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Jimi Jamison
- CD Buying Info & Reviews -
 
(This page last updated: 10 May, 2013)
Cobra
First Strike (1983)
Perhaps just a touch dated these days, this is nonetheless an excellent album and a worthwhile purchase for any Jimi fan, especially since it was reissued in 2008 by Rock Candy Records and so is now considerably easier (and cheaper!) to find than it used to be. The reissue, sadly, has no bonus tracks, but the liner notes are chock-full of information about the band and vintage photos I've not seen anywhere else.
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Survivor
Vital Signs (1984)
The first album Survivor recorded with Jimi as their vocalist, Vital Signs is still a terrific piece of work--a classic that no serious fan of either the band in particular or the 80's in general should be without.
Buying Notes: The most current and readily available release of this title is a Rock Candy reissue from 2008, which technically makes it an import (Rock Candy is based in the UK) and therefore adds to the price for those of us outside Europe. If you're in the market for a copy, do some shopping around; you may be able to find someone selling an older domestic version of the disc for a few dollars less, and even the import varies widely in price between vendors. (As of this writing, Vital Signs was going for $5 to $10 cheaper at both CD Universe and NEH than at Amazon.)
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Live In Japan/Extended Versions
This disc is an official release of a concert recorded in Tokyo in the summer of 1985, the same one featured on the Live in Japan 1985 home video. And I will be honest: It's mostly a collector's item. As much as it pains me to admit it, Jimi was not in particularly good vocal form at this show (hey, even pros have bad nights) and while I don't in the least regret the bucks I spent on my own copy, someone else might be rather disappointed with it, especially if they bought the CD without knowing what to expect.
Buying Notes: The US edition of this disc is missing at least 2 tracks from the original live show, and from what I've read, the Japanese import is the full concert. It's also considerably more expensive than the domestic release, though, so I suppose which version you buy depends on how much of a completist you are.
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When Seconds Count (1986)
I've heard a lot of critics (and even one band member) pan this album for being too pop or too lightweight, but I for one think it's pretty darn awesome. In fact, depending on the day and my mood when you ask me, I'd have a hard time deciding whether this or Vital Signs is my favorite of the three albums Survivor made during the 80's. But then, I happen to like radio-friendly stuff, I don't mind keyboards at all, and I could listen to Jimi sing the phone book, so it's pretty much a winner all around for me--YMMV.
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Too Hot To Sleep (1989)
I admit, I don't love this album to quite the degree that some do--don't get me wrong, it has plenty of good stuff on it, but there are a few tracks which just don't trip my trigger quite as much, so to speak. Still, it's a fine piece of work overall and it hurts to think now of how huge it could have been, if only it hadn't fallen victim to industry politics. From what I've read and heard, there was some kind of conflict going on between Survivor's record company and the label's distributor at the time Too Hot To Sleep came out, and the reason the album ended up being such a commercial failure had nothing to do with the music style or the quality of the material, but simply because it never got out there for folks to buy. Sigh. Such a shame--even if it's not one of my personal favorites, it still deserved far more recognition than it got.
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Reach (2006)
I debated with myself for quite a while about whether to even include a listing for this disc, but in the end I decided that, whatever my personal feelings may be, it's part of Jimi's catalog and should at least get a mention, if only for the sake of completeness. Still, I have to speak plainly: This is not that great a CD, IMO. I'm given to understand that there were a lot of problems trying to get it recorded, and it shows in the finished product. I wouldn't class it as "horrible," per se, but it does feel to me like a lot of mismatched odds and ends which were thrown together at the last minute with no real vision or direction. I suppose this isn't necessarily a failing in and of itself, but given that all the 80's-era albums were tight enough to bounce a quarter off of in both a stylistic and thematic sense, Reach almost can't help but suffer by comparison. It's certainly not the triumphant comeback album that I think I and probably a lot of other fans were expecting, anyway, and while there are a handful of hidden gems on it ("Seconds Away" and "Give Me The Word" made it worth the purchase price for me all by themselves) there are also a number of songs I actively dislike, which is a real first for a (mostly) Jimi-sung Survivor CD. So, just my two cents on the matter, and something to be aware of if you're in the market to buy.
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Jimi Jamison Solo
When Love Comes Down (1991)
I do like this album--I think it provides a nice look at a different facet of Jimi as an artist than we tended to see while he was with Survivor. Like Too Hot To Sleep before it, though, When Love Comes Down suffered unfairly from outside interference. Granted, the market was beginning to change at the time it came out, but I've heard a few of the demos which were originally slated to go on it ("Is It True What They Say About Love" and "Something Every Heart Should Know" are the two that come immediately to mind, as well as "Cry Tough" and "First Day of Love," which eventually ended up on Empires) and I personally think they're way better than some of the material that actually ended up being released. I've read that it was the record company who decided the existing songs were somehow not good enough and forced the change at the last minute, and I can only shake my head--it's neither the first nor the last time something like that has happened, of course, but you really can't help but wonder now what on earth they were thinking...
Buying Notes: This disc is long out of print and difficult to come by even from after-market sellers, particularly in a new and sealed state. If you just want the music and don't care about having a physical disc, though, both Amazon and Google Play now offer it as an MP3 album; check my Digital Music Page for details.
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Empires
This is a very solid album--there are one or two tracks I don't personally care for quite as much, perhaps, but it won a lot of critical acclaim when it was first released, and not without reason. Empires doesn't really sound like a Survivor album to me, probably because I associate the "Survivor sound" so much with Jim Peterik's writing and the title track is the only one he penned on the whole disc. But that by no means makes it a substandard CD; overall the quality of the material is top-notch, and Jimi delivers it beautifully as always. (I really liked the inclusion of the Christmas tune called "Keep It Evergreen" as a bonus track, as well--so nice to load up a playlist of seasonal favorites at holiday time every year and know that I'll be hearing my favorite fella's lovely voice somewhere in the mix!)
Buying Notes: This disc was originally released in 1999 under the name "Jimi Jamison's Survivor," and then re-issued in 2003 under Jimi's own name following a legal dispute over the use of the Survivor band name. The original release is still out there if you look hard enough (and the liner notes do contain some material which wasn't reproduced in the reissue for some reason) but even the '03 edition is getting rather hard to find--I used to see dozens of copies for sale on Ebay, and now there's scarcely a handful. So unless you're a collector and adamant about having either the '99 or '03 pressing, you'll probably have better luck picking this up as a digital download, or getting it on-demand from Amazon. (The latter link is to the right, and check my Digital Music Page for MP3 sources.)
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Crossroads Moment (2008)
Okay, folks--this here is one HECK of a CD. One has to take taste into account in any discussion about music, of course, and if you happen to prefer that the stuff you listen to be on the absolute cutting edge of innovation all the time, then you probably won't find Crossroads Moment much of anything to get excited about. But if you loved Survivor back in the day, or you're simply after a shining example of melodic rock at its finest by a couple of the most talented guys in the industry, then trust me--you NEED this CD. It reunites Jimi with Jim Peterik, the same man who wrote all of Survivor's big hits during the 80's, and I personally think this new collaboration between them rocks just as hard as any of those older works. I wouldn't quite go so far as to call it an extension of Survivor's catalog; JP may have done all the writing for CM, but make no mistake, this is very much Jimi's CD, with many songs that hold a lot of personal meaning for him. And it's obvious that both the writer and the singer are at a different place in life now than when they made records together in the past--they've seen a lot, done a lot, and weathered a lot since Too Hot To Sleep, and all that extra experience lends a sound to this album that I can only describe as "mature." (And yes, I mean that in the most complimentary sense possible.)

