Before This World
James Taylor’s first album of original compositions in 13 years fortunately does not threaten his legacy.
The 67-year-old retains his ability to craft and deliver affecting songs that are deceptively simple, elegant and delivered in his comforting and supple tenor. Montana evokes his classic hit Sweet Baby James in metre, mood and melody. And Snow Time will certainly raise comparisons to his much-loved Mexico, though this one is about decamping in Toronto.
The title track is among the finest of what Taylor calls his "agnostic hymns", a stately piece featuring standout support from cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Sting. Far Afghanistan has Taylor using his evocative lyricism to question the assumptions regarding invading foreign lands.
Not everything works, however – the weakest track, Angels of Fenway, is a meandering ballad dedicated to his beloved Boston Red Sox baseball team. It suffers from Taylor laying on the sentimentality a little too thick. That said, Before This World is a solid, smart and at times sublime song collection from a legendary journeyman.