James Taylor - guitar, piano, vocals; Hugh McCraken - guitar, harmonica; David Spinozza - guitar; Andy Muson - bass; Don Grolnick - keyboards; Rick Moratta - drums, percussion; Jon Faddis- trumpet; Alan Rubin- trumpet; Barry Rogers - trombone; George Young -alto sax; Frank Vacari - tenor sax; Kenny Berger- baritone sax; Howard Johnson - tuba; Guest: Carly Simon - vocals; Guest: Peter Asher - vocals
Following his monumentally popular albums Sweet Baby James and Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon, James Taylor delivered the lackluster follow-up One Man Dog in November 1972. The concept record, made up of shorter vignettes, was a less focused effort than its predecessors. Still, it charted in the Top 10 and achieved a Top 20 hit with the single release of "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." During a performance promoting that album at Radio City Music Hall on November 3, 1972, Taylor announced that he had married singer/songwriter Carly Simon earlier in the day. During the next year, the newlyweds would team up to record a duet of the 1963 hit by Inez and Charlie Foxx, "Mockingbird," for Carly Simon's Hotcakes album. While Taylor was working on his next album, "Mockingbird" was released as a single, reaching the Top 5 and becoming another million-copy selling hit.
In April of 1974, with his new album completed, Taylor took to the road for a four week tour to promote Walking Man, which would be released that June. The album showed Taylor embracing electric instrumentation more than ever before. Accompanied by an outstanding band, he began selling out large venues across North America. The two final nights of this tour were scheduled for the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City. Taylor granted permission to the DIR Concert Network to professionally record both nights for posterity. On June 30th, shortly after Taylor's new album was released, the King Biscuit Flower Hour presented a compilation of highlights from this Carnegie Hall run in stunning, crystal clear stereo in a nationwide broadcast. Treasured by Taylor fans and bootlegged extensively ever since, the broadcast recordings are widely considered to be some of the most intriguing live recordings of Taylor's entire career.
Here we have the complete recordings of the first of the two nights at Carnegie Hall in all their glory. Those familiar with the KBFH broadcast will be thrilled to discover that the vast majority of that program was sourced from the second night, with most of these first night recordings surfacing for the first time ever.
Taylor kicks his first set off with a half dozen songs from his first three albums, half of which date way back to his 1968 debut for The Beatles' Apple label. The audience is treated to letter perfect renditions of "Riding On A Railroad" and "Long Ago And Far Away" from Mudslide Slim and "Blossom" from Sweet Baby James album; but it is the vintage material, "Something In The Way She Moves," "Sunshine Sunshine," and a great bluesy reading of "Night Owl" that are most delightful here. The first taste of the forthcoming album arrives next with "Me And My Guitar," which is greeted with approval from the entranced audience. The remainder of the first set is fleshed out with another Sweet Baby James classic "Country Road," the Grammy Award-winning cover of Carole King's "You've Got A Friend," and culminates with Taylor and band rocking out on Chuck Berry's "Promised Land."
After the break, Taylor returns to the stage for the second set. Surprisingly, this too contains hefty doses of material from both the debut Apple album and Sweet Baby James. However, Taylor also begins introducing newer material from his One Man Dog album, and, of course Walking Man, as well as a few surprises. The set begins solo acoustic, with a lovely version of "Carolina In My Mind" (the song that first introduced Taylor to many listeners), the happy-go-lucky "Sunny Skies," and "Migration." At this point, the band joins back in for "Let It All Fall Down," a rare instance of Taylor writing a political song. This new material sounds wonderful here: slick, but more immediate than the studio recordings. The accompaniment of keyboardisat Don Grolnick is tastefully restrained and Taylor's band is nothing short of impeccable. Seemingly fixated on that 1968 debut album, which must have thrilled longtime fans in the audience, Taylor returns to two of his oldest songs, with captivating readings of "Brighten Your Night With My Day" and "Knocking Round The Zoo." In the hands of this band, the former becomes as gritty as anything Taylor has ever performed; and the latter establishes a solid funky groove that equals or even surpasses the original studio recording.
The next three songs continue building up the momentum, with the country flavored "Anywhere Like Heaven" sandwiched in between two of the finest One Man Dog tracks: "One Man Parade" and the recent hit "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." From here on out, Taylor and cohorts begin to cut loose. They kick things up a notch with Bobby Blue Bland's "You're The One (That I Adore), featuring a surprisingly aggressive vocal from Taylor, impressive lead guitar work from McCracken and Spinozza, and horn arrangements adding another dimension to the sound. This higher energy level continues with the new Walking Man rocker "Rock 'N' Roll Is Music Now," again featuring impressive horn arrangements. The quintessential "Fire And Rain," one of Taylor's most compelling and beloved songs, begins solo acoustic, but then has the band joining in for dramatic effect. This is naturally met with monumental applause, but then the audience is astounded as the band doesn't stop, but rather segues directly into the opening vamp of "Mockingbird." Much to the audience's delight, Carly Simon appears on stage! Well known for her stage fright as well as her compelling voice and music, the audience is downright ecstatic at what is taking place before their ears. This is a joyous celebratory ending to a remarkable night. The audience roars its approval, shouting for more and clapping in unison until Taylor, Simon, and the extraordinary band return to the stage.
Taylor could easily call it a night at this point and leave everyone thrilled with the performance, but he still has a trick or two up his sleeve. The encore begins with a delicious take on "Ain't No Song," another new Walking Man track penned by Taylor's guitarist, David Spinozza and Joey Levine that features both Simon and Taylor's manager, Peter Asher, joining in on vocals. Taylor brings things full circle with a beautiful rendition of his signature song, "Sweet Baby James," to close the night.
Thanks to the phenomenal quality of these recordings, every nuance is clearly captured. Nearly four decades later, this performance sounds as engaging as anything Taylor ever recorded. These performances display exactly why Taylor's music endures and why he justifiably remains a pillar of the singer-songwriter genre.