James Taylor – One Man Band (2007)

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by Pico

JT has been around since the Flower Power days and never really left the scene. He captured a large chunk of the young populace at that time who largely held on as his fanbase as younger generations passed on him. He’s long settled into a comfortable living from releasing new material every five or so years and from summer tours. Even though a new James Taylor album doesn’t get the fanfare of, say, a Bruce Springsteen release, it’s a virtual lock it will go gold and more than even money it will quietly achieve platinum status.

One Man Band isn’t his first American live album, that one came in 1993. But this one is a more intimate setting, lacking a full backing band. It isn’t truly a “one man band” either; as Taylor confesses between songs, he ends up making a lot of concessions to that concept. There’s a drum machine accompanying his carefully picked acoustic guitar on one track and prerecorded vocal chroruses on a couple of others. And on most of the songs there’s a piano/organist; jazzheads know that Larry Goldings is not exactly token support, however.

[The intimate setting is also captured on video, as Taylor’s concert and his friendly, low-key rapport with the audience is put on an accompanying DVD, but for this review, we’ll stick with the CD part.]

It begins truly unplugged, with a simple rendition of the astounding beauty “Something In The Way She Moves” from the 1968 debut album. His trademark wit comes to fore in the lounge jazz gem “Mean Old Man.” Taylor is often looking back to his childhood, pulling out personally nostalgic tunes like “Carolina On My Mind” and “Copperline.” The familiar hits aren’t ignored, either; “Fire And Rain,” “Shower The People,” and “Sweet Baby James” are all here. There’s probably not a song he here he hadn’t performed live hundreds of times and so it’s little wonder he performs them to perfection and with confident ease.

Truth is, One Man Band is a can’t-miss proposition; Taylor is still the king of the singer-songwriters, his voice remains as warm and reassuring as it’s always been and the well-chosen career-spanning repertoire is better rendered with minimal accompaniment, anyway. And when he belts out the funky stomp “Steamroller Blues,” he is once again that feisty, troubled twenty-three year-old doctor’s son who transitioned a country out of the tumultuous sixties into the reflective seventies. Some things never change and some things we don’t ever want to change. Thankfully, Taylor hasn’t.

Purchase: James Taylor – One Man Band

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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