James Taylor - guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals; Hugh McCraken - guitar, harmonica; David Spinozza - guitar; Andy Muson - bass; Don Grolnick - keyboards; Rick Moratta - drums, percussion; Alan Rubin - trumpet; Jon Faddis - trumpet; Barry Rogers - trombone; George Young - alto sax; Frank Vacari - tenor sax; Kenny Berger - baritone sax; Howard Johnson - tuba; Guest: Carly Simon - 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 unedited recordings of the second of the two nights at Carnegie Hall in all their glory. Those familiar with the KBFH broadcast will recognize much of the material featured here, but will also be very pleasantly surprised to discover quite a few vintage songs from his first two albums 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 album for The Beatles' Apple label. The audience is treated to letter-perfect renditions of "Riding On A Railroad" and "Long Ago & Far Away" from Mudslide Slim and "Blossom" from Sweet Baby James, but it is the vintage material, "Something In The Way She Moves," "Sunshine Sunshine," and a great bluesy reading of "Night Owl" that is most delightful. Both "Something In The Way She Moves" and "Night Owl" were edited out of the original broadcast and are included here for the first time. A taste of the forthcoming album, Me And My Guitar, comes next with "Me And My Guitar," which is greeted with mass 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 a brief break, Taylor and band return to the stage for the second set. Surprisingly, this set 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 second set kicks off with a lovely version of "Carolina In My Mind," the song that first introduced Taylor to many listeners, followed by a lovely rendition of "Never Never Land." Both of these songs were edited out of the original broadcast and are featured here for the first time. At this point, Taylor and band begin sinking their teeth into new material, with back-to-back readings of "Migration" and "Let It All Fall Down." This new material sounds wonderful here — more immediate than the studio recordings — and the accompaniment of 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" (the latter was also excised from the original broadcast).
The next three songs build up the momentum with two of the finest One Man Dog tracks ("One Man Parade" and the recent hit, "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight") with "Anywhere Like Heaven" from the Sweet Baby James album sandwiched in between. Joining Taylor onstage during this latter part of the second set is an outstanding seven-piece horn section adding punch and flavor to the proceedings. These musicians all went on to have highly impressive individual careers, so it is quite the treat to have such an impressive sax section, not to mention the likes of Faddis, Rogers, and Rubin on horns, and the most renowned tuba player on the planet, Howard Johnson, all on the same stage. From here on out, Taylor and cohorts begin to cut loose, and the last half hour of the show beautifully builds to a peak with each exciting second. They begin kicking things up a notch with a fantastic reading of Bobby Blue Bland's "You're The One I Love (That I Adore)." The high energy level continues with the new Walking Man rocker, "Rock 'N' Roll Is Music Now" to close the set, but just like the previous night, Taylor still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The encore begins with the quintessential "Fire And Rain," one of Taylor's most compelling and beloved songs. This is naturally met with monumental applause, and to repeat the spectacular ending of the previous night, Carly Simon again joins her husband onstage and the band begins grooving on "Mockingbird!" Well known for her stage fright as well as her compelling voice and music, the audience is downright ecstatic at what is taking place right before their very ears. This is certainly a peak moment and the audience responds accordingly. Taylor could have easily called it a night at this point and left everyone thrilled with the performance, but Simon sticks around and helps Taylor deliver another delicious take on "Ain't No Song," another great new Walking Man track penned by Taylor's guitarist, David Spinozza, and Joey Levine. The final encore brings things full circle with a beautiful rendition of Taylor's signature song, "Sweet Baby James."
Thanks to the phenomenal quality of these recordings, every nuance of Taylor's performance is captured from this night. Nearly four decades later, this performance still sounds as fresh and engaging as anything Taylor ever recorded. This timeless quality has served Taylor well and these performances display exactly why Taylor's music endures, and why he justifiably remains a pillar of the singer-songwriter genre. The addition of the vintage songs that were deleted from the original broadcast and the technical perfection of the recordings make this a compelling listen from beginning to end. It is not over-reaching to state that this was, indeed, one of the greatest and most engaging performances of James Taylor's entire career.