Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cold: Frozen Man

James Taylor: Frozen Man


We've posted numerous James Taylor songs in our time here at Star Maker Machine, but none so recent as this one - an interesting commentary on the aging of the popular, given that the song is almost 20 years old. But our preference for James' earliest work is not, after all, atypical: though James still makes waves on the nostalgia circuit, generally, audiophiles cite his early, delicate folkwork as his heyday, and most eschew his lighter fare, especially the radio-ready products of his late seventies and early eighties poprock period, while ignoring the vast majority of what has come out since.

Count me an exception to the rule, then. For I have great respect for James' late-to-mid-career work, flawed though much of it it may be. And that goes especially for 1991 release New Moon Shine, and later nineties album Hourglass.

This song is a great example of James' middle-age period: contemporary, to be sure, and highly produced in that inevitable AAA-format folkpop style, it nonetheless manages to attain poignancy without resorting to the older formulae of confession and broken-souled youth so typical of his early work. Instead, here JT takes on the character of a man awoken out of time after being frozen in the ice for centuries, speaking to our middle-aged fears of loneliness and loss in the midst of full-flourish plastic culture in ways that few can attain at their best, either.

It's no Millworker, and it's certainly no Sweet Baby James. There's a veneer of cultural criticism here and elsewhere on the same album which is not so much forced as just plain obvious, in ways that only a middle-aged famous person might produce. But in the end, the viewpoint is tender, and the story unique; for what it claims to be, this is good, solid stuff, creative, sentimental almost to a fault, but nonetheless music from a master who can still hit the emotional high notes.

Oh, hell: let's be clear. It makes me ache, for myself and for all the loved ones that are and might have been in my life. Isn't that the true test of good music, under all our words?

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