Even if it isn't a Survivor record as such, however, CM still has a LOT of the same magic that Survivor used to; tracks such as "Behind The Music," "Love The World Away," "Till The Morning Comes," and the title cut all hearken back to classics like "I Can't Hold Back" and "Is This Love," and I think "As Is" has a vibe an awful lot like "Man Against The World." (Though I have to say that I don't think anything will ever quite top "Man Against The World" in my estimation, either--as far as I'm concerned, that was Jimi's finest hour as a vocalist, period.) And even the tracks which aren't as reminiscent of past albums are still awesome; between Jimi's voice and JP's writing, the whole CD just brims over with power, passion, and the sheer joy these guys take in making music, and I love every minute of it, right from beginning to end. I will admit that I used to look on JP with a rather jaundiced eye, mostly because of some things I'd read that made it sound like he and Jimi still had a lot of animosity between them, but heck, if the two of them can put aside the past and make an album like this together, with the quality-meter turned up to 11 on just about every track, then I certainly shan't go holding onto a grudge!
Buying Notes: I was surprised to find that this CD is becoming a rarity so quickly... Amazon's listing estimates a shipping time of 1-2 MONTHS, and CD Universe just says it's "unavailable." (I'm told that this may be because Frontiers essentially halts production of a particular disc as soon as the same artist comes out with a new one, but I can't really confirm or deny the truth of that.) Anyway, if you're in North America, haven't already bought a copy, and don't want MP3s, I'd suggest trying NEH first; their price may be a few dollars more than Amazon's, but they'll get it out to you the next day if they have it in stock. I've also included the JPopHelp link for anyone who wants the Japanese release with the alternate bonus track, though I'll note that you can buy "Streets of Heaven" as an individual MP3 through Jimi's Reverbnation store; check my Digital Music Page for the link.
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Extra Moments (2009)
Speaking as someone who adored Crossroads Moment (see above) I was doubly delighted to get my hands on this disc, which is a collection of demos and outtakes from the CM recording sessions that Jimi and Jim Peterik donated to support the melodicrock.com website. Just about anything the two of them come up with together has a magic that very few other combinations of writer and singer can match, IMO, and Extra Moments is no exception to the rule. There's some tremendously good stuff on here--I can sort of see why most of the songs were left off the official release, being just that little bit too different in style or theme to fit in seamlessly with everything else, but they're still excellent pieces of work for all of that. So I for one am very glad they made it out for all of us to hear--and as an aside, ladies, trust me, you do NOT want to miss the track called "Touch You There." bouncygrin emoticon
Buying Notes: This disc was a "limited edition" kind of thing (Jim Peterik even says in the liner notes that it could probably be considered an official bootleg) so buying it after-market is pretty much your only choice these days. NEH does have a listing for it, and claims they can ship it in 10 days, but I'm not sure that's a bet I'd take... fortunately, though, if you missed it when it first came out, you can now get everything but a couple of the very early (read: non-Jimi-sung) demos as MP3s through either Amazon or Google Play; check my Digital Music Page for details.
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Never Too Late (2012)
...arrgh.

