Keith James – Captured

Album Review | Hurdy Gurdy | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

For many years now, Keith James has been regarded as a leading interpreter of the songs of Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and John Martyn, together with selected poetical works of Dylan Thomas, William Blake and Federico García Lorca, to name but a few. Although there might be a question mark over why anyone would want to slave over the variety of open tunings and complex arrangements of Nick Drake’s idiosyncratic songbook, we have to concede that Keith James puts this musical knowledge to good effect on some of his own songs as well. Collected from Keith’s back catalogue of recordings and releases, Captured, sub-titled The Best of Keith James, operates as a fine introduction to the sheer variety of influences the singer, songwriter, poet and producer has taken on and subsequently mastered. Drake’s highly prophetic “Fruit Tree”, Cohen’s “Anthem” (you know, the one that contains Lenny’s oft quoted line about cracks that let the light in), a smattering of beat poetry with Kerouac’s “Daydreams of Ginsberg” and Ginsberg’s own “Blue Angel”, set to rather trance-like acoustic accompaniment, are all included here to rub shoulders with a selection of other contemporary songs and poems set to music. The songs are indeed poetic and the poems are melodic whether borrowed from some of our iconic literary figures or indeed from Keith’s own pen; almost half of the selections here are Keith’s own compositions, including the notable “Decorated Cardboard Human Shapes”. If the Drakes, Blakes and Lorcas were predictable in this double CD set, then the surprises came in the form of Portishead, Cream and Suzanne Vega covers with fine interpretations of “Glory Box”, “White Room” and “The Queen and the Soldier” respectively.