JT, Skunk, and Rosewood

Musically, it was the best weekend of my life.

Months ago, before moving from San Diego to the Sacramento area, we’d bought tickets to see James Taylor at Coors Amphitheatre. I’d never been there, but had heard consistent good reports about the venue, and I was excited about seeing a lifelong favorite perform there. The next day was going to be spent at the Museum of Making Music in San Diego’s north county, with the evening after free for general San Diego-specific sightseeing.

James Taylor Live in San Diego

Coors is a wonderful venue—the open starry sky above, miles from the real city; the comfortable, almost pastoral surroundings seemed to have a calming effect on the crowd. People seemed cheerful, relaxed, friendly; characteristics you won’t always find in a concert crowd in San Diego.

James Taylor's 'October Road'I won’t attempt to describe the evening musically. If you’ve heard James Taylor all your life, as I have, you have your favorites, you’ve heard his popular tunes, you know what was played. It was, essentially, greatest hits plus “October Road“; not a bad mix.

What I will describe is the emotional impact of seeing a performer whose music and lyrics have become a part of your psyche.

The traffic was bad, as expected, but we were on vacation and not in a hurry, so we arrived a bit late. Walking in from the parking lot, we heard the crowd’s opening cheer, and a track from “October Road.” It’s a long walk, so as we finally got close to our seats, James started “James Taylor's eponymous debutSomething in the Way She Moves.” We both stopped dead in our tracks and turned to smile at each other. It’s become a special song around here, and having him start it just as we walked in was amazing.

Taylor knows what an audience wants: the old stuff. He mentioned more than once that he was going to play ‘the old stuff’, then smiled wryly as the audience went wild. He threatened, though, to play ‘some new stuff’ too, and included nearly every track from “October RoaO

Roar of the Ocean at My Window

Lhen I sleep with the window open, I can hear the ocean from my bedroom. Last night, it fairly roared; I’ve never heard it so loud. The storm at sea seems to have whipped it to a frenzy, pounding the shore to release the energy absorbed from the sky.

Almost (but not quite) completely unrelated, on my way home to sleep by the ocean I heard a new (to me) version of a song I love: “Herman’s Hermits, singing “Wonderful World.” Not the very different song covered by Louis Armstrong and a host of others (including Israel Kamakawiwo’ole), but the Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert, and Lou Adler composition. Yes, Lou Adler should sound familiar. He was the producer behind Jan & Dean, Johnny Rivers, Carole King, among others. I first heard his name in a truly great Simon and Garfunkel tune from “Simon & Garfunkel's 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” called “A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission)” in which Adler is one of many names in what Drew Wheeler of CDNow calls a “stream-of-consciousness laundry-list of ’60s cultural touchstones, delivered as a self-consciously Dylanesque rant.”

Having been written by three famous names in the music world, I’ve always found it appropriate and fun (and heavenly) to have it recorded by three names perhaps more well known: James Taylor, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel. Released on Art Garfunkel’s “Art Garfunkel's 'Watermark'Watermark” way back in 1977, I was introduced to this version by my sister’s boyfriend (to whom she’s been married for over twenty years now.) Danny’s a sensitive and intelligent guy who has introduced me to a lot of wonderful music over the last quarter century.

Herman's Hermits 'Greatest Hits'This particular “Wonderful World” has also been recorded by Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music, Don McLean, and, as I mentioned, Herman’s Hermits. But don’t buy their greatest hits for this version; buy it for “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter”, “I’m Henry The VIII, I Am”, “There’s A Kind Of Hush All Over The World”, and “I’m Into Something Good”, a Carole King composition that lifts my heart every time I hear it.