Part of its ongoing James Taylor series, Mobile Fidelity’s remaster of the singer/songwriter’s tenth album is a smash.
Each side of the 1977 effort begins with big, radio friendly hits—“Your Smiling Face” and “Handy Man,” respectively. Indeed, JT stands as Taylor’s last great record from both creative and sales standpoints. Only his earlier Sweet Baby James equaled this set’s 3x-platinum status; none of his other studio records, however consistent, generated these numbers. (His 1976 Greatest Hits did sell 11 million copies.)
A side-by-side comparison with a 1A Columbia pressing reveals that while the original possesses a smidge of compression, it has more punch on the bottom end, serving a perfect example of how judicious use of a compressor can make a rock record rock. Everywhere else, the MoFi gains the upper hand. Considering that a majority of songs on JT are of the slower variety, the audiophile label LP’s sumptuous presentation is a treat. Taylor’s voice is large and breathy, and surrounded by great guitar attack.
In addition, the MoFi edition boasts higher quality in two critical areas, the first being surface noise. Many 70s and 80s Columbia pressings are plagued with noise; this record is no different. Thanks to better vinyl and half-speed mastering, the new JT is extremely silent. My pressing lacks any clicks, ticks, or pops. MoFi’s lower overall level eliminates the original’s compression, which benefits all tracks save for the opening numbers on each side. Those not into vinyl, can still enjoy this classic title on Hybrid SACD as well – the digital version is also fantastic.
Moreover, the remainder of the album yields more low-level detail as well as extra space between notes. Taylor’s acoustic guitar playing offers added resonance and decay, drum fills are better defined, and it’s much easier to pick out Carly Simon’s backing vocals. —Jeff Dorgay