Wednesday, May 31

LASVEGASSUN.COM – James Taylor returns to the Strip for a concert series at the Cosmopolitan

By Brock Radke

A Las Vegas Strip headlining residency seems to make a lot of sense for a lot more artists these days. With lots of different-sized venues and a constant stream of ticket-buyers, any musician with superstar status could hypothetically qualify, and the convenience of a Vegas residency versus a national or global tour is always appreciated.

But it’s not that simple; one show doesn’t fit all. Consider a legend like James Taylor, the 75-year-old singer and songwriter who came to town for a special engagement at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in 2019 and returns to the Strip this week for five concerts at the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan starting on Friday. (Tickets start at $63 for his June 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10 performances at Ticketmaster.)

Taylor could almost certainly lock down a residency at either of those two theaters, but more Vegas time could cut into his healthy touring schedule. “I’m still a road dog and happy to ride the bus and play the one-nighters,” he told me last week while preparing for a pair of shows at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery outside Seattle. He has two more concerts in Southern California before landing at the Cosmo.

“This time we are out there for about a 10-day stretch, and there is something great about being able to stay in one place, particularly for the crew and the band. Setting up and breaking down every 24 hours can be grueling,” Taylor said. “Playing in one place for a week gives you a break from that, plus we’ve got a number of crew members and band members that live in Las Vegas, so they’ll be home.”

His famous drummer Steve Gadd is one of those Las Vegans, but Taylor doesn’t consider the members of His All-Star Band to actually be his. “This band is my pride and joy, and being able to have these world famous players onstage, in a way, that’s the main accomplishment of my career, that I can hold this band together,” he said. “Each of them has their own touring life, their own audience and body of work.”

The rest of the All-Stars are fiddler Andrea Zonn, pianist Larry Goldings, sax player Lou Marini, keyboard and horn player Walt Fowler, guitarist Michael Landau, bassist Jimmy Johnson, percussion player Luis Conte, and vocalists Arnold McCuller, Kate Markowitz, Dorian Holley, and Taylor’s son Henry.

This will mark the first time at the Chelsea for the band and its frontman, and Taylor is excited for the debut because it’s the right size that allows the concert to “feel like theater.” You can expect a similar setlist each night in Las Vegas, stocked with classics like “Fire and Rain,” “Carolina in My Mind” and “Country Road,” as well as some well-placed covers and songs from his more recent releases “American Standard” and “Before This World.”

But we probably shouldn’t expect a full-on James Taylor residency. When we tally our vote to add him to the Strip’s portfolio along with Adele, Garth Brooks and U2, he lets out a brief laugh. Setting up shop in Las Vegas is still a bit of an odd concept for an artist known for breaking through with folk music in the 1960s.

“There was a period of time in the ’70s when I was just starting to tour and the associations people had with Las Vegas was the Rat Pack days, a lounge lizard sensibility, and it was as if the counterculture was turned off by it,” he said. “But two things happened. As time goes by, even if you felt like you were avant-garde or on the cutting edge, you inevitably move toward the center. And Las Vegas itself has changed. It’s probably unrecognizable from those times.”

It became comfortable for Taylor to perform in Las Vegas, first as a tour stop at the Thomas & Mack Center, then for longer engagements like this one as the city’s entertainment landscape continued to evolve.

“In the’70s it was anathema to how my generation of musicians, sort of the Baby Boom, Woodstock generation, saw itself and identified itself, and the Grammys, for that matter,” he said. “Basically everything about the showbusiness establishment was suspect. It took time. But Las Vegas became more and more attractive from my point of view, and at this point I’m happy to play wherever my audience will show up.”


Monday, November 14

MANSIONGlOBAL.COM — James Taylor’s Childhood Home Was a Ghost of Itself, Until a New York Couple Saved It

By Nancy Keates

In the song “Copperline,” James Taylor sings about the Morgan Creek neighborhood where he grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., lamenting the overdevelopment that has since changed the area. “I tried to go back, as if I could, all spec houses and plywood, tore up and tore up good,” the song goes.

The lyrics refer to “the McMansions speculators tend to drop everywhere,” Mr. Taylor explained in an email.

But thanks to its current owners, James Keith Brown, 60, a senior adviser at global-investment firm Coatue Management, and Eric G. Diefenbach, 63, an attorney, Mr. Taylor’s own childhood home still stands—and its lot of nearly 25 acres hasn’t become the site of a subdivision.

The couple, who are art collectors and museum supporters, bought the rundown, seven-bedroom, 3,172-square-foot, 1950s wood-and-glass Midcentury Modern home at an auction in July 2016 for $1.66 million. They then spent about $2 million on a restoration and renovation, finishing in the spring of 2021.

More: A Lavish Connecticut Replica of the Vanderbilts’ Shelburne Farms Overlooks Long Island Sound

“We thought it was important to preserve the legacy of the Taylors,” says Mr. Brown. “Besides, it’s a beautiful house.”

The home was the vision of Mr. Taylor’s mother, Gertrude “Trudy” Taylor. She took the lead in its design, Mr. Taylor says, and was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Eric G. Diefenbach, 63, an attorney and art collector, and James Keith Brown, 60, a senior adviser at global-investment firm Coatue Management, bought the house in an auction in July 2016.
Kate Thompson for The Wall Street Journal
“Designing, building, decorating and landscaping that house was her creative outlet,” he says of his mother. “The house was a declaration of her uniqueness and, by association, our otherness. I remember being proud of it.”

The fundamental aim of the renovation is to honor the original design, says Matthew Griffith, a founding principal of a Raleigh-based architecture practice called in situ studio. Mr. Griffith says his firm focused on making the house “how it was supposed to be,” by uniting the work of its original architects: the celebrated Midcentury Modernist George Matsumoto, then the dean of the School of Design at North Carolina State University, and renowned Durham architect John Latimer.

