Long Ago and Far Away (James Taylor song)

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"Long Ago and Far Away"
Dutch cover
Single by James Taylor
from the album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon
B-side "Let Me Ride"
Released 1971
Format 7"
Recorded 1971
Genre Folk rock, soft rock
Length 2:20
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) James Taylor
Producer(s) Peter Asher
James Taylor singles chronology
"You've Got a Friend"
(1971)
"Long Ago and Far Away"
(1971)
"Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight"
(1972)

"Long Ago and Far Away" is a song written by James Taylor and first released on his 1971 album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. It was the follow up single to You've Got a Friend and became a Top 40 hit in the U.S. and a Top 20 hit in Canada, and made the Top 10 on the Adult Contemporary chart in the U.S. It has also been covered by New York Voices and Johnny Mathis.

Lyrics and music[edit]

Taylor wrote "Long Ago and Far Away" in 1970, about a year before it was recorded for Mud Slide Slim.[1] Joni Mitchell sings background vocals and Carole King plays piano.[2][3] It is a sad song that Taylor biographer Timothy White calls "among the most wistful of Taylor's vast catalogue of secular hymns."[3] The theme of the song is how things don't turn out as planned, how dreams don't usually match the ultimate reality and how expectations don't last.[4] The lyrics evoke a motif common in Taylor's songs, that of the sea and sailing away for one reason or another.[3] Other images in the lyrics include "tender dreams" and "broken glass."[3] Towards the end of the song the singer asks why his song is so sad.[3] The phrase "long ago and far away" never appears in the lyrics.[4] Rather, Taylor sings that "Long ago a young man sits and plays his waiting game."[4] In 1998 Taylor noted that the lyrics in the second verse "Love is just a word I've heard when things are being said" was the "most coherent" part of the song for him at that time, stating that "it is a musing on the nature of expectations, and how they don't last.[5]

Critic Al Rudis notes a resemblance between some of the melody of "Long Ago and Far Away" and that of "Sunny Skies," a song from Taylor's prior album Sweet Baby James.[6] Journalist Peggy Mulloy Glad regards it as an example of how Taylor can use his vocal and guitar playing to "communicate the pain, melancholy and desires that most people experience but few can express."[7]

Reception[edit]

Author Dave Thompson described the song as "slight."[1] But Rudis considers it a "nice dreamy number."[6] Author Ian Halperin regards it as the most daring song on Mud Slide Slim.[4] Thirteen years after its initial release, critic Doug Robinson called it a "lesser known gem."[8] Rolling Stone Album Guide critic Mark Coleman considered it the one song on Mud Slide Slim that wasn't sappy or flaccid.[2] Taylor himself considers it "a sentimental song, but good."[3]

"Long Ago and Far Away" reached number 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number 4 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.[9] It reached number 12 in Canada, as well as number 9 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart.[10][11]

Other appearances[edit]

"Long Ago and Far Away" was included on the compilation albums The Best of James Taylor and The Essential James Taylor.[12][13] A live recording opens the album James Taylor Live in Rio.[14]

New York Voices covered "Long Ago and Far Away" on the 2001 album Sketches of James: Selection from the James Taylor Songbook.[15] Johnny Mathis covered the song on his 1971 album You've Got a Friend.[16][17] Mathis also released his version as a single.[18] Billboard Magazine described Mathis' version, produced by Richard Perry, as a "ballad beauty" delivered "in top form."[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Thompson, D. (2012). Hearts of Darkness: James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, and the Unlikely Rise of the Singer-Songwriter. Backbeat Books. ISBN 9781458471390. 
  2. ^ a b Coleman, M. (1992). DeCurtis, A,, Henke, J. & George-Warren, H., ed. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Straight Arrow Publications. p. 293. ISBN 0679737294. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f White, T. (2009). Long Ago and Far Away. Omnibus Press. pp. 8, 185, 190. ISBN 9780857120069. 
  4. ^ a b c d Halperin, I. (2003). Fire and Rain: The James Taylor Story. Citadel. p. 129. ISBN 978 0806523484. 
  5. ^ White, T. (December 5, 1998). "A Portrait of the Artist". Billboard Magazine. pp. 16–19. Retrieved 2014-05-29. 
  6. ^ a b Rudis, A. (May 8, 1971). "Taylor Keeps Tight Hold on Lullaby Championship". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 55. Retrieved 2014-04-09. 
  7. ^ Glad, P.M. (July 5, 1975). "Taylor's Music Easy Soothing". The Milwaukee Journal. p. 14. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  8. ^ Robinson, D. (May 3, 1984). "James Taylor Concerts Better Than Ever". The Deseret News. p. 22. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  9. ^ "James Taylor awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  10. ^ "RPM 100 Singles". Library and Archives Canada. November 13, 1971. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  11. ^ "RPM MOR Playlist". Library and Archives Canada. October 16, 1971. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  12. ^ Jurek, T. "The Best of James Taylor". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  13. ^ Collar, M. "The Essential James Taylor". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  14. ^ "Live in Rio". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  15. ^ Adler, D.R. "Sketches of James: Selection from the James Taylor Songbook". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  16. ^ Campbell, M. (December 26, 1971). "Some Music for the Over 30 Crowd". Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal. p. 8D. Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  17. ^ Ober, C. (October 18, 1971). "Mathis–He's Got Some Friends". St. Petersburg Times. p. 8D. Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  18. ^ "Billboard Album Reviews". Billboard Magazine. September 4, 1971. p. 22. Retrieved 2014-06-09. 
  19. ^ "Special Merit Spotlight". Billboard Magazine. August 28, 1971. p. 22. Retrieved 2014-06-09.