James Taylor’s “Before This World”, a review by John The Rock Doctor

I wrote this review a few weeks ago, and thought surely i had posted it on Gonzo- but, earlier today as I was gathering up links for my reviews to better compile a ‘best of’ column for the end of the year, I couldn’t find it anywhere.  So, I guess, better later than never… and my apologies if I HAVE posted this previously, and somehow missed it.DocBEFORE THIS WORLD James Taylor (Concord Records) ****With his last 2 albums being cover tunes, this is James Taylor’s first album of original material in about 13 10 years.  It’s also everything to hope for in a James Taylor record.As a title like Before This World might suggest, this record concerns itself mainly with the simple pleasures of life, like baseball games, things that could fill our hearts before technological advances made us so demanding and needy.  A case can be made that this and many of the James Taylor albums between 1970 and 2015 are ‘mellow’, and while that might be true sonically, I think of his music as ‘gentle’.  Back in the early 80’s it was not uncommon for me and certain friends to throw some sweet baby James on the record player, have a glass of whiskey and talk about life.  His lyrics and calm melodic delivery just seem to encourage opening up in that way.Produced by Dave O’Donnell, Before This World has an open, rustic, rootsy, rural feel to it- expert acoustic guitar pickin’, drums and bass that serve the song without showing off, some fiddle, and gorgeous vocal harmonies that make almost every song feel like ‘home’.  For me, the opening lyric of Montana seems to sum up the attitude of the album; “I’m not smart enough for this life I’ve been living/ a little bit slow for the pace of the game/ it’s not I’m ungrateful for all I’ve been given/ but nevertheless just the same/ I wish to my soul I was back in Montana”, a sentiment I understand intimately in hoping to return to Victoria, BC, the city of my birth, before my ride is over.  Who among us hasn’t felt that tug of home?  JJ Grey & Mofro also address that well in their song Lochloosa.As you might expect, the musicianship on Before This World is impeccable and Taylor’s lyrics and the stories they tell are deep and intimate without pretence or preachiness.  Simple eco-friendly packaging too, with lyrics included. As much as I enjoyed his 2 covers albums they didn’t feel like we were having a conversation, not like this new album does- you’d have to go back to New Moon Shine or Never Die Young to pick up that vibe again.  Sure there are times when I’ll be blasting down the highway and Motorhead or Black Sabbath will give me what I need, but when it’s time to work things out and figure out one last change of direction, James Taylor’s magnificent new album & I will have to it down together and figure it out.ESSENTIALS;  Montana, Angels of Fenway (a song about his grandmother, a baseball fan), Far Afghanistan


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