Jimmy Needham, Vice and VirtueNeedham explores our Jekyll and Hyde characters with a typically soulful release that has plenty of energy.

Label: Platinum Pop
Time:  11 tracks / 40 mins.

Think Terence Trent D’Arby or Matthew Ward and you get a feel for Needham’s vocal style. That was what made me sit up and take notice of him back in 2008, when he released “Not Without Love.” The combination of his authentic soulful style and thoughtful lyrics was pretty rare and he has taken it a bit further with this new release.

Opener “Vice and Virtue” sets the scene for an album-long exploration of our weakness and inconsistencies, recognizing that even our good points often have suspicious motivations.

As the disc progresses, he mixes up the songs. Rather than follow a logical pattern, they all float around the theme. “Thank You” expresses gratitude; “Momma Didn’t Raise No Fool” is one sinner telling another to drop the mask, because he recognises their true nature from his own experience; while “All We Need is Need” tells us to drop the pretence and admit where we are with God.

Each of these is a memorable song with hooks, as is “Sirens,” which convincingly describes the allure of temptation:
“The voice of an angel was singing a song
You hardly noticed you’re singing along
Before you really knew what hit
You were on a sinking ship
Just another sailor that’s lost at sea
Like showing up with a knife to a nuke war
I never knew what I was in for.”

The subject matter might make this sound a bit dour, but there is a definite Needham bounce here, the backing light, but strong on both harmonies and funky rhythms.

He veers away from the theme occasionally:  “Only You,” the ballad “Better Man” (which blends a shimmering shoegaze guitar with soulful backing vocals); and the older Paul Overstreet track “Forever and Ever Amen” are all directed to his woman, the latter with a humorous line or two and some of the brass backing that is liberally sprinkled over the whole collection.

Many of the tracks have character, not least the title track and his duet with KB, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, but Needham saves the best for last. “Jekyll and Hyde” rides a slow-shuffling, bluesy, finger-clicking groove that also carries a trumpet solo.

(I say the last, but that honour really goes to a fine spoken word track, which tells the story of grace and has some neat rhymes, but – with the music turned down – will not be for everyone.)

Needham has only grown his reputation with this solid release.


Derek Walker


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