39 years ago last Thursday, Sept. 20, marked the anniversary of Jim Croce’s death. A year after Croce died “Photographs & Memories-His Greatest Hits” was released on Sept. 26, 1974. There’s something about the music Croce made that makes a sunny September day more enjoyable.
Sitting down listening to this record with a cup of coffee in hand I realized as soon as “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” starts to play that I shouldn’t have left this record on my shelf for as long as I did. Croce had such a talent and two years worth of his work are compiled all on this record.
Critics agree with the praise I am willing to give this album. Back in 1974 Billboard wrote a review stating, “It is hard to believe one man poured out a fountain of excellent work in barely two years, but this LP offers proof of the greatness of Croce’s career and is, in all respects, truly a greatest hits album”.
Perhaps I am a bit biased because how much I adore this album. There doesn’t seem to be one song on the record that I don’t have the urge to sing or hum along to. “Operator [That’s Not the Way It Feels]” is a mellow song, but the overall story the lyrics tell are what makes the song so intriguing. A man calls an operator to get the number of his lost love who left him for his “best old ex-friend Ray” just to inform them both he is okay. It’s only after he gets the number from the operator that he realizes he isn’t over the lover he lost and decides not to make the call. Lyrics like that have a way of tugging at the heart strings.
Of course the next song “Photographs and Memories” is not where the sappiness stops. Although, as depressing as these songs may seem, they are still that terrific that is hard to not want to listen to repeatedly.
The beat picks up when “Rapid Roy [The Stock Car Boy]” starts to play. For a moment Croce leads me to believe I’ll be able to continue enjoying the day, until “Time in a Bottle” comes on and the record returns to the nostalgic melancholy mode.
One song I will disagree with Croce about is “New York’s Not My Home”. I sing along to this song falsely because I couldn’t imagine not loving living in New York but because it is so damn catchy it’s hard not to sing. Croce was born in Philadelphia so naturally he didn’t feel New York was the city he belonged to.
“Working at the Car Wash Blues” did nothing for my ears other than offer a nice upbeat tune to listen to. “Like the fool I am and I’ll always be, I’ve got a dream”. Those lyrics from “I Got a Name” have always been a favorite of mine. The song gives an essence of hope through its tune and lyrics.
The next sentimental songs, as I like to consider them, are essential to the album and are a representation of the musician Croce was. “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song,” “Lover’s Cross,” and “These Dreams” were all beautifully written. “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” and “One Less Set of Footsteps” are two songs off the album that are both lyrically optimistic. Not to mention both have a certain “poppy” vibe to them. “Roller Derby Queen” the last song of the record is definitely one my personal favorites. It has a certain humor to it.
Throughout my entire collection of vinyls if I were asked to recommend a top three, this album would make the list, no questions asked.