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James Taylor ~ October Road
There's a comfortable sense of the familiar to James Taylor's first collection of new songs since 1997's Grammy winner Hourglass; such is the curse of being a decades-spanning cultural icon. But, as on his best work, there's also an almost stealthy sense of musical restlessness that seeps into Taylor's songs here, as he colors some with deft jazz and international influences. The reunion with producer Russ Titelman (they last collaborated on 1976's In the Pocket) seems to have gratifyingly inspired as much gentle reassessment as retrenchment. Longtime Titelman compatriot Ry Cooder guests on the title track, a song whose autumnal comforts fit the Taylor canon and other album tracks like "September Grass," "Baby Buffalo," "My Traveling Star," and "On the Fourth of July" (the story of Taylor's romantic meeting with current wife Kim) like an old slipper. However, "Belfast to Boston" cries for peace in Ireland and elsewhere with some surprising Gaelic flourishes, while "Whenever You're Ready" throws some Brazilian rhythms and jazzy horns into the mix, and Dave Grusin's slick orchestral arrangement turns "Mean Old Man" into an elegant cabaret surprise. A little more of this musical adventure amidst the familiar romantic ballads and paeans to the comfort of home and family--including a gorgeously spare cover of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"--certainly wouldn't hurt. --Jerry McCulley
Top customer reviews
Yet here he takes a radical right turn off the road, and with numbers like "On The 4th Of July", "Mean Old Man", and "My Traveling Star', he is exploring softer and more traditional modes of expressing himself. Indeed, the final cut, a wonderful cover of the traditional Christmas song, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas', Taylor gives us an enchantingly spare version of the song that makes one hope he might consider putting out a Yuletide album. What's next, James? A cover of old Sinatra standards? This guy has the pipes to do anything he wants, but one wonders if his fans could stand the radical departure this would represent from his so well traveled country roads.
Also good here is "Carry Me On My Way", "Caroline, I See You', and an affecting "Belfast To Boston', much along the lines of his paean to Martin Luther King a decade ago. The album is uneven in the sense that it is more a collection of songs that are unrelated to each other than is his usual fare, but it is an interesting and satisfying mix of different styles and substances here. I would recommend this album for any long-term Taylor fan. Besides, "September Grass" is worth the price of the CD alone! Enjoy!
I was pleased with this one. Perhaps its not so filled with monster hits as Best of - but then that's why there are Best ofs (isn't it?). And, to be honest, the first listening (with numerous distractions) didn't thrill me.
But, upon a second, third, and several more play throughs since, I've come to really like this - its comfort food for the ears.
This is not however one of my favorites. I think there's a monthly theme here..."Have Yourself A Merry Little Xmas", what's that about?
A little disappointing, but still....it is James Taylor!