Well, I had to say I was champing at the bit to share my 2p’s worth on Stephen Sinnett’s question to Jim about his voice…but Stephen posed the question to Jim…it’s not my place. I really hope he replies to Stephen though. From what I remember of recent interviews, Jim is more happy with his voice these days than in the past. I think he sells himself short though.
Stephen was a little brutal at times! I don’t think his voice on Life In A Day sounds “immature”. Jim’s just singing at a higher register, that’s all. But he deepens it quickly. I mean there are already deeper vocals on Real To Real…and they just get deeper still as we progress along.
Personally, I think his voice was best in the early 80s…but then, you know, I think EVERYTHING about him is best then! I think there is a depth to his voice then that he can’t even get to now. Yes, it was forced back then to a degree, because you can hear on other songs his voice really isn’t that deep. Not as naturally deep as it seems now. He seemed to manipulate it back then. But even though it seems deeper now, I think he struggles to sustain that depth these days…whereas then, he had youth on his side…in his vocal chords…to manipulate, deepen and sustain that depth. I mean…just look at the way he ran around stage and he very rarely delivered a bum note. I by no means am suggesting he delivers bum notes now…but he doesn’t bomb around the stage like he used to! He still has energy, of course, but I think he is very mindful of what he can and can’t do. And that is consummate performance right there!
I only recently read this comparison with Bryan Ferry in those early years. Yeah, I kinda hear it…but to me Jim sounds like Jim Kerr. Especially at that point in time. He had a uniqueness to his voice. The way he’d accentuate words. He kind of brought in that Scottish burr into his voice (Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel – “some should be seen, but never heard” – the end part of that line, the accent reveals itself. And with Hunter And The Hunter – “the greatest show on Earth is here tonight, love” – got to love the way those Scots say “earth”!).
Somewhere along the way, he lost that burr…possibly late 80s. Not much evidence of it on Street Fighting Years that I hear (and possibly revealing to all just how much I listen to SFY – oops!). And there is at times, esp. during the mid to late 80s and into the 90s, when performing live he’d do this weird manipulating thing with his voice. I think he was trying to sound crooner…but he doesn’t really have a crooner’s voice. And by that I am definitely NOT saying he can’t sing! I just felt he cheapened his voice doing whatever the hell it was he was trying to do with it. It didn’t work for me. He was trying to push it somewhere else, obviously, but for me it wasn’t working. He sounds good on Good News From The Next World…but it still was there in the live performances then. I think it took until Neapolis for him to just go back to a more “natural” approach and stop the weird warbling crooner stuff (sorry Jim…but it’s what I hear).
He still sounds good to me today. He certainly hasn’t got the strength in his voice he once had…and that’s ok. He’s doing the things he needs to do to take care of it and preserve it.
Well, there you go. That’s my opinion on it anyway.