Why Jim Croce Albums Were So Brilliant

Jim Croce Albums

Photo: By Ingrid Croce (http://www.jimcroce.com/gallery.shtml) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We recently published a Top 10 Jim Croce songs list on our site in February of 2018. Even though it is recently published it has become one of Classicrockhistory.com’s most viewed articles. After composing the Top 10 Jim Croce Songs article we came to the realization as to just how incredible Jim Croce’s albums were. We were big fans back in the 70’s but we had forgotten how special his music was. It’s one of the benefits of writing these lists. We get to return to music we may have not continued to pay enough attention too. It also opened our eyes and ears to some songs we may have missed the first time because we were too young or we didn’t have the albums. 45 rpm singles were a very popular buying choice for young people with little funds.

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)

  1. You Don’t Mess Around with Jim
  2. Tomorrow’s Gonna Be a Brighter Day
  3. New York’s Not My Home
  4. Hard Time Losin’ Man
  5. Photographs and Memories
  6. Walkin’ Back to Georgia”
  7. Operator (That’s Not the Way It Feels)
  8. Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)
  9. Time in a Bottle
  10. Box #10
  11. A Long Time Ago
  12. Time In A Bottle

Life and Times 1973

  1. One Less Set Of Footsteps
  2. Roller Derby Queen
  3. Dreamin’ Again
  4. Careful Man
  5. Alabama Rain
  6. A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business (Singin’ the Blues)
  7. Next Time, This Time
  8. Bad Bad Leroy Brown
  9. These Dreams
  10. Speedball Tucker
  11. It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

I Got A Name 1973

  1. I Got A Name
  2. Lover’s Cross
  3. Five Short Minutes
  4. Age
  5. Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues
  6. I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song
  7. Salon and Saloon
  8. Thursday
  9. Top Hat Bar and Grille
  10. Recently
  11. The Hard Way Every Time

Earlier Jim Croce Albums

Facets 1966  (very rare and out of print)

  1. Steel Rail Blues
  2. Coal Tattoo
  3. Texas Radio
  4. Charley Green, Play That Slide Trombone
  5. The Ballad Of Gunga Din
  6. Hard Hearted hannah (The Vamp From Savannah)
  7. Sun Come Up
  8. The Blizzard
  9. Running Maggie
  10. Until It’s Time For Me To Go
  11. Big Fat Woman

Disc: 2

  1. Child Of Midnight
  2. It’s All Over, Mary Ann
  3. Railroads And Riverboats
  4. Hard Times Be Over
  5. Railroad Song
  6. Maybe Tomorrow
  7. Pa (Song For A Grandfather)

Jim & Ingrid Croce  1969

 1. Age

  2. Spin, Spin, Spin
  3. I Am Who I Am
  4. What Do People Do
  5. Another Day, Another Town
  6. Vespers
  7. Big Wheel
  8. Just Another Day
  9. The Next Man That I Marry
  10. What The Hell
  11. The Man That Is Me
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