Album Remarks & Appraisals:
J. Moss returns with Just James, the most introspective and personal musical offering of his career. Moss' third solo release on GospoCentric /Verity Gospel Music Group is replete with the progressive production and sophisticated lyricism that fans have become accustomed to hearing from Moss. This release also delves deep beyond the surface and deals with the sensitive matters of the heart, such as repentance and restoration.
J. Moss released his third album V3: Just James on August 25, 2009. On there is one of his big hits,Restored/I Gave It Up
"After several years of success as one of the most cutting-edge artists in contemporary gospel - including topping the Billboard Gospel Albums chart and going Top 20 R&B with his Grammy nominated 2007 album V2 - superstar singer/songwriter/producer J Moss made a personal decision to scale back the sonic fire and star power for which he is known to offer listeners a more intimate and introspective portrait of the artist - a stripped back production of repentance and praise he has chosen to title JUST JAMES.
"Every now and then a person gets to a point on their journey where they discover precisely what their trajectory is," J testifies, "where you're supposed to be or where you're supposed to land. That's what 2008 and 2009 has been for me. I've been through challenges that tested my faith, my merit, my credibility... even my will to live. There were times when I was at my human wit's end and wanted to take myself out! In the midst of all that brokenness - a shattered heart and a shattered life - God picked me up and dealt with me one on one. He said, 'That emptiness you're feeling... that's exactly where you are supposed to be. So many others are feeling that same emptiness, but I need you to be my beacon to show them how to overcome it.' It was a life changing epiphany for me."
The utter purposefulness behind the new material also stems from what J saw firsthand as an absence of material that spoke to his specific circumstance in the marketplace. "When I was down, I tried listening to the radio, thumbing through iTunes and going to Best Buy, trying to find some lyric or artist that could get me through my pain. I'm not saying that other artists aren't writing good music, but I couldn't find anything about MY situation. That's when The Lord said to me, 'The reason you can't find a song that speaks to you is because you're the one who has to write that song. Those whose marriages and relationships are being tried, you are the messenger I want to use to deliver that message.' All of us have our niche to speak to. Smokie Norful has his people with 'I Need You Now.' Marvin Sapp has his people with 'Never Would Have Made It.' Kirk Franklin has his people and I have mine. God has pointed me to the ministry of speaking to people in relationships.
Two of the most salient tracks birthed by this new awakening are "Restored," one of the CDs first singles, and "Rebuild." "There was a period where I had really hit rock bottom, I felt like I had failed my family, failed God, failed the people that looked up to me... I was very depressed. When I finally pulled myself up off the floor - I just clung to the Word and dealt with what restoration was all about. That is when God told me 'I didn't allow you to fall to kill you, but to break the outer shell and rebuild you again better and stronger - from the inside. I allowed you to fall so that I could release you from all of the worldly fluff that had clamped onto your life and so I could rebuild you.' That's what I'm portraying in these songs."
JUST JAMES also sparkles with the praise songs "Holy One" and "Sweet Jesus," and includes the especially clever "God Happens." "I wrote that one a while back as a spin-off on 'something else' that people are always saying," J shares laughing. "I always try to counter negativity with positivity. Instead of just saying stuff happens - deal with it as it comes at you - say 'God Happens.' Because He does, we don't have to deal with the short end of the stick. Man may turn his back on you, but God is always there for you."
A deeply soulful highlight of JUST JAMES is the jazz-based "Anointing." "Nat 'King' Cole sits at the very top of my list of all-time favorite singers," J reveals. "'We Must Praise' from my very first J Moss Project had that kind of feel in the verses and I'd eventually like to do an entire record of those kinds of songs. Every time I listen to the radio everything sounds the same... With this big ol' God we serve and this big ol' world we live in, I know there's got to be something more we can kick it about! The song 'Anointing' just came to me and talks about no matter how much people try to deny, go against or cover up The Word of God, it's always here, sturdy and strong."
