James Taylor’s Feel The Moonshine is a CD of a live radio broadcast from Pittsburgh’s Syria Mosque in July 1976…

I pride myself on my collection of music by James Taylor. I have loved his music for most of my life and always make an effort to buy his albums and collections, unless they are different versions of things I already own. I have seen him in concert twice, which may not seem impressive. I’m not much of a concertgoer, though. I don’t like crowds. It’s something that I’ve seen JT perform live twice. I’d gladly go see him again. Better yet, I’d go see his brother, Liv, play live again. Both are awesome on stage.

Some of my favorite JT collections are his live albums. At this point, I have six of them, since I purchased Feel the Moonshine this month. I hesitated before I bought this disc because I read that it was kind of bootleg and unauthorized. My curiosity won out over my sense of legal propriety and I listened to Feel the Moonshine for the first time last night as I was finishing up the day. On this CD, Taylor is joined by David Lindley on slide guitar and fiddle, Danny Kortchmar on guitar, Clarence McDonald on keyboards, David Sanborn on tenor saxophone, Leland Sklar on bass, and Russ Kunkel on drums. Looking at the packaging, I can see that it was produced on a slim budget. There are liner notes that offer some background of the concert featured, but I notice that there are a couple of typos and the production has a rather cheap feel. No matter, though. James Taylor could sing the phonebook and I’d be interested.

The 77 minutes of music on this CD comes from James Taylor’s first eight albums. Eighteen of the nineteen tracks were written by Taylor; he includes his popular cover of Holland/Dozier/Holland’s song, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”. The recording quality itself is not so great. Remember, this was recorded live in 1976 and broadcasted on the radio. The people who produced this CD may have even used a radio recording. There are a couple of places on this disc that sound noticeably distorted.

Some of the songs on this recording are different than their album versions. For instance, Taylor sings “Bartender’s Blues” at this concert, but on the album version, Linda Ronstadt joins him on the chorus. She’s not on this disc, so he sings it in a different key with a different arrangement. While the different arrangement is interesting to listen to, I prefer the darker, more melancholy sound from JT, the studio album that featured “Bartender’s Blues”.

On the other hand, this collection has some different song choices that aren’t on James Taylor’s other live albums. Feel the Moonshine curiously does not include “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”, a hit song from Taylor’s 1972 album, One Man Dog. Instead, he includes “Dance”, a more obscure song from that album. He also includes deeper cuts like “Family Man”, “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox”, “Hello, Old Friend”, and “Lighthouse”. If you’re a casual Taylor fan, these titles might not mean so much to you, but they do to anyone who is a Taylor zealot like me. And, of course, he includes classics like “Shower The People”, “Fire and Rain”, “Walking Man”, and “Sweet Baby James”. The obligatory profanity laced “Steamroller”, probably one of his most popular concert tracks, is also included.

While I guess I’m glad to have a copy of this concert, I do caution that it’s got a bit of a bootleg feel to it. The recording quality is not bad, but it’s not perfect. I would recommend this CD to people who are true Taylor nuts and already have all of his albums. If you’re a more casual or discriminating listener, one of his other live albums put out by his label might be a more satisfying purchase. Incidentally, the first live album by James Taylor that made it into my collection was 1985’s Live In Rio, which is not so easy or cheap to find these days. I would hasten to add that while I’m proud to own Live In Rio, it’s definitely not among his best live albums in terms of production quality or track lists. I’d call it a collector’s item. That’s pretty much how I feel about Feel the Moonshine, too.

Someone uploaded Feel the Moonshine to YouTube.