It’s a good sign that James Taylor — the prototypical “suffering artist with guitar” of the ’70s — has stopped begging for sympathy and understanding now that the world loves and respects him and he regularly hangs out with the rich and beautiful Grammy-winners of the world. He’s in a good place now and his music reflects it, indicating that he’s actually been brutally honest all the while. Good for him, that. And while his newly found calm and contemplative self doesn’t necessarily make for exciting or stunningly vital music, one can hardly criticize someone for finding what they’ve spent a lifetime looking for.
This isn’t any longer the sound of an influential musical force to be reckoned with, but one senses that Taylor himself couldn’t care less about being one either. What this is, though, is a personal and intimate testament of a man that has made peace with himself, through the love of others. It’s rather cozy, actually, a nice and homely atmosphere, the sound of pretty expensive furniture and a lit fireplace. The John Sheldon-penned “September Grass” is a beautiful opening track, a nostalgic memory of days and loves gone by, while the title track is a confession of the troubles that have been left behind. Taylor may have been patting on a pipe when he wrote this.
The closing take on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” may be too much contentment for most of us to take, and elsewhere there are far too many strolling, tepid moments on here. “My Traveling Star,” in fact, may be the only song to really hold a candle to the two aforementioned good ones. But Taylor has found peace and harmony and all, and again, we can’t really hold that against him. It’s a sweet and maybe even a bit romantic album this, and if it’s not one of Taylor’s best, it’s still an honest and self-reflective work. It will probably rake in quite a few Grammys when it’s time for that. Growing old with style and grace. Cheers.
Columbia Records: http://www.columbiarecords.com