he goes on about the UK quite as much as he does, seeing as he mentions Jimi Hendrix, who was an American (though he did die over here). The vocal is mainly spoken word and there are a few cornball rhymes in there (Ghostest / Mostest), but the song ploughs away neatly - carrying a very strong anti-drug message. Subtle mellotron-played Beatles references fill out the verses and give a nice period feel.

'Could God be a woman' sounds like John Lennon's 'Jealous guy' or 'Imagine' in the first few bars, but that soon changes to Jim's very own sound, with a slightly awkward spoken vocal on the verses. The chorus sounds very similar to 'Universe'. Jim goes into deep thought mode and obviously couldn't find a way to sing the words on the verses. The overall feel is orchestral. This is probably the track which will confuse Slade fans the most.
'Go out in style' is the track most reminiscent of Jim's Slade past, as he has largely ditched that style for this album. The 'Wild wild wild' chorus is pure Slade. The song drives along in a similar fashion to some of the early Who singles and is one that Jim has previously given a live airing to. I have no doubt that this song is hugely inspired by The Who - as certain guitar riffs, drum breaks and chord sequences (think 'I can see for miles') are pure Townshend. One of the very best things on the album.

'Universe' is played with a far lighter and quieter feel than Slade's version (which mainly used elements of Jim's original recording) and this more restrained version sounds like it would fit nicely into the soundtrack of a 'Riverdance' show, which is by no means an insult.

'Time and emotion' starts with some nice guitar playing from Jim, with an extremely similar melody to 'We won't give in'. This is the solitary track where Jim makes his bass feature strongly in the background at a couple of points, which shows how Jim probably doesn't think of himself primarily as a bassist any longer. Quite repetitive in its 3.30 time span.

'Your Cine world' is another Jim song in the style of Oasis. Musically and vocally. It simply belongs on an Oasis album. He wouldn't have got away with this on a Slade album. Features the word 'masturbation'. Be warned.

'Valley of the Kings' is nothing at all to do with Egypt. The lyrics are quite light and just deal with moving on from the past and living in the NOW, so the music really does the talking. The melody is great and the song is really well played. If you just let it play you'll enjoy it. The slipped-in reference to 'wondering why' doesn't go on-noticed. The end section of the song is lovely.

'Why is youth always wasted on the young' is (for me anyway) the musical masterpiece of the album. The 'group arrangement' is fantastic. A slow, restrained arrangement, production tricks, excellent backing vocals and a very deliberate, grinding pace really makes this song potent. The lyrics, backing vocals and string arrangement are possibly the best on the album. The slipped-in reference to 'on the outside looking in' doesn't go on-noticed either. The spoken ending is as corny as hell, but with everything else that's gone before it really does work fine. A masterpiece.

'Notice'.
Jim deals with the past and, via a treated, sometimes Dylanesque vocal, lets us know how his wife Louise apparently tried to dump him years ago, but they did stay together and eventually DID get married. Reading the lyrics doesn't make things a lot clearer, but....

'Let me be your therapy' rounds off the album. A slow, chugging song in which Jim basically demands to be the centre of the listener's universe in a whole string of ways. Impressively arranged guitar work. Great chorus, too. Great false endings and a killer last line, too.

This album is not the pretentious package that Jim's occasional interviews at the time made fans feared that they would end up with. Jim has made an album primarily for himself. It is a really well defined collection of great little rock songs.

It in no way tries to be a Slade album at any time, which is the greatest relief. Repeat - It is NOT in any way a new Slade album. Jim would probably visibly roll his eyes with disbelief at anyone who was still living with that sad expectation. If someone else came up with this album, it would possibly be hailed as a triumph. Jim has to live with people expecting every new track to be a new 'Cum on feel the noize' when he doesn't want to do that anymore.

Well worth the wait.

The three 2016 CD bonus tracks are of a matching standard to the rest of the album.

'21st Century thing' is a demo recording that resurfaced when the new label asked Lea for some additional bonus content. A slow, slightly melancholy, reflective, string-driven piece, observing the lives of people around him, with a guitar subtly pushing the VU meter to its limit and a quite decent vocal from Lea. Despite a wonderfully strong melody line and chord structure, it’s certainly not a song subject you could ever imagine Noddy Holder having a crack at. Vive le difference.

'Thank God it's Friday right now' is (for me anyway) the biggest surprise of Lea's solo career. Featuring an assured vocal that totally removes the unfair criticisms of his vocal style, it is a sparsely arranged, laid back and soulful track with a lyric about the mundanity of the daily grind of working from Monday to Friday. The arrangement is augmented with female backing vocals and is nothing like I would have expected from him, even during his period in Slade. The only Slade album I could think of this appearing on would be Nobody’s Fools – their most varied album, designed for American radio.

'Am I the greatest now?' is Lea at his most melodic and current. He has certainly been listening to some recent music. It again immediately sprang to mind that would have made a good single. Wienerworld chose this as the plug track for radio for the new package.

The second disc in the 2016 CD reissue is a mixing desk recording of the highlights of Jim Lea's solitary solo live show in front of a paying audience from 2002 at The Robin2 in Bilston. I was fortunate enough to have been at that show and can attest that the disc is a true and accurate record of most of the songs that were played on that night. There are a few Slade songs in there, as well as some great cover versions - check the track listing - that Lea and Co pulled out of the hat on the night. A great momento of a great evening.

Wienerworld and Pledge Music announced a vinyl 2LP edition of the ‘Therapy’ album, which consisted of the original thirteen ‘Therapy’ album tracks, plus the three bonus tracks that were on the 2016 compact disc reissue AND a further three additional bonus tracks.

JIM LEA THERAPY 2LP VINYL EDITION

The album was again made available via Pledge Music with a very limited number of signed copies. A small number of ‘test pressings’ were also put on sale.

