James Taylor has released an album of classic songs that are considered “American Standards”.
The very melodic tunes on this album are mostly from a time when professional songwriters like Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer, Richard Rogers, Oscar Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, and many more wrote songs that multiple artists performed. These became the “Standards” that almost everyone heard while growing up. The songs were on our parent’s albums, performed on TV, and in old movies. It wasn’t all Rock & Roll and Blues that influenced the singer-songwriters of the Rock era.
It was actually 28 years ago (1992) when James Taylor proved he could handle such classic tunes. He recorded “It’s Only A Paper Moon” and “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” for the A League of Their Own movie soundtrack. A year later he performed “The Way You Look Tonight” with the Boston Pops Orchestra. Then in 1997 he sang “Walking My Baby Back Home” on his Hourglass album. My wife and I have loved listening to those recordings for over two decades, so we were thrilled to hear about James Taylor’s brand new American Standard album.
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We even had to purchase the CD at Target in order to get their two exclusive bonus tracks. One of those, “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” turned out to be a must have.
Update: In November 2020, those extra two cuts plus “Over The Rainbow” were released as an EP. We picked up “Rainbow” from iTunes. It’s a really nice version, just James and his guitar.
The key that makes the album successful is that James has mostly adapted the songs to his normal guitar-based style. He refrained from over-producing or over-singing. There are beautiful extra instrumental enhancements, like a horn, violin, saxophone, or clarinet, and all with just the right touch. The musicians are all first-rate studio professionals.
In the CD booklet, James explains they tried several titles for the album…”Used Music”, “Reliquary” and “Still”. But in the end, he says he chose the first title that came to him, ”because they are American songs and Standards for sure”. There is no “s” at the end of Standard in the title, because James decided to go with the name that was glazed into the white porcelain sink in the house where he grew up. It said in cool blue letters “American Standard”.
Even if you’re a Rock fan, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating well-written songs from the past. The standout tracks include “Teach Me Tonight”, “The Nearness Of You”, “Moon River”, & “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face”. This is an easy album to recommend. Just look over the song list. If you like the songs, and you like James Taylor, you’ll definitely enjoy American Standard.
Update: March 14th, 2021…James Taylor won the Grammy Award “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album” for American Standard.
Extra: Look who showed up on our American Songwriter magazine.
The interview really gets into songwriting, and of course James speaks very insightfully.
2 Replies to “James Taylor…American Standard (Review)”
Excellent , Jimmy Johnson on bass (of course)
Editor: You’re right Bob. Jimmy has been playing with James for decades. Check out his bass on “Walking My Baby Back Home”. He knows how to compliment a song.
JT is smooth on this and it is a very relaxing listen…. 🎶