Dec. 02--The music of Rockport native James Day is rising to the top of the charts in the United Kingdom.
Now, the artist and his music are both coming home.
Day's latest CD, titled "Seasons & Reasons," is being released in the United States.
The first singles from the album hit the Top 5 in the United Kingdom, and the album has become one of the Brits' fastest selling albums of the year, according to the London-based Soul Brothers Records.
And a homecoming CD-release party at Giuseppe's in Gloucester, set for Wednesday at 6 p.m., will give him the chance to meet up with both old and new friends. A week later, he will hold another CD-release event on Dec. 12 in Harlem in New York City at Billie's Black, located in the historic neighborhood that has been home to clubs including the Apollo, Savoy and the Cotton Club.
Day, who is also a producer, delivers songs infused with the spirit of classic soul, R & B and jazz. His most recent sighting in Billboard Magazine was on the Top 10 R&B and Top 40 Pop Album by Lalah Hathaway, "Where It All Begins," on the legendary Stax Label.
He said "Seasons & Reasons" includes a variety of music -- some seasonal, some inspirational, some love songs and even a lullaby.
Chris Rizik, founder of the Soul Tracks website, gave the new release high marks.
"James Day has had an outsized impact in the indie soul world. He's done it with classic pop/soul songwriting skills and a knack for surrounding himself with incredible vocal talent to make his compositions shine," he wrote.
In his review, Rizik said that a listener can always count on a James Day album being a collection of "melodic, stick-in-your-brain songs and terrific vocal performances, and Seasons delivers those as well as anything he's done before.
"It's great to hear so many underrated classic performers and on-the-rise new ones together in such comfortable surroundings ... Seasons is a fine addition to the list of 2013 holiday releases and a welcome start-to-finish collection for adult pop and soul lovers. Highly recommended."
Day does not perform, because he was diagnosed with Meniere's disease, a disorder of the inner ear that causes vertigo and hearing loss. But that did not permanently squelch his hunger to create music, once he adjusted his life to deal with this health issue.
Day, 48, says he found strength in his hometown of Rockport, where he has since returned to reside after living in various places, including New York and Boston.
"I grew up on Front Beach," he recalled of the popular downtown spot. "We have a close family, and something always brings me back here. As for growing up here, I think Rockport was a wonderful place to dream big."
A Rockport High School graduate of the Class of 1983, he attended school with Andrew Stanton, an Oscar-winning filmmaker with Pixar, with whom he performed in high school musicals. He and Stanton wrote the songs for a musical together, along with teacher Paul Wann, who created an original junior high school production. The songs, he recalled, were about recess, being yourself and first loves.
The star of that junior high production was another student from their neighborhood -- Paula Cole, the Grammy Award-winning recording artist.
After high school, Day said he followed his dream of becoming a professional stage singer and dancer, attending the New York American Academy of Dramatic Arts. But that changed with his diagnosis.
"I'm still deaf in one ear and have issues with balance. I live with that insecurity. That's a constant battle," Day said.
"In the beginning, the illness shut down my music altogether," he said, "but over time, I got my confidence back, and I turned to writing music."
One of his early demo tapes got picked and was recorded by the pop star Tiffany and produced by New Kids on the Block producer Maurice Starr.
"After that, I started meeting so many great musicians that I realized what I had to bring to the party was melodies and the lyrics," Day said.
He won the Gospel Grand Prize in the John Lennon International Songwriting Competition for a song titled "It's all Divine" -- a song resurrected for the latest album. He was also a recipient of the Songwriters Hall of Fame Award of Excellence. He also wrote two first-place songs in the Billboard World Song Contest.
Day's airplay also extends beyond England. His songs receive thousands of spins in other countries: Brazil, France, Germany, Holland, Japan and Australia. He has had cuts on major labels, including Virgin, EMI, Sony, MCA and Universal.
His song from a previous record "Speak Love" was a hit in Brazil. The lyrics include, "Speak love into the universe. Speak hope where there is none. Speak faith into the future, so we'll have a better one."
Day received a statement from ASCAP showing this song received thousands of spins over the airwaves.
"So, I knew it was a hit somewhere and that it was being played," he said. "In England, I have a close relationship with DJs, so I find out right away there, and they also send me magazine clips."
Looking ahead, Day said he looks forward to continued collaboration and producing music for decades to come.
Giuseppe's, scene of Wednesday's CD-release party, is at 2 Main St. in downtown Gloucester.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2013 the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.)
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