This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"This house will fall"
11943 members | you are not logged in | 19 April 2014












April 24 2005

Review of James Marsters' "Civilized Man". "James Marster's first solo album is a really great mix of different music-styles, so I can't say it's pure rock or blues or something, it has a bit of all. For those of you who expected a GotR-like album, you could be disappointed".

Not a particuarly good review, but a review none the less

You're a Brit, Apocalypse? Or does the CD have a British title as well as a US title? Or is it just "Civili z ed Man"? Not being picky - if it's available here with the Brit spelling I want it!
No, its Civilized Man, i got myself one. I enjoyed it a lot, i really love when he goes into his rocker mode. Some of the songs are simply too slow (even slower thant this town which i love). If your a fan of James you WILL be a fan of this.
I had hoped the first "review" I'd see of "Civilized Man" would be from somewhere NON'verse. Hopefully we will see something more professional at some point, it's definitely worthy of a "professional" opinion. Like killinj states a few posts down: get the possessive right at least. This was actually a very oddly written review (from an English as a second language fan, not a writer, I'm sure). The writer seemed to want it to be like GOTR when it obviously is just James. For that I'm VERY glad. Other than that they seemed to like it, just maybe wanted it to be more rockin' than it was. I LIKED it the way it is. I personally think this album is a HUGE improvement, from top to bottom. It's MUCH more professional sounding.

I also think he had some pretty damn good studio musicians (or whoever it was that worked with him on it - Andrew Rosenthal, Chris Rhyne, Jim Kimball and Julie Bond Rhyne are all listed on the album). I had originally had the impression that it would be more acoustic than it turned out but I wasn't dissapointed, this group helped create a very well put together and smooth sounding album.

'For What I Need' and 'Every Man Thinks God is on His Side' are two of the strongest songs on the album in my opinion (The first one written by James, the other not). I personally think the blues flavor works very well (ala B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, George Thoroughgood, etc), while one or two songs have a 'Country' feel, without the 'twang' (perhaps reminded me a little of Tim McGraw - though I'm not sure if that's the right person). While it could be studio magic, singing songs written in his own range, not competing to be heard over the guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion (read that: competing with ex-bandmates Charlie, Kevin, Aaron and Steve) or simply a lot of practice, I think his voice has improved tremendously. I've heard a couple bootleg songs that are just him and his guitar and I'd have to say it comes down to the latter things and NOT studio magic. That boy just wasn't made to jump round stage and try to sing at the same time (like he did with GOTR).

I won't say it's not without a few weaknesses. At first listen some of the vocals on "This Town" seemed like they were being drowned out by the instrumentals. Since I've heard it differently before it seemed odd at first, but I've grown to like it alot. I think it would also make a nice instrumental WITHOUT vocals (sorry James!) I tend NOT to be a fan of "love" songs and found Patricia to be one of the weakest songs on the CD, though I'm sure the girl it's about is just giddy. I think it's because relationships come and go but that song is now forever since it's on a CD. 6 months from now he could say, "Ugh, Patricia, what was I thinking?" It's nothing to do with how well or not the song was done, it was nicely done, I guess maybe it just feels too personal to me, like he shared too much. Though, I'm sure most songs are compilations of people and not usually focused on ONE REAL person and this one may well be a compilation as well. It just came across as something very personal.

Yes, This album is a bit slower, he even slowed down some of the songs we've heard before, some now seem to lean towards a more "easy listening" or "adult contemporary" sound, not sure how to describe it though because it's not quite those either. I think people before me and after have mentioned "ballads," it definitely has plenty of those. To me it came across as him being VERY relaxed and not being stressed at all. The songs all flow together nicely I think. He's already been quoted at his one of his UK shows as saying it's "Maudlin" but I'd classify that by calling it more "introspective" than depressing. I think it's a more "basic" style he was trying for (and succeeded) instead of complicated riffs and fancy keyboarding that drown out the actual lyrics in a song (like any given GOTR song where I think each member wanted to be heard above the other). It makes for a very nice CD to listen to while I'm working on the computer. .......God, that sentence just made me sound REALLY OLD, I like ROCK, I REALLY do! Going to see U2 in a few weeks, I swear! 'course U2 are as old as I am. Wait, so is James...shutting up now!... None of the songs seemed to stick out as being way too different from the others either. Mad Brilliant always bothered me that way, each song was such an extreme switch from the last. Sure, it rocked, but it wasn't very cohesive.

If he wants to keep making music and performing (I really get the impression he feels the "need" to be on stage somehow) I think this is the best thing he could have done, gone solo. I think the songs all probably translate well to a more acoustic setting for when he's performing live. Solo fits him well if the CD is any indication, plus I'm sure it avoids certain issues/conflicts etc. that having an entire BAND bring to the scene, especially at cons where he's the main attraction.

"If your a fan of James you WILL be a fan of this." I will add to Gage's comment and add if you're a fan of nice vocals you'll be a fan of this, I think he did fine job. Huh, well there you have it, my totally unsolicited opinion, for what it's worth - which isn't much! :)

Would love to see a review from someone who: a - Reviews music. b - Doesn't care who he is. c - Or has no clue who he is.

