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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: James Taylor, Hilary Duff, Adam Lambert, Nate Ruess and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

James Taylor

"Before this World"

(Concord)

Grade: B


At the outset of his first new album in 13 years, James Taylor sings with a sense of wonder and relief that "Somehow I haven't died/And I feel the same inside/As when I first caught this ride." The fans he's accrued of his ??-year career will likely feel the same about Taylor upon hearing "Before This World." It's a prototypical kind of James Taylor album -- plenty of ringing acoustic guitar and careful, unfussy musical arrangements, keening vocals and rich harmonies, lyrics of deep introspection and thoughtful world view. It doesn't necessarily break new ground but it doesn't read water, either; its simply the work of one of our finest songwriters who hasn't lost his verve and still has plenty to say -- and even when he's not saying much, the musical arrangements maintain the songs' higher standards. Not surprisingly, however, it's the more lyrically potent songs that are among "Before This World's" highlights, including the autobiographical "Today Today Today," the recovery rumination "Watchin' Over Me" and the genuinely provocative, two-sided war paean "Far Afghanistan." Sting provides a neat counterpoint vocal on the title track, while Taylor's wife Kim and son Henry harmonize on the folk standard "Wild Mountain Thyme" and "Angels of Fenway," Taylor's sentimental ode to the Boston Red Sox. There are plenty of solid but tasteful contributions from the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and the members of his touring band, all of which helps not-so-baby James stay sweet on his 16th studio outing.

New & Noteworthy:

Hilary Duff, "Breathe In, Breathe Out" (RCA): The "Lizzie McGuire" star's first new album in eight years features a guest appearance by Big Time Rush's Kendall Schmidt.

Robert Glasper, "Covered" (Blue Note): The multi-faceted jazz/R&B/hip-hop artist fronts an acoustic jazz trio recording live-in-studio versions of songs by Joni Mitchell, John Legend, Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar and more.

Adam Lambert, "The Original High" (Warner Bros.): The "American Idol" runner-up turned Queen singer releases his third solo album, with Queen guitarist Brian May playing on "Lucy."

Giorgio Moroder, "Deja Vu" (RCA): The pioneering disco producer's first album since 1985 features guest vocals by Sia, Charli XCX, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Kelis and others.

Nate Ruess, "Grand Romantic" (Fueled By Ramen): The fun. frontman goes solo, with Beck guesting on the track "What This World Is Coming To."

Slum Village, “Yes!” (Ne`Astra Music): The Detroit rap group’s latest features collaborations with De La Soul, Black Milk, Bilal, Phife and, of course, the late J Dilla.

Various Artists, "Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City" (CMF/Legacy): This two-disc collection of classic country/rock/folk crossover tracks is the companion to an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and includes an unreleased Bob Dylan recording of "If Not For You."

Also Out: Alpine, "Yuck" (Votiv); Babymetal, "Babymetal" (Ral); Bob Baldwin, "Mellowonder: Songs in the Key of Stevie" (Red River); David Benoit, "2 In Love" (Concord); Czarface and Inspectah Deck, "Every Hero Needs a Villain" (Brick); Patrick Dennis, "Furst in the Dirt" (Wharfechild, July 19); The Deslondes, "The Deslondes" (New West); Aaron Diehl, "Space Time Continuum" (Mack Avenue); Good Lovelies, "Burn The Plan" (Six Shooter); Heartless Bastards, "Restless One" (PTKF); High On Fire, "Luminiferous" (eOne); Iwrestledabearonce, "Hail Mary" (Artery); Amos Lee, "Live at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony" (ATO); Lenka, "The Bright Side" (Red General); Lazer Lloyd, "Lazer Lloyd" (Lots of Love); Lucifer, "Lucifer I" (Rise Above); mewithoutyou, "Pale Horses" (Run For Cover); Mika, "No Place in Heaven" (Republic); Don Omar, "The Last Don II" (Machete Music); Kimm Rogers, "The Pavement Grows" (Kimbocats); Bob Schneider, "King Kong Vol. 2" (Shockorama); Billy Shaddox, "I Melt, I Howl" (self released); Slash, "Live at the Roxy 9.25,14" (Armoury); Terrell Stafford, "Brotherlee Love" (Capri); The SteelDrivers, "The Muscle Shoals Recordings" (Rounder); Christopher Paul Stelling, "Labor Against Waste" (Anti-); Third Eye Blind, "Dopamine" (Mega Collider); Ian Tyson, "Carnero Vaquero" (Stony Plain); Various Artists, "2015 Warped Tour Compilation" (Sideonedummy); Walk Off the Earth, "Sing It All Away" (Columbia); Yonder Mountain String Band, "Black Sheep" (Frog Pad)

From The Vaults: Tim McGraw, "35 Biggest Hits" (Curb); Phish, "Amsterdam February 1997" (Jemp); Jill Scott, "Golden Moments" (Hidden Beach); Bob Seger, "Night Moves" (Capitol vinyl); George Thorogood, "George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers" (Rounder)

Soundtracks: Air, "The Virgin Suicides -- 15h Anniversary Deluxe Edition" (Warner/Parlophone); Michael Giacchino, "Inside Out" (Disney); "John & Jen (2015 Off-Broadway Cast Recording)" (Broadway); "Nevermore: The Imaginary Life & Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe" (Broadway)

New Music DVDs: Slash, "Live at the Roxy 09.25.14" (Armoury); "The Wrecking Crew" (Magnolia)



Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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