It’s been 13 years since James Morrison rocketed to international stardom with his debut album Undiscovered. Combining pop and soul, the singer-songwriter became a radio staple with hits such as You Give Me Something, Wonderful World and Broken Strings featuring Nelly Furtado. After four studio albums, Morrison was dropped by his label with his last album Higher Than Here arriving in 2015. Four years on from that, and having gone through a tumultuous period in his personal life, Morrison is back with his fifth studio album You’re Stronger Than You Know.
After one listen through You’re Stronger Than You Know, you can tell that Morrison has made an album he’s been desperate to make for his entire career. The polished production of his first four albums has gone and in its place is a more raw and organic collection of songs. That doesn’t mean that the things you loved about him have gone though. His voice sounds better than it ever has, the music is still catchy and memorable, and there’s more soul flowing from each song. The album opens with My Love Goes On featuring Joss Stone, which was the obvious lead single from the record. It’s a soaring, life-affirming number with a stomping beat and strong vocals from Morrison and Stone. They complement each other so well, you wonder how they’ve never recorded a song together before.
The song sets the tone for the record and there’s a lot here to enjoy and unpack. Second track Brighter Kind of Love allows Morrison’s voice to really shine, especially in the first 30-second when the instrumentation is incredibly sparse. The song opens up into a feel-good soulful jam. It sounds loose and free, with Morrison’s husky tone driving the melody. The first ballad of the album, So Beautiful, follows and it’s a real showcase for Morrison’s abilities. Accompanied by a piano with a gentle beat, Morrison’s voice shines with passion and emotion. The track positively radiates from the speakers and it’s definitely a future wedding song for fans.
Elsewhere on the record the title track is a pure soul throwback, Slowly finds Morrison pushing his vocals to unleash their full power, and I Still Need You has a little country blues feel to it. Don’t Wanna Lose You Now is a song that’s sure to be a live favourite. Morrison fights to keep a relationship together over a lazy groove that makes you hope that summer days are around the corner.
The standout track on the record is album closer Until the Stars Go Out. It’s one of the album’s more stripped-down moments and Morrison’s vocal is so emotive and powerful. Lyrically it deals with finding yourself a bit lost in the world but having someone you can count on to help you through.
You’re Stronger Than You Know is a classy record that reminds you of why Morrison has sold millions of albums in his career. It’s all about that voice and for the first time, I feel like we’re hearing it free from all the constraints that commercial pressure and production has imposed on it in the past. This album feels like a true reflection of Morrison’s artistry and it could well be his finest body of work.
Track list: 1. My Love Goes On (feat. Joss Stone) 2. Brighter Kind of Love 3. So Beautiful 4. Feels Like the First Time 5. Glorious 6. Power 7. Slowly 8. Ruins 9. I Still Need You 10. Don’t Wanna Lose You Now 11. Cross the Line 12. Until the Stars Go Out Record label: Stanley Park Records Release date: 8th March 2019 Buy You’re Stronger Than You Know