November 14, 2000
James Michael describes his debut album, INHALE, as a "musical detox"". Yet far from drug-free, what strikes even the casual listener of the CD is the sheer number of drug references. One mention might be trendy, two or three might even be naughty, but when the entire album begins to become a love suite to drug abuse it causes you to worry. The lyric is filled with angst-ridden introspection and suicidal ideation. Not that the album is a total downer, in fact the music itself is quite upbeat. Against the cheerful pop melody, James Michael paints a bleak landscape of Sin City. But with over two hundred acknowledgments and thank you’s in the liner notes, you hope that if James is at all seriously considering trading "one hell for another" at least one of those people will standup and listen.
Possible drug issues aside, INHALE proves that James Michael is an extremely talented man. He recorded, produced, played seven instruments and wrote all but one of the twelve tracks on the CD. The outcome is an extremely radio-friendly and immensely enjoyable album. James Michael is one of the more talented singer-songwriters to emerge this year. The title tract "Inhale" grabs you from the first note with a pop sound reminiscent of Will Kimbrough. "Luxuriate" is a delightfully playful jab at the record biz and "Chemical" is a straight-ahead rock anthem. Hauntingly contemplative, "Note to Self" gives the advice you’d hope Michael would take.
The rest of the album alternates between adult contemporary and straight-ahead pop tempered with driving rock guitar. You can definitely hear the influences of Dave Grohl and The Foo Fighters (his self proclaimed "favorite band"). When James Michael covers Joe Jackson’s "Is She Really Going Out with Him?", it is without even a hint of sarcasm and one of the best things on INHALE. James Michael helps you remember what it was about all those great 80’s hits that made you love them-a wistful optimism in the face of overwhelming greed and self-destruction. And maybe like the decade, James will rise above all the insider trading and the drug haze that is L. A. and prove you don’t have to inhale to fall in love with everyone. You just need a little pop music.
-- Thomi Sharpe
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