Wendy James has been around the music world since the late 80s, first fronting up Transvision Vamp, before embarking on her solo career. On Queen Street Straight, her fifth solo album, she has adopted genres and trends of the last few decades to create a truly diverse mix. The album ranges from the 60s girl group-esque Kill Some Time Blues to the Motown inspired Little Melvin. James’ rich, distinctive voice copes well with the transition from a roar to a whisper and back again. Queen High Straight is a perfect marriage of alternative rock music, and swelling brass crescendos which lend the album a jazz undertone.
The album eases you in with the title track, but that’s about as gentle as you’re going to get. We’re then launched into Perilous Beauty, a gritty track full of whining guitar and a driving drumbeat. The songs appear on the album in the order they were written, which may be why the sequence can occasionally feel a little disjointed. A particularly jarring transition is from the hard hitting The Impression Of Normalcy to the whimsical I’ll Be Here When The Morning Comes, feeling a bit like the jump from a wild Saturday night to a lazy Sunday morning. Sometimes even the songs themselves jump from one extreme to another, like Here Comes The Beautiful, with its drawling introduction that conveys rock star ennui quickly evolving into something much more fast paced.
Testimonial, a melancholy song of lost love, comes exactly halfway through the album, and could easily be the closing track to wind the whole thing down, but the album bounces back with a burst of drums in Bar Room Brawls and Benzedrine Blues, a song which is arguably one of the highlights of the album, although it could be argued that the album is full of highlights, as it seems to be constantly building up and very rarely coming back down.
The twenty tracks in Queen Street Straight cover so much range that it’s impossible to get bored. This is an album to be savoured. And as the nationwide lockdown brings the country grinding to a halt, perhaps there has never been a better time to stop and appreciate the sheer range of this album.