This should have come out via Wal-Mart. That’s what we’ve come to, if you want to sell physical product you’ve got to be with THE big box if you want to move tonnage. And Wal-Mart wants your disc. As long as you’re willing to blow it out cheaply. You see it’s the equivalent of a stocking stuffer. Something to grab while you’re stocking up on the essentials of life. Which may include coffee, but the price point is just too low at Starbucks. Your CD costs more than your latte. Whereas your CD at Wal-Mart is almost an afterthought, just a drop in your shopping cart.
But, but, THERE’S NOT A WAL-MART IN EVERY TOWN!
You’re absolutely right. And if you think James Taylor’s "Covers" is an artistic statement, meant to expand his career, you’re completely out of touch. It’s only about the money. Other than giving him twelve more tunes to play in concert. Most of them familiar, so the audience won’t jump up to pee and refresh their margaritas while he sings.
Maybe we need an industry wide ban. NO COVERS! They’re the cheapest shot imaginable. Since no one will listen to your new material, your originals, you’re going to mash up your product to be palatable, like squished peas to an infant. No one’s got enough time to digest a whole original album, so you’re going to make it easy for them. You’re going to whore yourself out, and only be about the money. Pretty sad if you think about it.
But it’s sadder that the acts still think it’s about the album. That anybody cares about their disc long opus. Which is usually interminable. Give JT credit, at least "Coves" is only 42 minutes long. You can play it and understand it. Then again, you already understand it.
Problem is, the choices are too obvious. And instead of being sung from the perspective of an alien outsider, tramping into your house, kicking the snow off his boots and telling his story, they now seem to be the warblings of a country gentleman, without a complaint in the world. Not that I want James to be unhappy, but isn’t that the human condition? To have more questions than answers? And are any of these artists ever truly happy? Is Don Henley HAPPY?
The song choices are just too obvious. Wow, how long did it take him to come up with "Wichita Lineman"? And, he does it faithfully. Fearful you’re going to puke if he fucks with your favorite. There’s so little innovation on "Covers" you’d almost think it’s the work of a lounge singer. A very good one, but no one in the audience would be asking a la Billy Joel, "Man, what are you doing here?"
Because we respect the writer. Which James used to be. Or the interpreter. But there’s very little interpretation done here.
But two left field choices do resonate. John Anderson’s "Seminole Wind" and the Spinners’ "Sadie".
With my newfound country addiction, I stumbled upon "Seminole Wind" on XM. Buy the record just for this. Better yet, just buy the single. Or steal it. This is the territory James used to plumb. A cross between ""Riding On A Railroad" and "Sleep Come Free Me". Someone real is living in this song. Whereas most of the numbers tired from overuse sound like ancient baby boomers partying on a yacht. Not losing their inhibitions like on a Jimmy Buffett cruise, but staring into the sunset with their sweaters tied around their necks as they sip their gin and tonics and discuss the level of SPF they’re using.
James sings "Sadie" straight, even including the spoken intro. The imitation soul works, maybe because a white guy can never truly compete with a black soul singer, and the original has an inner city feel, with family being the most important thing in the vocalist’s life. Whereas we know whites covet BMWs more.
Do we need another redo of "Not Fade Away"? We could have stopped after the Stones’ rendition forty odd years ago. I thought "On Broadway" was retired after George Benson’s killer take. To do "Summertime Blues" is to compete with Pete Townshend. As for "Hound Dog", Elvis is rolling in his grave, assuming his girth allows this. "(I’m A) Road Runner" is better. And then there are a few more obscure tracks, but none of them kills.
Speaking of obscure… Shawn Colvin got this right back in ’94. Other than the fact that David Kahne fucked with the record by occasionally overproducing it, laying strings unnecessarily on "Every Little Thing (He) Does Is Magic". THAT, the opening track, is the most obvious thing on the album. Other than the Police cut, you’ve heard NONE of the tracks. A dedicated Tom Waits fan might know "(Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night", but back in ’94, Tom was still obscure (and, in fact, STILL IS!) I could go track by track, but I’ll bet most of you STILL haven’t heard Willis Alan Ramsey’s "Satin Sheets". And you SHOULD! Shawn kills Steve Earle’s "Someday". Uncovers an unreleased Band cut, "Twilight". And redoes Talking Heads’ "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" so dramatically that only a hard core fan would even be able to place it.
But Shawn had something to prove. Whereas James Taylor is just coasting.
People don’t want new music by just about ANY baby boomer act. And there’s no repetitious radio to break new records. They could try, by just cutting a killer single, working with Mutt Lange. But they don’t want to do this. They’re lost in the seventies, needing to make an artistic STATEMENT!
But if "Covers" is a statement, then Sarah Palin is a foreign policy expert. "Covers" is expedient. Made for a market. Everything James Taylor and our music was not. And that’s sad.
You won’t be disappointed if you buy "Covers". It’s perfect to play in the background as you’re sipping wine, talking to your next door neighbor, reading the newspaper. It’s never foreground, it’s wallpaper, it’s meaningless.
How did we come to this? How did this powerful medium become so irrelevant?