Saturday, 14 December 2013

"Gorilla" by JAMES TAYLOR (2010 Japan Warner Brothers SHM-CD Reissue (Isao Kikuchi Remaster) in 5" Mini LP Repro Artwork) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…It Don't Look Like I'll Ever Stop My Wandering…"

Fans of JT will know that only 2-tracks from "Gorilla" are available as remasters – "Mexico" and the cover of Marvin Gaye's 1964 Motown hit "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" (done by Taylor as a duet with Carly Simon) – both of them on the Warners Brothers/Rhino 'Best Of' compilation "You've Got A Friend" from 2003. And sweet they sound too…

But this Japan-only SHM-CD released 7 April 2010 on Warner Brothers WPCD-13823 (Barcode 4943674097364) is the first time the entire "Gorilla" album has been remastered since its release on a dull-sounding US/European CD in the mid Eighties - and the audio quality on this CD reissue is TRULY BEAUTIFUL.

1. Mexico
2. Music
3. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
4. Wandering
5. Gorilla
6. You Make It Easy
7. I Was A Fool To Care [Side 2]
8. Lighthouse
9. Angry Blues
10. Love Songs
11. Sarah Maria

Part of a 6-album campaign (see list below) - this 2010 remaster was done by ISAO KIKUCHI in Japan - a non-numbered limited edition on the SHM-CD format (11 tracks, 39:02 minutes). Super High Materials CDs do not require a specific machine to play them on – they’re simply a better form of disc created by JVC in 2008 to improve on the original format (unchanged since it was first put out 30 years ago). The general idea is that the sound on the SHM-CD is more defined as they play - they seem to extract more nuances from the transfer - and of the 10 or so that I own – I've found this to be true.

The 5” mini repro packaging here apes the May 1975 USA vinyl LP release on Warner Brothers BS 2866 (it was K 56137 in the UK) with its single card sleeve (lyrics and recording details on the rear). The outer resealable bag it has to be said is very flimsy, so extracting and replacing the sleeve has to be done carefully lest you rip it. The 12-page plain white booklet is very ho-hum too – just the lyrics and an essay in Japanese that you can’t read. No pictures – nothing new. At least the rounded white paper inner bag has one of those protective poly-slips inside it to protect the CD. The disc itself repro’s the Warner Brothers Burbank Trees label of the original vinyl album too – a nice touch. It’s tastefully done as always with these releases. But it’s all about the sound here…

Right from the opening bars of "Mexico” the clarity is incredible - you can suddenly hear all the instruments. But then you get hit with a gem - his second cover on the album - the traditional “Wandering” - a lovely acoustic ditty with plaintive accordion and doubled vocals backing it up. It sounds incredible and for me has always been a highlight on this forgotten album. A song like “Wandering” is one of the reasons why Taylor is so admired - when he gets a melody down - its almost feels effortless and is peaceful on the mind (lyrics from the song title this review).

The album featured a huge array of talented musicians - Lowell George of Little Feat, Randy Newman on Keyboards and David Sanborn on Saxophone with quality backing vocals from David Crosby, Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt and Carly Simon. Among the self-penned songs are the lovely “You Make It Easy” and the Stephen Bishop “Careless” feel of “I Was A Fool To Care”. I love the slightly funky “Angry Blues” (with Lowell George’s trademark slide guitar so cleverly used) and the flute opening of “Love Songs” now sounds wonderful. It’s back again to simplicity and romance for the album finisher “Sarah Maria” - again sounding just fab. 

Downsides – it's Japanese only, a limited edition and a little expensive. And the booklet could have done with some more pizzazz instead of the rather safe presentation it did get.

Even with punk and new wave quite rightly snapping at Rock’s bloated ass and ego - the November 2013 issue of Britain’s RECORD COLLECTOR magazine ran an article arguing that albums from 1975 were among the best ever released in the Rock genre. Not surprisingly there was Led Zep’s “Physical Graffiti”, Dylan’s “Blood On The Tracks”, Joni’s “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”. Dr. Feelgood’s “Down By The Jetty”, Jeff Beck’s “Blow By Blow” and Elton’s “Captain Fantastic” and so on. But no mention of James Taylor’s soppily romantic “Gorilla”?

Well I’d argue that its time to add this lovely album to that list...and if you’ve any love for the record and Seventies singer-songwriters in general - get "Gorilla" on this fabulous SHM-CD format if you can.

PS: the albums remastered in Japan in this April 2010 series are:
1. Sweet Baby James (March 1970) on Warner Brothers WPCR-13819
2. Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon (July 1971) on Warner Brothers WPCR-13820
3. One Man Dog (November 1972) on Warner Brothers WPCR-13821
4. Walking Man (July 1974) on Warner Brothers WPCR-13822
5. Gorilla (May 1975) on Warner Brothers WPCR-13823
6. In The Pocket (June 1976) on Warner Brothers WPCR-13824

See also my review for 1971's "Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon" and the Audio Fidelity 24-KT Audiophile Reissue of "One Man Dog" - Remaster by Steve Hoffman...

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