Walking Man

James Taylor

Warner Brothers, 1974


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1974, James Taylor had firmly established himself as the casual balladeer that he's based his career on. He already had recorded songs that would become part of rock's standards (albeit in the soft rock vein) with “You've Got A Friend” and “Fire And Rain”.

So, one could almost excuse Taylor for essentially throwing it on cruise control for his fifth studio effort, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Walking Man. Featuring no songs among the ten tracks comprising the vinyl disc that have become overplayed standards on lite-rock radio, this particular disc is neither good, nor is it bad… it just is. And, perhaps, that's the cardinal sin that Taylor commits with it.

Anyone expecting Taylor to break out of the musical style he had become known for will be sorely disappointed – but, then again, most people don't pick up one of his CDs expecting to hear his take on Slayer's “Raining Blood”. With Paul and Linda McCartney guesting on two of the songs, Taylor plows through what essentially could have been castoffs from any of his four previous albums.

It's not that these are necessarily bad songs… well, except for his take on Chuck Berry's “Promised Land,” which really does fall flat. But there is nothing in the 33 minutes of music that makes the listener's ears perk up and pay attention. Songs like the title track, “Fading Away” and “Me And My Guitar” are pleasant enough, to be sure… but what's there that will keep the listener coming back to these songs?

And that is the downfall of Walking Man. Yes, I understand that people sometimes listen to music as an escape from the everyday drudgery – and, in that respect, if Taylor's ballads are what appeal to you, this may be a great choice. But Taylor had proven that he was a darn good songwriter, capable of crafting songs that would stick to your ribs. If only this disc had even just one track like that.

Commercially, Taylor would bounce back one year later with Gorilla. Walking Man is one of his more forgotten albums – and while it is by no means a bad album, it is not one that anyone would call essential to own.

Rating: C-

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