Everyone knows that James Taylor
can write a good song. He is, after all, one of the most universally appreciated American songwriters. It's this fact that makes his Covers
album even more disappointing. Granted, he reworks the songs on the disc in a manner that's appropriate to his own personal style. But, even well into the disc, it's hard to suppress the urge to turn it off and put on any of his other records.
A Few Highlights
There are a few bright moments on this disc. Taylor's voice fits nicely around the country-infused tunes like "Some Days You Gotta Dance," wherein the horn section is tightly arranged and well-timed. "Why Baby Why" is also a nice break after the less-than-stellar "Wichita Lineman."
"Seminole Wind" sounds vaguely like something Taylor would write himself, and it's clear that he feels much more comfortable singing songs like this. Indeed, his greatest gift is the discipline that keeps his work within a comfort zone. He's never been an artist known or revered for breaking conventions or testing boundaries. His songs are safe in all their honesty, so it makes little sense for him to tackle a tune like "Hound Dog."
Not James Taylor's Best Disc
While there are sure to be some people moved by his renditions of these songs, there are sure to be just as many who would prefer to hear new songs that he's written. What often makes covers albums intriguing is the artist's determination to stretch outside their own parameters to present the song in a way that's different from how it's been performed before. That kind of experimentation isn't Taylor's strong suit.
While Taylor is clearly adept at pouring his feelings through songs, and his arrangements on Covers are well-rounded and interesting, he just does a far better job writing and singing his own songs. Hopefully we'll be able to hear more from him in that vein once this album has some space around it.