by: James Taylor

James Taylor stopped pushing himself into new musical and lyrical territories in the late '70s, so it doesn't come as a great surprise that Hourglass, his first studio album in six years, doesn't offer anything new -- it's a collection of pleasant, melodic, simple songs about love, family, and social activism. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since Taylor has a gift for such material, and on Hourglass, he sounds as good as ever. The music, in many ways, has greater depth than previous records, since it features cameos from such heavy hitters as Stevie Wonder, Yo-Yo Ma, Shawn Colvin, Michael Brecker, Mark O'Connor, and Branford Marsalis. There are a few songs that fall a little flat, failing to make much of an impression one way or the other, but on the whole, Hourglass is a nice addition to his catalog. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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