Mr. Griffith says they didn’t change the footprint of the main two-story structure, focusing instead on creating a cohesion between the front and back by redoing the siding and windows, and adding skylights. They reworked the floor plan to make it a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house by breaking up some rooms and expanding others.

Outside, a partial deck was made to wrap around the whole house. An existing guesthouse, which was prefabricated, was replaced with a 786-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom custom-built version with a family room and a kitchen that mimics the one in the main house. A swimming pool and a pool house was added to one side of the yard.

Mr. Brown and Mr. Diefenbach live in a prewar co-op on West 72nd Street in Manhattan, which they created out of three apartments and filled with art, including works by Franz Ackermann and Olafur Eliasson. The couple also owns an 8,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, five-bathroom, art-filled modern house on 11 acres in Ridgefield, Conn., where Mr. Diefenbach is on the board of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

Mr. Diefenbach says updating and reusing beautiful vintage architecture was one appeal of restoring the Taylor home. “We had been looking for another platform for art and the house was ideal,” he says.

Another impetus for buying the house was to be close to family, says Mr. Brown, who grew up in Siler City, where his mother still lives. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1984, where he has served on numerous boards and committees. They have 36 nieces and nephews, 16 of whom live near the Morgan Creek house. Mr. Brown says he has happy memories of North Carolina and missed being close to his relatives.

More: Whitney Houston’s Former Home Outside Atlanta Hits the Market for $1.9 Million

When the home went up for a sealed-bid auction in 2016, it was in bad shape, with termite damage and a dilapidated roof, says Sarah Sonke, owner of ModHomes Realty and AuctionFirst, who took this photo of James Taylor’s initials carved in a wood railing.
MidHomes Realty and AuctionFirst
Mr. Taylor’s memories of growing up in North Carolina are more ambiguous. His family moved from Boston to Chapel Hill in 1951 when his father, Isaac “Ike” Taylor, a Harvard-trained physician, accepted a position with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

But just when the house was finished, around 1955, his father volunteered to be a medical officer for the Navy in Antarctica. During his two years there, Trudy Taylor became increasingly alienated from the politics and culture of North Carolina, which became a “major dynamic in all of our lives,” Mr. Taylor says.

“She refused to put down roots and constantly impressed upon us the idea that civilized life was elsewhere (to the north),” he says. “Her constant, epic work of tending and shaping the landscape around the house was not only her labor of love but a fierce proclamation of her unique independence. We got it.”

More: Barcelona Mansion With a Modern Spin on Louis XVI Architecture Lists for €24.6 Million

Ike Taylor returned to North Carolina from Antarctica an alcoholic, straining his marriage and his relationship with his children, Mr. Taylor recounts in his audio memoir, “Break Shot: My First 21 Years.” His parents divorced and sold the house in 1974.

When the home went up for a sealed-bid auction in June 2016, it was in bad shape, with termite damage and a dilapidated roof, says Sarah Sonke, owner of ModHomes Realty and AuctionFirst. She says the house had been vacant for some time but wasn’t officially on the market; developers were aware of it and had made lowball offers with the intent to take down the home to build multifamily units. Ms. Sonke says she was hired by the seller, whose parents had been living there before they died, to find a buyer who would keep the house and property intact.

George Smart, the executive director of NCModernist, a nonprofit that documents preserves, and promotes modern architecture in North Carolina, organized a tour of the house before the auction that attracted some 1,300 people, including many who wanted to play guitar on the deck. Ms. Sonke said locals stopped by with stories and memories about the Taylor family.

Musician and artist Kate Taylor, Mr. Taylor’s sister, says she is grateful for the restoration. The home was instrumental in her development and that of her siblings, including James, Livingston, Hugh and Alex, who died in 1993, says Ms. Taylor.

Trudy Taylor let the kids “run and roam” on the property, encouraging them to play music and make art: “It was an ideal breeding ground for creativity,” she says. “Looking back on it now, I can see that it was extraordinary.”


Monday, November 14

NYTIMES.COM — How Peter Asher, a Jack-of-all-Trades in Music, Mastered Them All

By Bob Mehr
MALIBU, Calif. — In December 1977, in an exceptionally rare move, Rolling Stone put a producer and a manager on its cover: Peter Asher, a bespectacled, copper-haired Brit, photographed sandwiched between his artists James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.

Asher was at his zenith then, having guided the careers of two of the decade’s defining stars, and about to pick up his first producer of the year Grammy. “People always ask, ‘What does it take to become a great manager or a great producer?’” Asher said recently. “And the answer is tragically simple: great clients.”

Of course there’s more to the story, which Asher detailed over breakfast on a breezy fall morning at a beachside club in the Los Angeles enclave he has called home for the last 40 years. His journey is the subject of a new biography by David Jacks, “Peter Asher: A Life in Music,” out on Tuesday.

Asher — peering through tortoiseshell glasses, framed by tufts of faded red hair — was initially dubious at the prospect of a book. “I told David, ‘I wouldn’t count on selling it,’” he noted, in a musically lilting accent. “Because I don’t think I’m all that interesting.”

At 78, Asher remains a fascinating music business anomaly. In an industry filled with specialists, he has moved between roles with a remarkable ease. A pop star during the British Invasion, he became the head of A&R for the Beatles’ Apple Records label in the late ’60s, before segueing to a career as a top artist manager and record producer in the ’70s and ’80s. He spent a decade as a label executive before returning to management, producing, and even performing, as well as finding new avenues as the author of a Beatles book and radio broadcaster.

“Anybody can get a bunch of different jobs,” Ronstadt said in a phone interview. “The question is whether they can do them well. And Peter has done every single one of them to the utmost.”

