James Taylor's vintage Hammond-led outfit has consistently delighted lovers of jazz, funk and R&B in equal measure over the last twenty years. The group is most famous for its signature tune, the "Theme From Starsky and Hutch, but this album shows greater variety than the standard jam workout. Don't Mess With Mr. T: James Taylor Quartet Plays Motown is a series of 12 cover tracks from Marvin Gaye to Stevie Wonder.
The quartet itself, which comprises Taylor (Hammond organ), Nigel Price (guitar), Andy McKinney (bass) and Adam Betts (drums), is augmented for this record by four more musicians: a full horn section and an extra percussionist. As well as the expected fiery instrumentals, the band is joined by leading soul vocalists Omar, Hil St Soul and Donna Gardier who each add their own notable contributions to the proceedings.
Barrett Strong's 1959 hit single, "Money (That's What I Want), is given the traditional JTQ treatment: wildly funked up and laced with simmering grooves. Jamie Anderson on alto saxophone catches the ear with a short but very sweet solo which is a great opening statement for the disc. Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up and Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours) are a little more chilled out and atmospheric with Taylor's organ taking the leading melody. On the latter song the backing vocal chorus is maintained, a nice touch to counter the instrumental domination.
British soul singer Omar adds his expressive, flexible voice to Gaye's "After The Dance, one of album's vocal highlights. This track is perhaps the defining example of the record's success in presenting modern takes of old school Motown classics. It's undeniably a soul-influenced record but the funk-infused instrumentals and new arrangements give it a distinctive and unmistakable contemporary feel. Don't Mess With Mr. T is another inventive success for the James Taylor Quartet.
Money (That's What I Want); Got To Give It Up; Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours); Function At The Junction; After The Dance (ft. Omar); Jimmy Mack; Machine Gun; Come See About Me (ft. Donna Gardier); Cleo's Mood; You Beat Me To The Punch (ft. Hil St Soul); You're All I Need To Get By; Don't Mess With Mr. T.
James Taylor: Hammond organ; Nigel Price: guitar; Andy McKinney: bass; Adam Betts: drums; Jamie Anderson: saxophone; Nick Smart: trumpet; Dave Williamson: trombone; Oreste-Noda Fernandez: percussion; Omar: vocals (track 5); Donna Gardier: vocals (track 8); Hil St Soul: vocals (track 10).
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