04/10/2003 7:00p PT
Matt Rowe - Reviewer
James Taylor has a library of timeless hits along with peripheral favourites and rare Apple recordings. To enjoy them all, you'd need to have access to the Apple rarities, if you can find them, and you'd need the other collections from the Warner years and the Columbia years. Not any more. Warner has worked with Columbia and Apple to put all those wonderful Taylor songs into one place.
During James Taylor's start in the late 60s, we knew that this minstrel had something going for him...and for us. Now, some 35 years later and with a magnificent string of popular albums, James Taylor has shown a resiliency that not many have attained. A quick glance back into the rear view mirror, we can see that muddy road that we call rock and roll and it's strewn with the bodies of the torn. Thankfully, JT is not amongst them.
His music, well known and as equally, well loved, enjoy a quality that allows us to revisit them over and over without tiring of them. This collection starts out with the rare "Something in the Way She Moves", from Apple Records and finishes with the new recording finished in February '03, in time for inclusion on this set. All the in betweens, however, are the stuff of legend.
The Warner years can be defined as laid back minstrel quality tunes. Whether they are classified as country or as folk rock, they nevertheless contain the charm of talking directly to you, the listener, as if Sweet Baby James was sitting next to you. You accept the oath that all you had to do "...is call. And I'll be there, yeah yeah yeah. You've got a friend". It was that simple charm that led a huge audience to adopt James as their "personal friend".
Most of the songs on this set are from the highly visible and very popular James Taylor catalogue of Warner Brothers. You'll find "Fire and Rain", "Country Road", the poignant "You've Got a Friend", "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Steamroller". From the Columbia years, you'll have "Handy Man", "Your Smiling Face", "Up On the Roof" and one other, "Only a Dream In Rio". There is a new song, "Bittersweet", recorded for the project.
The remastered set does wonders for the music, creating a clearer vocal mix, which is essential to the success of this disc. As much as I already love James Taylor, I knew that this disc was a definite winner when my wife asked to listen to it over dinner. The added bonus was my son, 19, who started singing "Fire and Rain" and "You've Got a Friend". Now if that doesn't show you the long reach of JT over the years, nothing will. It also shows that the generational gap can be bridged. It's the foundational structure of James Taylor's incredible array of songs that strengthen such a bridge.
The booklet insert contain photos from the past to the present along with a note of thanks from JT. Also contained in the booklet is extensive credits and notations concerning each song, detailing year of release, artists, album info, etc; a very nice addition.
Thanks to Warner for releasing 'The Best of James Taylor' and thanks to James Taylor for being there. All we had to do was call.
Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
The Best of James Taylor
Released: April 8, 2003
with a cast of many cats...
* New Recording