Sign up for the Louder Newsletter Stay on top of the latest in pop and jazz with reviews, interviews, podcasts and more from The New York Times music critics. Get it sent to your inbox.
Steve Martin, the comedian and musician, said he first heard Asher’s name floating around the Troubadour nightclub in the 1970s, “and he was already legendary then.”

“Peter’s just one of those people who knows the exact right thing to say, whether you’re at dinner together or working in the studio,” he added in a phone interview.

That thoughtfulness has helped ensure Asher’s enduring success, including 60 gold and platinum albums for clients and collaborators including Randy Newman, Carole King, Neil Diamond and 10,000 Maniacs. “I’ve never been someone who reacts with his gut; I tend to think about things in great detail,” Asher said. “That’s what’s always helped me to spot the opportunities and move forward.”

Born in London in 1944, Asher came from an accomplished family. His mother, Margaret Eliot, was a teacher at the Royal Academy of Music whose private pupils included the future Beatles producer George Martin. His father, Dr. Richard Asher, was a pioneering medical theorist, who first identified and named Munchausen’s Syndrome.

Asher and his younger sisters, Jane and Clare, were scouted by an agent, leading to childhood acting careers. His first film role came opposite Claudette Colbert in “The Planter’s Wife” (1952), but he focused on his studies at the prestigious Westminster School, where he would meet his future musical partner Gordon Waller. The lanky, sonorous Waller and the diminutive choirboy Asher were a stark visual and vocal contrast, but they clicked instantly. The fledgling folk-pop duo Peter & Gordon landed a deal with EMI Records in 1963.

By then, Jane Asher was dating Paul McCartney, who moved into the Asher family residence and offered “A World Without Love,” rejected by John Lennon, to Peter & Gordon. It became their debut single and a worldwide hit.

Asher’s first unofficial producing experience came as he helped shape the song at EMI Studios. “I wanted to be a producer straightaway,” he recalled. “To be able to try things out in this beautiful studio and get to tell brilliant musicians, much better than yourself, what to do — that struck me as a fabulous job.”

When the Beatles tapped him to head A&R operations for their newly established Apple Records in 1968, Asher quickly discovered an American singer-songwriter visiting London named James Taylor, produced his self-titled debut, then moved to America with him, seeking a fresh start.

“When people talk about what a producer does, there are numerous answers,” Asher said of the early lessons he learned behind the board. “But one of them is knowing when to stop recording,” noting that the title track to Taylor’s third album, “Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon,” was the result of more than 100 takes.

In 1973, Asher took on managerial duties for Ronstadt, kicking off one of the longest and most successful artist-producer partnerships in history.

“It was that song ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ that started it,” Ronstadt said, referring to the Kate & Anna McGarrigle track that she covered on her 1974 LP. “I shopped that to 10 different producers and they all said, ‘That’s corny.’ The record company hated it. But I wanted to record it so badly. When I sang it for Peter he liked it and saw the value of the song.”

Asher’s work with Ronstadt — starting with pristinely produced, multiplatinum pop smashes like “Simple Dreams” and “Living in the USA” — evolved in the 1980s as she began exploring the Great American Songbook on “What’s New,” the first of three Nelson Riddle-arranged albums of standards. “I did not believe it would be a big hit, let alone sell four million copies,” Asher said. “It was purely a belief in Linda.”

The faith ran both ways. Ronstadt tapped Asher to produce her 1987 album “Canciones de Mi Padre,” a deeply personal exploration of her Mexican heritage, and their success helped make him a go-to producer for top women artists, including Bonnie Raitt, Diana Ross, Cher and Natalie Merchant. “I didn’t seek it out,” Asher said, “but have no objection to the fact that I ended up working with so many brilliant women.”

In the mid-2000s, after spending time as an executive at Sony Music, then taking on more high-profile management clients including Courtney Love and Pamela Anderson, Asher returned to the stage for the first time in 30 years, reuniting with Waller. The two performed until Waller’s death, in 2009, then he linked up with a fellow British Invasion vet, Jeremy Clyde, of Chad & Jeremy.

Mostly, though, he’s continued to produce — a series of soundtracks for the composer Hans Zimmer; tribute projects for Buddy Holly and Elton John; and albums for friends like Martin and Edie Brickell.

Asher’s current assignment, an as-yet-untitled solo record for the Bangles singer Susanna Hoffs, is a sophisticated song collection in the mold of his ’70 albums for Ronstadt. Nearly 60 years after he first set foot in the studio, Asher’s enthusiasm remains palpable. “On a day like today, when I know I’m going into the studio,” he said, “I wake up excited.”

Just two weeks after our conversation in Malibu, however, Asher woke up in the intensive care unit of Ronald Reagan U.C.L.A. Medical Center, following an emergency brain surgery. Over the summer, while in London, he had fallen and suffered a concussion. Doctors in Britain initially cleared him, but weeks later, he began experience disquieting symptoms, including difficulty walking and playing guitar. Asher had just completed a second brain scan in early October, and was on his way home when the doctors called in a panic.

“They said, ‘Turn right back around, you are in surgery as soon as you get here,’” said Asher, who was suffering a massive brain bleed and in critical danger. “They had to drill a few holes in my head.”

Surviving a near-death experience left Asher unfazed. “I’m not one of those people whose own mortality suddenly dawned on them — it’s never been any question,” he said. “As the son of a doctor, I suppose I took some refuge in being fascinated by the science of it all. Though I wish I had not been the subject of this particular experiment.”

The extended recovery time did force Asher to take a rare break, during which he finally began reading David Jacks’s biography of him in full. “I did,” he said, chuckling. “And, you know, I realize that perhaps my life has been a bit more interesting than I thought.”


