Considering that its later albums contributed some of the finest country-rock in the early '00s, it seems out of character for My Morning Jacket to be covering a new wave ballad such as Berlin's "Take My Breath Away." With Jim James' pretty vocals, however, anything is possible, and he turns a lovely song into a beautiful one. So is the case with much of Early Recordings, Chapter 2: Learning. The band's collection of early work is mainly My Morning Jacket in name only, as James played most of the instruments and, other than the covers (there's also a version of the Pet Shop Boy's "West End Girls" and Hank Williams' "Why Don't You Love Me?"), takes full credit for songwriting. Much of this is lo-fi, allowing a more intimate feel to James' performances, some of which are live. Whether that includes the captivating "Just One Thing" or "I Will Be There When You Die," he hints at what was to come on At Dawn and It Still Moves.
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AllMusic Review by Kenyon Hopkin