My Record Collection 193

James Taylor  – Well, what a guy.  He seemed to spring fully formed in the early Seventies – the perfect singer songwriter.  He had even recorded his debut album (which I don’t now have on CD) for Apple when The Beatles were still together.  A very good friend of theirs Peter Asher became his manager and sometime producer.  He moved to Warner and made 6 albums.  First was Sweet Baby James (1970) – a great album, half so it ballads and half mid-tempo bluesy rockers.  Best songs are the title track, ‘Sunny Skies’ and ‘Fire and Rain’.  The latter being really his first classic track.  The following year he released what I consider to be probably his best album Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon.   This contained the big hit song ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, which Carole King recorded also.  But it doesn’t have a weak song on it.  My favourites are ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’, ‘Long Ago And Far Away’ and ‘Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox’.  I played this one to death back in the day.    His next was 1972’s One Man Dog.   This was I feel a bit of an experiment, or a rushed exercise; there are 18 songs, some of which are mere snippets, a few instrumentals and only a very few real quality songs – best of which is ‘Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight’.  Despite a stellar cast of session players the record feels disjointed, and is probably my least favourite of James’s releases.  Much better was 1974’s Walking Man, although it sold relatively poorly.  Best songs are ‘Me and My Guitar’, ‘Promised Land’ (the Chuck berry song) and ‘Fading Away.  Gorilla came out the following year.  Another very good album, if a little predictable and drifting to the middle of the road.  Best songs – the title track, ‘How Sweet It Is To be Loved By You’ and ‘Sarah Maria’.   In The Pocket came out in ’76 and a slight upbeat feel on some tracks – but James was a master of those slow love songs too. He was settling down- one of the tracks is ‘Family Man’.  But I like ‘Money Machine’ and ‘Golden Moments’ too.  After 6 albums, some successful, some not so – with Warner Brothers, James signd with Columbia and in 1977 released JT.  In my mind a much better album; it contained the 2 singles – ‘You Smiling Face’ and ‘Handy Man’ – but my favourites are ‘Terra Nova’ and ‘Traffic Jam’ – which seem a departure from his usual songs. He followed this sublime album with Flag in 1979. Well, not an overwhelmingly great album.  Two covers which add nothing to the originals, even adding a bizarre falsetto to ‘Day Tripper’ cannot rescue it from mundanity.  A couple of songs hold a smidgeon of promise – ‘Millworker, ‘I Would Not Lie To You’ and BSUR (Be As You Are). The spaces between albums started to drift in the Eighties, a common phenomenon I have found, new recording techniques, synths and maybe just a tiredness – another album, what a bore.  In 1985 he released That’s Why I’m Here; a pleasant enough record (I had somehow missed an album in 1981 – no desire to buy it) but I felt he was almost coasting – covers of ‘Everyday’ by Buddy Holly and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ by Bacharach and David – both uninspiring versions.  Best are ‘Song For You Far Away’ and ‘Only One’.  Next up is Never Die Young (1988); boring really – the Eighties only produced 2 albums, still he plodded on.  Apart from ‘Sun On The Moon’ a pretty uninspiring bunch of songs.  I almost gave up on James but was glad I bought 1997’s Houglass; a really good record; maybe not as good as his first few but still pretty good.  A longer album – 13 songs in all, the best of which may be ‘Little More Time With You’, ‘Yellow and Rose’ and ‘Gaia.’  Only one other album, the somewhat muted October Road (2002).  Not a bad album, but quite unspectacular too.  Oh well, best are ‘Cary Me On My Way’ and ‘Caroline I see You’.  Like quite a few, his reputation lies in the handful of brilliant albums form the Seventies – still, am old favourite I wouldn’t want to revisit occasionally.

Sweet Baby James