Okay yes, we have come to expect it. Singers of "a certain age" inevitably put out an album featuring songs from the Great American Songbook. They pay tribute, they attempt to imitate and sometimes they sadly discredit the original works. And then once in a blue moon someone comes along and takes those "standards" and truly makes them unique. Unique to that singer's already exclusive and identifiable sound.
That someone would be James Taylor. And that album would be American Standard.
Sure these songs are classics. But so is James. And his take on each and every lyric and melody is unmistakably Taylor.
Teach Me Tonight (the first single) is light and frothy with an underlying smooth groove. The Nearness Of You continues that trend, showcasing Taylor's signature guitar voicing along with that sweet percussion he so loves. But then there's Ol' Man River (from the musical "Showboat"), not a classic usually included in these collections. Plus "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" (from "South Pacific"), a brilliant ode to racial discrimination penned by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Taylor renders both these unexpected jewels with such heart and soul you just know he chose them for a reason.
And then there's Moon River which could well be my personal all-time favourite song. I have heard a lot of versions of this song over the years and this one ranks way up there. Moody, melancholy and mesmerizing. And different enough to be interesting and captivating.
Much like James Taylor himself. After all these years of sharing his stellar original music it is such a delight to learn that he truly is an American Standard. True blue, one of a kind and an original ... even when the music is not.
Vickie van Dyke