top of page

In the Pocket by James Taylor (and Russ Kunkel) Part II

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Thank you for coming back from last Friday! Let's keep going with Side B

Woman’s Gotta Have It. Hello Isley Brothers. At least in the intro. Clarence McDonald leads the way on the Fender Rhodes, and this is a nice breezy song but nothing special. Not sure what it is the woman’s got to have, but James’ lead vocal doesn’t suggest he’s in a hurry to give it to her. Russ Kunkel makes his return.

Fender Rhodes Electric Piano

Captain Jim’s Drunken Dream has some beautiful moments with the backing vocs, with help from Art Garfunkel. David Grisman adds a nice touch on mandolin, but I’ll always confuse him with Dave Grusin. Give this one some time to listen. It gets better as it goes.

Don’t Be Sad is straightforward, middle-of-the-road 70s LA with an excellent vocal trio of James, James, and Carly. The harmonica, oddly enough, gives it a touch of country, played by Stevie Wonder. Like hiring Steven Spielberg to videotape your wedding.

Nothing Like a Hundred Miles gives me hope for the second half of this album, which was going downhill. David Crosby and Graham Nash on this one prove that James would have been just right as the T in CSN&T. Beautiful layered vocals add an underscore to what would be a walk along the train tracks if Dave Grusin used this on his film score.

In The Pocket Musicians

Family Man isn’t saving Side B. Bonnie Raitt, Carly, Valerie Carter on vocs, Steve Madaio (of Stevie Wonder fame) on trumpet, and other talents can’t save this one. Not even Russ Kunkel.

Golden Moments closes the album mello but emotional. After a few listens, this one stuck up on me because it has some unexpectedly haunting changes. Perhaps a few song ideas combined into one. Subtle touch with the harp (Gayle Levant) works well. Nick DeCaro uses the voiceorganinseminator once again adding a deft touch to the harmony.

James Taylor and Carly Simon

Although the false ending crawls to the finish line, the whole piece has an air of finality. I thought it was going to do an about-face and launch into something else, but it didn’t happen. What promise the first side of the album gave us was lost on the second.

It took a few listens to get this album. Aside from “Shower the People,” there’s no hit song by a long shot. Most of the songs are slow in developing, and slow in general. The running time for the album is 45 minutes, which is a lot of music. It hits me as a film score the more I listen. I keep thinking I see Dave Grusin's name in the credits. Not there, but close with Dave Grisman in the credits playing the mandolin.

Dave Grusin

In all, 35 musicians are listed as personnel on the album. They should have made it easy and listed the musicians who didn’t play on the album. Musicianship and production, of course, are spectacular, but I’m not sure the folks at Warner Brothers were happy with the chart progress. It reached #16 on the album charts but it went gold. “Shower the People” hit #22 and was a fine addition to Taylor’s Great Hits album the following year.

In the Pocket is a fun listen. I know it doesn't come off as a compliment, but I still maintain it works beautifully as film scoring. It would also be a fine inclusion as music at a quiet gathering for drinks or dinner. Not sure if anyone does that anymore, but a talent such as JT was more widely appreciated back in the day.

That's not a bad idea. Dinner and drinks with some friends and JT albums. First guy I call is Russ Kunkel, although I've never met him. Ahh, he's probably busy playing a session with McCartney or someone else. I'll leave a message.


bottom of page