October Road

On his first album in five years, James Taylor doesn't sound contemporary — and he seems very unworried by that fact. October Road reunites him with Russ Titelman, producer of 1975's Gorilla and '76's In the Pocket. Their approach here is much the same — delivering classic singer-songwriter fare laced with easy jazz and mellow R&B. Yet the result is much more subtle than those peak-era LPs; what's more, October Road is a hit album without any obvious hit songs.

At a time when veteran stars are routinely propped up with upstart guests and gimmicky grooves, Taylor and Titelman's tasteful restraint is refreshing and suits such contemplative tracks as "Belfast to Boston." The singer's unhurried acoustic guitar picking and calm, steady croon are — as they should be — the album's central joys.