Sweet Baby James

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Sweet Baby James
James Taylor - Sweet Baby James.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 1970 (1970-02)
RecordedDecember 1969 (1969-12)
StudioSunset Sound, Los Angeles
Genre
LabelWarner Bros.
ProducerPeter Asher
James Taylor chronology
James Taylor
(1968)
Sweet Baby James
(1970)
Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon
(1971)

Sweet Baby James is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter James Taylor and his first release on Warner Bros. Records. Released in February 1970, the album includes one of Taylor's earliest successful singles: "Fire and Rain", which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album itself reached #3 on the Billboard Album Charts. Sweet Baby James made Taylor one of the main forces of the ascendant singer-songwriter movement. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, in 1971. The album was listed at #104 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[1] In 2000 it was voted number 228 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[2]

Background[edit]

The album, produced by Peter Asher, was recorded at Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, California, between December 8 and 17, 1969 at a cost of only $7,600 (US$52,986 in 2019 dollars[3]) out of a budget of $20,000.[4] Taylor was "essentially homeless" at the time the album was recorded, either staying in Asher's home or sleeping on a couch at the house of guitarist Danny Kortchmar or anyone else who would have him.[4]:66

The song "Suite for 20 G" was so named because Taylor was promised $20,000 (US$139,437 in 2019 dollars[3]) once the album was delivered. With one more song needed, he strung together three unfinished songs into a "suite", and completed the album.[5]

The album produced two charting singles: "Fire and Rain," backed by "Anywhere Like Heaven," which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 31, 1970, and "Country Road," backed by "Sunny Skies," which peaked at #37 on March 20, 1971. An additional single, "Sweet Baby James," backed by "Suite for 20 G," did not chart.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic5/5 stars[7]
Christgau's Record GuideB–[8]
MusicHound Rock4/5[9]
Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[10]
The Village VoiceC+[11]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[12]

Reviewing for Rolling Stone in 1970, Gary von Tersch observed in the music "echoes of the Band, the Byrds, country Dylan and folksified Dion", which Taylor manages to negotiate into a "very listenable record that is all his own".[13] Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was harsher in his appraisal of the album, saying that "Taylor's vehement following bewilders me; as near as I can discern, he is just another poetizing simp. Even the production is conventional. For true believers only."[11] In a retrospective review, AllMusic's William Ruhlmann was more receptive to "Taylor's sense of wounded hopelessness", believing it reflected "the pessimism and desperation of the 1960s hangover that was the early '70s" and "struck a chord with music fans, especially because of its attractive mixture of folk, country, gospel, and blues elements, all of them carefully understated and distanced."[7]

Accolades[edit]

Track listing[edit]

All songs by James Taylor unless otherwise noted.

Side one
  1. "Sweet Baby James" – 2:54
  2. "Lo and Behold" – 2:37
  3. "Sunny Skies" – 2:21
  4. "Steamroller Blues" – 2:57
  5. "Country Road" – 3:22
  6. "Oh, Susannah" (Stephen Foster) – 1:58
Side two
  1. "Fire and Rain" – 3:20
  2. "Blossom" – 2:14
  3. "Anywhere Like Heaven" – 3:23
  4. "Oh Baby, Don't You Loose Your Lip on Me" – 1:46
  5. "Suite for 20 G" – 4:41

Some copies of the album also feature "Hi, James" and "That's All Folks" etched into the inner dead wax on sides 1 and 2, respectively.

Personnel[edit]

Musicians

The horn players are uncredited.

Technical

  • Jack Bielan – brass arrangements
  • Peter Asher – producer
  • Bill Lazerus – engineer
  • Darrell Johnson – mastering
  • Ed Thrasher – art direction
  • Henry Diltz – photography

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[23] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Levy, Joe; Van Zandt, Steven (2006) [2005]. "103 | Sweet Baby James – James Taylor". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1-932958-61-4. OCLC 70672814. Retrieved March 20, 2005.
  2. ^ Larkin, Colin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 107. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  3. ^ a b Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Browne, David (2011). Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY and the Lost Story of 1970. Boston: Da Capo Press. p. 64.
  5. ^ "Suite For 20G by James Taylor". Songfacts.com.
  6. ^ "James Taylor charts". Billboard.com.
  7. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. Sweet Baby James at AllMusic. Retrieved October 2, 2004.
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: T". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 15, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  9. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. pp. 1124–25. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Coleman, Mark; Edmonds, Ben (2004). "James Taylor". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 804–805. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Portions posted at "James Taylor > Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 5, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (April 23, 1970). "Consumer Guide (9)". The Village Voice. Retrieved March 15, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  12. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  13. ^ von Tersch, Gary (April 30, 1970). "James Taylor Sweet Baby James > Album Review". Rolling Stone (57). Archived from the original on November 3, 2007. Retrieved June 15, 2006.
  14. ^ "Rock On The Net: VH1: 100 Greatest Albums". www.rockonthenet.com. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  15. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  16. ^ "Chris Darrow interview on Outsight Radio Hours". Archive.org. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
  17. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 305. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  18. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 14, No. 16" (PHP). RPM. December 5, 1970. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  19. ^ "James Taylor > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  20. ^ "Sweet Baby James: Charts & Awards: Billboard Albums". allmusic.com. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  21. ^ "Billboard.BIZ Top Pop Albums of 1970". billboard.biz. Archived from the original on December 15, 2012. Retrieved March 27, 2014.
  22. ^ "Billboard.BIZ Top Pop Albums of 1971". billboard.biz. Archived from the original on December 31, 2012. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  23. ^ "American album certifications – James Taylor – Sweet Baby JAmes". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]