One Man Band

James Taylor

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One Man Band Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Don't take the title of James Taylor's One Man Band literally -- this 2007 concert recording may be stripped-down but it's not just James and a guitar, he's supported by keyboardist Larry Goldings, whom Taylor dubs his "one-man band" in the liner notes, as that's all the backing band he has here. Fair enough. But this isn't just a question of clever semantics: as it turns out, Goldings has quite a presence on this intimate album, recorded at a three-night stint at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA, during July 2007. During this 19-song set, Taylor gives Goldings plenty of space to grace the songs with solos that show up his jazz chops. This freedom, coupled with Taylor's deceptively easy delivery -- he has a casual authority that comes from touring the same songs steadily for years -- gives this album a unique character among Taylor's catalog. This also makes for an album that relies heavily on standards. All the songs you'd expect are here, all the songs James always plays on tour, but there are also a couple of surprises, like "Chili Dog" from 1972's One Man Dog, which are quite engaging. Perhaps these tunes are a shade too familiar to sound fresh, but given such lovely readings they certainly sound as comforting as a reunion with an old friend for those listeners who haven't been keeping up with Taylor but might pick this up via its release on Starbucks' HearMusic label. So, this can rope in casual fans who will be quite pleased, but this is different enough from 1993's double-disc Live -- as polished and professional as live albums come -- to make this quite interesting for diehards, too. [One Man Band also contains a two-hour concert DVD.]

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