By James Hale | Published April 2017
On his last album, the 5-star-rated Yesterday I Had The Blues: The Music Of Billie Holiday, singer José James appeared on the cover in dapper early ’60s chic and performed with an all- star jazz trio. For Love In A Time Of Madness, James has grown out his hair, shed his shirt to flash his tattoos and pecs, and beefed up his studio crew to 17, with layers of synths, drum machines and keyboards. In place of Holiday’s literate tales of love gone wrong, he’s dropping F-bombs and singing about how much coke he consumed the night before.
Don’t ever let it be said that James is afraid to mess with a winning formula. Shucking a lean jazz style for a slick r&b approach usually smacks of cashing in with a commercial product, but James seems more like he’s coming at his fans from leftfield, hoping he can convince them he’s as bad as he is good. Love In A Time Of Madness references contemporary influences like Drake, Kanye West and Bryson Tiller, but also reflects the Minneapolis music scene of James’ youth.
While the opening tracks are filled with cut beats and whirring digital effects, “Let It Fall,” features a simple, moody guitar, hand drum and multiple voices in its first verses, revealing a definitive jazz background. Don’t think he’s crossed over to hip-hop for keeps.
Love In A Time Of Madness: Always There; What Good Is Love; Let It Fall; Last Night; Remember Our Love; Live Your Fantasy; Ladies Man; To Be With You; You Know I Know; Breakthrough; Closer; I’m Yours. (45:49)
Personnel: José James, Zach Wilson (1, 2), Gisella Hilliman (6), Oleta Adams (12), vocals; Antario Holmes, vocals (1, 11), program- ming (8, 11), drum programming (1–4, 6, 7, 11), keyboards (1–4, 7, 11), synthesizer (1–4, 6, 7, 11, 12), piano (12), guitar (3); Jesse Singer, vocals (9), bass (5, 9, 10), drum programming (5, 9, 10), keyboards (9, 10), synthesizer (5, 9); Mali Music, vocals (3), piano (8), electric piano (8), drums (8), percussion (8); Solomon Dorsey, vocals (3), bass (6, 7); Philip Lassiter, Brandyn Phillips, trumpet (7); Chris Johnson, trombone (7); Danny Janklow, tenor saxophone (7); Paul Cerra, baritone saxophone (7); Scott Jacoby, keyboards (6), synthesizer (6); Chris Soper, guitar (5, 9, 10), organ (5), synthesizer (5, 9, 10), drum programming (9, 10); Ian Bakerman (6), Chris Bruce (7), guitar; Nathaniel Smith, drums (7).