Okay--I have put off writing this review for an embarrassingly long time, because I hold such tremendous affection and respect for Jimi as an artist and it kills me to have to speak ill of any of his work. And I especially hate to have to do so when he himself seems so proud of this particular album, but at the same time, I don't want to be dishonest about what I think. So I'm going to take the electronic equivalent of a deep breath, and finally make the attempt.

In essence, I wanted to like this CD--really and truly, I did. I EXPECTED to like it. I mean, it's JIMI, for crying out loud, and from what I had heard about the disc before it was actually released, it sounded like the musical style should be right up my little 80's-enthusiast alley. That all adds up to a match made in heaven, then, right? Well, in theory, yes--in practice, not so much.

Now, don't misunderstand what I'm trying to say. In a strictly musical sense, Never Too Late is fine--wonderful, even--and Jimi's vocal performance is nothing short of phenomenal. So where's the problem, I hear you ask? Well, what it boils down to is this: Even the most technically adept singer in the world is only as good as the songs he's given to work with, and in the case of this CD, Jimi is working with what I personally find to be some severely flawed material. Lyrically, thematically, and emotionally, this stuff just doesn't cut it, IMO. I would never have believed that there could be a Jimi-sung album I liked less than Reach, but if Survivor's last disc was scattered in its focus and rather lacking in polish, it at least included half a dozen reasonably solid tracks, and a couple of those were true standouts. Of everything on Never Too Late, the title cut is literally the ONLY song I like well enough to listen to on a regular basis, and even then it's not what I'd call an all-time favorite.

And while I've driven myself to distraction trying to figure out WHY I dislike this set of songs so much, in the end I think it comes down purely and simply to taste. I'm not very familiar with the writing team for this CD, primarily Erik Martensson and Miqael Persson; I haven't listened to anything by W.E.T., Eclipse, or the album they wrote for Pride of Lions vocalist Toby Hitchcock. All I can really use to make comparisons are the couple of tracks they contributed to Kimball-Jamison, but from even that little bit of evidence, the unvarnished truth seems to be that their style just doesn't suit or speak to me the way so many other writers' work does. Jim Peterik is probably the most relevant example of such a writer in this case--I ran across someone complaining recently that JP has become rather over-sentimental as he's aged, and I suppose I can see how, for some, that might indeed be true. For my own part, though, sentimentality is such an integral part of MY mental make-up that it's more likely to attract me to a piece of music than turn me away from it, and even at his most syrupy, JP at least tends to come up with songs that sound to me like they have their roots in something he's felt in his own heart. The details may be completely fictitious, or blurred to the point that they become more of a statement about the universal human condition than any one specific event, but there's still that sense of honest emotion about his work, as if he were genuinely inspired to write it, and the fact that he gets paid for his efforts is more or less incidental.