[ edited by Grace on 2005-04-25 02:50 ]
I am a Brit, Gill. So its 'civilized' then? I shall change the subject line right now :)
Again with the incorrect use of the possessive. His name is James Marsters, so its James Marters' first solo album, NOT James Marster's. I was hoping to see a professional review, but I guess this will do for now.

Personally, I think this is a vast improvement over GOTR. His bandmates wrote songs in their range - not in the range of James - who would be singing them. I also thought that the pacing of the songs was off, hard to explain, but sometimes the different beats didn't seem to be tied together correctly. Plus, he always had to compete to be heard over the band. James was on the only one of them that looked comfortable on stage. I love all sorts of music and grew up listening to a lot of rock and roll, but a band has to perform well *together* and they just didn't in my opinion. I'm a huge fan of James, but he couldn't get me to like 95% of what GOTR produced. I was one of those who was thrilled when I heard he broke up the band.

The solo album is a mix of rock and roll, jazz, blues, and folk. GOTR was trying for a hard rock or punk rock vibe - they were going for something more extreme. I wouldn't quite call James' album easy listening either. It's somewhere in between those soft and hard categories. It definately suits his voice better and James has a nice voice. I agree with Grace, if you're a fan of nice vocals you'll be a fan of this CD.

[ edited by killinj on 2005-04-25 21:26 ]
I've only heard one song off this album, and it was a bluesy type song. And it just wasn't very good. The music drowned out James' voice, and when I could hear James...sometimes he just tries to hard to sound like other people. And it's strange, because he has this rich, vibrant speaking voice. But sometimes when he sings, he's just trying to pull it too much. I don't think blues is his style, really. I am looking forward to hearing some of the other songs though, because I think he could do better with acoustic ballads and whatnot.
Thanks, Apocalypse - no offence taken, I hope?

Is there a way of getting the UK version without going to the gigs? (Which are all sold out.) I would so much like a copy for myself!
As Grace said above, I was expecting a more acoustic album, but after my first listen that ended up shaking off that expectation, I enjoy it. Smile is my favorite. Pretty song, and he sounds great. Being a ballad, his voice is much more clear. I've been humming that song for three days now. For What I Need, the most straight bluesy song in my opinion is hot, though the lyrics aren't particularly brilliant or anything.

Too many songs with a girl's name in the title. Patricia, Robyn, Katie. Stop that. It's harder to imagine the song's about me when he actually says another girl's name. ;)
"Too many songs with a girl's name in the title. Patricia, Robyn, Katie. Stop that. It's harder to imagine the song's about me when he actually says another girl's name. ;)"

LOL. Maybe that's what I meant when I said they seemed too personal! :)
I dind´t like GotR so I think I´ll like this.
Nicely put Grace! I’ve never been a fan of James singing, but I was pleasantly surprised with the clips I heard. I thought the arrangement/back up were excellent. They did sometimes drown out James and while James has a lovely speaking voice, his singing voice is not that strong. I gravitate to rhythm, not to singing, so I didn’t mind. “For What I Need” had me bouncing in my chair, but no, I’m not getting the CD.

“I tend NOT to be a fan of "love" songs and found Patricia to be one of the weakest songs on the CD, though I'm sure the girl it's about is just giddy. I think it's because relationships come and go but that song is now forever since it's on a CD. 6 months from now he could say, "Ugh, Patricia, what was I thinking?

Ohhh, funny! As James recently said, “Date me and I’ll write a song about you”. I think this gesture has lost it’s sincerity as it’s been repeated too often. Fans figure they will just get another song from James when this relationship is over.

”If he wants to keep making music and performing (I really get the impression he feels the "need" to be on stage somehow) I think this is the best thing he could have done, gone solo.”

Yes, he does have the ‘need to be on stage’.

[ edited by Patpaws on 2005-04-25 02:57 ]
It is not fair to ask for more professional reviews without not knowing that it was one of the first news of one of our new team members and she seems quite unhappy with these recations. At least we always give newbies a chance to improve. And furthermore the review is written with love and emotion...perhaps something we should all remember instead of being too rational and evaluating things from a too self-confident perspective: The fandom pages are made by fans and are for fans and I do not think that the Whedonesque or Slayerverse community have professional music reviewers under their members.
is there any legit (aka safe for credit card information) sites where one could obtain this cd?
From James' official site, you can order through Time Machine Collectibles. Not sure if they ship to anywhere outside the U.S. though. It's secure, just a little bit manual, you have to plug in what you want to order. I'm not sure if you can get them from the James Marsters Live site for Europe though.

@Slayer - I realize there seems to be a language issue, but I know I never meant to offend, just wishing outloud for someone from the music industry to review his CD on it's own merits (or lack of), it's all just opinions...

[ edited by Grace on 2005-04-25 02:44 ]
It is not fair to ask for more professional reviews ...

I'd like to see a review by an actual journalist who works professionally as a music critic. It's perfectly fair to want such a thing. We know this was written by a fan, we're not saying we expect a professional review from a fan - just that we hope to see a review published on something other than a fansite.
I would think that there will be some professional reviews that will result from this UK tour. Naturally performing at conventions won't get any press for his off-lable CD, but when he does the Coventry concert there should be some Press there.
Gill, tis all cool with me! :)
I admit to be ing curious about it, but I'm on the fence about buying it. The one GotR song I wish was on it is It's Nothing... if that were on this album, I probably would buy it.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.



joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home