You Don't Mess Around With Jim
Released: May 1972
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 93
Certified Gold: 11/26/73
If Jim Croce doesn't make it this way, perhaps he can pursue a career as a ghost writer. Despite the fact that he sings not quite like anyone else (well, maybe a little like Rusty Draper), he writes songs in the manner of a number of contemporary stars -- now like James Taylor, now like Gordon Lightfoot, now like Cat Stevens -- except his songs aren't quite as good as theirs. They do have an individual trait: he insists on a verse-chorus arrangement that seldom messes around with bridges. Sometimes the choruses are awkward, and rarely worth repeating.
"Hey Tomorrow," written in 1969, easily outclasses the other songs -- most of which waste some good acoustic guitar work by Croce and some tasteful arrangements. If you want to conclude that Croce wrote better before he was bombarded by certain influences, it's all right with me.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 12/72.
Somehow Jim Croce makes even his saddest stories easy. He never seems overly upset, even when he's talking about hard times, being out of money, no friends, lost love. As he says in "Tomorrow's Gonna Be A Brighter Day," "nobody ever had a rainbow baby/Until he had the rain." You have to believe him, because he's so melodic about it, no wasted self-pity, you just know that he's going to make it, if anyone does.
The whole album is like that, with an underlying sense of humor even with the hard luck stories. In person, Croce fills in the spaces with stories of some of the scrapes he got into and then out of. But even without the live version on the LP, you get the sense that this easy-voiced, good-guitar playing troubadour has strengths he hasn't even tapped yet.
There are no credits given, but the back-up musicians are good, they are there when needed, but mostly it's Jim Croce all the way, and a nice way it is.
- Beverly Magid, Words & Music, 11/72.
Jim Croce singing authoritatively and with great skill and vitality has fashioned an album that is at once intriguing, yet deceptively simple. His style is devoid of vestigial embellishments. A buoyantly joyful mood is prevalent. Standout cuts include "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," "Rapid Roy (The Stock Car Boy)" and the plaintive "Photographs and Memories."
- Billboard, 1972.
Croce's debut ABC album was also his commercial breakthrough, topping the charts for five weeks, largely due to the comic, uptempo title tune, a story song about competing pool hustlers, although Croce also reached the Top 20 with the change-of-pace ballad "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)." Just after his death, ABC issued the LP track "Time In A Bottle," and a newly ironic message propelled it to #1, and the song was also featured in an ABC Movie of the Week, She Lives!. * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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