Colorblind James Experience

Greatest Hits!

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OK, so the title's a goof. Rochester, NY's most diverse, endearing, and long-lived folk/jazz/lounge/rock/country/polka pop band hasn't had any hits -- greatest or otherwise -- in the 20-year period that this disc spans. And except for a brief, early brush with fame when Britain's John Peel spun "Considering a Move to Memphis," a song from their debut in the late '80s, they've remained a cult obscurity throughout six albums released from 1987-1999. This chronologically compiled collection covers 19 highlights from this idiosyncratic group over the course of 74 minutes, and proves without how gifted, unique, and uncompromising they were during these years. While only songwriter/singer/guitarist and vibes player Colorblind James and drummer Jim McAvaney are constant throughout steady personnel changes, the dry wit, offbeat time signatures, and decidedly non-rock approach of the often horn-accentuated band makes this disc an eye-opening and grin-inducing experience. "Solid! Behind the Times" is perhaps the most representative tune from their wildly eclectic repertoire as it incorporates James' wonderful non-sequitor lyrics ("Once I was so modern, I could not bend my knees") with a repeated lick, stop-start rhythm, and short but punchy solos from bass, harmonica, vibes, trombone, and skewed sax -- all condensed into 5-and-a-half minutes that will transfix anyone interested in offbeat, melodically twisted, and refreshingly unconventional music. James' talk/sung vocals for the majority of the earlier tracks, trade off and harmonize with Rita Coulter's dark, resonant voice after she joined the band in 1996. Many of the group's albums are difficult or impossible to obtain, making this collection a perfect introduction to one of pop's most creative and enigmatic bands. They may not have hit the sales charts, but the Colorblind James Experience exuded talent and charm in equal measure. This exceptional anthology proves that the obscure band -- who practically never toured outside of upstate New York -- has produced a unusual yet innovative body of timeless work that remains distinctive, challenging, and, most importantly, enjoyable.

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