JAMES TAYLOR : LIVE AT RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, NEW YORK 1981
Label : Project Zip Records
Length : 89:07
Venue : Radio City Music Hall, New York City, New York, USA
Recording Date : May 21, 1981
Quality : Soundboard Recording (A+)
Concert review (New York Times) : James Taylor was in high spirits when he opened an eight-night run on Broadway on Thursday night at the Savoy Theater. In fact, for a performer who has often been considered quiet and introspective, he was a positive live wire. He joked with the audience, he told stories about a pet pig, and he danced to the rhythms of his rock band. But anyone who has seen Mr. Taylor in the last few years knows that the singer and songwriter whose early hits set the tone for much of the 1970's most placid-sounding soft rock has been rocking harder and, apparently, enjoying it more. His performance was a continuation and a celebration of the process. Throughout his career, Mr. Taylor has written about his inner turmoil; songs like ''Fire and Rain'' may have sounded ''laidback,'' but they told desperate, frightened stories to those who cared to listen beneath their lyrical surfaces. The contrast between the sweetness of Mr. Taylor's voice, melodies and arrangements and the stark and sometimes scarifying content of much of what he had to say always lent his work a certain tension. By gradually embracing a more outgoing musical idiom, especially in performance, he has fruitfully resolved this tension. Mr. Taylor is recording for a live album at the Savoy, and he is featuring some material he has not previously recorded. The soul numbers he sang on opening night were a delightful surprise. On records, he has sometimes drained 60's soul hits of much of their rhythmic vitality and emotional immediacy. At the Savoy, he sang soul with exhilarating confidence. He even tackled some melismatic, Sam Cooke-style extemporizing, and brought it off handsomely. But the two-hour performance, which was interrupted only by a brief intermission, also emphasized his strengths as a writer and singer of folkish ballads and pop songs and a plumber of personal depths. It was a satisfying, finely balanced show. The band that records with Mr. Taylor accompanied him cleanly and efficiently, but with Rick Marotta on drums instead of Russ Kunkel, the music sounded more focused than in the past. John David Souther sang two affecting duets with Mr. Taylor and contributed a short solo spot that was a welcome change of pace.