When Audio Fidelity made their release of James Taylor’s Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon available for review, I jumped at the chance because I loved this CD way back in 1972 (yes, I’m that old). I still do. This 24K gold, limited edition CD is just beautiful, and the sound quality is excellent as well. It would be a perfect gift for any collector.
As for the music itself, it is still just as magical as I recalled it from all those years ago. Taylor’s voice is so smooth and rich, and his style is so laid-back that listening to him is infinitely comforting. Even when he is singing sad songs, his voice seems to promise that there is hope.
And the songs here, for the most part, are hopeful celebrations of love, friendship, home, and pleasant memories. With his famous version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” he defined that subject for many people for life. “Love Has Brought Me Around,” “Places in My Past,” “You Can Close Your Eyes,”and “Isn’t It Nice to Be Home Again” all reflect a happy, contented James Taylor.
The songs here also speak of traveling and coming home, the healing power of music, and dreaming of what has been and what is to be. Taylor has a wonderful knack for transporting you to places with his songs, whether it’s walking along a bayou or sailing in a boat on the ocean, or sitting in a bar listening to sad songs. You’re right there with him, and the company is all you could ever hope it would be.
Not every song is about Taylor and his life. There’s the light-hearted retelling of the story of “Machine Gun Kelly,” with its warning to watch how closely you listen to your woman. And there’s the eerie “Soldiers,” which I take to be a ghost story in the tradition of those in the Carolinas, where Taylor was born (as was I).
An impressive group of friends sang or played on this album. Carole King played piano and sang background vocals, as did Joni Mitchell and Taylor’s sister Kate. Taylor’s manager and producer Peter Asher (who was half of the popular duo Peter and Gordon in the ’60s) also sang backup on some of the songs.
Overall, this recording, as well as Taylor’s other albums, helped set the standard for singer-songwriters then and now. No one has ever told a story or created a mood in song better.
Get this CD if you remember Mudslide Slim and the Blues Horizon. You won’t be disappointed to hear it again. If you weren’t around or don’t remember this recording, get it and listen to it. You will find that its charm is just as strong now as it was then.