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James Taylor: smooth singing, sailing

Today, the Queen Mary 2 leaves New York for its traditional Atlantic crossing to jolly ol’ England. This is one Cunard cruise that is guaranteed to be smooth.

Even if the big ship encounters choppy waters, the smooth and silky voice of James Taylor will soothe the expected 2,500-plus passengers roaming her decks. This is five years after Taylor first performed on the QM2 and he joined a list that includes giants of the genre: James TaylorRod Stewart, Lenny Kravitz and the late Dave Brubeck.

On his last Queen Mary 2 sailing,Taylor played to standing-room audience although, to be fair, on a cruise ship with fewer than 3,000 passengers that’s not as big a deal. If he played to a crowd of 3,000 on the shore, critics would say he’s done.

Which Taylor is not.

Besides being gifted, he’s clever. The Taylor troupe will play on the ship, probably twice, and then parlay their Transatlantic cruise into a 17-city tour that ends, coincidentally, in London’s Royal Albert Hall on October 8. (November 12 return). Too bad he couldn’t find a cruise ship on which to perform for the trip home to Massachusetts.

We searched for him.

The best we could find was the Celebrity Infinity, which leaves Harwich on October 13, and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, which departs Southampton two days after that. Both cruise companies are owned by Royal Caribbean International.

Cunard might not understand.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Holland America Ryndam
15 nights
November 1, 2014
Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, Ponta Delgada, Tampa
Oceanview: $822
Cost per day: $54

Cunard heralding return of Sweet James Taylor

More than four years ago, James Taylor and his entourage crossed the Atlantic Ocean on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and everybody knows how much the passengers liked him because, seriously, who wouldn't?

Now we know that Taylor liked them.

He's going back for a reprise, as they say, next August. His appearance — it includes two Taylor concerts — will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the ship's arrival. So Happy Birthday from Sweet Baby James.

"In 2009, we realized a collective dream using that passage to transport and rehearse for our European summer tour: band, crew and family — kit and James Taylorcaboodle," he said in a press release. "It’s such a civilized way to go, and Queen Mary 2 is the last word in first-class travel."

Taylor may have been born at night, but not last night, as they also say. His band was transported to Europe for a summer tour at no cost, thanks to Cunard. His tour schedule for 2014 hasn't been posted yet, except that he's in Massachusetts in July for two concerts…and Massachusetts isn't far from where the Queen Mary 2 will depart, which is New York.

As icons go, Taylor is amazing.

It has been 43 years since Sweet Baby James, which was his second album but the one that skyrocketed him to fame. He has sold 100 million albums even though he hasn't made one in 11 years, and he is in both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame. He has been decorated by countries on both sides of the ocean he'll cross next August and he joins a long list of prestigious musical performers Cunard has enlisted to entertain guests.

He's 65 and not ready for retirement, which has never been mandatory for performers, and he clearly has reached the age and sentiment with which many cruise passengers can identify. Asked about sailing across the ocean, he uttered four words that echo the love people have for Transatlantic crossings.

"Hallelejuah…no jet lag!"

Holland America Eurodam
14 nights
March 30, 2014
Fort LauderdalePonta DelgadaCadizAlmeriaCartagenaRome
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $49

Queen Mary 2 at the Right Time

Has it ever occurred to anybody that celebrities just might go on cruise ships because they want to, not because they can’t get work anywhere else or because it’s a cheap way for them (and their entourage) to get from A to B…especially when A is on one side of the ocean and B is on the other?

Earlier this year, Roger Daltrey of The Who was pilloried for having “hit rock bottom performing in a cabaret on a cruise ship” going from England to New York after canceling three concerts at home due to poor ticket sales. Critics changed famous lyrics and song titles were changed to “Sea me, Feel me…” and “Crew Are You?”

It turns out he “hit rock bottom” by sailing the Queen Mary 2 — clearly the skid row of cruising — and his performance was impromptu, not part of Cunard’s sales pitch. And is there no mercy? He is, after all, 67 and far removed from stadium sellouts.

Daltrey talked for half an hour about his musical roots, starting with his love of Hank Williams music…of Elvis…of Johnny Cash…of Tommy…and of the three Everly Brothers guitars he has. “I love them to bits,” he said, after taking a few questions and just before launching into another half-hour of playing and singing.

Whether the 120 passengers on the Queen Mary 2 liked him or not, they were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. The same ship once had James Taylor and his band (and entourage) on board from New York to Southampton. He was there specifically to perform two concerts, in advance of a European tour. Taylor, his knockers said, was “singing for his supper” by finding a way to get his band across the ocean cheap.

If you shop around YouTube, as we did yesterday, you’ll find a video of Taylor on the ship, saying how it “harkens back to a different era” and “gives you a sense of the distance.” He also reminisces about being on a Holland America ship in 1957, when his mother (alone) took him and four siblings across the ocean.

Among his “entourage” on the Queen Mary 2, in a wheelchair, was his mother.

You won’t find a lot of Roger Daltrey or James Taylor in our music collection, but we wish we could have been there.

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