All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Review: Chip Taylor - Yonkers, NY

Chip Taylor - Yonkers, NY
2009, Train Wreck Records

Chip Taylor is the legendary songwriter responsible for such hits as Wild Thing (The Troggs), Angel Of The Morning (Juice Newton), Try (Just A Little Bit Harder) (Janis Joplin) and I Can't Let Go (The Hollies). His songs have been recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra and Jimi Hendrix. The younger brother of vulcanologist Barry Voight and actor John Voight, Taylor has a wealth of childhood stories to tell. He's saved the best of them for his latest album, Yonkers, NY. Yonkers, NY is released as a two-disc set. The first disc is done "Worlds + Music" style, with spoken words stories injected between (and sometimes in the middle of) songs. The second disc is edited to supply just the songs.

Taylor grew up in Yonkers, and tells about his formative years as Jamie (his nickname as a child). The arrangements are lush Americana, and Taylor takes us back in time when trains, horses, girls and family were the most important things in the world. Yonkers, NY opens with Barry Go On (Put Yourself On The Mountain), a missive on being told to become what you want to be as a child. It's a wonderful tune full of both the excitement and angst of being a young child in a big world. Charcoal Sky recounts learning all about trains from his father and a friend who was a conductor on the Hudson River line. Taylor reminisces about laying nickels on the train tracks to get train-pressed souvenirs with his brothers in a sweet and loving tribute to times gone by. Hey Jonny (Did You Feel That Movie) has a shuffling rockabilly feel that is guaranteed to get your feet moving and incorporates Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock. Without Horses is a love song, of sorts, written perhaps from Taylor's father's perspective, about one man's love for betting on the ponies. Written in a gentle waltz, Without Horses has a real melancholy feel.

Taylor gets a gentle mix of R&B and Honky-Tonk on No Dice, an entertaining vamp that allows his band to show off their chops between verses. On Bastard Brothers, Taylor tells about his brothers complaints leading to Taylor's violin turning into a Ukulele one Christmas morning. The story that goes with it is funny and touching, and the song turns into a sort of back-handed thank you. Piece Of The Sky is a song about finding your dreams, whatever they might be. Here it's a win at the race track, but the universal nature of the song is appealing. Saw Mill River Road is about the local Country Music bar of Taylor's younger days. You can hear the Johnny Cash influence in this one, particularly in the "flashback" portion of the song. Yonkers Girls is a reminiscence of about the wiles and ways of the women of Taylor's youth grouped by their hometowns. Taylor closes out with Yonkers, NY, a musical portrait of his hometown that's both highly descriptive and deeply personal. Taylor describes a working class town with trials and tribulations like most similar sized towns in the US in the 1960's.

Chip Taylor has an easy, likable style as both a songwriter and story-teller. His voice isn't what you'd call pretty, but it's full of character, life and experience and is a very enjoyable voice to listen to. Yonkers, NY works so well because Taylor lived each song and each moment. Part confessional and part musical novella, Yonkers, NY uses intelligence, remembrance and humor to bring the people and places of his childhood alive. This might just be Taylor's masterpiece. Yonkers, NY is a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Chip Taylor at or You can order a copy of Yonkers, NY from Trainwreck Records on either CD or LP, or you can download the album from

No comments: