If you haven't picked up your copy of Taylor's new compilation CD "Early Works", what are you waiting for? Don't think you have these songs if you own Taylor's two indie albums "Under the Radar" and "In Your Time". The remastering makes them must haves as far as I'm concerned. Many of the stores are only carrying a few copies (some more than others), and many are already sold out (more inventory is on the way from what I've heard), but it's one collection you should have in your CD library. The sound improvement (re-mastering) is impeccable and makes some songs almost sound like brand new versions! Remember, the CD is available only in your local Target Stores (it's not available on-line anywhere in the U.S. - yet!), so do yourself a favor and treat yourself to this wonderful selection of original music from the best singer/songwriter and most unique winner American Idol has discovered to date (and likely ever will).
Here's my impression of each of the 12 songs:
Soul Thing: Taylor's mantra, his trademark song, the words he lives by. This song makes it 3rd appearance on a CD - "Under The Radar", "Taylor Hicks", and "Early Works". Think he likes this song? I'd say so! This ditty says it all for him - It's A Soul Thing (hey! that's a great name for a blog!) With the remastering, this song just jumps out and hits you in the face! So clear, so beautifully done - it's another favorite of mine and a staple at all of Taylor's live shows.
...I've been traveling all these years,
just barely getting by.
The road can be your friend
Or the devil in disguise.
When the tough get going,
the muses visit me.
Yet in soft, low tones,
they always say to me, say to me,
It ain't no groove thing,
It ain't no country twang,
It's a simple refrain
It's a soul thang...."
The Fall: Ah! Such a beauty! The simplicity of the sentiment and arrangement makes this one a fan favorite. Taylor said this song, about a failing relationship, was only the 2nd or 3rd song he ever wrote in his life. I hope we hear more of this acoustic sound from him on the new album coming up. The hissing from the original is pretty much gone from this copy and its purity just shines through.
Hold On To Your Love: This song also benefits greatly from remastering where the highs are crisper and the lows are clearer. One of my favorite songs from the Under The Radar album. The calypso beats and the uplifting melody are great mood generators. I always thought this would be a great summer release for Taylor. Speaking of which, I can see this and maybe a few others in this collection i.e., Soul Thing and The Fall, making an impact on certain music charts if they were released as singles.
The Deal: Along with "Soul Thing", this is the third appearance of this song on one of Taylor's CD, appearing on "Under The Radar", "Taylor Hicks", and "Early Works". A wonderful mid-tempo ballad with a beautiful arrangement. One of his best compositions.
Heart and Soul: Oh how I love the Hammond B3 organ that runs throughout this song! One of my favorite instruments! This song went through a few changes before settling on this version, most famously the change of title from it's original "Blues and Soul" version. The song captures a live feel which makes it the perfect Taylor Hicks vehicle. A real gem.
In Your Time: This is the first song Taylor claims he ever wrote and has this sort of classic jazzy soft-rock feel to it dating back to somewhere in the mid-70s. Being a child of the 70s, I say this with some authority! The song is distinctive because of the shift in tempo somewhere in the middle where he goes into another zone and heart-achingly cries out in the familiar Taylor growl - "soooooooooth me baby, street light prominade" - a sound you will NOT be hearing on your current Top 40 music station, that I can guarantee you. Awesome song and nicely remastered.
West Texas Sky: This was my least favorite song from the Under the Radar album, but I must say, after really listening to it on this collection, I've decided I love it lyrically - it's about a man taking his dreams on the road. Another totally autobiographical chapter in Taylor's life at the time. I suppose what I didn't love about it initially was that it was weak vocally, which I still maintain (compared to some of the others on the collection), but is still a great addition to the whole story that is on display here.
"...So you're drivin' away these miles
So far away from your southern home
Takin' your charms and dreams to the Golden State
Make your way, seal your fate
That's when you're gone away
Where no one will hear you cry
When you're late For that west Texas sky..."
