Any good singer can interpret a song, but it takes a stylist to make it his own. James Taylor is a stylist. This 20-track anthology obviously can't chronicle much more than the hits and high points of Taylor's career, but it nonetheless captures the artistic essence of a performer who's become a virtual synonym for "singer-songwriter" since his emergence in the late '60s. A lot of ink has been spilled ruminating about Taylor's role in soothing a '60s-burned generation, but given his own well-known demons (depression, addiction) his gentle voice often sounds like the physician wisely healing himself. His muse seems fully formed from the opening "Something in the Way She Moves," a track cut for the Beatles
' Apple label in late 68 (and one that seems to share some symbiotic relationship with George Harrison
's own classic "Something" from the period), its tone at once familiar and inviting--if ripe for a few decades of parody--as it wends its way from his seminal early '70s hits through a slate of later originals, R&B ("How Sweet It Is," "Handy Man") and pop ("Up On the Roof") covers. Tellingly, he delivers those chestnuts with an offhand confidence and illumination that makes them his own, a sense that informs even his jazz and Brazilian ("Only a Dream a Rio") flirtations. The set's newly recorded bonus cut, John Sheldon's "Bittersweet," is a pleasant pop confection that showcases Taylor's knack for being laconic and upbeat in the same breath. --Jerry McCulley
JT's work for Apple, Warner Bros. and Columbia/Sony in one place! Includes Fire and Rain; You've Got a Friend; How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You); Handy Man; Shower the People; Your Smiling Face; Carolina in My Mind; Sweet Baby James; Long Ago and Far Away; Country Road; Something in the Way She Moves; Mexico; Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight; Steamroller; Rainy Day Man; You Can Close Your Eyes; Walking Man; Golden Moments; Up on the Roof , and Only a Dream in Rio .