Jim Lea Therapy test pressing (signed copy belonging to Dave Kemp.

SIGNED TEST PRESSING, BELONGING TO DAVE KEMP.

The vinyl edition bonus tracks:

‘Misty morning light’ is a brief, very pleasantly folky tune with a lyric about the girl leaving the singer. A nice surprise to hear something so different to what one would expect.

‘I’ll be John you be Yoko’ is a great, upbeat pop song, with both the vocal and strings quite reminiscent of Oasis at their best and most strident. The singer wants a girl who is just like him in every way possible. The only pop song in history to feature the word ‘narcissistically’ so prominently. Previously issued as the lead track on the CD EP issued under the name WHILD, Jim probably thought it needed to be heard again. It has stood the test of time very well indeed.

‘Dare to be great’ is a fine tribute to the bands that Jim Lea grew up listening to. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and The Who. Bands who dared to be different.

On listening to the vinyl edition with a friend, he was quite stunned at what a totally different album it was to the one that he was maybe expecting. This is the same reaction that a number of people came up with at the time of the original release of 'Therapy'. It is an album full of surprises.

The sound from the vinyl is rich and full and the gatefold sleeve with Jim’s expansive sleeve notes and credits is a good, informative read.

As Jim says, it's time to get some Therapy.

From Wienerworld:

2CD VERSION
2LP VINYL VERSION

From Amazon.co.uk:
2LP VINYL EDITION
2CD VERSION

Signed 2LP Therapy by Jim Lea.

SIGNED DOUBLE VINYL ISSUE OF 'THERAPY' (Image courtesy of Simon Kimmins)


Reviews of the original 'Therapy' album via the Slade mailing list and forum from 2007:

I have listened to this album closely all day at work and most of last night. It is indeed a truly great album. There is obvious some new influences here compared to what he did 25 and 40 years ago. That is indeed a good thing. I do hear a hint of Oasis that is true, but Beatles is a much more obvious influence and so is Queen. Still it does sound like Jim Lea. I will play this album over and over again for sure, much better than the Slade II album (repacked a few times) and also better than his other solo work. In fact his singing is surprisingly good.
Cheers
Harald


Mmm I sampled a few of the samples and sadly they don't make me interested in listening to the full versions. It sounds to me like Jim is trying to sound like a band that was influenced by Slade. I can't think of their names now but I seem to recall it was a Manchester sound in the 90's. I didn't like that so my reference is probably going to be quite poor.
Jon Hinchliffe

Greetingz Nutterz, This is great news!!! Thanks Ian for telling us. I just went to the web and listened to the few seconds of music. I dont agree with Jon that this sounds like someone trying to sound like Slade. This is different, except for Universe, which was written by Jim anyway. On the other hand, I dont agree with Jim, since I think Penny lane and Strawberry Fields are low water marks of the Beatles, compared to all the brilliant songs they did. What do you think? We Nutz are fortunate. First reissues of remastered Slade albums. Now Jim's new album. What will come next? ... and Keep 'n' rockin',
Sten

Jim's new album ”Therapy” is now out and his website www.jimleamusic.com is up and running. Check it out. You can also by the album there.

I played the album to some of my friends in the music business and they were baffled. As one said, “I hadn't expected that! I'd thought, yeah, yeah, the retired Slade whiz trying to do one more in his old age, in then the guy brings out this smash album! Goddamn, he's even better now than he ever was with Slade!”

The album consists of 13 tracks, a few rock tunes but mostly ballad-like pop with an orchestral sound. The tracks stem from the same tradition and fond approach to music as Beatles, mostly McCartney I guess, although Jim has an edge and sharpness that McCartney never had. It's a bit as if the British Invasion hasn't quite ended or maybe it hasn't even started, yet, as “Therapy” brings something new to it. Even though you seem to detect a little Beatles and The Who here, a little Beach Boys and Everly Brothers there, Jim tends to surprise with unexpected twists to his compositions, a hint of pop magic sweetness and good solid craftsmanship. I don't know if there's a marked for this kind of music there days, but had it been in the seventies it would have soared the charts. Well, had it had a McCartney-credit stuck to it instead of a James Whild Lea I guess it still would.

The arrangements had my music business friends go bonkers, the instrumentation and playing as well. If I am to say something negative, and I suppose I am, many of the tracks have odd abrupt endings, which make them sound unfinished. It's not quite becoming except for tracks like “Could God Be A Woman” and “Let Me Be Your Therapy”, where you really can't go on after the final punchline of the lyrics.

Lyrics-wise “Therapy” seems to be a rather personal and well…therapeutic album. It struggles with inner demons, with the mistaken arrogance of youth, with death, insecurity and loneliness. But it is not depressing at all, oh no. It still has this typical ironic feel to it, that to me is very much Jim. He really has something to say in that Dylan-Lennon-way and it's nice seeing a grown, intelligent man speaking his mind without selling out on the music. Too often you see people neglect the music in order to go Shakespeare, or the other way around, write great poptunes with inane lyrics. Here you have the best of two worlds.

Some of the tracks you'll already know, namely “Universe”, “Great Big Family” and “I Wanna Go Out In Style”, the latter two being performed at the Jim Jam gig in Bilston in 2002. At the moment my own personal favourites on the albums are “Dead Rock UK” and “Heaven Can Wait”, but other highlight are “Let Me Be Your Therapy” and “Notice” among others.

I'll let one of my music business friends have the last word in this rather long review. He said, “If the guy doesn't want to tour, he ought to stick a video camera in his studio, do a tune or two and put them on You Tube. People really need to know about this album, because it deserves to become a massive success.”

Posted on Lise's excellent Slade Blog at http://www.bigboyzbignoize.blogspot.com/ by Lise Lyng Falkenberg


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