They say living well is its own reward or in the case of James Taylor, the best revenge. After the flop that was Flag in 1979, Taylor went back into the studio a few years later. During the recording process his then wife Carly Simon issued an ultimatum. It was either her and their children or his work. Fortunately for fans of the original “JT”, Carly Simon would get her answer with the aptly titled “Dad Loves His Work”, his 10th studio album. Before this album, JT music for me amounted to the occasional airing of “Carolina On My Mind” on local soft rock radio stations.
Like many of Taylor’s albums, “Dad Loves His Work” was a laid back essay on small town life and reflections on love and its consequences. Looking back, this was music that lacked any sort of heavy handed irony or sarcasm in a time when innocent pop music was still popular. At worst, JT songs were part of the soundtrack of your local department store or Chinese buffet. While not always the most stirring material for social political activist types, it had the effect of a calming summer breeze when sang by Taylor.. “Dad Loves His Work” would recycle that theme but expand it’s appeal to a wider audience.
Backed by what looked like a small army session musicians and backup singers, “Dad Loves His Work” had all the hallmark touches of a first-rate production. Taylor not only wrote most of the material, he played guitar and other instruments as well. The beautiful backup harmonies featuring David Lasley gave the music a subtle touch of light soul, while not alienating Taylor’s more traditional contemporary pop audience.
My favorite J.T. song of all time was the one that put this album on the charts. It was also J.T.’s biggest single to date:“Her Town Too”. Co written by a trio that included J. D. Sounder, it also featured his singing. Maybe the song was a reflection on his divorce to Carly Simon and the repercussions of living in the same small circles as rock stars. However dire its meaning, it had become a light rock favorite during the summer of 1980. “Her Town Too” started a long period of resurgence for Taylor’s music that lasted to the early ‘90s.
Prior to “Her Town…”, he had been absent from the charts with original material since “Handy Man” in 1971. Other standout songs included the solemn “I Will Follow” and Hard Times”. The album is not without its lower points (if you could call it that). The animated vocals on a stab at blues with “Hour That The Morning Comes” breaks up the department store background tempo the rest of the album creates.
If you are a fan of breezy well written mid to slow tempo songs, you will be rewarded with excellent playing and vocal harmonies on “Dad Loves His Work”. Taylor would tighten up the formula started here and go in to become one of the decade’s foremost adult contemporary stars. Divorcing Carly Simon may have been the best thing for both of their careers, as each enjoyed a career renaissance shortly after.