I’ve had never had a problem admitting that I’m a pretty unashamed James Taylor fan. For a while, I was convinced he was the greatest singer-songwriter in the world. And while I no longer hold him on that pedestal, I still enjoy every second of the Greatest Hits cassette I have (except Mexico). And as much as I love James Taylor and dislike compilations, my experience with Sweet Baby James begins and ends with that cassette and the Sweet Baby James LP.
This album is after all of that, after he had traded his tender acoustic guitar ballads for unapologetic disco-fueled soft rock. To see how far this Walking Man has walked, look no further than the horn blasting Honey Don’t Leave LA. Carolina is nowhere near his mind. The opening track Your Smiling Face is a jubilant soft rock track that is an absolute banger. Eight albums into his career, he has become a bonafide pop star.
But those chart-ready pop tunes are a little deceiving. The non-singles are classic James. Secret O’ Life features a similar riff to You’ve Got a Friend. Bartender’s Blues is a true blue country song. The two exceptions are the skiffling Traffic Jam and I Was Only Telling a Lie, which is probably the most menacing rock song James Taylor has ever written (it is not all that menacing).
In all, JT is a proper pseudo-self titled album. It captures all of his tender sweetness with a side of poppy indulgence.