Covers is the cd that James Taylor fans have been anticipating for years. Recorded live with his full band in a barn in Massachusetts that was transformed into a studio, the album is a treasury of songs he has performed li... more »ve over the years, but never recorded. It is an American songbook of tunes made famous by artists as varied Buddy Holly, The Dixie Chicks, The Temptations, Leonard Cohen, George Jones and Eddie Cochran, but embraced and interpreted by James Taylor in a way that makes each one his own. It is a significant work by one of the greatest artists of his generation, which pays tribute to classic American songs from Broadway to Nashville, Detroit to Memphis and across all boundaries. Covers is in itself a classic James Taylor recording.« less
Covers is the cd that James Taylor fans have been anticipating for years. Recorded live with his full band in a barn in Massachusetts that was transformed into a studio, the album is a treasury of songs he has performed live over the years, but never recorded. It is an American songbook of tunes made famous by artists as varied Buddy Holly, The Dixie Chicks, The Temptations, Leonard Cohen, George Jones and Eddie Cochran, but embraced and interpreted by James Taylor in a way that makes each one his own. It is a significant work by one of the greatest artists of his generation, which pays tribute to classic American songs from Broadway to Nashville, Detroit to Memphis and across all boundaries. Covers is in itself a classic James Taylor recording.
OH HELL, TAYLOR COULD SING THE PHONE BOOK COVER...
G. Engler | The Frigid Northeast | 09/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"James Taylor has reached that point - that very few of his contemporaries have reached - where he can do whatever he pleases. His ardent core of fans from the days when he didn't need to cover his pate with a beret will buy his music, applaud, and get misty eyed when he breaks into Sweet Baby James or Carolina In My Mind. What's remarkable is his production of recent discs like Hourglass and especially October Sky, which contain timeless music of a very high quality.
Covers contains songs of very high quality as well. Songs that have held there own for decades. Some that are newer. Now we have the chance to hear them sung by a voice that is one of the greatest in American popular music. A voice that has aged as gracefully as the patina on a fine burnished piece of silver. James Taylor, having survived the fire and rain of his life, has truly become an American Classic in the best sense.
Putting on this disc - for those of us who still purchase discs, those digital relics that replaced our previous vinyl relics - is like going to visit an old friend, going into his barn, drinking a couple of beers, picking up the old instruments and playing some of those old songs you both loved so well. It's a casual affair - some great music played by a group of friends who have played long enough to anticipate every change, every nuance, every "Taylor-ian" harmony or cello break to make it sound just right. There's just the slightest sense of knowing exactly where these songs are going; where the breaks are going to be, when the verse is going to return, when it's going to end. And that's a good thing.
Most of the songs fit Taylor like a glove. He chose well. It's Growing, Seminole Wind, and of course - On Broadway (a song that Taylor was born to sing) are all wonderful. Still, there are some idiosynchracies and misfires. Wichita Lineman is lovely, although Taylor sings the eponymous line as "Wichita Line-Man". Perhaps it's correct, but it's a little jarring. Suzanne seems uncomfortable, like the song was never fully in his fingers - he sings the lyric somewhat self-consciously, as if he's reading it. The arrangement itself seems half-baked; guitar and cello never really mesh - despite the fact that the latter is played by no less a cellist (and friend) than Yo Yo Ma.
Hound Dog is, uh, cute. Taylor is in his muttering, muted, end of Steamroller mode here. Sadie is lovely, Summertime Blues a great surprise. It works! It rocks in a very James Taylor way that will get all of us 50 somethings up on our feet, swiveling our hips while sitting in the expensive pavilion seats at Tanglewood. It's great - really. Not Fade Away is a lovely disc closer. Not Fade Away indeed.
