Sally Taylor,
Apt. #6S
(Blue Elbow, 2000)

When a relatively new performer is the daughter of two stars, it's tempting to compare her to one or both parents. That sort of comparison often seems unfair since the daughter should be reviewed on her own merits. However, Sally Taylor, daughter of James Taylor and Carly Simon, makes avoiding that sort of criticism difficult with "All This Time," the opening track to her second album, Apt. #6S.

Right away, Taylor hits her listeners with a song that is just so reminiscent of her mother's '70s pop ballads that their commonality in vocal and songwriting styles has to be mentioned. Despite the fact that Steve Sax wrote the music and Taylor contributed the lyrics, there's something about the song that screams Carly Simon. Maybe it's the "la, la, la" and the way she extends the word "child" towards the song's close. Perhaps it's the musical arrangement that includes '70s-sounding strings and horns against electric guitar and a rock drumbeat. Whatever it is, there's no mistaking that Taylor definitely is her mother's daughter.

That's not to say that their voices sound that much alike. They really don't. Taylor and Simon share strong, full voices, but Taylor's voice isn't an imitation of anyone else's. It tends to sound higher than her mother's range, but then Taylor can pull it down to lower notes. She can make it sensual, as on "Fall for Me" and "Immortal"; it can be husky, as on "Without Me"; and she can also be innocent, as on "Give Me the Strength." Taylor's voice is a powerful instrument, and she knows how to control it to produce fine effects.

The problem is that the songs on this album just aren't the strongest vehicles for this voice. They're not bad songs, but they just don't seem the best numbers for Taylor's voice. It's her voice that carries the songs; the songs need that powerful of a voice to go anywhere. Occasionally, there's a line or two that feels rushed, such as in "Split Decisions" and "March Like Soldiers." The strongest songs interestingly are placed dead center on the CD. "Give Me the Strength" is sparse in term of musical arrangement; it's only Taylor's voice and Jeremy Lawton's piano, but it's probably the album's strongest song. The vocals tend to be subdued; they achieve a slight Tori Amos-like feel against the piano, and there are some lovely moments when Taylor's voice crescendos and decrescendos for effect. "Nisa" is another number missing the drums and horns. Piano, stand-up bass and cello accompany Taylor's bluesy voice. It might be effective if Taylor would take more musical risks of this sort and break away even further from the pop standards.

According to Taylor, Apt. #6S is the New York City apartment in which she was raised. As a young child, however, she never heard "6S." Instead, she heard it referred to as "success." This album may not be the one that will bring Taylor success, but she's starting to experiment with forms that might lead her there.

[ by Ellen Rawson ]
Rambles: 30 May 2002

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