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Music Review: James Taylor – One Man Band

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In the last few years, I’ve had the great privilege of getting to know and befriending some amazing musicians. As such I have found myself frequently going to small clubs and coffee shops to watch bare bones artists perfect and share their talents and artistry with those of us lucky enough to be present. It is from these great and brave souls that I have learned so much about music and poetry and the talent, skill, and intensely hard work that goes into crafting a song.

It is also from my fortunate friendships that I have come to truly appreciate the solo performer. It is a true test of a song to be entertaining and engaging when performed by a solitary singer/songwriter with just a guitar or piano to accompany the lyrics.
It was with this new found appreciation of minimalist sound then that I decided to review James Taylor’s One Man Band released in November of 2007 on the HEAR MUSIC label.

I should begin with a confession. (Yes I know, another one of my confessions. What I can say, I have many of secrets to divulge). My guilty secret is this: I have never been much of James Taylor fan. Not that I have anything against him by any means. His music has just never been my cup of tea.That said, I've come to appreciate the ‘back to basics’ performance concept and thought, if ever I was in a state of mind to appreciate James Taylor, this was it.

Recorded and filmed at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield Massachusetts, One Man Band includes a 19 song CD and a two hour concert DVD companion. It is, as the disk jacket promises “an intimate retrospective with songs, stories and video”.

As far as a fond look at a long and prosperous career, I think it is probably a good compilation of Mr Taylor’s body of work. I have no doubt that James Taylor fans will be quite happy with this compilation CD and concert DVD.

That said, to all the James Taylor fans out there, I am really, really sorry. I tried. I really, really tried to like this. I wanted to enjoy this CD… I was downright rooting for a little spark of lightening and love to happen. But sadly, Mr Taylor’s music, lyrics, and banter simply never connected with me. Listening to “Something In The Way She Moves” to “You’ve Got A Friend” and even “Carolina In My Mind”, which I can’t deny were well performed, I just found myself quite bored.

I appreciate the skill and talent as a musician. He is an excellent finger picking guitar player. However, nothing in the performance, the music, or the lyrics spoke to me. I can’t quite explain why. Perhaps I’ve just spent too much time with songwriters like Robert Johnson, Leonard Cohen, or Annie Lennox in my brain. (Annie Lennox, now there's a brilliant songwriter and lyricist).

I know I’ll have every James Taylor fan on the planet hating me for this review. I do apologize, but these songs simply didn’t touch my soul, make my toes tap, or give me the urge to sing badly in the shower.

I do recommend this CD and DVD compilation to any James Taylor fan. I strongly believe that if you love these songs, you will truly enjoy them in this simple, back to basics performance. However, if you are not that familiar with Mr. Taylor, then I doubt that One Man Band will convert you into a devotee.

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About Nathalie Vanderheyden

  • I don’t consider myself a huge JT fan, either, but I thought that there’s a lot to enjoy about this record. IMO, many of his songs sound better without a lot of the accompaniment found on the studio versions.

  • Nathalie

    He’s a skilled musician and I appreciate the talent, but for whatever reason this just didn’t grab me. It didn’t speak to me. That’s one of the things I love about music and art though, how personal it can be.

  • Well, yeah, I gathered that from your review. And it’s all fine and good that the record didn’t grab ya’, but it might have been more useful for readers to explain why that’s so. If you can’t explain it, then you don’t really make much of a point.

  • I have to agree with Pico. If you can’t explain why, then you aren’t actually reviewing it.

  • I saw the Chicago stop of his One Man Band tour, and thought Taylor was, as usual, fantastic. Many musicians, whether they like all his work or not, admire his fluid yet complex guitar playing style. Although Taylor didn’t invent the introspective songwriting genre, he certainly popularized and enhanced it. While his style may not be flashy, it serves as a master class in storytelling and artistry. I’m willing to bet that Annie Lennox studied his work (in addition to other confessional songwriters like his contemporaries Carole King and Joni Mitchell) before putting pen to paper.

  • Evan

    hi everybody well um today i saw in the magazine that James Taylor has injured his eye but hopeful his eye has gotten better and happy valentines day James Taylor fans

  • Evan

    when people pick music to listen to its James Taylor

  • Evan

    allthough im not gonna think about my favorite singers all the time