The Best of James Taylor
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First signed to The Beatles Apple label, gifted American troubadour James Taylor released his eponymous debut album in 1969. Back in the states in 1970, he delivered Sweet Baby James as his Warner Bros. label debut. Throughout the '70s he continued to build his reputation as one of pop's most beloved and influential recording artists, following up with multimillion-sellers like Mud Slide Slim and The Blue Horizon, One Man Dog, Walking Man, Gorilla, In The Pocket, and his first Greatest Hits album chronicling his Warner Bros. output, which has since sold more than 12 million copies. After switching to Columbia Records in 1977, Taylor's hit streak continues to this day. He has 4 Grammys under his belt, as well as inductions into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 1998 he was honored with the Billboard Century Award. Now, as his career is once again on the upswing thanks to his latest platinum two-time Grammy-nominated October Road CD, the timing is perfect to renew the love affair America has had with his early work - with THE BEST OF JAMES TAYLOR.
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
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I like this "best of" collection, BUT while the songs are all favorites and appropriate for a "best of" collection they are not necessarily the best recorded versions of these songs. I DO like the album but was a little befuddled by which rendition of a song is used on some of tracks. If it were all first recordings, all live recordings or the best selling tracks it would make some sense from a "best of" perspective.
It's been a while but I think I may finally see the patter in song choices: this is a Warner Brothers release, but many of Taylor's early hits were recorded with Apple. If there were Warner Brothers versions I think those recordings were selected over the Apple ones, perhaps to maximize profits. I don't think this is a sensible pattern/selections of song to a listener expecting a "best of" album of the hit or original versions.
There is ONE new track on this CD: Bittersweet which was recorded for this release. I'm not sure how it would qualify for a "Best Of" with no history?
Technically this is a pretty well remastered CD. I have no complaints about how this CD sounds.
The odd recording choice focused on Warner Brothers recordings bugs me a little like a little itch I can't really scratch. I still enjoy this collection but because of this choice of which recordings are included I'm giving "the best of James Taylor" only 4 stars.
Hope this helps someone!
Wonderful originals and covers ....you know the names.
Great fidelity .