The material on Never Too Late, on the other hand, strikes me as the sort of thing someone would come up with more because they had a deadline to meet than because some experience moved them to create a piece of art in response, and it gives the whole album a flat, generic feel that I don't care for in the least. One of the biggest things that attracts me to Jimi's work as a whole is his obvious passion for what he does--he puts so much of himself into what he sings, and he has a real knack for communicating and evoking emotion in his listeners. Again, my mind may know that a song is about something completely made up, but Jimi can still make me believe in my heart, for a little while at least, that it COULD be true, very like the willing suspension of disbelief that goes along with a really well-written and absorbing book. This album, however, is a very, very different story, and not in a good way; that "soul" or "essence" or whatever you want to call it just doesn't seem to be there, perhaps because Jimi himself had no input in the writing process this time around. (He co-wrote every track on the One Man's Trash CD, so it almost couldn't help but bear something of his fingerprint, so to speak, and of course Crossroads Moment was written entirely by someone who knows him quite well in both a personal and professional sense, and came up with a lot of material based on conversations the two of them had about what was going on in their lives at the time.) So while Never Too Late may have been written with Jimi's vocal capabilities in mind, I don't get much of a sense of HIM in the finished product, and for the most part the songs either fail to engage me emotionally in the first place, or they do so in all the wrong ways.

"Street Survivor" is a good example of the former case; if ever there was a song that set out to make A Statement, it's that one, and I know I'm SUPPOSED to be feeling something when I listen to it, but I just... don't. Yeah, the guitars are heavy and everything, but the music makes a lot of promises the lyrics simply don't deliver on--whereas "Can't Look Away" from Crossroads Moment may be more subdued in a musical sense, yet it still manages to choke me up every single time I hear it. (And for what I think is a truly moving song specifically about the homeless, check out Richard Marx's "Children Of The Night" from his Repeat Offender CD.) Then, on the "irritating" side of the equation, "Bullet In The Gun" is probably the worst of the lot overall (I mean, seriously, who thought it was a good idea to hand Jimi a song like THAT?) but "Heaven Call Your Name" isn't very far behind. Now, I'm not opposed to sad songs in general, or ones with serious subject matter; life IS sad at times, and there's nothing wrong with stopping to acknowledge it or to contemplate the plight of someone in less than fortunate circumstances every now and then. But at the same time, no less a luminary than Alice Cooper once said, "The idea behind rock 'n' roll is joy. It's joyful music. It's not a depressing thing," and I fully agree. Yes, pain and grief and loss are parts of everyone's life experience--but that's precisely why I listen to Jimi's music in the first place, because it has the power to uplift and inspire me even when I'm stressed or unhappy about something else.

I fear, however, that "Heaven Call Your Name" raises my hackles much more than my spirits, and the only thing it really inspires me to do is grimace and hit the "skip to next track" button. I'll admit that it was moderately interesting for one initial listen because Jimi's younger daughter does some of the backing vocals (and she does have a lovely voice; obviously a few of those musically talented genes bred true!) but otherwise it was rather a case of, "Well, THAT was certainly Depressing with a capital D, not to mention four minutes of my life I'm not going to get back anytime soon." And perhaps most tellingly of all, even the one ballad on this CD (which is usually a shoe-in for my list of favorite songs) just leaves me cold. Now, granted, "Air That I Breathe" is BETTER than a lot of the other stuff, but I still only managed about a week with it in regular rotation on my MP3 player before I finally shook my head and deleted it from my "current Jimi" playlist. Because, yet again, the emotion isn't there; the mental image it conjures up for me is not of two lovers finding hard-won peace in each other's arms, but rather of the writers sitting down together to work one day and one of them saying something like, "Oh, yeah--albums like this always have a ballad, I guess maybe we'd better come up with one."