Monday, October 31

AMERICANSONGWRITER.COM — 5 Deep Cuts From James Taylor That You Should Be Listening To

By Alex Hopper

Though James Taylor is often sequestered into the mushy-gushy, singer-songwriter side of music, if you spend a little time digging into his discography you’ll find a healthy amount of candid confessionals and wry humor.

Luckily, we’ve done the deep diving for you and found a selection of songs that will broaden your Taylor horizons. From tracks about drug addiction to off-kilter vagabond tales, find five deep cuts from James Taylor that you should be listening to, below.

1. “Don’t Be Sad ‘Cause Your Sun Is Down”
First up on the list is the Stevie Wonder-assisted “Don’t Be Sad ‘Cause Your Sun Is Down.” The pair co-wrote this upbeat number about making the best out of a bad situation. In addition to writing credits, Wonder adds harmonica to the track. Don’t be sad ’cause your sun is down / You can rise above it / Don’t be sad ’cause you’re on your own / You have to learn to love it, Taylor sings.

2. “If I Keep My Heart Out Of Sight”
If Taylor knows how to do anything it’s using his delicate vocals to help assuage his listeners through heartache. In “If I Keep My Heart Out Of Sight,” he finds himself hoping to play his cards right so he can finally get his girl. He’s walking on eggshells hoping to not scare them away. The lyrics read, If I present it to you / With a flower in the moonlight / Shiny and new / Well, you couldn’t say no tonight.

3. “Daddy’s All Gone”
With a slightly groovier riff than his usual fare, Taylor talks about missing his partner while out on the road. Daddy’s all gone / Only halfway home / He’s holding on to the telephone / Saying, please, don’t let the show go on, he sings. It’s a common theme for musicians to touch on but, because it’s Taylor, it feels all the more touching.

4. “Nothing Like a Hundred Miles”
Adding in a heavy country twang, “Nothing Like a Hundred Miles” is the direct antithesis of “Daddy’s All Gone.” In the above song, Taylor is longing for home, in this track, he is looking forward to a long trek out on the road to ease his troubled mind. As he says in the song, There’s nothing like a hundred miles to make me forget about you.

5. “A Junkie’s Lament”
In “A Junkie’s Lament,” Taylor takes on drug addiction and its all-encompassing effects. Given that Taylor publicly suffered from heroin addiction, this track feels deeply honest and a grittier subject for Taylor to touch on. Art Garfunkel hops on this one too, adding something special to the mix.


Friday, October 21

BRIGHTONANDHOVENEWS.CO.UK — James Taylor & His All-Star Band thrill Brighton audience

By : John Mileham


James Taylor is an extraordinary performer and is part of 20th century music history, as an American singer-songwriter his discography consists of 20 studio albums, six compilation albums, at least five live albums, one tribute album, nine video albums and 40 singles. It’s obvious from the Brighton Centre audience’s reaction as he came quietly onto the stage, that he was held with a degree of reverence.

He sat down and started playing ‘Something In The Way She Moves’ with the rest of the band quietly walking on stage during the song. His voice has gone untouched by the years, every note and line is as warm and as tuneful as ever. With amazing harmonies from the backing singers, this optimistic song comes together as one breathtaking performance; intimate and thoughtful. At the end of the song he declared, it’s great to be back in Brighton.

His performance was split into two sets. The first set included the fantastic ‘Sweet Baby James’ and ‘make the most of life’ message within ‘Never Die Young’, which Taylor joked he was now too old to worry about. When it came to ‘That’s Why I’m Here’ he talked about the sad death in 1982 of his friend John Belushi, which became a wakeup call for his own addiction. He regularly took the opportunity to introduce band members and talk about their own virtuosity and contribution to music. For ‘Long Ago And Far Away’, Taylor explained that he had asked Joni Mitchell for permission to use her backing vocals from the original track recorded in 1971. Taylor closed out the first set with a cover of Carole King’s ‘Up On The Roof’, which ended things on a high.

As the interval commenced Taylor stayed on stage signing autographs and talking to fans, it was a really nice touch and truly appreciated by those in the audience.

The second part of the show opened with ‘Teach Me Tonight’, covered by many artists including Dinah Washington, that allowed him to talk about a childhood fantasy of “getting it on” with the teacher. When It came to ‘Steamroller’ it was time for some solid rock blues with a brilliant guitar solo from Michael Landau. As you would expect, the biggest reaction of the night was reserved for ‘Fire And Rain’. Also in the second part of the set, Taylor hit on favourites such as ‘Carolina In My Mind’, ‘Mexico’ and the optimistic anthem ‘Shower The People’.

At the end of the second set it was time for the audience to shout, clap and stamp to demand an encore. By the time Taylor returned to the stage with the rest of the band the audience were all on their feet. It was time for two more classics ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ and ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’ with the audience singing and clapping throughout. They still weren’t prepared to let him go so one more song was performed ‘Wandering’ as they said goodbye.

The All Star Band:

Steve Gadd:
So what can you say about one of the greatest drummers of all time he’s worked with so many performers, including Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton to mention just a few. And this performance was no exception, he’s an extraordinary drummer.

Dorian Holley:
American backing singer and vocal coach who has performed with many artists, in particular Michael Jackson on both his ‘Bad World Tour’ in 1987 and ‘Dangerous Tour’ in 1992.

Andrea Zonn:
Since 2003, Andrea has toured and recorded with James Taylor. She is a singer and violinist and has done a considerable amount of work with Alison Krauss.

Kate Markowitz:
Kate is an American singer-songwriter who regularly works with James Taylor as a backing singer. She has also had a platinum selling single in Germany in the 1990s under the pseudonym of Kate Yanai.