So why only 4 stars? Well, some if it is purely subjective. Much as I love Taylor covers, I like his recent more mature material much more. Some of it is aesthetic - I miss the punch of Peter Asher's production. The disc sounds great, but not as great as some of Taylor's classic discs. Third - and more seriously - I'm miffed that Taylor recorded an "album"s worth of material on a CD. Twelve songs that clock in to a total playing time of about 42 minutes is a brief musical interlude indeed. The disc as a whole could have benefitted from more heft - both in the number of songs, as well as a bit of balance by drawing on some of the songs in the Great American Songbook of the 1930s and 1940. James Taylor is one popular artist who could do these songs justice. Don't even talk to me about Rod Stewart.
So overall - a very enjoyable, albeit short, disc, with a flimsy cardboard case containing containing great songs sung in That Voice. Think of it like a short visit from an old college friend, checking in to see how life is going. You're both pleased to see you're still in good shape, you can still connect through all the years, and still recognizable as the people you once were, and have yet to become.
And like that brief visit, this disc leaves you wanting more."
Another JT winner
J. Mullinax | Columbus,, GA USA | 09/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been a James Taylor fan forever and own everything he's ever recorded in both audio and video. I've attended several of his live stage band concerts as well as his more recent One Man Band tour. After all this time, I continue to be amazed at how James manages to repeatedly deliver fresh treatments and appealing arrangements of songs his fans recognize and have loved for years. The Cover album is no exception. It is an eclectic collection that bridges numerous styles, with each piece performed impeccably by James and his fantastic team of musicians. I am so happy with this latest offering, and I predict that it will be wildly popular with James Taylor fans everywhere."
Death, Taxes...and James Taylor
David Cady | Jersey City, NJ USA | 10/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"All can be counted on, but only one is welcome. Actually, I didn't know just how much I needed a fix of new JT until the initial notes of the first track took me out of my stressful life and transported me to a calmer, simpler, better place. (And if that sounds like hyperbole, then perhaps you're not a true fan. Or maybe you need to buy this album, like, yesterday.) I'm not sure that "Covers" as a title does justice to what Taylor does here; these are more than mere rerecordings. Songs like "It's Growing" and "Wichita Lineman" are reimagined to the degree that they sound like Taylor originals, and I mean that as a supreme compliment. My one reservation, and it's not insignificant, is the album's brevity. A little over 40 minutes? C'mon James, there's a whole world of songs out there we're dying to hear you sing! If there's a "Covers 2," please don't be this stingy."
Too Many Throwaway Tunes
San Diego Heel | San Diego, Ca | 10/13/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The downside to this album is that there are way too many throwaway tunes. It might be fun to listen to JT sing "Hound Dog" as an unexpected surprise in a live concert, but it just doesn't hold up to repeated listenings. Most of the album falls into this category, unfortunately.
There are a few exceptions: Witchita Lineman is great, I really enjoyed his take on Suzanne and the surprise cover of the old Spinners tune, Sadie, is really nice. I'd recommend downloading these songs and skipping the rest of the album.
The one thing of real note is that JT's voice is ageless. So many of his contemporaries' voices are really showing signs of aging -- darkening with time and having a tougher time reaching the high notes. Honestly, this album sounds like he could have recorded it in the early 80's. His voice sounds as it did way back then. Vocally, he sounds great."
Day Tripper | USA | 10/02/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a late bloomer in James Taylor fandom but have heard nearly all his albums to date. Don't understand those who give this album a bad review. These are wonderful arrangements of songs that are fun, deep, worth revisiting. JT has covered tons of songs through his career - You've Got a Friend, Handy Man, Up on the Roof, How Sweet It Is, Walking My Baby Back Home, Day Tripper (a mistake), September Grass - and he does most of these a great service here. I'm not crazy about "On Broadway" like others - it just seems a little blah. But who can deny It's Growing, Why Baby Why, Wichita Lineman, and the fun stuff like Road Runner, Some Days You Gotta Dance, and Summertime Blues? My biggest concern is that Hear will release an expanded edition later with the extra tracks that were peddled on QVC last month. This 42-minute collection is fine, fine, fine, but I wouldn't argue with another 15 minutes of music."