CAJT-Collectif des Amis de James Taylor
CAJT-Collectif des Amis de James Taylor

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Review de Corey Blake (Mywords)

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1 Review de Corey Blake (Mywords) le Sam 11 Sep 2010, 11:35 am


Review By Corey Blake

An Intimate Tribute to Sweet Baby James is a track-for-track recreation of what is largely considered James Taylor's best album, Sweet Baby James.

Each song is covered by a collection of international fans who also happen to be extremely talented musicians in their own right. This isn't a collection of James Taylor impressions.
Each artist interprets to their strengths, revealing previously unseen nuances and bringing new insights into these musical gems. The joy and skill that went into these recordings shines through.

Marc Perez starts off with the title track. He turns in a gentle and sincere rendition of what has become James Taylor's signature song. With just acoustic guitar and voice, it is probably the most faithful cover on the album, but still resists being redundant. It is probably the smartest way to kick off the album, to ease the listener into hearing new versions of these well known and well worn songs.

"Lo and Behold" is presented by Paris/Sydney, a duo accompanied by piano, stand-up bass, and percussion. They draw out the gospel roots of this song with bluesy vocals. They also overdubbed their voices to create a spirited choir.

Claus Ulrich plays it fairly straight for the first half of "Steamroller". Then following a harmonica solo, he's joined by Tom Schak and Samuel Legitimus for a multi-lingual tour de force that playfully kicks the song into a great conclusion.

Samuel Legitimus returns for "Sunny Skies". He slows it down, creating a slinking yet lazy feel that works real well for this song. His stacked vocals create great harmonies for an a cappella intro.

Alexandre Lazerges is faced with the challenge of "Country Road", probably the third most well known song of James' material on this album. Like Marc Perez on "Sweet Baby James," he sticks to vocals and acoustic guitar. Again, a smart move and sticking with the intimate feel of the album. His jazz-infected guitar playing is so good, it probably could have held up the track as an instrumental. But Alexandre's vocals fit in perfectly.

The Stephen Foster track, spelled "Oh Suzanna" here, is covered by Jerome Leclerq. He presents a beautiful instrumental track based off of James Taylor's arrangement of the song. It picks up into a jaunty, almost playful number and presents some truly exceptional finger-picking.

"Fire and Rain" is covered by The Handy Men. The well known intro is faithful picked. I consider this one of James' most emotionally challenging songs. It's world weary but can't be maudlin or whiney. Fortunately, the vocals maintain that very tricky balance of restraint with enough emotionally vulnerability. When you consider how the emotional quality of this song is transcending language and culture barriers, it really is a beautiful and miraculous thing.

Eugene Ruffolo and Doc Schneider deliver a really pleasing rendition of "Blossom". The rich harmonies in the chorus are fantastic. The vocals are delivered so precisely but they are relaxed, and manage to capture that unique JT element of being able to hear them smiling while singing.

Claus Ulrich returns to give us "Anywhere Like Heaven". The guitar and bass work out great, and the whole track is layered with smart and effective fills. Great arrangement.

Eugene Ruffolo goes solo for "Baby, Don't You Loose Your Lip On Me". This retains the playful, mock-blues quality of the original. This is probably the most obscure JT track on this album, rarely performed in concert or covered by others, so it's a real treat to hear Eugene's version.

Eric Tollet ends up having the most daunting task in front of him. "Suite for 20G" really is an anomaly for the album. The original version is such a big produced affair that it doesn't fit in with the intimate vibe of this cover projects. Eric does his best to strip it down and then build it back up using synthesizers and digital effects. Unfortunately, I have yet to warm up to it.

As somewhat of a stickler for packaging, I must also give credit to the images and graphic design of the hard copy version, which just enhances the intimate and rustic vibe of the project. The album as a whole captures a lot of the warmth, charm and spontaneity of the original Sweet Baby James, providing listeners with a new angle to admire old favorites. This is a fine addition to any James Taylor fan's collection.

Some things never change and some things we don't ever want to change. Thankfully, James Taylor hasn't.
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