Arnold McCuller:
He’s an actor, solo artist and session musician and his work touring as a backing singer with James Taylor as well as Linda Ronstadt, Phil Collins amongst many others. He’s also performed in acting parts in movies, including ‘American Hot Wax’ and ‘Hollywood Nights’.

Larry Goldings:
This jazz pianist has an incredible track record of working with many artists. He’s also composed and contributed to a number of soundtracks including work on Clint Eastwood ‘Space Cowboys’.

Michael Landau:
Guitarist Michael Landau has supported many musicians and has been touring with the likes of Miles Davis and Whitney Houston. As a session guitarist he’s worked on albums with the likes of Pink Floyd, Phil Collins, Roger Daltrey, Stevie Nicks and of course James Taylor to name just some of the artists.

Jimmy Johnson:
An accomplished bass guitarist, Jimmy regularly works with James Taylor and Alan Holdsworth and is a member of the ‘Film & BB’s’, a contemporary jazz band.

James Taylor & His All-Star Band at Brighton Centre 13.10.22 (pic Michael Hundertmark)

Set 1:
‘Something In The Way She Moves’
‘Country Road’
‘That’s Why I’m Here’
‘Walking Man’
‘Never Die Young’
‘(I’ve Got to) Stop Thinkin’ ‘Bout That’
‘Sweet Baby James’
‘The Frozen Man’
‘Up On The Roof’ (Carole King cover)
‘Long Ago And Far Away’

Set 2:
‘Teach Me Tonight’ (Dinah Washington cover)
‘Bittersweet’ (John Sheldon cover)
‘You Make It Easy’
‘Fire And Rain’
‘Carolina In My Mind’
‘Shower The People’
‘Your Smiling Face’
‘You’ve Got A Friend’ (Carole King cover)
‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)’ (Marvin Gaye cover)


Thursday, October 20

MANCHESTEREVENINGNEWS.CO.UK — Review: James Taylor at Manchester Apollo is calm in the chaos

By Helena Vesty

‘I didn’t know if we’d be back in Manchester’ is a familiar refrain from musicians after worldwide tours have been arranged and rearranged over the last couple of years. And for some of our older singers, it’s likely that fear has been realised. They may have emerged from the pandemic having unknowingly played their last international show, with fans now left bereft of the chance to see their favourites live one more time.

But despite kicking off his show with that sentiment, for James Taylor & His All-Star Band any sign of a career in the autumn of its life seemed like a distant trouble. A sold-out audience at Manchester’s Apollo on Monday night and a setlist lasting some three hours and a mammoth 22 songs, each deftly unfurled by the veteran musical icon – there’s no sign Taylor is stopping anytime soon.

The setlist was split in half with an interval. A slower start followed by a pacier second instalment.

There was a real juxtaposition stepping from a chaotic country outside to such a soft, calm show inside the Apollo. Such a gulf, in fact, that it begged the question whether this style of old-worldly Americana really has a place in today’s culture.

Superficially, at least, Taylor’s music often speaks of small, mom-and-pop towns. The quaint nostalgia of Copperline and sun-dappled rendition of Carolina In My Mind were beautiful to hear live. Taylor’s command of his voice and guitar are still as silky and skilful as the 70s, and his all-star band are experienced touring stalwarts.

Authentic experiences, but ones that only exist in the memories of a dwindling few. They they seem miles away from society’s jarring shift into a noisy, confrontational, always-on status that has characterised the last decade.

Yet, to view Taylor’s efforts through such a simplistic lens does him a disservice – he certainly didn’t shirk the tough stuff in this show.


Wednesday, October 12

ENTERTAINMENT-FOCUS.COM — James Taylor Hammersmith Eventim Apollo, London Live Review

By Pip Ellwood-Hugues

James Taylor is undoubtedly one of the greatest artists that has ever lived. Active since 1966, Taylor has paved the way for today’s crop of male singer-songwriters such as Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Shawn Mendes and Ed Sheeran. His 1970 breakthrough single ‘Fire and Rain’ catapulted him to international fame and the album it came from, ‘Sweet Baby James’, is considered to be one of the all-time classics in the Rock/Folk genre. Since that success Taylor has gone on to achieve numerous Platinum certifications and he’s enjoyed a career that has spanned an incredible seven decades. Last night, Taylor brought his latest tour to London’s Hammersmith Eventim Apollo after a series of delays caused by the pandemic.

Split into two sets, with an intermission in the middle, Taylor delivered an impressive 22 songs across the just over two hours he was on stage. Opening with ‘Something in the Way She Moves’, which started as a solo acoustic number before the band came in to join him, Taylor sounded on fine form vocally. He’s blessed with one of music’s most distinctive voices and there’s something spine-tingling about being able to witness him perform live. Highlights in the first part of the set included the fantastic ‘Sweet Baby James’ and the live-life-to-the-full message of ‘Never Die Young’, which Taylor joked he was now too old to worry about. For ‘Long Ago and Far Away’, Taylor explained to the audience that he had asked Joni Mitchell for permission to use her backing vocals from the original track, before launching into one of the night’s finest moments. Taylor closed out the first set with a cover of Carole King’s ‘Up on the Roof’, which ended things on a high.

Opening the second part of the show, Taylor divulged that his cover of ‘Teach Me Tonight’, covered by many artists including Dinah Washington, allowed him to live out a childhood fantasy of getting it on with the teacher. Taylor’s cheeky way of letting the audience in on that secret was pretty funny, and just one of many examples of his warm humour. Elsewhere in the second part of the set, Taylor hit on favourites such as ‘Caroline in My Mind’, ‘Mexico’ and the optimistic anthem ‘Shower the People’.

