Yvonne Yanney, featured vocalist, carries these tracks very well indeed. So many memories are brought back.... . like quality in music. The lyrics (most composed by Taylor and fellow bandmates) are simple, but deep and spiritual.
"Leads Me Back to You" is lyrically similar to the "Déjà vu" song theme, but filled with energy and movement. One can hear the great Roy Ayers on vibes truly enjoying it all. "Believe" incorporates Taylor’s creative keyboards with Yanney and supporting vocalists taking it higher. The rhythm keeps the listener on the groove, while basking in the peace of it all.
"TKO" is the remake of Teddy Pendergrass’ ballad of lost faith in love. Yanney’s fresh interpretation allows you to judge the track on its own, rather than comparing to Pendergrass’ original. Hypnotic guitar riff, beats and backing vocals glide suitably to this classic. I wondered whether "Can’t Buy Joy" is a new take on "Living For the City?" Yanney tells the story as profoundly as Wonder told us about hard rural beginnings that led folk to the city in search of better lives. There is an obvious message, as many of us miss this in music today.
The remaining vocal tracks ("Outta Sight," "Send Me," "Starship" and "Living"), are consistent with thought-provoking lyrics. These tracks have energy, which keep you tuned in, rather than zoned out. Another consistency is the mastery of James Taylor, of course, who never runs out of creative juice. How nice it must be to have fellow musicians on the same page as well.
As we come to the instrumentals and the section titled "The Smaller Picture," Taylor is in the never-ending "discovery zone." Pay attention to "Chasing Dragons," where he implements almost Larry Young-ish organ style, with breezy interludes from the flute of John Wilmott and Dom Glover’s trumpet. In "Mr. C," Taylor blends some classic 1960s organ with today’s acid-jazz flavor, and 70s electricity that results in a spontaneous combustion of sound.
You’ll get some basic feel good tracks in "Decoding the Pyramids," "First Time," and "Change Your Mind." Each has its own flavor, but you can choose your method of taking it in. Some will dance, some will think, others will get lost in the groove any way they can.
This CD is a good marriage of funk, urban groove, and club jazz. If you dug Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, early Earth, Wind & Fire, and that general vibe, this should make you very happy.
As we know, there’s more than one James Taylor in the music business: the singer/songwriter of pop/rock; J.T., former lead vocalist of Kool and the Gang, and the master musician presented before you. All three are talented. The difference? One has learned that variety is the spice of life.... . Can you find him? He’s not hiding.... . LISTEN HERE!!