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Life And Times
Jim Croce

ABC 769
Released: February 1973
Chart Peak: #7
Weeks Charted: 84
Certified Gold: 11/2/73

Jim CroceJim Croce is the most blatantly commercial of the newest crop of folksingers, although in his case that is more compliment than criticism. He is an expert guitarist and relaxed vocalist, possessed of a more personal style and accomplished singing technique than most. His melodies are memorable, even if they sometimes run together, and his lyrics at least express a thought and at most tell a damn good story. His songs are tight, seldom running over three minutes, and yet rarely suffer from the forced compression of too much Top 40 material. And the production by Terry Cashman and Tommy West does more with the slight instrumentation Croce works with than lots of folks do with twice as much. All of which is to say that Life And Times is not the musical revolution but an eminently enjoyable album -- the work of a first-rate craftsman.

Jim Croce - Life And Times
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The title is more revealing than most in that his material alternates between two styles -- bits of Americana, portraits of crazy characters and pieces of a very romantic autobiography. His two AM hits, both from his first album You Don't Mess Around with Jim, illustrated the two sides of his sensibility. The title song was very much about the times and has spawned some offspring on the new album, including "Roller Derby Queen," "Careful Man," "Speedball Tucker," and an explicit sequel, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." All give us a panoramic view of Croce's fantasy vision of the underside of society and are expertly projected through good-time melodies and smooth arrangements.

Croce's other hit, "Operator," is the prototype of his songs about personal life and is the best example to date of his penchant for pretty music and sad lyrics. On the new record, "One Less Set Of Footsteps" and "Next Time, This Time" continue in that style and are my personal favorites. Despite their "artful" quality, Croce retains a firm, self-possessed stance, never drifting into the sappiness that characterizes some of his inferior colleagues. Both of the tunes are marked by an undercurrent of resentment against women but neither is vengeful in the style of early Dylan. Rather they are the product of a disillusioned man, but one who refuses to feel sorry for himself. The general production of the album is better suited to the less rambunctious material and both songs sound remarkably complete despite their short running time and scant instrumentation.

Croce is capable of slipping into the cliches of his genres, as in occasional lines about "sweet magnolia calling" and "Christmas lights," but mainly he sustains my interest through his depiction of the alternate sides of his romantic vision -- one that encompasses the fantasy world of bizarre but human characters and the romantic world populated by lonely people who always manage to miss making their connection. It is his ability to sustain both approaches on the same record that marks him as a superior new talent.

- Jon Landau, Rolling Stone, 4/26/73.

Bonus Reviews!

If you can accept the mechanizations that go along with Jim Croce's anti-glamour image and his concomitant self-appointment as laureate to the greasers, you'll find he's improving as a songwriter, at least in technical terms, and is once again fronting an excellent, open-but-not-loose acoustic band. There is something hard in his voice, and his lyrics are neurotically self-centered taken as a crop, but if you can listen abstractly, perceiving it all as sounds, it's well worth listening to. Croce seems here to have wriggled out from under the crushing over-influence of certain elevated troubadours of the day -- and regardless of what real greasers think of him he has developed an excellent ear for the lilt and cadences of beer-joint talk. That he can find a use for this in fashioning ballads (and not dogs but baubles of some prettiness, like "Next Time, This Time") as well as the obligatory malarkey about bar-room hotshots who finally got theirs is, you've got to admit, a sign of some versatility. It's an OK album, and the question of who Jim Croce really is can wait. It doesn't exactly burn, anyway.

Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 8/73.

Story songs of a very personal nature are the hallmark of Croce's works. His soaring voice carries him through his trips of life, and we are privy to his experiences. A generally gentle backdrop of unamplified guitars and flutes sets up a gentle blanket for his stories. There is a touch of humor to such titles as "Roller Derby Queen," "These Dreams" and "Careful Man." "Speedball Tucker" lets us view the life of the highway truck driver.

- Billboard, 1973.

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