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James Taylor - TV Music Memories - MusiCares Person of the Year 2006

  by Owen Peters

published: 13 / 11 / 2014

James Taylor - TV Music Memories - MusiCares Person of the Year 2006


In his new column 'TV Music Memories', in which he will be examining music programmes on television, Owen Peters watches a tribute concert originally shown in 2006 for James Taylor

In this technological age it’s probably fair to say most of us have exposure to Sky, Virgin, NOW TV, tablets, mobiles etc. Even our terrestrial channels now offer recording, playback, catch up. As the Boss said all those years ago, “57 channels and nothing on.” Sometimes it seems like 157 channels and nothing on. Fear not! This new monthly section 'TV Music Memories' will firstly give you a gentle prod regarding a concert, gig, studio performance you may have missed on TV amongst all the dross. It will secondly evoke memories from a given year. Was it a good time/bad time for you? Did the artists and music of the selected TV performance mean anything to you then? Do they mean anything at all to you now? To kick off this new feature we go back to 2006: This is the year in which we see the passing of Syd Barrett and Alan Freeman. The Queen turns 80. Helen Mirren wins award after award for her portrayal of...the Queen. Steve McClaren becomes manager of England. Tabloids go crazy as there is a whale swimming in the Thames. Bush meets Blair with the famous greeting of “Yo Blair”, and the Arctic Monkeys, Sandi Thom and Razorlight all have number 1 chart success. Our first TV memory is a tribute concert, James Taylor MusiCares Person of the Year 2006. No, no... don’t go running off. There are some great artists performing here, honest, alongside Taylor himself, and their covers of his songs have a fresh feel about them as many of them are set to different arrangements. Relax, be patient, stay with it. Taylor was signed by the Beatles' Apple label in 1968, and had his first major hit with 'Fire and Rain' in 1972. He has gone to sell over 40 million albums, and looked better when he had hair. Bill Clinton completes his Master of Ceremony introductions, thankfully being kept away from any attempt at playing a musical instrument. The Dixie Chicks open up with 'Shower the People', which is true to the original and suits them perfectly. Harmonies collide with ease and precision. It could be one of their own songs. Next is Bonnie Raitt, who is confident, chic, sincere, and has a wonderful stage presence. She sings 'Rainy Day Man', but I so want her to sing 'You Can’t Make Me Love You'. This gently-paced song allows her husky, breathy style to flow, stamping her quality all over the tune. The band are introduced, who are in fact James Taylor’s band, Most of these guys have been with him throughout his career, so to be recognised for the part they’ve played in in his success is a nice touch... We have a high volume of applause and a low rendition of whooping for a USA crowd. When did that whooping phenomena come over the pond? The same time as Starbucks? A couple of artists perform who I haven’t heard before are next, Indie Arie with 'The Secret of Life' and Australian Keith Urban with 'Country Road'. Both performances are average at best(Other opinions may differ). Urban didn’t go on to do much after this. Well, only if you count his four Grammy awards, judging slot on 'American Idol', and marrying someone called...Nicole Kidman. Yep, he has kept a low profile. There are three exceptional performances, from four artists which glue the concert together. One I’ll save for the end. Here come the other two. Two old guys shuffle on stage, one with a walking stick. Between them, an array of shades, a beret, a bandana, greying ponytail, and one looks as if he’s in his pyjamas. Then they kick in, one on electric guitar, the other on piano. Taj Mahal and Dr. John give 'Everybody Has the Blues' a honky tonk blues rendition certainly, not associated with Taylor. There is no question though that they can still get an audience to party. Each performer is given a ”Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome on stage” type introduction. The next guy ambles on stage. He wears a smart suit, and is filled with pecs, biceps and quads, all in the right proportion. He mumbles something about him possibly being the surprise act...It is Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen gives us 'Millworker'. What a perfect choice! Guitar and harmonica scream out, as he tells the story of a woman, left with three children to feed, resigned to this being her life “It’s me and my machine, now, here forever”. There is no way out. It’s as if Springsteen has finished work, got cleaned up, put on a suit and come to tell the story of modern industrial despair. It is outstanding. Sting pitches in with 'You Can Close Your Eyes', which is functional and bland beyond belief. Now if he could have just stayed with his story of how he saw Taylor play in Newcastle back in 1971. T'was not to be. So, Sting or Gordon Sumner as he would have been then sets up his tale. He’s nineteen, hoping to become a singer songwriter, so he goes along to a concert to see what all the fuss is about. Onto the stage comes Taylor he recalls, tall, handsome, with his rich, deep, melodic baritone range, and demonstrates his skill with lyrics and as a virtuoso of the guitar. It is at this point that Sting says he downgraded his career aspiration to that of a bass player in a punk band. Which is quite a good line. Sheryl Crow, Jackson Browne and David Crosby give a karaoke version of 'Mexico'. It is be good to see them if you're a fan I guess, but is otherwise, I think, somewhat of a wasted opportunity. Alison Krauss was another artist I hadn’t come across before. Today she would be in the category of Americana, the cool school as opposed to Country. She sings 'Going to Carolina' with a country lilt, enthused with emotion and feeling which drifts over the muted audience. Carole King is introduced,and the place hits decibel 9.9 on the whooping scale.“There have been nice things said about James Taylor tonight,"she says, "But nothing says it better than this song.” And with that line she begins 'You've Got a Friend'. This is akin to going back thirty-five years. Her voice hasn’t changed, is still as powerful when most people first heard on 1971's 'Tapestry' album. Then Taylor joins her on stage, and their chemistry is instantaneous. It’s a special emotional moment, a special song, timeless. From here on in it’s the Taylor show. 'Shed a Little Light', written in memory of Martin Luther King, is performed as would a gospel choir, and with his band and backing singers in full flow. The audience is moved from tears to smiles and hand clapping finale in one song. 'How Sweet It Is [To Be Loved by You]' is a big production number, with a horn section, backing singers given their moment of vocal fame, and in which everyone joins in. The stage empties, the audience settles, and there is one more number. Taylor comes back accompanied with guitar and stool. It’s back to basics, 'Fire and Rain' serving as a reminder of what an excellent wordsmith he really is. Taylor has composed many songs which at some time in many people's lives, I’m sure, have served as a support mechanism. His own life has, however, been fraught with drug abuse, depression, mental health issues, numerous messy relationship splits, and the premature death of one of his children. If you like his songs, it is good to hear some of them simply sung well by other artists. As a reminder on how good the likes of Taj Mahal, Dr. John and Springsteen can be live, this concert is well worth a gentle trip down memory lane. James Taylor MusiCares Person of the Year 2006 was viewed on NOW TV - Sky Arts.

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James Taylor - TV Music Memories - MusiCares Person of the Year 2006

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