James Taylor "Pull Over"

Thirty years ago I took a girl I met to a James Taylor concert in the Rathskeller at Fordham University in New York City

Many people have the tendency to mark moments of their lives with the music they listened to at that time. Concerts become more than just a place to go, they are elevated to milestones of our lives. This is the case for me with the music of James Taylor.

Thirty years ago I took a girl I met to a James Taylor concert in the Rathskeller at Fordham University in New York City. That girl became my wife and we have enjoyed James Taylor music ever since. We also saw James Taylor in Avery-Fisher Hall in NYC. Both events where in small, intimate venues. On this new DVD of his latest tour the concert hall may be a lot bigger but the friendly intimacy of this performer remains thankfully intact.

The James Taylor disc presents a complete concert by this master of gentle music. There are no loud electric guitars, no special effects, just a man that has devoted his life to song sitting on the stage surrounded by musicians behind and fans in front. When the camera pans the audience one thing that is noticeable is how multigenerational the group is. Parents bring their children, grandparents and kids smiling as the music washes over them. During some of the older songs you see the mouths of the audience moving along with the lyrics. These songs are so well known that they are no part of the history of music.

The song list here is a perfect blend of James Taylor classic work and his new material including his recent October Road CD. In fact, the song list becomes part of the act as fans call for a well loved favorite and James Taylor bends to the edge of the stage, picks up a piece of cardboard and shows the audience the song list ensuring them that the requested son is in the second set. It is this connection with his audience that has carried James Taylor through three decades of music. He relates to his fans on a personal level that makes you feel more in someone's home than a concert hall. Director Milton Loge does an excellent job of transferring this feeling to the DVD.

The concert starts off concert with songs from previous albums, he doesn't succumb to the device of pushing the new album. This is a concert for the fans more than a promotion of a new work. The October Road album is not represented until the fifth song in the first set with the presentation of 'On the 4th of July'. One of the funniest moments of the concert is when James Taylor assures his audience that he will not deliver the lengthy introduction of 'Frozen Man' and manages to ease into it anyway.

When James Taylor gets to the true classics in his collection the audience takes a noticeable, collective breath. Songs like 'Steamroller Blues', 'Carolina In My Mind' and 'You've got a Friend' (written by Carol King but forever associated with Taylor) the audience rises to their feet and sing along. The real crowd pleaser is with out a doubt Taylor's first big hit and perennial favorite, 'Fire and Rain'. There are new arrangements provided for these well remembered songs but the heart and emotional impact remains as fresh today as I remember over thirty years ago.

The disc should be the standard that other concerts DVDs should emulate. Each chapter is another song in the play list of two dozen songs. You can go directly to your favorites but do your self a real favor and listen to each song presented. The Dolby 5.1 audio is mixed on the loud side. I had to push the volume down a number of notches, still the quality of the audio gives the 'right there' feeling to the event. The sub woofer is given a workout by Taylor's bass player. Having played bass myself I really appreciated it. It adds a full dimension to the music as it fills your room. The video is full screen and is exceptionally clear, typical of Sony Music presentations. The extras are typically light as found with most concert DVDs. There is an interesting featurette chronicling the creation of the 'October Road' album. If you are a fan this is a must have. If you are not a fan already you will be after this disc. Get it and gather the family around to enjoy.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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