James Taylor Quartet Hands 01

Friday after a tough week at work? I thought I’d crack open a bottle of Prosecco and give it some smooth.  On a whim I picked up an LP that was given to me back in February 1995, The James Taylor Quartet In The Hand Of The Inevitable on the Acid Jazz label.  Anyone remember the Acid Jazz scene? bands like Galliano, Brand New Heavies and, at its most commercial, Jamiroquai; all in love with Blue Note, soulful melodies and rare grooves.  It kinda passed me by because whilst every so often I’d hear a tune I rather liked, most of it just sounded too slick for me and it didn’t have the grit I needed and my attention would drift off.  I hadn’t played this record for at least a decade before tonight.

James Taylor Quartet Hands 04

… and I can see why.  The first track and lead single ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ with vocals by Alison Limerick, is really really good.  It’s tuneful and slick and, dare I say it, funky – I could dance to this, but only if my kids weren’t in, they’re not ready for that sight yet.  It sounds like something Stevie Wonder might have written for someone else to sing, yup that good.

Unfortunately, at this point we’ve crested the wave and we’re about to ride the tuneful but uninspired cable car all the way down to downtown Bland Town, NJ*.  take ‘3 Mile Island’, it has lots of very good playing, some excellent Hammond organ from Mr Taylor, himself; however it ends up sounding a little like a funkier offcut from Ill Communication, but without the intrinsic humour the Beasties always brought to the table.  What I’m trying to say is that there really isn’t anything essentially wrong with In The Hand Of The Inevitable, but after a song and a half it just washes over me, some more variation and better song writing please.

James Taylor Quartet Love 03

In fact the whole LP makes me feel rather like I’m stood in a dimly lit but trendy London bar, you know the sort of place full of intimidatingly good-looking guys and gals, great service, nice decor, holding my stomach in as much as I can without passing out and just wishing I could get a decent pint, or at least buy one for under £50.  It’s a situation I’ve been in.  That’s this album.  It’s missing that speck of grit that fashions the pearl inside the clam.

Case in point, their cover of ‘Whole Lotta Love’.  Doubters must have taken Mr Taylor and his Quartet to one side and warned him that fusing the Led Zep classic with the Lord’s Prayer and substituting Plant’s over-sexed wailings for jazz flute frills wouldn’t work.  You know what? Doubters 1: Quartet 0.  It sounds like, well, just listen.  It is in fact amusing for about a minute and a crime for the rest of its’ duration.

If after 11 tracks you can spot the differences between ‘Journey’** and, say, ‘Sounds of Freedom’ you’re a better person than I am.  It had just become sonic mulch for me by then.

James Taylor Quartet Love 02

The 12″ of Love Will Keep Us Together is, given that it is an excellent track, pretty darn good.  The ‘Ian Green Radio Mix’ is shorter and punchier and ‘Mean Streets Mix’ is funkier and dancier with (applause please!) added jazz flute and (Boos!) less of the tune I enjoyed so much.  ‘Love Ballad’ however sounds exactly like a pastiche of the kind of post-coital, or even worse, during-coital, tune a sleazy mustachioed aging club impresario would keep playing on a loop in his bedroom for that ‘special evening with a special little lady’.  True story.

James Taylor Quartet Love 01

So, just not my sound I guess.  Tasteful? Less taste, more full please Mr DJ.

347 Down.

P.S – the usual 1537 caveat applies, this is a far better LP than any I have ever put out – at least they went and did it.

*or Little Blandington-On-Sea if you want me to Anglicise it; I just like American place names.

**sadly not an Acid Jazz-style medley of their greatest hits.

2 thoughts on “Downtown Bland Town

  1. I fear you nailed this genre pretty accurately. It’s the relentless ‘modern’ rhythm section parts that wear me down. Take the jazz drumming out of jazz and you have, well, something a lot less interesting. They’re trying to channel Idris Muhummad… but failing.

    Having said all that, it’s fine for background music in you home-with-friends trendy bar (where a pint can be had for a lot less than fifty quid and you don’t have to shout).

    1. Thank you, I think you’re completely right, the rhythms are all too straight-forward. Meaning you do get the odd great pop moment but not much else.


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