The Essential James Taylor
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Much is made about this double CD being the first James Taylor collection to give equal weight to both his earlier Warner Brother and later Columbia recording years. Fair enough, but there are already two separate collections that do the same thing, both still in print.
Since Taylor has been in career standstill with live, covers and Christmas albums keeping him bubbling under in the marketplace —his last album of original material was 2002’s snoozeworthy October Road –there is little here that doesn’t appear on either of his three previous hits collections originally released in 1976 (Warners), 2000 (Columbia) and Rhino’s 2003 single disc career overview. Those few listeners new to his distinctive, generally laconic folk/singer-songwriter drawl, introspective, melodic songs, sweet acoustic guitar picking and mellow vibe should be pleased with this decent if unsurprising compilation of Taylor’s iconic catalog.
But if any American artist of his stature and standing merits a full blown box set with rarities, early Apple tracks (which appear only in their 1977 rerecorded versions) and deep catalog gems, it’s him. By limiting this short double package to only 30 titles (Rhino’s single squeezed in 20 cuts and there are nearly 40 minutes of unused time on both platters combined), Legacy missed the boat to finally give the man the deluxe catalog synopsis he clearly deserves.
Whether that ever appears in Taylor’s lifetime—he’s 65 now—probably isn’t up to him. As a reminder of his warm honey voice and how songs from 1970’s classic “Fire and Rain” to 1997’s “Another Day” still hold up, this does the job just fine. But those who already own both volumes of his hits can pass on this needless catalog rehash and wait for something more substantial.