Ahh, the warmth of analogue. You often hear talk of digital recordings being cold and unfeeling, but in this age of digital uber-alles one is conditioned to the chill. Ain’t no cold flow here. Message From The Godfather serves up like a steaming plate of comfort food. Hot jambalaya. From the punchy opener, “Side Stepping,” to the flute-laced “Tough Chicken,” (an outright Sesame Street joint—in the best sense considering it was this suburbanite’s earliest exposure to funk) to the laid-back closer “When In Rome” JTQ delivers ten organ-fueled, soulful jams.
From the first listen, an underlying warmth is evident and due primarily to James Taylor’s choice of instrument and the tones it produces: the Hammond organ. Taylor is a monster on any set of keys, especially the Hammond, and the rest of his players are equally adept, and most importantly, passionate about their instruments. Producer Mark “Snowboy” Cotgrove directed Mr. Taylor and crew to “let the songs last as long as they want. If they finish after 3 minutes or 8 minutes, so be it.” This so called “Freedom Principle” freed the musicians up to perform to the dictates of their soul, not to some preconceived notion of time or space, resulting in a live and in the moment sound.
A digital recording of the James Taylor Quartet might have quick-cooked Message From The Godfather like a microwaved meal—hot in the center, but lukewarm around the edges. Instead this record is nice and warm through and through like good home cookin’ baked up fresh in mama’s old-fashioned funk oven.