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James (Jim) McCarty biography
Best known as one of the founder members of THE YARDBIRDS and RENAISSANCE, Drummer and vocalist Jim McCARTY worked on a number of other projects over the years, including SHOOT in 1973, the New Age ensemble STAIRWAY, the original RENAISSANCE line-up reunion band ILLUSION and (in 1990) a YARDBIRDS reunion called A BOX OF FROGS. In 1992 McCARTY and Chris DREJA would reform the YARDBIRDS again, this time under their original name, with guest appearances by Jeff BECK, Brian MAY, Steve VAI, Steve LUKATHER and SLASH on their only studio release from this incarnation, the 2003 "Birdland" album.

In all the bands McCARTY has worked in he has been prominent as one of the main composers and song-writers as well as providing backing vocals and the occasional lead. During the course of writing and composing McCARTY taught himself to play guitar and piano. In 1994 he released his first solo album, "Out of the Dark" and in 2003 he released his second, "Sitting On Top Of Time", which features guest appearance by Steve HACKETT.

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3.86 | 3 ratings
Out Of The Dark
3.10 | 2 ratings
Sitting On The Top Of Time

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Sitting On The Top Of Time by MCCARTY, JAMES (JIM) album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.10 | 2 ratings

Sitting On The Top Of Time
James (Jim) McCarty Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars This 2009 release is the end result of several years of studio sessions recorded in Toronto during gaps in YARDBIRDS' tours. Canadian flautist Ton Korb plays a major role both as performer and behind the scenes, melding his gentle varied woodwinds to the soft rock sound already established by McCarty and renewed every 3/4 of a decade or so, on an as needed basis. And need it we do.

Again, perhaps even more so than on "Out of the Dark", this is an almost incessantly mellow album that skirts the fringes of new age both musically and lyrically, but, while it is somewhat more sprawling, it retains the same dark optimism if you will, of a man coming to terms with his place in the grand scheme of things. It is imparted in a manner neither preachy nor shrouded nor cliched, but with a beguiling clarity. Still, if your progressive rock must be igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic, you'll want to steer clear.

The music is reminiscent of early RENAISSANCE and ILLUSION, with acoustic guitars and pianos often forming the base, and an able rhythm section more than ready to fill in on those tracks where larger items need to be moved. Flutes and the occasional cello and other orchestration impart additional delicacy and care. A caring reverence is imparted in every note and vocal breath..

More space is allowed for instrumentals, the most impressive being the piano dominated "Hidden Nature" and the 7+ minute closer "Shangri-la", but these are not for the impatient, as they unfold gradually and subtly, and never really bust out. The flutes so critical to the atmosphere in these tracks bring to mind the work of HEVIA from Asturias in Spain, such is the connection within the Celtic diaspora. For the vocal tracks led by McCarty himself and his unassuming timber, "The Outsider", "Living from the Inside Out", and "Calling out to you" could all be classics in a just world, supported by delicate electric guitar work by the STEVE HACKETT" and JEAN-MICHEL KAJDAN, as well as Korb. These would probably be of more interest to the RENAISSANCE/ILLUSION fan who doesn't just like them because of their angelic female singers. The title cut and "Blowing Through the Countryside" both seem trite in comparison, while "Hummingbird" fails to generate any of the buzz one would expect from the tiny winged creature.

While not attaining the top layer of soft crossover prog comfortably occupied by "Out of the Dark", this disk provides a panoramic look down at the long gone days with loving kindness. 3.5 stars rounded down for this site.

 Out Of The Dark by MCCARTY, JAMES (JIM) album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.86 | 3 ratings

Out Of The Dark
James (Jim) McCarty Crossover Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars Jim McCarty is one of the few longtime progressive artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although this achievement was based entirely on his work in the seminal YARDBIRDS. McCarty has stated that his move in a mellower direction was a direct reaction to the high decibel lifestyle, and this decision gave rise to his larger and arguably more significant body of work. As a key member of the original RENAISSANCE and ILLUSION he is well known to symphonic fans, but he has also been involved in several other formations, among them PILGRIM (like a less flashy BLACKMORE's NIGHT) and STAIRCASE (new age), and has released two solo albums, via which route he comes to our attention at this time.

On the surface, "Out of the Dark" is merely a collection of good soft rock tunes along the lines of ILLUSION's rather ignominious "Enchanted Caress" swan song. But minimal exploration reveals a concept album reflecting the idealism of the 60s brought into the post Thatcher era. It's a philosophy tempered by the realities of the day while heartened by the wisdom of experience and musical inspiration, both of which McCarty sports on his plaid sleeve.

Every track offers a simple yet gorgeous melody, powerful lyrical imagery, understated sincere vocals, and heartfelt playing in all areas. The musicianship and arrangements are what would appeal to progressive fans, and indeed some of the lovely keyboards of THE Matthew Fisher and another Matthew, surname Hammond, do taste sweetly of early Renaissance. It's hard to pick highlights because each song helps both its predecessor and successor sound richer. The dreamy drone of "Signs of an Age Gone By", the haunting self discovery of "Just Breaking Through", the emotive chill of "What if Summer Never Came", the devotional aspect of "Why Don't You Believe", the gentle blues of "Home is Where the Heart is", and the soaring finale "Back to the Earth" are all exercises in unfettered class.

McCarty's first solo album serves up a consistent vision of soft crossover prog without a trace of guile. If some of the more commercially successful 1970s bands of this sub genre had gone this route, there might have been fewer chart appearances but greater respect for prog as a whole. "Out of the Dark" positively illuminates what might have been. 4.5 stars.

Thanks to dean for the artist addition.

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