The Durable James Taylor Brings Out Album No. 14

AHHHH, another James Taylor album is out and life moves forward as it should.Mr. Taylor's fans can add his 14th album, "New Moon Shine," to their collection with the assurance that this enduring pop/folk musician's voice and style remain unchanged. Taylor's steady, soothing tenor and introspective lyrics have made the singer/ songwriter a musical icon. Twenty years after his initial commercial success, Taylor is still selling out concert halls. His recent three-night appearance in New York was doubled to six nights. Although his politics have never been difficult to distinguish, "New Moon Shine" is undoubtedly Taylor's most polemic work ever. The rollicking "Slap Leather," serves as a short diatribe against the political and social excesses of the era. Although the song is strong on politics, it also demonstrates that Taylor still writes thoughtful lyrics. In an upbeat, almost playful manner, the song criticizes former President Ronald Reagan for accepting $2 million from a Japanese company during a visit to that country: "Sell the Ponderosa to the Japanese ... Go on Ron"; American television: "Turn the whole wide world into a TV show ... One big advertisement for the status quo"; and the Persian Gulf war: "Tie a yellow ribbon around your eyes ... Stormin' Norman I just love a parade." Taylor furthers his antiwar sentiments in "Native Son," a song about the lingering memory of the Vietnam War. In an appropriately haunting tone, the song offers support and honor to Vietnam veterans. The gospel-like "Shed a Little Light" is also suffused with political perspective. "Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King" begins this tribute to the civil-rights activist. The backup vocals and melodic piano give the song a powerful emotional impact. Despite the emphasis on political issues, "New Moon Shine" manages to showcase the full range of Taylor's talent. "Copperline," the lead-off track on the album, is a characteristically nostalgic ballad that picks up on Taylor's North Carolina roots. To liven things up, Taylor does a version of Sam Cooke's "Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha." He turns storyteller in "The Frozen Man," an engaging song about an arctic explorer thawing out after 100 years. To top off this eclectic album, Taylor offers "The Water is Wide," a traditional folk song carried perfectly by his pure voice.

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