Back to Bedlam

Studio Album by released in 2004

Back to Bedlam review

James Blunt has not lived the life of your average singer/song writer. Having studied Aerospace Manufacturing Engineering and Sociology at University he found himself in Kosovo with a gun, in a tank with his guitar strapped to the side. Blunt drew on his personal experience to create a breathtaking debut of sing-along songs accompanied by lyrics that are at times grief laden and at times uplifting but always heartfelt. Blunt has been heavily influenced by Hendrix and The Doors, and has he been referred to as a British Beck or Elliot Smith. As a piece of propaganda, his album Back to Bedlam does more for changing the face of the British Army than a series of television adverts ever could. Swapping a rifle for a guitar, the former cavalryman's ballad-heavy debut is a clearly aiming to win the battle for the public's hearts and minds. Back to Bedlam, recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Tom Rothcock (Beck, Elliot Smith, Badly Drawn Boy), takes the listener through heartfelt songs of unattainable romances, lost loves and friends' failures before climaxing with James' first-hand experience of war.

The opening four tracks of this album could all be number one singles. There is enough in the opening half of this record for anybody to make a connection with. You're Beautiful is a tale of unattainable love whilst Goodbye My Lover charts a failed and doomed relationship. Add into the mix that all these songs are incredibly catchy. The second half of the album does not disappoint and whilst it is perhaps not as catchy as what has gone before it the tracks are no less special. Blunt sings with conviction about matters of the heart, and that's the territory that most of Back to Bedlam visits, with songs of loss like So Long Jimmy and Billy. And throughout, the arrangements remain understated yet effective, thanks to the input of such heavyweight producers and songwriters like Linda Perry and Guy Chambers. All of which prove that there's a lot of depth to this modern musical hero.

So, a dark haired male solo singer leaves the Army and releases an album. We've heard this all before, although that's the only comparison you're ever likely to see between James Blunt and Elvis Presley. Even this is a tenuous link, as Elvis was already a huge recording star before being conscripted into the Army, whereas Blunt wrote most of the songs on his debut album Back to Bedlam whilst seeing active service and left the Army to become a star. He has reached the top of the album charts with this release, proving that a jack-of-all-trades can be a master of all, with enough talent and effort. For those ever in despair at the music industry and left feeling hollow by all that mass produced plastic crap that litter the airwaves James Blunt and this album will always help reinvigorate you. For once we get a songwriter with a truly exceptional past and a past, which seems almost alien to many of us. Uplifting and painful but never short on passion, Back to Bedlam is a stunning debut and that should not be missed.