Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No. 103: Sweet Baby James

Band: James Taylor
Album: Sweet Baby James
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Um. Well, um. People like James Taylor, right? "Fire and Rain" isn't so terrible, I guess.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I can't stand James Taylor. This album is Taylor playing blues riffs on an acoustic guitar while singing in his normal singing voice. It's strange.
Best song: "Fire and Rain" isn't the worst thing in the world.
Worst song: Boy, everything else sucks. It sucks hard.
Is it awesome?: No.

I'm really a dork for DVD commentaries. In fact, I spent three-plus hours listening to four septa- and octogenarians talk about "Spartacus" on the Criterion Collection DVD. I swear.

Also, like most people my age, I'm a pretty big fan of the Simpsons. This of course, is great, because every episode on the Simpsons DVD sets has a commentary on it (unlike nearly every other TV DVD set). Simpsons seasons five and six (two of the classic years) were run by a man named David Mirkin. The show runner on any given episode is usually part of the commentary track and Mirkin is on nearly episode from seasons five and six. He is annoying. He makes bad jokes and spends the whole time talking himself up and/or talking about other series. He's really annoying. He mentions the series' "flexible reality" about 500 times. I find him exceedingly annoying.

David Mirkin is a close friend of James Taylor. He's directed one of Taylor's videos.

The classic season five Simpsons episode "Deep Space Homer" features James Taylor in a guest role. Mirkin spends a solid five minutes basically kissing Taylor's ass, at different times saying he's funnier than any stand up and the best acoustic guitar player in the world.

Um, no.

James Taylor wrote one good song, "Fire and Rain." It's a nice little self-reflexive song about his short stay in a mental institution and his friend's suicide. It also touches on his dealings with addiction, which he struggled with for years. This is the best song on this album. It is the best song he's ever written.

Otherwise, he created the songwriting weenie archetype that Kenny Loggins was part of later and millions have tried to recreate in every coffee shop ever since.


Outside that song, the record has a ton of ridiculous blues riffs with Taylor singing in his weenie voice. "Sweet Baby James" is a weenie cowboy song. "Steamroller Blues" is a weenie quasi blues song. "Oh! Susanna" is a traditional folk song made into a weenie song by Taylor.

He's a weenie. He makes weenie music. Like CCR, he's someone pumped up solely because he's a boomer. He's not awesome. He's a weenie. Weenie weenie weenie.


kellydwyer said...

I remember asking my father, around 1992 or so, "isn't it sort of disingenuous to give yourself a nickname ... like 'Sweet Baby James?'"

R.J. said...

Yeah, it seems kind of stupid to do something like that.

Though, JT was one of Apple's first signings.

fft said...

I agree about 70% with your review. The other 30% wants to say "This is a good album. There's nothing wrong with owning this album...for somebody else but not me."

Either you love it or you don't I guess. I don't either.