Largely Taylor's appeal for me, his being completely outside the PopTart Idol character. He did not look the part to play for a position on that reality show, and it blew me away to hear a-want-to-be contestant in the early auditions sing something other than Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey. I was a fan from the get-go. His Top 24 walk as he swaggered with measured bluesman steps, blowing a harmonica all the way from the elevator doors to the judge's bench, captivated me. He was just too cool.
Now those same tunes that I grew so enamored with on WOOO radio for their very throw-back qualities are now, outside the show and the boundaries of their novelty, garnering criticisms even from past supporting reporters.
Ken Barnes, in USA Today's IDOL Chatter writes,
"If there's one overriding reaction, it was the less intensity he brings to a song, the better it sounds. Even cutting him a break for this album being made up of, well, early works, he indulges in some of the most overwrought, heavily mannered pseudo-soul singing I've heard since Joe Cocker's heyday -- something that the tight format of Idol probably didn't allow him to practice to excess. The bulk of the album is made up of either dull, by-the-numbers blue-eyed soul (including, sadly, two cuts later recut for his major-label album, The Deal and Soul Thing -- they are not diamonds in the rough here) or the aforementioned excursions into tortured oversinging (a cover of Ray Charles' version of Georgia on My Mind, two highly Cocker-esque tracks called Heart and Soul and In Your Time).
Yet on a few tracks he breaks the mold, notably a pair of folky numbers, The Fall and West Texas Sky, that I would recommend you check out, especially the former. Skip, however, the ultra-loose cover of Archie Bell & The Drells' Tighten Up, which the album booklet not only gives him credit for writing but which he seems to date (unless I misheard him) as coming from 1973, when it was a hit in 1968.
So a disappointing collection from someone who's still one of my favorite Idol contestants. Let's hope the new album displays a little more restraint and variety."
I agree with Mr. Barnes regarding two of the best tracks on the "Early Works", "The Fall" and "West Texas Sky". He prefers the former while I prefer the latter. I find it interesting that "West Texas Sky", up until this new CD was released had, in the past not received little to no commentary. I could imagine either one being a viable radio friendly offering.
Like Mr. Barnes I remain hopeful for Taylor Hicks.
"Well, we bursted out of class
Had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a 3-minute record, baby
Than we ever learned in school
Tonight I hear the neighborhood drummer sound
I can feel my heart begin to pound
You say you're tired and you just want to close your eyes
And follow your dreams down..."
"No Surrender" Bruce Springsteen LYRICS