Legendary producer/mixer/guitarist, Michael James, helped define the sound of seminal records from icons like New Radicals, Hole, L7, Edwin McCain, Robben Ford, Too Much Joy, AJ Croce, among others. Stepping into the spotlight to bet on himself, the behind the scenes hitmaker composed Shelter In Place as a concept album to reflect the zeitgeist of the pandemic lockdown, exploring the themes of love, loss, isolation, mortality and ultimately hope. A listen from top to bottom begins with an enjoyable night under the stars with an orchestra that is shockingly disrupted by a global catastrophe. Lovers overcome obstacles to be reunited, while other couples are far too close for comfort, far too long. Some serendipitously thrive in the new world, while others fight depression. Everybody contemplates their mortality, and everybody eventually learns they are not alone. Because it was 2020, there was a racial awakening/reckoning as well as a pulling together for a common cause.
The songs immerse the listener in a hi-fi (when you close your eyes, you can “see” the spaces between the musicians) sonic cocoon, a shaken world where seven different singers choose to follow the light instead of darkness.
Produced and recorded remotely and Covid compliantly during the 2020 stay at home mandate, the breathtaking musical landscape features MJ’s adventurous and soulful guitar, bass and keyboard playing, as well as his direct, emotionally resonant lyrics. His knockout team includes super producer David Kahne (Paul McCartney, Kelly Clarkson, Tony Bennett), Hoobastank drummer Chris Hesse, Frank Zappa drummer Joe Travers, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” guitarist Linda Taylor, original Weezer guitarist Jason Cropper, ‘70s soul singer Walter Heath, feature film composer Eric Colvin, and Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack—, as well as a cadre of rising stars, including crooner Aaron Durr and rocker Franc Aledia.
The 17 songs feature 15 original tracks that include several short interstitial orchestral pieces that connect the dots of the narrative arc. The two covers, “Fly Me To the Moon” and George Harrison’s “Something,” are wild reimagined takes on the classics, with MJ playing Count Basie’s orchestra chart on overdriven electric guitar on the former tune, and a dystopian reharmonized instrumental version of the Beatles crown jewel that would sound perfectly at home on a Radiohead album.
Three discreet mixes available: stereo, 5.1 surround and immersive Dolby Atmos.
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