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You Don’t Mess Around With Jim: Croce Classics Arrive In The U.K.

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When Jim Croce died in September 1973, the victim of a tragic plane crash, he was only 30 years old. He truly was in the prime of his career, riding the wave of the singer/songwriter movement with his sensitive, personal brand of storytelling. Croce’s vivid songs were alternately upbeat and sorrowful, introspective and AM radio-ready. Before his death, Croce only recorded four proper studio albums, the first in collaboration with his wife Ingrid. Those remaining three albums, originally released in the U.S. on the ABC-Paramount label, will be collected on July 25 by Edsel Records as The Original Albums…Plus, a 2-disc set also containing sixteen posthumously-released rarities. Croce is frequently underrated today or thought of as strictly a pop singles artist.  (Not that there’s any shame in that!)  So Edsel’s set is a potent reminder of his many incisive compositions which have survived him. One champion of the young musician was Frank Sinatra, who made Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” a centerpiece of his Main Event concert and LP.

Croce began to take music seriously during his college years, and after travelling on the folk and coffeehouse circuit, he recorded a 1969 LP for Capitol Records with his wife, Ingrid.  (Croce was reissued earlier this year by Cherry Tree.  Even earlier recordings from a self-distributed 1965 album have been released as Facets.)   But his career took off for the stratosphere with the July 1972 release of You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. The album produced three hits, all among his most beloved works. The boisterous story-song of the title reached No. 8 and “Operator” reached No. 17 in the US when issued as singles, and the album itself eventually got to No. 1. So did its melancholy, haunting ballad “Time in a Bottle,” though not right away. Yet album tracks “Photographs and Memories” and “New York’s Not My Home” were as good as anything released on a 45, both of them hauntingly evocative, personal ruminations in song.    Croce’s album cuts also often revealed a playful, even raucous side not always evident on the mellow singles.

Croce’s ABC follow-up, Life and Times, was issued in February 1973. With Croce’s first album still fresh in listeners’ minds, it placed at No. 7 and featured the No. 1 hit “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” Jim Croce had always had a grueling tour schedule, and planned to take a break and spend time with his wife Ingrid and infant son Adrian James (now known as AJ, a talented recording artist in his own right). Unfortunately Croce’s plans were cut short when his plane crashed in Natchitoches, Lousiana. Croce and bandmate Maury Muehleisen were among the five killed in the crash.

A sad irony is that Croce’s career soared even higher after his death. “I Got a Name” was released as a single in the singer’s lifetime, but the album of the name same didn’t arrive until after his death. So did “Time in a Bottle,” which had been released as a single off 1972’s You Don’t Mess Around with Jim but peaked posthumously. “I Got a Name” and “I Have to Say I Love You in a Song” also became hits and eventually, popular standards. (The former is unique in that Croce didn’t write it. “I Got a Name” is the work of Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, also responsible for Barry Manilow’s “Ready to Take a Chance Again,” Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” and the theme to Happy Days, among many other more-than-recognizable songs.) A hit 1974 collection, the aptly-titled Photographs and Memories, proved that demand for Croce’s music was still high, and it wasn’t long before his archives were tapped for the first of many collections of vault material.

Hit the jump for more details plus the complete track listings and discographical information!

The 50 songs on Edsel’s two CD set represent his three albums as well as sixteen recordings issued on posthumous compilations. It has a very similar track listing to Saja’s 1992 The 50th Anniversary Collection, released to coincide with what would have been Croce’s 50th birthday and originally mastered by Steve Hoffman. That collection of 49 songs and 1 brief spoken-word piece includes three collaborations with Ingrid and the spoken-word track not on Edsel’s new set. In turn, this set includes four songs not on 50th Anniversary. The 32 page booklet in this new release includes the lyrics to every song along with the full musician credits, and a 2000-word essay by Alan Robinson.

If you’re anxious to relive the emotional acoustic pop/rock of Jim Croce, Edsel’s The Original Albums…Plus will be in stores in the U.K. on July 25.

Jim Croce, The Original Albums…Plus (Edsel EDSD 2116, 2011)

Disc 1

  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. Time in A Bottle
  9. Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)
  10.  Box # 10
  11. A Long Time Ago
  12. Hey Tomorrow
  13. One Less Set Of Footsteps
  14. Roller Derby Queen
  15. Dreamin’ Again
  16. Careful Man
  17. Alabama Rain
  18. A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business (Singin’ The Blues)
  19. Next Time, This Time
  20. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
  21. These Dreams
  22. Speedball Tucker
  23. It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way

Disc 2

  1. I Got a Name
  2. Lover’s Cross
  3. Five Short Minutes
  4. Age
  5. Workin’ at the Carwash 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
  12. Mississippi Lady
  13. Chain Gang Medley
  14. Ol’ Man River
  15. Which Way Are You Goin’?
  16. Stone Walls
  17. King’s Song
  18. Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women
  19. (And) I Remember Her
  20. Cotton Mouth River
  21. More Than That Tomorrow
  22. The Migrant Worker
  23. Child Of Midnight
  24. Railroad Song
  25. Country Girl
  26. Maybe Tomorrow
  27. The Way We Used To

Disc 1, Tracks 1-10 from You Don’t Mess Around with Jim, ABC-Paramount ABCX-756, 1972
Disc 1, Tracks 13-23 from Life and Times, ABC-Paramount ABCX-769, 1973
Disc 2, Tracks 1-11 from I Got A Name, ABC-Paramount ABCX-797, 1973
Disc 2, Tracks 12-17, 24-27 from The Faces I’ve Been, Lifesong LS-900, 1975
Disc 2, Tracks 18-23 from 50th Anniversary Collection, Saja 7 92205-2, 1992

Written by Joe Marchese

July 7, 2011 at 09:27

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