James Taylor / One Man Dog – Quick Listening Tests

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Reviews and Commentaries for One Man Dog

If you have a Hot Side One for One Man Dog you will know it in a hurry. The guitars and congas will leap out of your speakers at the beginning of One Man Parade.

If they don’t, forget it, move along to the next copy and keep going until you find one in which they do. There are plenty of subtle cues to separate the White Hot copies from the merely Hot, but if the sound doesn’t come to life right from the get go, it never will.

Side Two Has Bells

The first track is a bit dull on even the best copies, so don’t lose hope if your first track sounds rolled off. They almost all do. One Morning in May, the second track and the one featuring Linda Ronstadt on background vocals, is a much better test, as is track three, Instrumental II, the one with the lovely bells.

We paid a lot of attention to the bells on Instrumental II to help us get a handle on the top end. Sure enough, those bells are key to the best copies.

Fanfare is one of the few songs here with horns, so it became another key track. The horns need to have bite and texture, with the best copies really bringing out the breath in the sax. Any smearing or dulling of the sound and the horns go south in a hurry, along with the rest of the instruments.


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Which of these copies has Hot Stampers? That’s easy – just check the notes!

Of course this is far too many copies to have in one shootout, so some quick and dirty triage is the only way to get this group down to a manageable number. Typically ten to twelve is the number of copies we like to have in a shootout.

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TRACK LISTING

Side One

One Man Parade
Nobody But You
Chili Dog
Fool for You
Instrumental I
New Tune
Back on the Street Again
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight

Side Two

Woh, Don’t You Know
One Morning in May
Instrumental II
Someone
Hymn
Fanfare
Little David
Mescalito
Dance
Jig

Rolling Stone Review (excerpts)

By Jon Landau

January 18, 1973

By recording in his house, he seems to have gotten a freer instrumental sound than before, although Russ Kunkel’s drums regrettably lack the depth of tone found on earlier recordings. As if by compensation, either Danny Kortchmar is finally coming into his own with his jazz-soul-folk-rock guitar playing or I’m just hearing him better. More importantly, Taylor turns in his best singing performance, running through the songs with fire, force, and enthusiasm, the qualities most notable by their absence on earlier recordings.

“One Man Parade” starts right in and never lets up; he sounds like he was standing while singing for the very first time. “Nobody But You,” which he describes as a throwaway number, is perfect Top 40, just the right mixture of folk and soul, with a lovely repeating guitar line. “Chili Dog” is perhaps his most successful attempt at humor yet (“I ain’t trying to fool youse/Don’t bring on no Orange Julius”) while “Fool For You” and “Woh, Don’t You Know,” the album’s two rock & roll companion pieces, sound forced by comparison.

Danny Kortchmar’s “Back on the Street Again” is lyrically out of place but is such a good song that it works its way right into the pace of things, and “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” shows James reaching for some of that jazz and pop he seems to enjoy so much.

John McLaughlin’s “Someone” sounds a bit forced too, but contains a spectacular acoustic guitar solo, and “One Morning in May” is given a good if undisciplined modern interpretation, with excellent support from Linda Ronstadt.

And then we finally get down to business with the album’s ten-minute song cycle that begins with the record’s best single tune, “Hymn” (“As a man and a woman stand alone in the light/Give us reason to be, like the sun on the sea”) and moves through “Fanfare,” with its picture of industry gone mad and its conclusion that “… as far as I can see, that doesn’t apply to you and me … we are living in the deep blue sea.”

The title “Mescalito” seems like an anomaly in this rarefied environment, but the song quickly moves into the realm of the purely religious. And then there is his vision of two people, finally brought together, in the unforgettable line, “It looks like you and me, baby, dancing by the shining sea.”

He ends by offering us his invocation, “Come on baby while the moon is high/Pick up your heels and dance …” and then later, “Pick ’em up and put ’em back down, and around and around and around.” It’s all there, the earth and ocean, night and day, sun and moon, the opening eyes and the dancing feet.

And it will hit you from behind because on the surface it all sounds so simple, and yet underneath the horns — so dazzlingly arranged — and the beautiful rhythm, the voice and the thoughts resonate long after the record is over. And it continues to do so every time I revisit it.