Album review: Colin James, Rooftops and Satellites (2009)


By Steve Newton

Methinks Colin James has been listening to a little too much ZZ Top of late. Don’t get me wrong—I can play the Texas boogiemeisters’ first five albums all day long and still have a hankering for more Tres Hombres. But on “Man’s Gotta Be a Stone”, the leadoff track and first single from James’s new CD Rooftops and Satellites, it sounds like the Lions Bay blues-rocker had a “La Grange” moment that he couldn’t tear himself away from for a full three-and-a-half minutes.

The talented tunesmith, who blasted onto the scene with powerful originals like “Five Long Years” and “Voodoo Thing”, shouldn’t be blatantly copping licks from Billy Gibbons. Or anyone else, for that matter.

On a positive note, Rooftops and Satellites has a lot going for it musician-wise. James has brought in three-quarters of Odds—guitarist-vocalist Craig Northey, bassist Doug Elliot, and drummer Pat Steward—and you know that can’t be bad. He also recruited local standouts such as keyboardist Eric Webster, saxophonist Steve Hilliam, and percussionist Sal Ferreras.

The disc was mixed, engineered, and coproduced by knob-twiddler to the stars Mike Fraser, so it’s no surprise that the sound is sharp as hell, especially on cuts like the slinky, Steely Dan–infused “Stronger”.

But with seven of the CD’s 12 tracks cowritten by Canadian roots-rock stalwart Tom Wilson (Junkhouse, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings), I was expecting stronger material. You have to wait until Track 10, the Northey-cowritten “Better Than I Can Imagine”, to hear James at his vibrant best. And why does he hold off until the closing tune, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “If You’ve Gotta Go Go Now”, to deliver the kind of tasty guitar solo he’s capable of?

Rooftops and Satellites just doesn’t reach the heights its title suggests, and is certainly no match for 2005’s soulful and consistently strong Limelight.


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