October 08, 2008

James Taylor, Jimmy, and Glen

It pains me to say it, but James Taylor's new CD, Covers, is a disappointment. Never less than pleasant, never more than safe, I'm not sure why JT chose to cover songs that are clearly inferior to his own work, or why so many of his covers of great songs (Suzanne, Summertime Blues, and especially On Broadway) are so lackluster.

Some of the songs work well, especially John Anderson's Seminole Wind. The CD seems to be selling well. As I write this, it's #2 on Amazon's bestseller list (emblematic, I'd guess, of the fact that old farts like me are still buying CDs on Amazon while most music lovers are downloading). I admire Taylor so much as a performer and person that it doesn't surprise me that even the negative reviews by Amazon users are so reluctant. I must agree with the other users who gave the CD two stars:

Ever since I saw Jimmy Webb live at The Cutting Room in New York, I've been on a JW kick. I own and enjoy all of his solo albums but I was unprepared for what a great entertainer he is. His voice can't compare with JT's, but his passion is palpable and for someone who writes so many depressing and melodramatic songs, he is hysterically funny.

One of my very favorite Jimmy Webb songs is Wichita Lineman (how many songs about romantic longing and physical work are there?), and when I found out it was on JT's album, I was excited. I actually prefer a live version JT performed on Good Morning America, which I found on You Tube and seems to have been removed.

But it just can't compare Glen Campbell's original (here are a couple of live versions):