Top positive review
28 people found this helpful
on September 26, 2002
James Taylor's career had various commercial peaks: one was early, with the success of Sweet Baby James; another came the year after In The Pocket with the release of JT on Columbia. In my opinion, however, his creative and musical peaks are not in alignment with his commercial ones. In The Pocket is a case in point.
This album is a treasure trove. "Shower the People," In The Pocket's representative on Taylor's Greatest Hits (appearing on In The Pocket in its unedited form), is, as other reviewers have noted, a lot less cornball than one might imagine from a tune with such sappy lyrics. If your only knowledge of JT comes from his greatest hits, though, the rest of the album is a delightful surprise.
With "Junkie's Lament," James layers beautiful autobiographical lyrics with a very interesting II-V cycle exercise (and a final 60 seconds that gives me goosebumps every time), which results in one of the true unrecognized acheivements of his career. "Money Machine" is a witty funk tune with disco-style string arrangements--and, surprise surprise, it is actually tastefully done! "Slow Burning Love" manages to accomplish a relatively rare feat: The feel of the music conjures up precisely the mood of the lyrics ("It was a hot and a sultry day, somewhen in early September..."). It's languid and sticky enough to make you really understand where JT's coming from.
The only low point of this album is the next track, "Everybody Has The Blues". Perhaps I'm biased, because I love Lee Sklar's bass playing so much (and this tune replaces him with a tuba!), but it seems like a throwaway that gets in the way of the rest of the album. If anything, I suppose, it is a brief reprieve from the solidness exhibited to that point, and a nice breath of fresh air before the genius gets rolling again.
I won't parse the rest of the album track by track, but suffice it to say that on In The Pocket, JT manages to continue a trend that began with One Man Dog and exists today on October Road--mainly, the second half of this album is far better than the first. By the time you get around to the final three transcendental tracks, you'll be wishing this album would never end.
While In The Pocket never recaptures the raw emotion caputured on One Man Dog, Pocket shows a glimse of what will become JT's trademark--master craftsmanship. This is his best album, and represents a feat of musicianship that he doesn't really even come close to reproducing until 2002's October Road.