Hey Ma is the tenth studio album by British alternative rock band James. It was released on 7 April 2008. Receiving positive reviews from critics, the album peaked at No. 10 in the UK Albums Chart and charted for 5 weeks.
After a successful reunion tour, as well as playing a variety of festivals over summer 2007, James teamed up with the producer and musician Lee 'Muddy' Baker to start work on a new studio album. (Baker was previously most notable for his work with James' singer Tim Booth on Booth's 2004 solo album, Bone.)
The band, with the help of Baker, built their own studios at the Château de Warsy in France, a studio that consisted of a main studio as well as personal studios for each member of the band in their rooms. This allowed each member to constantly feed ideas back to Baker in the main studio. Baker also allowed the band to jam at leisure, a technique that has been credited with creating some of the band's most successful songs including "Sit Down" and "Sound". It also ensured a sense of spontaneity that has often been a major selling point for the band.
During this brief time the band wrote 120 possible compositions. According to the band, eight of those were created in a single five-hour session, an impressive feat by any standard. The songs that grew from these compositions were then mixed by Baker, who added additional parts such as backing vocals (often his own). These sessions eventually became Hey Ma. James have said that they believe this to be as good, if not better than any previous efforts.
The first tastes of the new album could be heard as far back as the 2007 reunion tour when the band decided to play a then new song, "Upside". It became an instant fan favourite. No further new songs (excluding the two new tracks from the Fresh as a Daisy compilation which was released alongside the reunion) appeared until a secret gig in London prior to the festival tour, which saw the debut of two new songs entitled "Not So Strong" and "Traffic". (Fans were surprised to see that neither of these songs were in the final track list for Hey Ma.)
After the festival tour, James played two nights in Hoxton Bar and Grill on 10 and 11 September. These two shows were composed entirely of new material, including every track from the latest album. Despite the obvious desire of people to make recordings of the new material, James insisted that people did not. Thankfully for the band, a recording of the two Hoxton gigs has yet to see the light of day.
On 25 February 2008, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie's radio show previewed the album's first single, "Whiteboy". Fans were divided in their opinions regarding the song's unusual mixing. However, this was later attributed to the recording being a preview as opposed to a final copy. The final mix of the song was soon put up on the band's Myspace page.
On 19 March 2008, the second track, entitled "Hey Ma", was previewed when it was used as the music for a YouTube video made in aid of the charity Help for Heroes. The song was undoubtedly picked because of its strong connection to the ongoing War on Terror. Only one day later, DJ Janice Long played "Waterfall" during her radio broadcast on BBC Radio 2.
On 13 March, the tabloid newspaper The Sun printed an article reporting a ban on the use of the album art on billboards, because of fears concerning the baby and the gun images found on the album's sleeve. The ban remains, and the band still refuses to change the cover.
Later, Darren Hughes, the designer of the album art, issued a statement on the ban:
You need only to have a passing acquaintance with the headlines to be aware of the unfolding horror show of gun culture amongst kids in the UK. Whilst the media are quick to show condemnation and, in the governments barricading of not just our airports but now our train and bus stations and schools with metal detectors, armed police and dogs, their strong armed 'climate of fear-inducing' response. But we seem less able, less curious to raise the vital question, as to what has brought our country, our culture our kids to be so taken with guns?
Larry Gott, the lead guitarist, said that the ban would not affect the release and publicity of the album in any way, and that an alternative had already been planned in case such a situation did occur.
The cover of the American release did not contain the gun.
All tracks written by Tim Booth, Larry Gott and Jim Glennie.
Tim Booth – lead and backing vocals
Larry Gott – electric, acoustic, slide, and e-bow guitars, and additional backing vocals on "Waterfall" and "Upside Down"
Jim Glennie – bass guitars
Saul Davies – electric and acoustic guitars, baritone guitars, violin, and additional drums on "Waterfall" and "Semaphore"
Mark Hunter – keyboards and programming
Andy Diagram – trumpet, flugelhorn, and additional backing vocals on "Of Heroes and Monsters and Men"
David Baynton-Power – drums, percussion
- "Hey Ma"
- "Oh My Heart"
- "Boom Boom"
- "Of Monsters & Heroes & Men"
- "I Wanna Go Home"
- "Child To Burn" (exclusive to the iTunes version)
Additional musiciansLee Muddy Baker – additional backing vocals on "Waterfall", "Upside Down", "72", and "I Wanna Go Home", additional drums on "Oh My Heart", percussion on "72" and "I Wanna Go Home", acoustic guitar on "Of Heroes and Monsters and Men", and electric guitar on "I Wanna Go Home"
Rob Kenny – drums on "I Wanna Go Home"