Carole King: Tapestry (1971)

One of the most reviewed albums in history.  She had the greatest selling album in history, and then her popularity faded, but in her third act, she’s more popular than ever. A best selling book, Broadway play, reunion tour with James Taylor, and many other notable events.  She’s been discovered by new generations. Life is funny that way.

All the way back to 1971, she was ready to record her second album. Writer, had debuted the year earlier of mostly songs she had written earlier with husband Gerry Goffin.  Writer was in a sense, a practice run for her solo career.  The album barely made a dent in the world.

In 1971, the world was interested in singer/songwriters. Dial-back the production and let the songs breathe, like folk songs, but with a pop and strong melodic sensibility.  In the 1960s, King’s songs were pop magic, tightly produced with a big sound, everything the singer/songwriter era moved away from.

Tapestry was a lean production, with record mogul Lou Adler at the controls.  Adler had owned Dunhill Records that he sold to ABC, and now had Ode Records, that King recorded on.  The core musicians were King (piano), James Taylor (guitar), Danny Kortchmar (guitar) Charles Larkey (bass) and Russ Kunkel (drums).  Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Merry Clayton added background vocals.  Adler added some strings sparingly.

All songs written by Carole King except where noted. King wrote of basic, human emotions and struggle: the pain of love lost, finding one’s self, new love, and the discovered wonders of life. This album, unpretentious and full of feeling, was like musical Velcro, it stuck to your soul. Four Grammy Awards including album of the year, and eventually 25 million albums sold. How many record collections had a copy?

Side 1

“I Feel the Earth Move” – 3:00 from the opening chords of the piano, you knew something was going on. The song had urgency, an R&B groove. A lot of song in three minutes of vinyl. The intro is a great example of King’s emotional vocal range. This woman meant business.

“So Far Away” – 3:55  Again, soulful voice and plaintive piano.  King carries the song with her piano and voice, the guitar and bass accentuate the emotion in the song.  Have you ever been separated from someone you care about, this song has that universal feeling of loneliness.  King had a wonderful way of milking an even deeper feeling as the song fades into silence.  The flute and bass add a melancholy texture.

“It’s Too Late” (lyrics by Toni Stern) – 3:54  One of the best known songs from the album. Another song of love slipping away, not sad, just reflective.  Kortchmar’s guitar is exquisite on this song.  The horns add to the emotional tone. A classic.

“Home Again” – 2:29 James Taylor on the acoustic guitar. A quiet song of longing with no one to talk to, but looking forward to seeing that person at home tonight.  An underappreciated song, on an album of classics.

“Beautiful” – 3:08  The name of King’s Broadway show.  Recognizing your own worth and beauty, even if the world doesn’t see it, at first.

“Way Over Yonder” – 4:49 A soulful song, chocked full of R&B. Not my favorite song on the album. A gospel song, with Merry Clayton singing background.  King could master many styles of popular music.

Side 2

“You’ve Got a Friend” – 5:09  One of King’s best songs, and a number one hit for her friend James Taylor, who plays guitar.  A song of hope and resilience. Go ahead, sing along, you want to.

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

“Where You Lead” (lyrics by Carole King and Toni Stern) – 3:20  A rocking song of following your love, if you need. A song in the spirit of the early 1960s, with the female chorus in the background.

“Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (Gerry Goffin, King) – 4:13 Another classic, a lover wants to know if their partner will feel the same in the morning. An open vein of emotion. Soulful and plaintive, one of the saddest songs ever. The ending is one of the most melodic and haunting pieces of music, the piano and bass are exquisite. Those soulful notes are better than anything you’ll find elsewhere.

Tonight with words unspoken
You said that I’m the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night (When the night)
Meets the morning sun?

“Smackwater Jack” (Goffin, King) – 3:42 After the last song, an upbeat, playful, story song. Merry Clayton and Julia Tilman on the background vocals.  Great electric piano by Ralph Schuckett and lead guitar by Kortchmar.

“Tapestry” – 3:15  A slow, beautiful, story song. Life is a tapestry.

“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Goffin, King, Jerry Wexler) – 3:59 Aretha did this song first and had a huge hit.  King is able to make her song, her own, this is a very quality version. Just King on the piano and several vocal tracks.  She delivers.

Looking out on the morning rain
I used to feel uninspired
And when I knew I had to face another day
Lord, it made me feel so tired
Before the day I met you, life was so unkind
But your love was the key to my peace of mind

 


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