New Listening: James Taylor “Before This World”

James Taylor averaged a new original album every 16 months in the 1970s – not counting his 11X platinum Greatest Hits released in 1976.

His album “Before This World“, released on June 16, is his first album of original music since 2002. James Taylor fans have been waiting – which is probably why it’s his first album ever to reach the #1 position in the charts.

It’s an excellent album, among his finest. From the beginning, he sounds at once fresh and familiar. In a recent interview with Howard Stern, he described his music as having a “palliative” effect on his fans – and indeed, there is a a sense of peace that imbues the album.

Of course we see familiar themes – love songs, road songs. But I am struck especially on this album in the way he embraces his troubadour position, writing songs that would not sound out of place on an album of 19th century ballads. Listen to Wild Mountain Thyme and you’ll understand. His mastery includes what sounds like old English folk songs with “Jolly Springtime.”

He also consciously connects himself to his own tradition – for example, the guitar interlude in the center of “Before This World/Jolly Springtime” is closely connected to his “Carry Me On My Way” from October Road.

Enjoy also the lovely contributions from guests Sting, Yo Yo Ma, and of course his own house band, including Steve Gadd, Larry Goldings, Jimmy Johnson and more.

I recommend it!