PO Box 5231
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Cynthia A. Harney
Take a step back in time to 1966. Before James Taylor signed with Apple Records, before there even was an Apple Records. Picture Taylor, Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar, and the rest of Flying Machine taking their shot at rock and roll history. The band's single, Night Owl, climbed to #102 on the national charts, not enough to convince Jubilee execs to release a full length album. The tapes sat idle. The band split up.
Across the Atlantic, Taylor soon found two new fans, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Apple Records released James Taylor in November 1968, first in the UK, later in the US. Taylor's 1970 release with Warner Brothers, Sweet Baby James, climbed to number one.
Suddenly, Jubilee wanted to release a Flying Machine album. They wanted the tapes. Producers Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni agreed to an EP of the unfinished work, so the public could hear where it all started. They left in some studio chatter and left the artwork incomplete.
Forward now to 1997, James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine - 1967 becomes available on CD, courtesy of Gadfly Records. The cuts are still rough, the harmony very 60s, but there's no mistaking Taylor's soothing manner and the intimate lyrics that have become his trademark.
The album begins on a gentle note with Rainy Day Man followed by the playful Knocking 'Round the Zoo. The second cut of Knocking 'Round the Zoo (track nine), with Kortchmar on lead vocals and Taylor singing backup, is actually the better version. The vocals are balanced and there's more interaction, more energy.
Next comes an instrumental version of Something's Wrong and Flying Machine's single, "Night Owl." Daybreak and sunsets, smiles and tears (seemingly opposite lyrical images) set the scene for Brighten Your Night With My Day, while Taylor's warm intonation wraps you in serenity and acceptance, a magical ability reminiscent of Kermit the Frog. The remaining two cuts provide a taste of Kortchmar's multiple talents with Kootch's Song and the second version of Knocking 'Round the Zoo.
Edited by Kerry Dexter