James Taylor – JT – Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs UDSACD 2070 stereo-only SACD; 37:58 ****:
There are two hurdles when it comes to James Taylor: his voice – that to some is similar to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, while others love it – and the material itself. When categorized as soft rock/folk or (these days) as adult contemporary the descriptions mostly fit. However, Taylor occasionally tries to be a bit of a hipster or bluesy and with his whiny vocals fall just short. It just becomes a bit hard to swallow. Don’t get me wrong because I do like James Taylor a lot and he’s made some great music that should be shared with all. It’s just that the more well-known songs on this album like “Handy Man” and “Your Smiling Face” aren’t them. Well, “Your Smiling Face” is a catchy song no doubt, but just doesn’t resonate like “Fire and Rain.”
Interestingly, I decided to look up the album on Wikipedia and surprise! It seems both the aforementioned songs hit #4 and #3 respectively on the Billboard chart. These are only bettered by a #1 hit of “You’ve Got a Friend.” Well, the year of this record was 1977 and the public has spoken. “Honey Don’t Leave L.A.” was another hit song although I don’t remember it. “Another Grey Morning” is a better tune I’d say and “Traffic Jam” is different, but worth a listen.
Since this is an audiophile reissue it seems fitting to spend some time discussing recording quality. It’s definitely crisp with low noise. Sense of space is good and though the music isn’t incredibly dynamic it is so by intention. Sound quality gets an A- while for music I’d rate the disc a B. If you are a big JT fan then you might find that a bit conservative.
TrackList: Your Smiling Face; There We Are; Honey Don’t Leave L.A.; Another Grey Morning; Bartender’s Blues; Secret O’ Life; Handy Man; I Was Only Telling A Lie; Looking For Love On Broadway; Terra Nova; Traffic Jam; If I Keep My Heart Out of Sight.
— Brian Bloom