I’ve always found James Taylor more satisfying in terms of individual songs than in full albums, so you’d figure that a compilation would be a good option. But this 1976 Greatest Hits is a story with two clear halves, the first side with highlights from Taylor’s singer-songwriter days and a more pop-oriented second half. The first side features reworkings of ‘Carolina On My Mind’ and ‘Something In The Way She Moves’ from Taylor’s Apple debut, and they’re both excellent. There are three strong selections from Sweet Baby James, although it’s a shame there’s no space for ‘Long Ago And Far Away’ or ‘Mud Slide Slim’ from Mud Slide Slim.
The second side is bordering on mediocre, with predictable pop fare like ‘Shower the People’ and a slight but charming take on ‘How Sweet It Is’, although Crosby and Nash’s harmonies render ‘Mexico’ enjoyable. The nadir is a live version of ‘Steamroller’, which misses the humour of the original and even has Taylor dropping a completely out of character f-bomb.
I’m keeping my copy of Greatest Hits since I’m very fond of ‘Carolina In My Mind’, but I’m not sure why I own two Taylor albums; the debate between keeping the overall stronger Sweet Baby James or Greatest Hits, because it has ‘Carolina In My Mind’, is a dilemma.