Of course, the biggest reaction of the night was reserved for ‘Fire and Rain’. Earlier in the set when he was introducing ‘Copperline’, members of the audience got over excited and Taylor joked that he was going to sing the song they were expecting… just not quite yet. By the time ‘Fire and Rain’ came around, the audience was more than ready and it was quite special to sit in an auditorium as intimate as the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo as Taylor performed and the audience listened so intently. The song has lost none of its magic and Taylor’s performance packed the same emotional punch it did on the original recording.

Aside from the songs, Taylor won the audience over with his charisma and sense of humour. Between songs he cracked jokes, told stories about getting sober and admitted he couldn’t always remember the events that led to some of his classic songs. Taylor came across as endearing and warm, leading the audience from one laugh to the next before wowing them with another song. He’s a true raconteur and quite simply put, a class act, and had the audience in stitches when he picked up the large double-sided set-list from the floor to see what was coming next.

Taylor returned to the stage for a three-song encore following ‘Your Smiling Face’. He kicked off with his version of the Carole King classic “You’ve Got a Friend” before delivering his unique take on Marvin Gaye’s ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’. The final song of the night was ‘Wandering’ from 1975 album ‘Gorilla’ and it was a perfect, and emotional, end to a fantastic night of live music.

What was so evident over the course of the show is just how easily Taylor moves through genre. In a world where we’re desperate to pigeonhole artists into one genre, Taylor proved that there’s really no need. He’s as comfortable with folk and rock, as he is with blues and soul, and that’s been evident throughout his career.

James Taylor may be in his mid-70s but he’s as charming and entertaining today as he’s ever been. With an incredible catalogue of songs to choose from, and backed by a remarkably talented all-star band, Taylor proved that this tour has been more than worth the weight. When you have much younger artists struggling to perform for more than 70 minutes, you realise just how much of a true artist Taylor is. He’d have happily stayed on the stage all night and performed, and the audience would have happily let him.

Set list: Set 1 – 1. Something in the Way She Moves 2. That’s Why I’m Here 3. Walking Man 4. (I’ve Got to) Stop Thinkin’ ‘Bout That 5. Sweet Baby James 6. The Frozen Man 7. Never Die Young 8. Steamroller 9. Copperline 10. Long Ago and Far Away 11. Up on the Roof (Carole King cover) Set 2 – 12. Teach Me Tonight (Dinah Washington cover) 13. Bittersweet (John Sheldon cover) 14. You Make It Easy 15. Fire and Rain 16. Carolina in My Mind 17. Mexico 18. Shower the People 19. Your Smiling Face Encore: 20. You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King cover) 21. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) (Marvin Gaye cover) 22. Wandering Performance date: Monday 10th October 2022


Wednesday, September 7

FORBES.COM — Business Lessons Learned From James Taylor

By Roberta Matuson

This past Tuesday night, I saw James Taylor and his All-Star Band play at the brand-new MGM Music Hall at Fenway Park. What a venue and what a performance. Here are some business lessons I took away from Tuesday night’s show.

Shower the people with what they want. Taylor’s show was chock full of hits from years ago, which is probably no surprise given that he has enough hits to fill two shows. In a recent television interview with Steven Colbert, Taylor was asked if he ever thought about playing a hipper version of some of his oldies. He responded by saying that the fans are coming to hear the songs they know. Not some jacked-up version of a song they remember.

As business leaders, sometimes we lose sight of why our customers do business with us or why employees choose to work at our firm. To keep up with the latest trends, we may instead shoot ourselves in the foot.

For example, some high-profile companies are now pulling back on maternity and paternity leave. A study recently conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management found that employers offering paid maternity leave beyond what is required by law dropped to 35% this year, down from 53% in 2020. Companies are also downsizing paternity-leave programs. The share of employers giving paid paternity time off fell to 27% in 2022, from 44% in 2020, the SHRM survey found.

No doubt other companies will soon be doing the same, thinking this new trend is worth following. Do so at your own peril, as employees feel more stressed at work than ever. Cutting back this important benefit that many treasure will surely increase employee turnover.

Age is just a number. Taylor is 74 years old and is still going strong. His voice is as good as it was fifty years ago. I’m sure some people would argue that a 74-year-old man should no longer be on stage. Tell that to his highly talented All-Star Band, whose members included “seasoned” musicians who may have been older than Taylor.

Why is it that when people reach a certain age, they are no longer considered desirable by many organizations? People always reach out to me seeking advice on overcoming age discrimination in the workplace. Their concerns are real.

5 Practices For Being A Responsible Critic At Work
Here in the U.S., we currently have 11.2M jobs, which, indeed, some of these older workers are qualified to fill. So why aren’t we giving more consideration to seasoned workers? Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who is 45 years old, is considered ancient in the football world, yet his performance is still something to see.

It’s time for companies to focus more on the results an employee achieves and less time worrying about their age.

Family matters-James Taylor has finally figured out the key to work-life balance. His family is part of his tour. Both his wife and son are backup singers.

Employees today are left on their own to figure out how to balance work and their personal lives, which may help to explain why today’s workers are more stressed than ever.

Work-life balance policies aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if employees don’t feel comfortable taking advantage of these policies. Leaders need to set the standard.

For example, leaders leaving work at a reasonable hour, signals to others that they should do so. More transparency on shared calendars will also help shift the tides. Rather than blocking out your calendar with fake meetings, note that you are unavailable due to a family obligation.

When creating after-work events to celebrate employees, consider inviting family members to participate as well.

Allow employees to work from home when needed.

Encourage vacation time even if that means mandating paid time off.

Making work-life balance a priority for your employees can significantly increase employee satisfaction, productivity, and your company’s reputation in the marketplace. So, why not try some of the examples above and realize the rewards?

As for me, perhaps the most important lesson I took away from Tuesday’s performance is that when you love what you do there is no reason to ever retire, as long as you’re still on top of your game!


