The Essential James Taylor
Though James Taylor defined the early-'70s singer/songwriter movement, he continued to write and record songs of great lyrical and melodic import for decades. His exquisite acoustic guitar skills turned songs such as “Fire and Rain,” “Sweet Baby James,” and Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” into standards for both radio and acoustic guitarists. (In fact, Taylor offers detailed lessons on how to play his songs at his website.) A number of greatest-hits collections aim to summarize his career; The Essential James Taylor, with 30 tracks, is among the best, as more is always better in Taylor’s case. The ‘70s hits are covered here, but so are his later efforts. “Copperline” has become another classic. “Her Town Too” pairs him with unofficial Eagles member J.D. Souther, and the set ends with live tracks of “My Traveling Star” and ”You Can Close Your Eyes,” which further illustrate how Taylor can hold an audience captive without dance routines or dry ice. Musical talent and well-crafted, understated songs sometimes get the job done, too.