James Taylor,
Greatest Hits
(Warner Brothers, 1976; 1990)

As a North Carolina Tarheel, I feel a special affinity for James Taylor and his music. When my entire freshman class in Chapel Hill was assembled on my first day of college, the program opened with a rendition of "Carolina in My Mind." It's a great song, no matter where you live or what college you support, but I always feel a little special tingle every time I hear that song.

Of course, this is just one of many great songs Taylor has given us over the years, and 12 of his all-time best are collected here on this stand-out Greatest Hits collection. Some songs should be widely familiar by name: the classic "Fire and Rain," Taylor's cover of "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and, of course, the moving, inspirational and timeless "You've Got a Friend." The other songs were ones I was not as familiar with, yet it only took one hearing to make them all feel like old favorites if not old friends. "Steamroller," I should mention, is an unusually forceful live recording that does contain one rather unexpected swear word in the moment of its highest energy, but in this day and age that one familiar word injected into such an amazing performance is, in my opinion, of very little import.

"Something in the Way She Moves," "Country Road," "Walking Man," "Mexico" and the somewhat sappy "Shower the People" are all wonderful songs sung in that unique manner and style of this most distinctive of singers. Taylor's voice sort of washes over you, instantly putting your mind and soul in a more peaceful state; his voice is in fact almost hypnotic, in my opinion. No matter how bad a day you may be having, I do not think it is possible to listen to Taylor and then walk away in a bad mood. There are some all-important and beautiful things in the world, many of them amazingly simple, and a subtle yet powerful type of optimistic joy for these simple things in life is poignantly reflected in Taylor's songs. This goes a long way toward explaining Taylor's popularity over the years with listeners of all ages; his songs as well as the messages contained within them are timeless.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 25 October 2003

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