Somehow: Taylor really lays his insides out here in this gut wrenching tune. Very insightful words of pain from such a young man at the time. His world was less than bright when he wrote this ditty and is expressed brilliantly in the dark lyrics. My favorite on the CD. Along with "Georgia", this is the tune that benefited most from the remastering. His voice was always too low on the "In Your Time" CD, especially toward the end of the song, but here it is brought out and clarified.
"...There’s too many things left to be unsaid,
So I’m in a dark hole,
Sometimes in my head,
But I”m all right,
I’ll get by
You wanna feel their emotions,
Sometimes even hold their hand,
But they’re giving nothin’ in return
To suit their own demands.
And I’m tired, but I’ll get by
Look at the people all around you,
Stabbin’ at your heart,
But you still smile in kindness,
For not knowing who they are.
And their stories have ended,
And they’ve lit up the town,
And it’s time to go home,
As they’re going, they’re layin’ their bodies back down.
There’s too many things left to be unsaid,
Somewhere a dark hole
Sometimes in my head,I’m tired, but I’m all right
And I’ll get by
Tighten Up: With this song, I figured out why I'm so enamored with Taylor - and that is we have such similiar taste in music. Long before I ever heard of him, I had this song on a few compilation CDs I had put together. I mean, come on, who considers Archie Bell's "Tighten Up" one of the greatest hits of all time? I thought I was the only nut out there until I heard Taylor's version. It's such a tight, funked up version that showcases all of the musicians that played with him in the early days. The musicianship is flawless and just makes you feel great! Taylor Hicks - the young band leader doing his 'thang' here. But Taylor! The song goes way back - way back - even further than your 1973 declaration - it's actually from 1968. And where is the credit to Archie Bell in the linear notes? Should we add that as Taylor mystery #78? Could the song be in the public domain? Someday we'll get an answer to this. But, despite those pressing question marks, it's one of my favorites on the CD - and makes great driving music! The remastering just lights up the song! Brilliant!
Son of a Carpenter: Another lyrically great song from Taylor and quite possibly his first socially aware song. This is the type of stuff I'm looking foward to hearing more of in future recordings. Recently, Taylor said that his new album will be sprinkled with some socially relevant issues and if the song was written today, I'd say it fit the category. I also love the ambivilance of its meaning - exactly who is the son of a carpenter?
"...In the times to short to follow
A man as cold as steel
A work that can only be swallowed
By a fire lit kiln
Now the times are heavy on their shoulders
For the people who pave our ways
No more running for the future
Cause the past is here today
For the son of a carpenter
I can feel your pain
For the son of a carpenter alone again
Decades of sorrow war and grief
And to many things going wrong
The land is wasted and time is running short
For their power ismuch too strong
For the son of a carpenter
I can feel your pain
For the son of a carpenter alone again
He has nothing but to be left alone
His hands and work should willbe carried on
From a third generation son to af uture grandchild
The work of a carpentersmakes the whole world smile
And to many thing going wrong
The land is wasted and timeis running short
For the workof a carpenters will carry on
My Friend: It's the "impossible to sit still" song on the CD. Just a happy, joyous jam-band ditty that shows off a bit of Taylor's harmonica playing. I always love to hear this tune live as it was recorded here. "Share that smile........ Great job, Taylor!"
Georgia: Last but not least, the song that benefited the most from the restructuring and remastering effort - Taylor's homage to his biggest musical influence, Ray Charles, the beautiful "Georgia on my Mind". I must say that this is perhaps the best interpretation and arrangement of this song that I've ever heard, aside from Mr. Charles himself. It's pure Taylor inside and out, and perfectly delivered. The soul and the gut wrenching, almost gutteral sounds that comes from his inner depths is put on display here. The tweaking of the highs and lows almost makes this live version sound like a new recording as far as I'm concerned. And that sweet harmonica 'crying'. Doesn't get much better than this. Thanks, dude, for painting this beauty with a fresh face. It deserved it - it's just that good.