James Taylor – American Standard
Format: CD – Vinyl – Digital / Label: Fantasy Records
Release: 2020

Tekst: Iain Patience

Well, what can be said about this one. It’s James Taylor….and maybe that’s about enough to whet most music lovers’ appetites. And believe me this is a release that won’t just whet a musical hunger but more than amply satisfy it too. In some ways Taylor brings an unexpected focus on these songs – fourteen well-known, enormously loved classics from the historic US songbook, that might have terrified many lesser musicians while simultaneously pleasing most of his global legion of fans and working some surprising twists from his usual baseline.

Taylor’s voice and vocal delivery remain exactly on point, everything we all know and adore so much. His delightful, harmonic guitar picking slips along perfectly in the mix giving the entire album that special Taylor touch with some light whimsical, jazzy flourishes and a sparse simplicity that truly carries the package along nicely, proving for once that less really can be more. Aided by some simply wonderful flashes of clarinet, B3, light percussion and even electric slide, Taylor sounds like he’s happily relaxed down-home with a warm breeze blowing through the palms.
The stunning perfection of the, again sparse but striking, harp work that accompanies his fretwork on one track, Moon River, makes it totally outstanding, a true cut to savour every time, and sounds like a song that could have been written either by or for him alone. Other tracks include the likes of The Surrey With The Fringe On Top, Pennies From Heaven, God Bless The Child and My Blue Heaven.

No doubt there will be some fans who will feel discontent, dismayed perhaps by this guy’s venture out of the old 1970s comfort zone they identify with Mister Taylor in a general sense. If so, they really are missing the point here.
This is Taylor moving on, forging ahead while also glancing back at the music he grew up with, music that still resonates deeply with his soul and the American consciousness. 

‘American Standard’ is a work of genius, of giant beauty and  spiritual generosity. Instantly recognizable as a Grammy contender, it highlights just why and how important this true US music legend is to global music.  By now some may have guessed that I simply love this album. This is great music at its very best delivered by an absolute master of his craft. In short, this is as good as it gets.

01. My Blue Heaven
02. Moon River
03. Teach Me Tonight
04. As Easy As Rolling Off A Log
05. Almost Like Being In Love
06. Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat
07. The Nearness Of You
08. You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught
09. God Bless The Child
10. Pennies From Heaven
11. My Heart Stood Still –
12. Ol’ Man River
13. It’s Only A Paper Moon
14. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top

Website: James Taylor