Where do you start with Chip Taylor? Well. First off he’s one of the headliners at this week’s Glasgow Americana Festival playing Friday at the Classic Grand. Simple, go get a ticket. After that it gets weird. On one level Taylor is connected, star wise, Hollywood firmament stuff, his brother is Jon Voight, his niece Angelina Jolie, he should be larging it up in Malibu. More pertinently he’s the guy who wrote the sublime Angel Of The Morning and the classic garage punk perennial Wild Thing, yes, that Wild Thing, covered by The Troggs, Hendrix et al. In fact, he was a regular one man Brill Building back in the sixties and early seventies churning out hit songs for numerous artists. Then he packed it all in and became a professional gambler (told you this was weird) only returning to music in the late nineties. A series of albums recorded with Carrie Rodriguez were classic dusty Americana while Chip himself rolled out his discs including the immense triple CD The Little Prayers Trilogy. Across these discs Taylor delivers his songs and spoken words like a sage Walter Brennan addressing you by a campfire. Words of wisdom suffused with a humanity which is occasionally tempered by an anger at the ways of the world. The albums are a comfort and a delight and this latest release is no different.
Addressing the plight of refugees, documenting a dream about his brothers (Jon and volcanologist Barry) and offering up a self-help mantra of sorts Taylor softly spins his wisdom across the album. The songs are laid back, guitarist John Platania (renowned for his days in Van Morrison’s Caledonia Soul Orchestra) and keyboardist Goran Grini delicately supporting the slim melodies. The album opens with Taylor delivering a narrative about his brother Barry and his granddaughter driving to a golf tournament for kids then driving back. A simple tale but one invested with a sense of dignity and pride as Taylor’s homespun voice delivers the story before coming to the conclusion that, “we all need some great rides home.” Similarly a dream about Taylor and his brothers in a taxi spins into a meditation on their relationship, their shared Yonkers background and their occasional differences on the title song. As Time Goes By, dedicated to his wife, is an affecting love song that acknowledges the passage of time and the deepening bond that develops, a wonderful song.
Over the course of his albums Taylor has displayed his wry sense of humour and also his deep love of humanity and both are well displayed here. Enlighten Yourself has Taylor delivering a lecture of sorts with an occasional mantra (which is reprised at the end of the album). Sounding almost like Mr. Magoo as he stumbles through his guide to becoming enlightened he highlights the absurdity of many gurus while pointing out the simplicity of just being yourself and enjoying the simple things in life. Refugee Children is prefaced by Taylor setting the scene as he recalls a tour in Sweden and coming across a group of refugees. The song again is simple, painting a picture of the children fishing in a brook but Taylor makes his point midway as he reads from the Human Rights Convention relating to the status of refugees. Simple but effective.
As we mentioned up above Chip Taylor is appearing this Friday as part of the Glasgow Americana festival. It’s his first appearance in Glasgow for 15 years and a rare opportunity to see one of the legends of American music.
Unfortunately none of the videos from the album are available here in the UK but just this week Taylor released this new song he has recorded with Carrie Rodriguez.