by TED S. McGREGOR JR. & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & ith musical roots in New England, North Carolina and California, James Taylor is American music. Hitting the scene at the tail end of the chaos and upheaval that was the 1960s, his mellow, back-to-basics sound was just what people wanted. Now on the brink of turning 60, he's sold more than 40 million albums, with more coming soon as Starbucks' Hear Music label will release a retrospective collection, One Man Band, on Nov. 13. (It also comes with a DVD of concert footage and interviews produced by Sydney Pollack.)
But before that, Taylor will play live at the Star Theatre on Monday. And for this show, he's not a one man band. He's been touring with just his guitar and a piano player for the past year, but Spokane is the third date with his full band in tow. Throughout his career, he's been a part of a lot of bands, lending his voice to (among many others) Jimmy Buffett, Sting, Steve Winwood, Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell (whose own records Blue and For the Roses are all about her relationship with Taylor).
Here are the highlights:
"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" by Carole King
After trying to lead an American invasion of England on the Beatles' Apple Records label, Taylor and producer Peter Asher moved to Los Angeles, where the singer-songwriter scene was starting to break. He recorded the mega-hit Sweet Baby James there in the final month of the '60s, and one of his session musicians was Carole King. He returned her favor and sang on her 1970 record Tapestry, which became one of the best-selling records of all time. Taylor would later score hits with King's "Up on the Roof" and "You've Got a Friend."
"Heart of Gold" by Neil Young
By the time Harvest came out in 1972, a kind of musicians' colony had grown up around the Laurel Canyon neighborhood of L.A. and the legendary Troubadour nightclub. Neil Young was a kindred spirit, with his love of the rural lifestyle and country sound. Taylor shared the backup microphone with another product of the scene, Linda Ronstadt. Taylor even added a banjo part to "Old Man" while he was at it.
"Mockingbird," with Carly Simon
A few months after Harvest came out, Taylor married torch singer Carly Simon, whom he'd met at the Troubadour. She told Rolling Stone that Taylor was "like a drug I couldn't do without." But both had their demons, and the marriage ended in 1983. Still, 1974's "Mockingbird" was a feel-good hit, permanently inscribed in our pop culture pantheon when Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo sang it in National Lampoon's Vacation.
"How's the World Treating You" with Alison Krauss
Since the '70s, Taylor has slipped in and out of fame, finally settling into the role of chairman emeritus of the department of American singer-songwriters. His signature smooth baritone has remained in high demand. And in 2003, when he teamed up with one of the other great voices of all time for this remake of an old Louvin Brothers song (later recorded by Elvis Presley), it was a match made in heaven. The pair also performed together recently covering Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer," and "Carolina on My Mind" is one of Krauss's favorite songs to play live.
This week, you can hear that song -- and many more -- right from the original source.
James Taylor plays the Spokane Arena's Star Theatre on Monday, Oct. 29, at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $45-$65. Call 325-SEAT.
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