Top Artists – James Taylor

James Taylor / JT – Listening in Depth

Musically this is one of Taylor’s best. Every track is good and many are wonderful. There are five or six James Taylor records that are Desert Island Discs for me. I know they probably wouldn’t let me take six of the same artists’ records to my island, but I would hope they would make an exception for James Taylor, because his albums really do set a standard that few other singer/songwriters’s albums can meet.

Start with Sweet Baby James, the first album (which we can’t find for you because only the British ones sound good and they are just to hard to find in clean condition) and JT. The next group to pursue would contain Mud Slide Slim, One Man Dog and Dad Loves His Work, and then maybe Flag.

As audiophiles we all know that sound and music are inseparable. After dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, you KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not. As with any pop album there are always some songs that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it needs to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material.

The most important of all these Musical Values is ENERGY, and boy do the best copies have it


In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Your Smiling Face

Our favorite test track for side one. The best copies have bass and drums that are hard to beat!

There We Are
Honey Don’t Leave L.A.

One of the toughest tests for side one is the sax solo in this song. You want the sax to be breathy and full with just the right amount of bite. If it doesn’t have enough bite, the sound is going to be overly smooth elsewhere.

Another Grey Morning

You’ll almost always be battling at least a bit of surface noise on this quiet track. On the best copies the sound will be tubey-magical, with plenty of warmth, richness, and sweetness.

Bartender’s Blues
Secret O’ Life

Side Two (more…)

James Taylor / In The Pocket – A Personal Favorite

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame. 

The quality of the songwriting is what makes this album such a moving listening experience. These songs are superb, individually and collectively, and can hold their own up against those found on Gorilla, an album with which In the Pocket has much in common.

Just as they did on Gorilla, Taylor and his multi-talented, multi-tracking production team polish these songs into three and four minute gems of popcraft, and they do so without ever compromising the emotional heart of the material. I’ve searched and I honestly cannot find a bad song on the album. Better than that, not even a weak one.

Side Two

The best we heard and SUPERB in all respects. It’s got Tubey Magic, and that’s one quality that’s hard to come by on this album. It’s fairly rich, smooth, yet transparent and high-rez. The vocals are breathy, and again, that is not something we heard nearly enough of in our shootout.

And no hardness. This is key. And the best tonal balance, which is also key. White Hot all the way.

Side One

Big and clear with lots of studio space and reverb. A bit shifted up tonally but very good this way.

We’re No Snobs

The critics have never had much love for In The Pocket, but I’ve always felt just the opposite — it’s one of my favorites of the JT canon, an absolute joy from first track to last. As a James Taylor fan I bought a copy as soon as it came out and proceeded to play it practically to death. At the time Rolling Stone magazine gave it a scathingly negative review, accusing Taylor of selling out for making a carefully-produced, sophisticated Soulful Pop Album. Plenty have derisively labeled it “slick”, but to my ear the material is very strong, with all the heart of his earlier albums. Glossy production values and a cast of the L.A. assembled multitudes is hardly cause to dismiss the emotional power of these songs. (more…)

James Taylor – Gorilla – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper copy has TWO AMAZING sides back to back, with a side two that is so off the charts we seriously considered giving it Four Pluses. The Four Plus copies have to meet a standard higher than our regular top grade, and we define that standard as “better than we ever imagined any copy could ever sound.” The Triple Plus side here is doing what it should — it’s correct from top to bottom, full of energy, transparent, and musical. It’s exactly what you want it to sound like in every possible way.

Side two does all that and more. It’s BIGGER, richer and more clear than it has any right to be. We’ve played thirty or forty of these over the past ten years, and this one just takes the sound of the recording to another level we had no idea was even possible.

To be honest, the recording itself cannot begin to compete with the likes of Sweet Baby James or JT, both of which are Top 100 Titles. This can be a good sounding record, not a great one, in league with those.

But the average copy is so flat, lifeless and hard sounding that you might just wonder if there isn’t something wrong with your stereo when the needle hits the Gorilla groove. Most copies are awful, and the same goes for the albums that came before it and after it, Walking Man and In the Pocket, respectively. (more…)

James Taylor / One Man Dog – A Personal Favorite and Forgotten Gem

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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 of ten or twelve.


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  • The best copy to hit the site in many years! Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Big, rich and solid on both sides, with a more relaxed, musical quality, as well as the clarity that was missing from most copies we played
  • There is not a false note to be found on side one: it’s brilliant from start to finish and side two is almost as good – we love the Abbey Road-like medley that makes up most of it
  • “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.” Rolling Stone

Play Chili Dog here, one of our favorite tracks, and note not only the clarity and spaciousness, but the PUNCH and LIFE of the music. This song is supposed to be fun. The average compressed dull copy only hints at that fact.