Friday, August 26

BOSTONGLOBE.COM — Singing has worked just fine for James Taylor

By Lauren Daley

It feels fitting that Red Sox fan James Taylor will be playing some of the first shows at the MGM Music Hall at Fenway, Boston’s brand-new, 5,000-person concert venue.

“I’m a Sox fan. I’m a Boston boy. I love Massachusetts. I love New England,” says Taylor, 74, in a phone interview from his Berkshires home. “We’re not perfect, God knows. But . . . whenever I get home to Massachusetts, I breathe a sigh of relief and say, you know, the rest of the world may be going to hell, but I live in Massachusetts.”

Born in Boston in 1948 to Isaac Taylor, a Harvard Medical School graduate, and Gertrude Woodard, a New England Conservatory of Music student, Taylor and his siblings — Kate, Livingston, Hugh, and the late Alex — were raised largely in North Carolina and Martha’s Vineyard. Taylor attended Milton Academy.

He met his wife, Kim, then working for the Boston Symphony, at a Pops concert. Composer and conductor John Williams later walked her down the aisle in 2001. The couple settled in the Berkshires and have twin boys, Henry and Rufus.

Among Taylor’s career honors: a half-dozen Grammys, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a National Medal of Arts, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a 2016 Kennedy Center Honor, and this year, an honorary doctorate from the New England Conservatory. Maybe it doesn’t rank among those achievements, but it looked like fun: Earlier this month he also completed a weeklong “musical residency” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

But, of course, he’s seen fire and he’s seen rain. He’s battled depression and addiction, both of which he discusses in his audio memoir recorded at his Western Massachusetts home, “Break Shot: My First 21 Years.”

Ahead of his two Boston shows Monday and Tuesday, Taylor talked with the Globe about his start in the music business, kicking heroin, reassessing his priorities during lockdown, and thoughts on retirement.

Q. You opened your audiobook memoir by saying you’re a “professional autobiographer.”

A. I basically write about my own experiences. I have friends who are songwriters, specifically Carole King, who for the first part of her career was basically a hired gun. She’d come in and write a follow-up single, bespoke material. I don’t get a whole lot of covers [of his music] because it’s not written necessarily for that. For better or for worse, it’s been a process of sharing my experiences lyrically.

Q. What are your most personal songs?

A. “Fire and Rain” or “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” “Rainy Day Man.” The earlier, confessional, up-close-and-personal stuff.

Q. In the audiobook, you talk about your family’s struggles, and how you’ve been trying to figure out your family.

A. To a certain extent, we’re programmed by our family experience and by the role we find for ourselves in the family. When you’re trying to figure out what makes you tick, you’re trying to figure out what kind of programming you were accommodating in the beginning, how and why that continues to work for you, work against you, keep you trapped.

Q. Was the audiobook cathartic?

A. It wasn’t that intense because it’s all familiar stuff — I’ve thought about it a lot. So not so much cathartic as it was grounding. It summed up the first 20 years for me, contained them. It was a useful thing.

Q. You also talked about your heroin addiction.

A. That was a major event. I’d say 17, 18, maybe 20 years actively addicted, on and off. I also got a lot done in those years, they were productive times, too. But yeah, that’s a big part of my story. I was 35 when I sobered up in 1983. I’m lucky to have made it through. I think I was self-medicating. It was never much fun, let me put it that way. It rapidly became a maintenance situation, my relationship with opiates.

My way of dealing with it was rigorous physical exercises. I’m talking about three hours a day, six or seven days a week. Eventually I just wore myself out — my knees went. But that’s another conversation, if you want to get what the challenge is, physiologically, of trying to get people clean.

Q. So you quit cold turkey.

A. Well, cold turkey is like two weeks. The problem is six months later, two years later. That’s the challenge.

I had [tried] methadone maintenance treatments, but nobody ever told me about the 12 steps, or about the only available or functioning way to get clean. Finally, a friend of mine, a sax player named Michael Brecker, saved me.

Q. By introducing you to the 12 steps?

A. Yeah, and telling me that abstinence is the only option.

Q. True. And so going backward here to your childhood, you started out on cello.

A. My mother wanted all of us to have an instrument, or at least give it a try. I don’t know how much the choice was mine.

Q. [Laughs] Right.

A. I was a terrible student for four years, but came away with some good tools. But ultimately what you need is a relationship with your instrument, feedback that’s rewarding. It’s not a matter of discipline or pleasing somebody, it’s a matter of pleasing yourself. At that point, it’s like a fire that catches.

Q. When did that happen for you?

A. I was about 12. I told my parents I’d like a guitar for Christmas. I was interested in a Fender Stratocaster but ended up [getting] a cheap nylon-string classical guitar. That got me started.

Q. Why guitar?

A. It was the great folk scare of the early ‘60s. It was very accessible music, by definition, easy to get into. I loved those songs and I loved playing them. It was a social thing, too. Much more socially appealing than cello.

Q. You played in the Flying Machine.

A. That was in ‘76 and ‘77 in New York City. Before that, my [late] brother Alex and I were in a band that he basically put together [The Fabulous Corsairs]. We did frat parties, prom dances, sock hops for pennies.

Q. Did you play on the Vineyard?

A. I played [there] solo mostly. There were lots of open-mic nights. Club 47 [now Passim] had a summer campus in Oak Bluffs called The Mooncusser. There was a club in Boston called The Unicorn, they had a summer version in Oak Bluffs, The Unicorn Cafe. In 1970, I was 21 or 22 years old, and [folk] manifested on college campuses in a way that we haven’t seen anything like it since. It was a cultural movement that had amazing dynamics and energy. Anyone who got to ride that wave was lucky.

