James Taylor Quartet

Mission Impossible

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The riotous and distinctly '60s-era sound of Mission Impossible breaks through the gates from the first note of the Herbie Hancock classic theme for "Blow Up," and sprints confidently forward from there. Not to be confused with the "You've Got a Friend" folk-rocker, this James Taylor is a virtuoso on the Hammond B-3 organ with a gifted ear for arranging. As a sidenote, this is a great band to see live, with Taylor fiercely soloing with one hand while pouring vodka for the audience with the other. This little gem on Hollywood Records is great party music; for a scant 33 minutes, Taylor and his bandmates crank and twang their way through a checklist of classic film fodder and hipster motifs, like "Alfie," "One Mint Julip," and The Graduate's "Mrs. Robinson," to name a few. The title cut of Mission Impossible is simply fantastic -- every bit as dangerous and twice as exciting, even on a shoestring budget. Using old mixers and recording equipment, the production value of this disc is a dead ringer for an album 40 years older than it is, adding an extra level of cheeky fun for the listener. John Barry's theme to Goldfinger has never sounded more raw -- admittedly some of the snarl may be gone, but the quartet's slant on things transforms it into a distracted go-go dance of caution. Also included are three of his own compositions that are every bit as catchy as the giants around him (check out "The Stooge" for proof). The energy is undeniable, with the feel of live recordings in all their unpolished glory. Admittedly there is not a lot of varying instrumentation here -- every track is organ, guitar, drums, and bass (though "Alfie" features a jazzy saxophone for the melody). Consequently the palette is a bit narrow, but the niche it finds is a triumph in the rebirth of cool.

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