Five-time Grammy Award winner James Taylor is set to release Before This World – the legendary singer-songwriter’s first album of new material since 2002’s platinum-selling October Road.
Produced by Grammy Award-winner Dave O’Donnell, Before This World features 10 songs, nine of which are brand new James Taylor compositions, and is due out June 15, 2015 from Decca/Concord.
In addition, the special two-disc CD/DVD Before This World deluxe edition includes the full-length album on CD plus “There We Were: The Recording of James Taylor’s Before This World,” a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the album on DVD. Through studio footage and interviews (including Taylor and album guests Sting and Yo-Yo Ma) this beautifully rendered 30-minute film provides an intimate look into Taylor’s creative process and the recording of this landmark album.
Recorded at his home studio The Barn, in Washington, MA, Taylor enlisted the longtime members of his band for the sessions including bassist Jimmy Johnson, drummer Steve Gadd, guitarist Michael Landau, keyboardist Larry Goldings, percussionist Luis Conte, fiddler and vocalist Andrea Zonn and vocalists Arnold McCuller, David Lasley and Kate Markowitz. Taylor also called on close friends Yo-Yo Ma and Sting to add their remarkable talent to the new album, (Ma’s cello is heard on ‘You And I Again’ and ‘Before This World’; Sting also added vocals to ‘Before This World.’ Additionally, Taylor’s wife Kim and son Henry sing harmony on ‘Angels Of Fenway’ and the classic folk tune ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’.
On Before This World, Taylor continues to explore many of the themes that have absorbed him throughout his career. ‘My sort of self-expression and the autobiographical aspect of my work is a thru-line that links all my albums together,’ he explains. ‘I think I have grown musically, and I think people can hear it in what I played in ’68, and you can hear it in what I’m singing about now. It is ongoing, it’s still me, but it’s still evolving.’
Offering heartfelt reflection and insight from a life well lived, Taylor traces the road’s healing allure (‘Stretch of the Highway’), revisits themes of recovery, (‘Watchin’ Over Me’), offers a song for agnostics (‘Before This World’), looks at love’s mystical properties (‘You And I Again’) as well as the redemptive spirit of baseball (‘Angels Of Fenway’), and the beginning of his remarkable journey, (‘Today, Today, Today’), the album’s first track.
‘When I set out to record a new song, I have an idea, in my mind’s ear, of how it should sound,’ he explains in the album’s liner notes. ‘It is rare that the finished product entirely measures up, indeed, sometimes I’m utterly surprised by where the session takes it. This time I’m completely satisfied that each of these ten songs is where it’s meant to be.’
The past 10 years have been full of an extensive tour schedule and notable achievements for Taylor – including his acclaimed One Man Band tour and concert performance film, which aired in the US on PBS and was nominated for an Emmy Award; his wildly successful Troubadour Reunion tour and Live at the Troubadour album with Carole King; two collections of cover songs Covers and Other Covers; a heartwarming Christmas album, James Taylor at Christmas; and 2014’s sold out tour across the US, Europe and the UK.
One of the defining musical figures of our time, Taylor continues to express himself and touch our lives with the enduring songs he creates. ‘I really just feel as if I want to make music now,’ he said as he completed work on the new album. ‘I’ve done a lot of thinking about why I continue to be compelled to do this kind of work, but I still feel a huge connection with it.’