Title: Backstage at the Resurrection

Artist: James Lee Stanley

Label: Beachwood Recordings

Release Date: 2011

By Russ Paris

Live_at_the_ResurrectionJames Lee Stanley has been a staple of the Los Angeles area singer- songwriter scene for more than 40 years, releasing 25 albums since his self-titled debut album in 1973. In spite of the fact that his 1998 album Freelance Human Being was listed by Fi Magazine as one of the top 200 recordings of all time, he remains one of the great undiscovered talents in American pop music.

By "undiscovered," I mostly mean that he hasn't sold quite as many albums as he'd like! For truly he has had a stellar career with early albums on both the RCA and MCA labels and later releases on his own Beachwood Recordings label which has also released albums by other well respected artists such as Laurence Juber, Hamilton Camp and Peter Tork.

For those who have followed James Lee Stanley's career for any length of time, it is obvious that he continues to grow as an artist. His voice seems to get stronger with each release while his composition and arranging skills continue to advance. This has never been more true than with his most recent solo studio releases The Eternal Contradiction (2007) and New Traces of the Old Road (2008). I'm happy to say that his new CD, Backstage At The Resurrection (2011) continues this trend.

James Lee says that one of his goals for this CD was to make "a happy CD," while shedding some of the politics and heaviness that may have been sprinkled in his more recent releases. What he has created here is a collection that is exceptionally pertinent to the world around us, while also being one of his most accessible works to date.

From someone who wanted to create an upbeat album, it is supremely ironic that the first song on the CD is one about spousal abuse.

Musically, Backhand Man is an upbeat pop song with a catchy melody that is in direct contradiction to the underlying topic, but leaves us with the positive message that the woman is more than worthy in spite of the mistreatment she has received. The song can easily be read as a message that we are all worthy of more if we'd only take the time to realize it and make the changes that are necessary in our lives to grow and become what we know inside we were meant to be.

I Can't Cry Anymore is a song about a broken one-sided relationship. This pop-rocker gets a nice injection of energy from Chad Watson's bass line and percussion by Scott Breadman, but it's James Lee Stanley's great guitar work that highlights this track.

Come Out Of Hiding is a co-write that was a big hit for James Lee's sister Pamela Stanley back in 1984. This version -- James Lee's first officially released version of the song -- is a smokey acoustic rendition with a rather sultry feel.

James_Lee_Stanley_1Let's Get Out Of Here is one of the standout tracks simply because it is so simple -- to the point of being profound. It's a plea to a partner to escape the stresses and chaos of the world and just get away together. It's an obvious and often overlooked universal sentiment. We've all had times where we wanted to "get out of here". It took James Lee Stanley to turn it into a song that is likely to get stuck in your head for days.

Going Back To Memphis also sounds like a song of getting away. The lyrics talk of going back to visit one's roots and maybe trying to connect with the girl that got away, "and get it right this time."

But this funky groove also has a deeper meaning of going back to a simpler time or maybe a simpler era.

Feather River Nocturne is a beautiful instrumental piece that James Lee has dedicated to the late singer-songwriter Tom Dundee who was a mainstay of the Chicago folk scene in the 1970s.

Don't Wait Too Long is a reminder to do the things in life we want to do and not leave things for "later" because sometimes "later" doesn't come. It's a poignant thought, but I also take the song as a prompt to appreciate life, the things we have and not to take things for granted.

Do As Your Told is a rocking rant against people who tell you that they know what's best for you. This could easily be a controlling parent in specific instances, but the lyric really focuses more on the general issues of governmental and societal control, whether it's the strict structures of our educational system or simple peer pressures. In many ways we are always told to "do as your told". James ends with a particularly poetic plea to follow your dreams:

Today upon the window sill, I found a couple of wishbones

Wishes that somehow I never used

I don't know if wishes keep, but they don't fade away either

I think they're like a time bomb un-defused.

Great instrumentation and arrangements can be heard throughout the CD, and this track is a primary example.

All About Love is about a great deal more than love. It questions our purpose in being here. While the beautiful harmonies exclaim that it's "all about love", James explains that it's really about helping each other, which is a deeper and more participatory kind of love. This isn't the adolescent love song about young love, it's a more mature approach from someone who has learned life's lessons.

What Would You Do? is a folky pop song about the direction of the world. It doesn't offer answers and solutions so much as it poses questions and alternatives. It makes you think:

What would you do, were it's all up to you,

Say the whole world's in your hands?

Would there be change or would things be the same

Have we already done all we can?

The title track, Backstage at the Resurrection is a rock song with a half hidden Alice in Wonderful style lyric containing an underlying theme of making a difference in the world. James uses the religious connotation of the title and its associated characters to make a point about making the world a better place. It's a song with its roots deeply in Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and today's political scene.

The CD ends with a reprise of Let's Get Out Of Here but the message of the album is really about living in the world, experiencing all it has to offer, appreciating what we have, and doing our best to make the world a better place. These universal messages are wrapped up in some truly outstanding melodies and guitar work and topped off with James Lee Stanley's smooth vocals.

The CD is available on Beachwood Recordings. Order at www.jamesleestanley.com

Russ runs a number of music related websites including the Jackson Browne Fans Page. He and his wife Julie have hosted Russ & Julie's House Concerts in Oak Park, California for more than fourteen years.

One of the more established house concert series in southern California, Russ & Julie enjoy sharing their love of music with the community around them.