While JUST JAMES is generally more worship than past J Moss offerings, it still starts off rockin' with the opener "I Gave it Up," one of PAJAM's patented funky grooves of uplift. "Me and 'PDA' are always looking for a hot opener that folks can do their morning run or workout to. Lyrically it's about where my life is now. I know a lot of people are looking at me wondering if I'm remorseful, changed or the same dude. I'm not out here on some completely brand new tip, that's not the case. I'm saying God just shifted some stuff around me. I gave up a lot of people, a lot of things, a lot of behavior and a lot of bad decisions. And I ain't going back there no more."" -BreathCast
"Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but gospel artists make mistakes too. In 2008, James Moss faced torrential news headlines exposing his private affairs of marital infidelity. A Georgia woman asked for a paternity test for her newborn child; resulting in Moss again proving his mortality. It could have been a long way down for the gospel star whose first two projects stormed gospel and urban R&B radio with hits like "We Must Pray" and "I'm Not Perfect (featuring Anthony Hamilton)," but the drama was short-lived. Moss's loyal fans, first stunned over the event, quickly engaged in a hurried, restorative campaign for their fallen angel. The aptly titled Just James, Moss's first release since his highly publicized failings, finds the artist standing tall and alone, without all the cameo superstar appearances and the vocal support of his Clark-Moss relatives. It may be yet another vulnerable experience for Moss, but he needn't feel self-conscious. On solo projects like Just James, the singer/songwriter/producer has proven to be a musical superhero when he's welding the studio controls.
A few radio singles aside, Moss in the past has stumbled over what felt like overboard synth-driven strings, super-staked background vocals and unfriendly pop song structures. Certainly, Moss is an urban contemporary gospel fly guy. His albums, when placed against his contemporaries, paint flashy and extravagant canvases possessing some of modern gospel's most street-wise productions. While Moss's previous releases only revealed two or three radio-ready cuts, Just James establishes itself as both a remarkable teaser and a strong improvement over his past projects. You would think without all the glitzy cameo appearances and hip-hop swagger, along with the short ten-song set, that the forecast ahead would be gloom and doom. Not so.
Even without the gimmicks of his previous urban workout V2, Moss manages to deliver a product that embodies his Detroit gospel influences while exerting the need to return to precious melodies. "Holy One" is a rhythm-fueled traditional rocker that would have made the perfect Clark Sister appetizer. Still big on brassy synths, songs like "Sweet Jesus," the jazzy Nat King Cole-inspired "Anointing," and "So Into You" reveal more of the reverent, worshipful side of Moss's laid back persona. It is that dimension of Moss that grants the album a much better digestive tract. Sure, the album opener "I Gave It Up," bearing a resemblance to his 21:03 dance floor solutions, may raise questions of a crunk party-goer still wrestling with yesterday's blues, but it's the only time Moss revisits the hyper alter ego. The bulk of the album, with its unrestrained musical exertions, focuses on the power of repentance and spiritual transformation.
Leading the list of album delights is "Restored." Moss's acoustic pop cut is saturated with a gospel finish and points toward the God servant's sunnier days. Another bit of shine, "No More," with its slick R&B edges and Black Eyed Peas' beats, possesses just enough hip-hop swagger to keep the youngsters' interest. Using a Stargate template, the title cut-etched with a pleading apology and a wizened innocence-gives way to one of the album's most passionate and memorable performances.
If there is a criticism to be launched perhaps would be Moss's need to tone down the highly-aggressive shouting matches on the big gospel vamps. One could also tag Moss on the predictability of his ballad closers (i.e., repetitive phrases, wordy ad-libs, etc.). But even with these few chinks and the album's brevity, Moss pulls off one of his better musical attractions to a date. It is quite remarkable to witness the troubling corners of a musician's survival system ultimately leading to new beginnings and to some of an artists' best work. Still, Just James is more than just a page from his personal diary; it's evidence of an evolving worshiper resting comfortably on a matured, relaxed set of musical progression." -SoulTracks
Personnel: J Moss (background vocals); Paul "PDA" Allen (vocals).
Audio Mixers: J Moss; Paul "PDA" Allen.
Recording information: Llerol Studios, Detroit, MI; PA Systems, Detroit, MI.
The title of J. Moss's 2009 record is a statement. He is JUST JAMES on the hyper-energized record, a simple musical preacher mixing funk and hip-hop with an early-1990s vibe somewhere between Prince and Bell Biv Devoe. Moss has got the balance of faith and pop down, announcing a "love song" ("So Into You") with the passion of a contemporary R&B crooner, shifting it to his devotion with an almost-mesmerizingly casual grace. It's a revival spirit that's envigorating and true, backing his place as one of '00s gospel soul's fresh young faces.
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- J Moss & Pajam Smooth Jazz Tribute (The Smooth Jazz All Stars)