Then skip on down to the hit at the end of the side, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, another favorite track for testing. There’s a lot of bass in the mix on this track, but the best copies keep it under control. When it gets loose and starts blurring the midrange, the vocals and guitars seem “blocked”. The best copies let you hear all that meaty bass, as well as into the midrange.

One Man Dog, like many early WB pressings, has a tendency to be dull and opaque. (Most side twos have a real problem in that respect.) When you get one like this, with more of an extended top end, it tends to come with much more space, size, texture, transparency, ambience and openness.

Of course it does; that’s where much of that stuff is, up high. Most copies don’t have nearly enough of it, but thankfully this one does. (more…)

Classic Tracks: “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)”

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Mixonline Classic Tracks

BY ROBYN FLANS

How sweet it is! The James Taylor track of that name with Carly Simon vocals and a David Sanborn sax solo went to Number 5 on the Billboard 100 in 1975, dominating radio and adding a sweet voice to the din of the turbulent mid-1970s.

The Russ Titelman/Lenny Waronker production of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” became the most successful version of the Holland-Dozier composition, originally recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1964. (more…)

James Taylor – Flag – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame. 

White Hot Stamper sound on both sides! From the opening notes you will be amazed at how good this album sounds. As far as JT’s recordings go, it’s right up there at the top. Like his album JT, which came just before this one, the best copies of this record are smooth, rich, punchy and have great bass.

A Top Recommendation from Better Records. This is a Must Own James Taylor record.

The average copy of this record is dreadful. All the recuts that were done by Columbia that I’ve ever heard are garbage. There are a number of different stampers for both sides one and two and it’s almost impossible to find two good sides on the same album. (more…)

James Taylor – Dad Loves His Work – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame. 

This Hot Stamper original Columbia is THE KING, the Best Sounding Copy we have ever played — the sound was OUT OF THIS WORLD! In fact, side two went so far beyond what we’ve come to expect from this album that we had to award it the rare Four Plus (A++++) grade.

The soundstage and depth on our Hot Stamper copies is HUGE — this is without a doubt the most spacious recording by James Taylor we’ve ever heard. If you want your speakers to disappear, replaced by a huge studio full of musicians playing their hearts out, this is the album that can do it. (more…)

Val Garay Rocks the Sound of JT

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.

JT

 

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The good copies REALLY ROCK on a song like Honey Don’t Leave L.A. or I Was Only Telling A Lie, yet have lovely, sweet transparency and delicacy on the ballads such as Another Grey Morning or There We Are.

Just turn up the volume and play the opening to Honey Don’t Leave L.A. — this is James Taylor and his super tight studio band at the peak of their powers. Russ Kunkel hits the drum twice, then clicks his sticks together so quickly you can hardly notice it, then goes back to the drums for the rest of the intro. On a superb copy like this one, the subtleties of his performance are clearly on display. (Until copies like this one came along, we had never even noticed that stick trick. Now it’s the high point of the whole intro!)

Sound Equals Music

As audiophiles we all know that sound and music are inseparable. After dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, you KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not. As with any pop album there are always some songs that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it needs to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material.

The most important of all these Musical Values is ENERGY, and boy do the best copies have it!

Val Garay Is The Man

VAL GARAY is the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: James Taylor’s JT (a Top 100 title), Simple Dreams (also a Top 100 title), Andrew Gold, Prisoner In Disguise, etc. They all share his trademark super-punchy, jump-out-the-speakers, rich and smooth ANALOG sound. With BIG drums — can’t forget those. (To be clear, only the best copies share it. Most copies only hint at it.) (more…)

James Taylor – Greatest Hits, Now with Aphex Aural Excitement!

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  • JT’s superb Greatest Hits collection finally returns to the site with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides  
  • Outstanding size and weight with rich, clear sound and good space up top, thanks to Lee Herschberg’s engineering skills
  • Three tracks are unique to this pressing and make it a Must Own for JT fans
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… examples of Taylor’s undeniable warmth and facility for folk/country-tinged pop… a good sampler of Taylor’s more popular early work.”

From the opening acoustic guitar notes, you can tell this Hot Stamper pressing is a lovely sounding record. Believe me, it took us a long time to find a pressing this good – most copies of this record sound like CARDBOARD. (more…)

James Taylor – JT – Our Shootout Winner from Way Back in 2007

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

SUPERB SOUND FROM START TO FINISH! Both sides have MASTER TAPE SOUND. With six plusses between the two sides it sure doesn’t get much better than this copy!

And don’t think we’re kidding about turning up your volume and rockin’ out to songs like Honey Don’t Leave L.A. and I Was Only Telling a Lie. Those are real rock songs and they show that old JT can rock with the best of them when he wants to. (more…)