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Articles Home » 1987 Articles » James, Melvin - 1987 The Passenger
James, Melvin - 1987 The Passenger

ARTIST: James, Melvin
ALBUM: The Passenger
SERIAL: MCA-5663 (LP), MCAD-5663 (CD)
YEAR: 1987


LINEUP: Melvin James - vocals, guitars, bass, percussion * Dik Shopteau - bass * Dave Hern - bass synthesizer * Joe Vitale - synthesizer, drums (tracks 3 - 9) * Gordy Knudtson - drums (track 1) * Pye Prochowitz - drums (track 2)

TRACK LISTING: 01 Why Won't You Stay (Come In, Come Out Of The Rain) * 02 We Hear The Thunder * 03 Telephone * 04 Passenger * 05 Loving You Is Strange * 06 Twisted * 07 She's So Sorry * 08 Sugar Candy * 09 Devil With A Halo

Melvin James is a name unknown to many, but residents in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota should remember this fellow going way back into the 80's. Bought up on a diet of 70's greats where all the usual suspects crossed his turntable (Cooper, Purple, Heep, Bowie, T-Rex etc), James was a self taught guitarist who apparently had his first ever gig at the tender age of 14. By his late teens, James had moved to Minneapolis, formed the band Crash Street Kids, who released an acclaimed debut album on Fat City Records. He spent six years with that band before the label went belly-up. Undeterred, Melvin was a prolific songwriter with enough material to go in search of solo deal. A few showcases later, James was snapped up by MCA, who won out in an apparent bidding war!

The Songs
The resulting debut album, 'The Passenger', was released in 1987, and would prove to be James' only solo release up to this point. When listening to this, you can't help admire the sound, which really sounds as if it is a better fit around the new wave/power pop era from the 1979/1981 era. For reference points, I hear guys like Mikael Erlandsson, Glen Burtnick and Tommy Keene. Interesting to see Dik Shopteau (previously with Minnesota legends Judd and the Daisy Dillman Band) in the credits, along with well renowned drummer Joe Vitale, who is also a solo artist in his own right (refer his album 'Plantation Harbor'). Perhaps the most recognisable track here is the opener 'Why Won't You Stay (Come In, Come Out Of The Rain)'. A video was made of this song (refer below). Other highlights include the expansive 'We Hear The Thunder', the 80's synth pop of 'She's So Sorry', the pulsy pop/rock sound of 'Loving You Is Strange' or the big arena rock that emanates from the grooves of 'Sugar Candy'.

In Summary
Unfortunately James' time at MCA ended when the label had a broom swept down the halls of senior management - he along with a few others were dropped from the label. 'The Passenger' peaked at 146 in 1987, and the single 'Why Won't You Stay' made it onto Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, though I hardly think that actually means anything. In the 'where is he now' stakes, James is now in the band Planet Melvin, playing alongside his son (Melvin James Jnr), who plays drums. The guys are still at it today. For an 80's blast of power pop/rock in the vein of Glen Burtnick, 'The Passenger' is worthy of your investigation.

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#1 | Eric on January 28 2009 10:24:43
I visited James at his house via a friend who knew him several years ago. Nice guy, but at that time he sort of blew off 'The Passenger' and the second unreleased album as 'dated' since he had gone completely 'Alternative' with Planet Melvin. Still, he had a big poster of this album cover and Crash Street Kids on his family room wall...
#2 | Ralfster on August 24 2013 19:27:46
Eric, have you heard the 2nd unreleased album? Is it similar in style, properly produced and of the same quality? I adore "The Passenger" so I guess you can tell I'd love to hear it Smile
#3 | Eric on August 24 2013 21:50:03
Yes, Melvin gave me a copy- very AOR.
#4 | gdazegod on April 07 2016 06:45:44
Melvin James - 1987 Why Won't You Stay (Come In Out Of The Rain)'
YouTube Video:
#5 | super80boy on February 18 2017 15:05:15
I have the Crash Street Kids album and that's a rare lost power pop gem. The Passenger is full of well arranged engaging tracks - from the driving pop rockers 'Loving You Is Strange' and 'We Hear The Thunder to the power popper 'Twisted', the melancholic AOR album single 'Why Won't You Stay' to the new wave rocker 'She's So Sorry' - There's really no duds here to speak of.
#6 | gdazegod on February 18 2017 21:56:20
Yeah CSK is good, it came out on a small Minneapolis label, and (to my knowledge) has never been released on CD.
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