Chip Taylor

Hit Man

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There's something about singer/songwriters doing their own material, and while Chip Taylor is one of the greats (and produced one of the greats, Neil Diamond), he is in an industry where his legacy puts him a few steps ahead of P.F.Sloan in terms of success, but far short of the name recognition enjoyed by a Carole King (a status she deserves, as does Taylor). This is a great -- but incomplete -- collection of songs that were and still are highly influential. "Try Just a Little Bit Harder" might not be as notorious as "Wild Thing" or "Angel of the Morning" but, being a Janis Joplin signature, it sure got into a lot of homes. When Clive Davis played a rare Joplin performance on The Midnight Special television program, he chose a version of "Try" where Pearl just exploded across the stage. Taylor's version here is more laid-back, but so absolutely essential for two reasons -- because it was so vital to Joplin's solo career, and because it is such a tremendous song on its own. Not the biggest hit in Linda Ronstadt's career, "I Can't Let Go" is one of her more exciting ones, and it's great to hear the creator take it on, as well as "Any Way That You Want Me," a song covered by Evie Sands and the Troggs. Gadfly Records does a good job here, and the liner notes have chart information as well as anecdotes from Taylor on how and why some of the tunes were written. His performances are excellent and deserving of chart action on their own, or at least some serious adult alternative radio airplay. There are 13 selections and, though some important compositions are missing -- the American Breed's "Step Out of Your Mind," the Clique's "I'll Hold Out My Hand" from the album that launched their Tommy James hit "Sugar on Sunday," and Taylor's own 1962 minor chart entry "Here I Am" -- the sincerity in delivery and the historic importance make this a textbook you can learn from and enjoy. Hit Man is an excellent resume of a vital creative force in music, and could keep young minds focused if used in classrooms to teach the art of painting a song. Apart from that, it is a monster album that truly deserves platinum success.

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