So, yeah--this is not my favorite of Jimi's solo albums, not by a long shot. But, having said that, I'm also not going to conclude this review by telling anyone not to go buy it. I may personally want to pretend it just didn't happen, but that's my own subjective view based on my particular preferences, and from the reviews on Amazon and various other places online, those seem to be even more in the minority than usual. There are plenty of folks out there who think this is a pretty darn awesome CD, and so if anyone's actually managed to read this far: If you're the sort who pays more attention to the music than the words to begin with, or who can forgive less than stellar lyrics as long as the choruses are hummable, then you'll probably love Never Too Late and should go pick up a copy immediately. And even the few who approach Jimi's music in a way that's at least marginally similar to my own should probably check out some samples and draw your own conclusions about whether to buy or not; it may very well be that you'll end up liking it better than I did. I suppose I just felt that those few should know a little more of what they're getting into ahead of time, so they don't end up as disappointed with this CD as I was--and I hope to heaven that Jimi either writes his next solo disc himself, or at least picks someone to work with who can make the sentiment of it sound a little more authentic than this bunch did.
Postscript: It's not a CD as such, but for anyone else who might have found Never Too Late a bit lacking, hop over to my Digital Music Page and check out the "unreleased country collection" which is being offered as an MP3 album through both Amazon and Google Play. The material is a little older--in fact, I believe most of it was penned by Jim Peterik when he and Jimi were experimenting with working together before Frontiers approached them about making Crossroads Moment. (The track called "Bring 'Em Back" is more recent, though, being something Jimi recorded with a writer named Kenny Mims just a few months ago.) Still, I think that set of songs has MUCH more of Jimi's signature sound and soul than Never Too Late did, even if the musical style is rather different from Survivor or his other solo stuff, and I certainly enjoy it a heck of a lot more.
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Kimball-Jamison
Kimball-Jamison (2011)
This disc is a collection of duets between Jimi and Bobby Kimball, former lead singer of the band Toto. The two of them are good friends and had done plenty of live shows together in the past, but they hadn't actually recorded anything collaborative in the studio until this CD.

And while I'm glad that Jimi and Bobby got to work together on this disc and apparently had a really good time doing it (the bonus DVD was a nice inclusion, too) I have to admit that I don't care for the end result quite as much as some of Jimi's other efforts. The material here is certainly decent enough overall, but Crossroads Moment raised the bar so high on that score that most other things really have to work at it to come anywhere close, and duets are one of those things that I will be the first to admit I'm quite picky about. There's a certain balance that has to be achieved to really draw me in, and although Kimball-Jamison makes a solid effort, it also falls just that little bit short for my own personal taste in a couple of key ways. The first is that I'm an unashamed fan of sappy ballads, and there aren't many of those to be had here; several tracks on the album don't really have to do with relationships at all ("Chasing Euphoria," "Kicking And Screaming") and the majority of the others are about troubled or broken love affairs. ("Worth Fighting For," "Can't Wait For Love," "Find Another Way," "Shadows of Love," "I Did Everything Wrong," etc.) It's probably no surprise to anyone, therefore, that my favorite track off the entire album is "Sail Away"--and even then, that one hits my other big gripe.

This is, namely, that very few of the songs seem to have been written with the intention of being sung as duets, which makes achieving that balance I spoke of above even more difficult than usual. In general, Jimi and Bobby divided things up pretty evenly as far as who sang what, but there were many moments when I felt that the trading off between them on individual tracks could have been handled better. In my view, a song is like a small, self-contained story, and unless it was written specifically to be sung (or "narrated," if you will) by more than one person, swapping vocalists in the middle is jarring and makes the whole thing lose some of the focus it might otherwise have had. (My other favorite band, Roxette, is a good example of how duets can really work well when the material is written with multiple singers in mind--in fact, I think they may have spoiled me a bit in that regard!) So while I realize it was probably impractical in terms of time or finances to have had songs expressly written for Jimi and Bobby to sing together (which would have been the most ideal solution to the problem) I also think that if they had no choice but to use existing, non-duet type material, then it would have been a lot more effective for one or the other of them to have sung ALL the verses on certain tracks, and had the other come in for harmony on just the choruses and other in-between bits, rather than trying to give both singers equal time within any given song.

So I guess the ultimate conclusion here is that this is a good album, and I'm not at all sorry that I bought a copy, but it's one I think I enjoy more as "background music" while I'm doing something else than to sit down and devote my entire attention to it.
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One Man's Trash
History (2011)
Jimi's second solo release from 2011, this CD is a collaboration with German musician/songwriter Fred Zahl, and it did quite well within Germany itself, though I don't think the US (as usual--sigh) noticed very much.

As for me, I quite like History--far better than I liked Kimball-Jamison, in fact. Oh, it's no Crossroads Moment, of course (I think only another Jimi/Jim Peterik project is ever going to top that one!) but Jimi and Fred make a more than decent writing team, and overall this is a fun and thoroughly enjoyable CD. There's a bit of just about everything in the mix in a stylistic sense, from pop to country to some pretty heavy guitars on a couple of tracks, but there's enough of a common thread to tie the whole thing together as a unit, too. The songs themselves tend to be short (only one on the whole CD runs more than 4 minutes, and even that one is only a few seconds over) which makes it a pretty quick listen, and I usually find myself wishing for more by the time I get to the end, so hopefully One Man's Trash won't turn out to be a one-shot deal!
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