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It takes an extraordinary artist to re-imagine some of the most beloved songs of the 20th century and make them completely their own. And that's precisely what James Taylor has accomplished with his brand-new album, American Standard. Recalling the best of James' early work, he infuses new sounds and fresh meaning into these timeless works of art. While these 14 carefully chosen interpretations naturally feature James' warm, one-of-a-kind vocal ability and incomparable musicianship, what makes this collection so unique is the inventive way James and his fellow co-producers, longtime collaborator Dave O'Donnell and famed musician John Pizzarelli, approached the project. Unlike most who have tackled similar material, American Standard's beautifully simple, stripped-down arrangements are based on James' skillful acoustic guitar work rather than piano and the affect is mesmerizing.
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The present album could be just romantic background music, which is fine, but it's much more than that, too. It is clear that this collection of standards have personal meaning for the artist himself, and as I listen to this album the music has new meaning for me, as well. It's not just nostalgia, but has real meaning for life, past and present. Listened to in this way, the music is fresh instead of just a collection of corny songs from the days of grandma and grandpa (or mom and dad in my case). As George Michael suggested, "Listen without prejudice"—never a bad idea.
By the way, it doesn't say so in the liner notes, but that might be James Taylor playing cello on "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught." He and the who's-who list of musicians have dusted off and breathed new life into these classics.
I've always loved JT's eclectic styles and arrangements, but my favorites have a subtle Brazilian jazz vibe. "Almost Like Being in Love," "The Nearness of You," and others have those elements.
The American standards here pluck some heartstrings, too. When I was a small child, rather than sing lullabies in her asthmatic rasp, my mother would play us to sleep on her piano (that I now cherish) with standards from the 1920s to the 1950s.
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Of course, it being James Taylor this is totally professional. He recorded it in his home studio in a barn next to his house backed by excellent musicians.
But though, the cd is bland and totally lacking in soul. Taylor's performance and the musical arrangements are half hearted - almost like a vocal walk through.
Without doubt Taylor has given us some classics over the years - but the tracks here don't add to those.
The cd makes good, relaxing background music but, in my view, it is totally disappointing.
Ps I've now listened to this a dozen times and I feel I have been a little unfair. Though I still feel it is underperformed and produced, I feel that Taylor fans would enjoy it.
The LP label claims "full album download" but no clue was present as to how buyers can obtain that
The album is brilliant, i have found that listenimng to this as J.T. music rather than the actual songs brings out the best of the artist and his musicians. Well worth it.