James was born into a wealthy family but that didn't shield him from life's problems including drug addiction and depression. Perhaps these problems ultimately helped him to succeed in the often strange music business - the song that first established his reputation (Fire and rain) is autobiographical and could not have been written by a man without any worries or problems.
James, though born and raised in America, made his first recordings in London for the Apple label in 1968. The resultant album was a flop at the time although it contained some fine songs including Carolina on my mind (here in a 1976 re-recording) and Something in the way she moves (the Beatles classic). Peter Asher, formerly of Peter and Gordon, began his career as a record producer with Apple and James Taylor's album was among his earliest productions. James returned to America following the album's failure. Peter also moved to America after quitting Apple and secured an American recording contract for James, in whom he still had faith.
James had far greater success with his first American album, Sweet baby James. The outstanding song was the aforementioned Fire and rain. Only a minor UK hit, it was a much bigger hit in America, where it catapulted him to superstardom. His next album, Mud slide Slim and the blue horizon, yielded another huge American hit - You've got a friend, which also made the UK top five and remains his only major UK hit. Indeed, James only had one more UK hit after that (Mockingbird - see later).
One-man dog, his third American album and fourth altogether, yielded another American hit, Don't let me be lonely tonight, which failed to chart in the UK. After that, Peter Asher switched his production efforts to Linda Ronstadt, with whom he had even greater success, while Carly Simon rescued James from his loneliness (at least for a few years). They married and also recorded a duet - Mockingbird, a cover of the R+B classic by Charlie and Inez Foxx, made the American top five but is conspicuous by its absence from this set.
James never quite reached the same level of brilliance again (even when he teamed up with Peter Asher again in 1978) although his later music is still worth hearing. He continued to have American hits, but with covers rather than original material. His cover hits included How sweet it is (Marvin Gaye - or Junior Walker), Handy man (Jimmy Jones) and Up on the roof (originally an American hit for the Drifters, it became a UK top ten hit for Kenny Lynch).
This compilation, focusing on his seventies music but including one newly recorded track (Bittersweet) contains all the essential James Taylor tracks except Mockingbird so if you only want one collection of his music, this is a good choice. Buy a Carly Simon compilation for Mockingbird - and plenty of other great music.