James Michael, who bases his fan club in Owasso, OK, really touches the epicenter of the working man's rock & roll soul. Inhale is a passionate, dreamy, uplifting, and gut-wrenching performance. With his first major release, Michael goes forward with his shimmering born-to-be-a-rock-star presence and uncanny songwriting craftsmanship. Critics in Los Angeles have dubbed his vocal harmonies and stage presence hauntingly similar to the late Kurt Cobain. Yet, it is Michael's sincerity and openness to creative expression both lyrically and melodically that make this debut album special. "Maybe I should cut us both some slack/Maybe I should cut me out completely and try to get you back," sings Michael as a statement of desperation and longing in the dense and dynamic "Slack." "January" is a poignant and colorful song of triumph, detailing Michael's triumph of life and musical success after experiencing many years of horrific bands that took him nowhere. While his music has now made it to mainstream record shops, he's certainly not going to wait around for success to come to him.
Michael also steps into territory of the high and experimental, creating music fancy and bizarre in the track "Luxuride," spilling out such lyrics as, "So you got me high in a luxuride/Maybe I should take my life while it's good," seeming to reflect suicidal tendencies in his past. Nearly wasting a life is portrayed in the next track, "Note to Self," in which Michael is determined to slow down his life. "How much would you save by walking away/You really ought to taste this life," notes the artist, seeking to find himself in a media-dominated society. "Another Trip Home" -- an intense song depicting someone who has not gotten over another -- is deep, powerful, and stirring in scope. In "Down," Michael chants, "You've got to get me back, to where I was when I began/I know your God is great, your God is good, my God just ran," seeming to reveal the songwriter's search to be "down" while also seeking his spiritual purpose. Inhale is filled with strong points, and is an impressive start for a solo artist looking to make it in the pop/rock world, a feat pretty difficult to handle when most of circa 2000 rock radio was ruled by bands such as Blink-182, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Creed, and Limp Bizkit. His words and raw emotions are clearly emphasized, the acoustic and piano arrangements are above average, and, most certainly, his knack for harmonization during a ballad is superior. The image, songwriting, and presence of a young James Michael should reflect well with both thirty-somethings and the younger generation.