Q. How did you go from the Vineyard to Apple Records?

A. I was playing with my friend Danny Kortchmar. We were leaving home in 1967, ‘66. Kootch already had his own apartment in New York and was engaged to be married — he was a couple of years older. I was 18, and after leaving McLean Hospital [in Belmont, where Taylor had been treated for depression], I followed him down to New York with another friend of ours, Zach Wiesner. [We later] moved into a burned-out floor in the Hotel Albert. We were able to, on the cheap, rehearse, and get started.

[After a bad record deal] I went back home and licked my wounds. I had a college fund which I mostly spent at McLean Hospital, but there was some left, and I got a plane ticket to London to visit a friend and started peddling my songs. Danny Kortchmar had been with a group [that] backed up Peter and Gordon, an English group. Kootch had a telephone number for Peter [Asher], and as luck would have it, he’d just started looking for talent for Apple Records, the Beatles label.

I got a first album out of it. [Then] Peter went to Los Angeles and we made a second record for Warner Brothers, “Sweet Baby James,” which did well enough for me to get up on my wheels and start moving. So that was the progression. Throw in a couple of marriages and addiction and recovery and a couple of kids and it’s actually a pretty short story.

Q. [Laughs] So what was lockdown like for you? Did you stay in Western Mass.?

A. We were skiing in Montana when everything closed down. We got trapped out there, which was great. I think in June we came back to Massachusetts. It was a quiet time and really interesting. I think it broke the spell that a lot of people had been in unconsciously.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Well, I think there’s just a certain amount we’re driven to just keep producing, to turn the treadmill up faster and faster. Basically, I think people started asking themselves, “Why do I really want to go back to that?” It’s like a spell was broken, in terms of working overtime, succeeding. You’re encouraged to go, go, go. Meanwhile your time’s running out. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are reconsidering how they live their lives.

There are different ways to measure success — the obvious ones: How many toys have you got? How many people’s lives do you control? Another way of looking at it is: Are you of service to anyone? Are you contributing anything to your culture?

Q. Did it make you look at anything differently?

A. Yeah, it’s made me think about — well, I’m also [almost] 75. I can’t tell whether it’s COVID reconsideration or whether retirement is creeping up on me. Although I’m about to leave on a European tour that’ll take me through Thanksgiving.

Q. Can you see a time when you’d retire?

A. Oh, absolutely. The mind may be willing, but the flesh is weak. So far, [touring is] great — I love it. Maybe two years away from it taught me how much I missed it.


Friday, July 29

BILLBOARD.COM – Leonard Cohen Tribute Album, ‘Here It Is,’ to Feature Iggy Pop, Norah Jones, James Taylor & More

By Gil Kaufman

An all-star roster of singers, songwriters, rockers, pop singers and jazz greats have come together for the Blue Note Leonard Cohen covers album Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen. The 12-track album due out on Oct. 14 will feature original takes on some of the late songwriter’s most beloved tunes from the likes of Iggy Pop, Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Mavis Staples, David Gray, Sarah McLachlan and James Taylor, whose hushed version of Cohen’s 1984 track “Coming Back to You” is out now.

“When Larry Klein invited me to participate in a Leonard Cohen tribute album, I accepted immediately,” said Taylor in a statement in reference to the album’s producer. “Both because Larry is a great producer of excellent recordings and a good friend, and because, like almost everyone in my generation, I venerate Leonard Cohen. As soon as I began seeking out my own musical preferences, Cohen’s songs were among my few favorites and had a major influence on my own progression as a songwriter. For the project, I was drawn to a relatively obscure piece that was new to me, ‘Coming Back To You.’ Larry opted to cut the song in Cohen’s original key, which was certainly at the bottom of my own range. But somehow moving me out of my comfort zone helped me find my own approach to the song. Like so much of Leonard Cohen’s writing, this lyric resonates deeply with his forlorn and hopeless take on the bleak landscape of love and attachment. So, breathe a deep sigh and, drink up…”

Grammy-winner Klein, a longtime friend of Cohen’s, explained the genesis of the project in the album announcement released on Thursday (July 28).“Leonard Cohen had been a friend since 1982 or so, and in the last 15 years of his life, he became a close friend,” said Klein. “He was possibly the wisest and funniest friend that I had, and someone that I enjoyed, immensely, in every way. After he passed away, I found myself frequently covering his songs with other artists that I was working with. One reason, of course, is that the songs are so good—in a certain way, Leonard is the best pop songwriter ever—but the other reason was that it helped keep him in the air around me.”

Klein assembled a killer band of jazz-based musicians to back up the all-star roster, including acclaimed guitarist Bill Frisell, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Nate Smith, with producer Greg Leisz sitting in on pedal steel guitar and Larry Goldings playing the organ. McLachlan takes on Cohen’s most beloved, oft-covered track, the haunting meditation “Hallelujah,” which, like Taylor’s cover, comes from 1984’s beloved Various Positions album. Pop, meanwhile, holds down the other end of the career spectrum with his take on the coal-black title track to Cohen’s final album, “You Want It Darker.”

The songs cover the waterfront of contemplative crooner Cohen’s romantically fraught tone poems about love, death and everything in between, reaching all the way back to the singer’s 1967 debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, through to his final effort, the sublime You Want It Darker, released just days before his death in 2016 at age 82.

“It was an immensely gratifying experience to recontextualize these poems, and shine a different light on them,” said Klein of the songs that range from fan favorites to deep cuts. “I hope that this musical language that we developed together, the context that we put these things in, makes the songs connect with people in a new way.” Klein said that the result is similar to the concept behind the 2007 Grammy-winning Herbie Hancock Joni Mitchell tribute album, River: the Joni Letters, which featured a song with Cohen.