I wish I could say I came up with the title! Beside something as incredible as Unfathomable Phantasmagoria, ‘An Album Review’ looks rather timid and useless. Alas! I felt rather compelled to pen a little review of this album as I have been listening to it quite closely this past week and was asked recently what my favourite track on the album was. Unfortunately I cannot come up with an answer to this. As many who read this will know, I cannot give a one word answer, so when asked my thoughts on this album I believe the best response will be through a blog post!
I must confess I’m a bit late to the party. Due to the busy-ness that I have encountered these last few months my up to dateness of current releases etc I was (much to my annoyance!) unaware until last week that the album had been released. This annoyed me because I have been a fan of Jahméne’s for a number of years now. Yes I was a fan of his while on the X-Factor (I pretty much stopped following the show when Tulisa left…painful times!) and following that I remember purchasing his first album Love Never Fails and wondering would it be much of the same material that we have heard in recent years. I was pleasantly surprised. The album is still one which seldom leaves my car. There are some absolute knockout tracks on the album. Jahméne’s exquisite rendition of I Look to You is just wonderful stuff and the man has made me appreciate His Eye is on the Sparrow in a way I never thought possible! Jahméne is a revelation.
It has also been refreshing to see a recording artist be so up front about their faith. It may seem trivial that he is honest about his faith but perhaps it is perhaps because he is just that, honest, that makes this part of him so refreshing. So often we see figures in the public sphere (whether that be sports personalities, musicians, politicians etc) speak of their faith, but it appears almost tacked on and more out of necessity for a soundbite or point scoring than anything else. It is certainly not for me to judge but this is what we have been given with the proliferation of social media and celebrity culture.
Needless to say I picked up Jahméne’s new album Unfathomable Phantasmagoria with a great deal of excitement for the new album. I was aware that the tracks on the album are brand new and many of them have been written by Jahméne himself so I was also incredibly intrigued as to what style the album would take. I leave Asda in Downpatrick a happy man.
Climb into car, remove Last Samurai soundtrack from the cd player and U.P goes in. Suddenly the car is filled with the rich tone of Samuel L Jackson reciting a passage from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This brief piece sets the tone for what this album is going to be about. It’s all about Love. In a nutshell this album is an absolutely exquisite testament to love and it’s many faces and forms. It speaks of the unending power and joy of loving another. It speaks of the heights we scale to attain love. It sings of how when loving another all things are possible. Could I find you in a tornado? Yep because our love is just that strong!
The second recitation by Samuel L Jackson is one from Saint Paul’s letter to the Galatians and acts like the hinge of the album, almost like a prayer. Were this a vinyl here would begin the B side. It is at this stage that U.P really comes into it’s own in my opinion. Before this stage the tracks are incredibly catchy, filled with great beats and masterful lyrics but as we enter the second half of the album things take on an altogether more majestic tone. Consider the album to be like a relationship; the first half is the honeymoon phase of a relationship where everything is new, funky and filled with possibility. The second half shows the honeymoon phase has come to an end and the love it speaks of is more humble (and indeed humbling) and honest. There are some really incredible pieces here. Forever & Eternity is just awe inspiring and I Wish is a truly beautiful tribute to humanity and all these things which unite us.
I rejoice in Jahméne’s honesty, his art and his faith. He is in my view one of the truly authentic artists in our world today. As one who has lived with the struggle of depression I feel a great affinity with this music. I know there have been many comparisons made between Jahméne and the likes of Michael Jackson; I can see where these comparisons come from but I believe Jahméne transcends comparison and to compare the music to that of another would be unfair. Take this album for what it is and allow it to permeate you. It will reveal the nature of love to you and will show how love can transform your life.
I applaud Jahméne for this absolutely stunning album and I look forward to his future releases immensely. This is an artist I would love to witness live (I’d love to see an unplugged version of a number of the tracks on this album), perhaps even interview someday and hopefully I will achieve this in the future. For now though Unfathomable Phantasmagoria will hold an important place in the car cd collection and to Jahméne I simply say; thank you for your incredible gift of music. You are touching hearts. At the end of the day if we can say that we have achieved this then we will have accomplished something truly wonderful.