The other significant factor about Jim Croce we learned that we had never known 50 years ago, was just how great sounding his records were. Like already stated, in the early 1970’s we brought all of Jim Croce’s singles. The man released many singles and they all sold incredibly well. The only Jim Croce album I owned when I was in middle school was Jim Croce’s Photographs and Memories: His Greatest Hits. I got the album from joining Columbia Music Record club. It was a club in which you joined and received 12 or 13 albums for only a penny. The catch was you had to sign an agreement to buy nine more albums over the next tree years at rip off prices. Many experienced record buyers always complained that the albums Columbia music club sent out had inferior audio quality compared to store brought records. Its possible that’s why I never noticed any great sound quality on the only Jim Croce album that I had owned. The Columbia Music Record Club products really did not sound that good.
Over time, I personally brought all of Jim Croce’s albums on vinyl. I found most of them in garage sales. I was knocked out by the depth of the records. Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits album and singles only touched the surface. The man knew how to write a great song. Like my former band leader Michael McKasty recently said, “the man inspired you to want to write a song.” Every track on his three studio albums in 1972 and 1973 were outstandingly written and performed. These were high quality songs that were touching on all emotional levels. There were the typical songwriting style stories that were popular at the time in the early seventies, but there were many deep love songs that were so universally written, that anyone with a heart could feel connected to. You could be entertained with stories about characters like “Big Jim,” “Leroy Brown,” Roller Derby Queens, stock car drivers or working at a car wash At the same time, Jim Croce wrote about life on a grand scale in songs like “I Got A Name,” and “Time In A Bottle.”
It was Jim Croce’s love songs from his albums that resonated the most with the public. Songs like “I’ll Have To Say I Love You in a Song,” and “Lover’s Cross,” from the I Got a Name album, “One Less Set Of Footsteps,” “Alabama Rain,” “It Doesn’t Have To Be that Way,” from Life and Times, and “Photographs and Memories” Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels) from You Don’t Mess Around With Jim were all some of the most heartfelt songs of love both celebrated and lost ever written.
The Jim Croce albums featured so many great songs that never got any airplay. Songs like “Hard Time Losin’ Man,” “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be a Brighter Day,” “Walkin’ Back to Georgia,” “A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business (Singin’ the Blues)” “Next Time, This Time” and “Age,” are all jaw dropping tracks.
We mentioned the sound quality of the albums at the top of the article. When buying the Jim Croce albums over the past few years, I was struck by how great the records sounded. Beyond the vinyl album’s scratches and pops, was a crisp and deep sound of warm acoustic guitars and tight bass The vocals were clearly centered and up front The entire soundscapes of his three main albums sounded like they were recorded using current technology. The sound on the CDs are breathtaking. It’s possible that these may be the best sounding acoustic folk pop albums to come from the early 1970’s period.
The musical arrangements on the Jim Croce albums are incredibly well done They are also spare. There is not a great deal of overdubbing. The guitar playing is brilliant and right up front. It’s bass, guitar, sometimes piano, and vocals. Some tracks feature strings, but for the most part its acoustic guitar, bass, piano and vocals all performed by musicians that could play and sing. The sparse arrangements never get in the way of the actual songs like overproduced records often do. Furthermore, the sparse arrangements create space so that the listener can hear all the instrumentation. There is no phase cancellation. There is room to hear everything. And everything is recorded perfectly. It’s what The Beatles did on Revolver and Rubber Soul, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on Deju Vu and Bruce Springsteen’s The Wild Innocent and E Street Shuffle. They were all albums filled with outstanding songs, sparse production and sounded incredible for their respective time periods they were released in.
If you have never purchased a Jim Croce album we highly recommend that you buy his three main studio albums, You Don’t Mess Around with Jim, released in 1972 and Life and Times and I Got a Name both issued in 1973. Jim Croce had released an album in 1966 entitle Facets and in 1969 he released Jim & Ingrid Croce. Both records are great and well worth owning, but it’s 1972 and 1973 records that we love the most. There have been many compilations and live recordings, but it’s still the 1972 and 1973 Jim Croce albums that are a must own for any fan of great music.
You Don’t Mess Around With Jim (1972)
- You Don’t Mess Around with Jim
- Tomorrow’s Gonna Be a Brighter Day
- New York’s Not My Home
- Hard Time Losin’ Man
- Photographs and Memories
- Walkin’ Back to Georgia”
- Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)
- Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)
- Time in a Bottle
- Box #10
- A Long Time Ago
- Time In A Bottle
Life and Times 1973
- One Less Set Of Footsteps
- Roller Derby Queen
- Dreamin’ Again
- Careful Man
- Alabama Rain
- A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business (Singin’ the Blues)
- Next Time, This Time
- Bad Bad Leroy Brown
- These Dreams
- Speedball Tucker
- It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
I Got A Name 1973
- I Got A Name
- Lover’s Cross
- Five Short Minutes
- Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues
- I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song
- Salon and Saloon
- Top Hat Bar and Grille
- The Hard Way Every Time
Earlier Jim Croce Albums
Facets 1966 (very rare and out of print)
Jim & Ingrid Croce 1969