James Taylor - vocals, acoustic guitar
Recorded shortly after the release of James Taylor's sixth album, Gorilla, these concerts were re-election benefits for Massachusetts Congressman Gerry Studds. An afternoon and evening show was presented, each featuring two sets by Taylor, with the Congressman addressing the audience between Taylor's sets. Taylor had recently completed his summer tour and had returned home to Martha's Vineyard a few weeks prior. His most recent albums, 1974's Walking Man and 1975's Gorilla, both showcased his more electric side, with the latter spawning two hits; "Mexico" and his cover of Marvin Gaye's classic, "How Sweet It Is." On tour, he had been accompanied by his outstanding band, performing in large venues across North America. With that in mind, these performances are all the more special as both are full length concerts performed entirely solo acoustic, something he had not done for some time. Performing before a relatively local audience, these concerts find Taylor in a relaxed mood, essentially playing before friends and neighbors. This brings out a thoroughly engaging performance that touches on every phase of his career and features many of his most beloved songs, both old and new. All six of his albums are represented over the course of this intimate evening and while the older classics sound as good as ever, it is often the newer material, stripped down to just acoustic guitar and vocals, that are the most compelling.
Following a speech by Congressman Gerry Studds, James Taylor returns to the stage for his second set. Appropriately enough, he begins with "Hello Old Friend," a song about living on Martha's Vineyard, featured on his Walking Man album release from the previous year. This is followed by the relaxed groove of "Riding On A Railroad" and then "Blossom," another Sweet Baby James classic. With one exception, this second set is identical to the second set of the afternoon show (also featured here at Wolfgang's) and that exception is up next; a delightful reading of "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," another highlight of the One Man Dog album. The remainder of the set includes stripped down readings of "Migration" from the Walking Man album as well as "Lighthouse" and the title track from Gorilla, all three particularly engaging in solo acoustic form. Taylor also ventures back to his first album for the traditional, "Circle Round The Sun." The set concludes with a double whammy of Sweet Baby James tunes, beginning with the ever popular and funny, "Steamroller Blues," and finishing up the night with the career defining title track.
The stark honesty of his music and the relaxed laidback vibe of these performances show exactly why Taylor is a pillar of the singer/songwriter genre. These performances still sound as fresh and consistently engaging as they did way back when. This timeless quality has served Taylor well, as he remains one of the most popular and best selling recording artists of all time.