℗ 2020 James Taylor., Under exclusive license to Fantasy Records. Distributed by Concord.
American Standard Tracklist:
Crikey, this is good. Musically JT is taking the biggest chances of his career on this album. The melodies are demanding and his arrangements don’t allow any room to hide. But he nails them, sounding fresh and inspired. The vocals are terrific and the guitar work is amazing - sophisticated and in total command. I’m one who thinks JT’s own songwriting gets better over time (the last three studio albums of originals have been the best of his career) - but if I can’t have an album of originals, I’ll take this in a heartbeat.
JT and Pizzarelli guitars with JT’s ever amazing team of musicians and singers with incredible selections from the American Songbook. I hope they’re able to reschedule the tour with Jackson Browne. I’m there.
While folks of a certain age will understandably be drawn to this nostalgic collection, listeners of all ages can expect the same lush vocals and creative arrangements we’ve enjoyed for decades.
I can already see a crowd of wimpy 60-somethings in the crowd at a snore fest concert played on PBS during fund raising drives. Probably at Fenway to the delight of his Cambridge and Brookline fans.
I have listened to JT from the beginning and this was not classic JT. The mixing brought his voice to the front and it was not the crisp, energetic, engaged JT voice I know ... probably the price of doing some covers ... I miss the old JT and the passion he used to put in his songs :(
James like many artists before has decided to take a tour through the Great Americian Songbook and release an album of standards. He's done standards before, sprinkling out a tune or two on his various albums and he's recorded "It's Only A Paper Moon" for the soundtrack from the film "A League Of Their Own." The re-recording here is totally re-arranged featuring backing vocalists and a bit more production value; the pairing of James' aged voice and these classics is perfectly matched.
I think JT intended to release an album you can sing along with accompanied by guitar (yours or someone else's). Maybe he did it for the enthusiasts out there (like me) who get tired of grabbing a guitar to play along with a recording only to find the key, tuning, speed doesn't match, line up, whatever from song to song and voice. Willie Nelson is famous for doing this and for good reason-a lot of music is written in piano or transposed in piano and a guitarist/singer has to find shortcuts, round abouts to avoid 3 dozen chord changes in a 12 bar and sing too. That's why the Nashville Number system was invented decades ago. The Beatles Rubber Soul did it too. Lots of capo on a lot of songs on that album. Anyway, nice playlist if you hope to play along on your own. Worth a couple of listens before you decide to pass. Yes, the songs are well known and have hundreds of interpretations in a number of genres. So don't be so hard on JT doing a solid for the music hobbiest strumming along . . at home.
As someone else said, JT could sing the phone book and it would be great....most singers of his age and generation do albums of standards (think Rod Stewart) so why shouldn't he? These songs are timeless, and James does them wonderfully....
I haven't been much of a fan of JT's work the last 20+ years...maybe the last 40+ years...his best work, by far, was during the 70's (especially early 70's). However, this album is an absolute joy! Taylor's voice is MADE for these classic songs. But, the BEST part of this album, aside from the tasteful selections, is Taylor's acoustic guitar, which seems to define each and every track here. This is like listening to vintage JT. Granted, he didn't write these songs. But, he makes them sound like he did. It's hard to take standards and make them sound like you're own. That's what James Taylor does on this album. Bravo, JT!
There are cranky critics here, saying that James Taylor should not cover songs, only write them. These are clearly songs that he grew up with, and loved. This is him singing in his style, taking well-known songs in a different direction. I dislike comparisons, and won’t bother to name names, but, to me, this album is much more enjoyable than other artists’ interpretations of songs of that era.
I have noticed that when musicians need more money, but are not on top of their writing, they fall back to 'American Standards'. I think my favorite in this genre was Rod Stewart, mainly because of his voice. This one does nothing for me. I cannot listen to another rendition of Ol' man River. Sorry. Write some more great originals, James. Please!!!!
There is so much to say about how enjoyable this album is to hear. Those not familiar with the musical theater may want to view his Facebook video explaining the context of how the album was conceived. He explains how this music was his generations foundational underpinnings of his and others musical creativity. James rises to the challange of taking the old, and while paying homage to its origins, delivers moving and uniquely personal interpretations that every James Taylor fan will cherish.
On the first listen you might feel like you have heard these songs, and this kind of arrangement somewhere. On the second listen you will listen harder to the instrumentals to try to figure out what he is doing with the arrangement and where you’ve heard it before. On the third listen you will realize how genius and original these arrangements are. They sound like simple little tunes, but every arrangement is so creative and outside the norm. Also you will hear these “Familiar old tunes” in a completely new way. These 75+ year old lyrics are re-interpreted Via James’ performance. This one could win a Grammy IMO
James can do anything. And his voice and guitar work is as sharp, if not sharper and sweeter than ever. How he does this, I don't know. I'm not a big fan of "reheated classics" (although an exception would be Rod Stewart's work there), but this made sense. These were the songs that helped form James' musical sensitivities and lyricism. Why not? So far, every song has been a delight and feels new coming from him. Bravo. Thank you, again, JT - for the ear and soul candy.
Why he does this is not an answerable question. This is not his style of music. If he's not writing originals anymore, he should go back into folk history for songs that influenced him or loved. It would be a lot more interesting and revealing.
Love the arrangements! It’s fun. It’s nostalgic. Just like a county fair! Love the clarinet solo! This album features songs that seem a natural fit for James Taylor. I think he’s “raised” the standards.
This man's voice has helped me get through events in my life, both the incredible ones and the devastating ones. He was almost the surprise singer at my wedding 43 years ago this coming August, but Dad thought he'd have to spend around $5000 to book him, which was way out of the ball park, at that time. Things got better, just like James. Keep on keeping on, Mr. Taylor, a real sweet baby, James!
OK, I've heard one song but, let's face it, James Taylor could sing the phone book and make it sound amazing. He's a magnificent singer, a terrific songwriter, and can cover any song ever written, so why should these standards be any different? I can't wait for the whole album to come out.
Fabulous music and wonderful songs. I am so excited that he will be playing in San Diego in May of this year. I've not see a show out here in quite a few years. This is going to be great! If you like James Taylor, do make sure you get this album.