Jim Croce was a pop artist with laser-guided instincts for writing hits. In an impossibly short run of fame – barely two years – he wrote singles that remain staples of ’70s AM radio. A September, 1973, plane crash took him and lead guitarist Maury Muehleisen, but this reissue celebrates the album’s 50th anniversary and its avalanche of hits.
If James Taylor kicked open the door for folk-pop troubadours (remember Harry Chapin and Jonathan Edwards?), Croce showed up right on time. His gift was penning simple, direct melodies for his heart-tugging lyrics and earnest voice. Accompanied by soulful backing vocals, “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” is a guitar boogie featuring Muehleisen’s sparkling solos on a Martin dreadnought. “Time In a Bottle” remains a bittersweet ballad, with precise acoustic arpeggios and Croce’s mesmerizing voice. Recorded in early 1972, it only released as a single after Jim and Maury’s deaths, rising into a monster #1 single. Bittersweet, indeed.
“Operator” is another acoustic gem, a perfect combination of Croce’s voice and Muehleisen’s lead guitar. Also make sure to cue up the gorgeous “Photographs and Memories.” Most likely, this Jim Croce song will break your heart all over again.
This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.