Carole King

Epic, 1971


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Whoa, where the hell did this come from?

The other day I was skimming through a book at Barnes & Noble which contained a list of the top 100 selling albums of the 70s. After finding great pleasure in the fact I have nine out of the top ten (the one holdout is the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever), I started flipping to see what else made the list. Somewhere around 30 I think, Carole King's Tapestry turned up, and I shuffled on over to the music section to grab a copy.

Carole King is one of those artists whose name was familiar to me, but I really had no experience with her work whatsoever. After researching the matter further, it turns out that a great deal of artists covered her songs in the 60's, and it was upon James Taylor's insistence that she began to sing her own songs. I wish when someone gave me advice it would turn out as well as this.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first aspect of Tapestry that slapped me in the face was how many songs I ended up recognizing from the radio. At least five tracks, either sung by King or someone else, were major hits. "I Feel The Earth Move," "It's Too Late," "You've Got A Friend," "So Far Away," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" are tracks I knew and liked. Even more impressive is the quality of the album tracks. Every song on Tapestry probably could have been a hit -- there is no drop in quality.

Tapestry is not over-produced, which makes up a big part of the album's homespun charm. The sound consists largely of drums and piano, with a few sonic flourishes and some saxophone and guitar here and there. Instead of the music, Tapestry is carried by the hooks and riveting vocals from King -- when she is singing, her voice carries the song to a whole new level, as on "You've Got A Friend," where you believe what she is singing. The thing is, King isn't the most technically gifted nor most impressive female vocalist I've heard. However, her voice fits the music better than others. These are personal, introspective lyrics, and King doesn't lose sight of that.

As I mentioned before, the hits are famous, so there is not too much I have to say on them. Suffice it to say, they are worthy of their status. So allow me to highlight what else Tapestry has to offer. "Way Over Yonder" features a great blend of pop and gospel; for my money, this is King's best performance on the album. While the lyrics for "Smackwater Jack" sound like they are suited more for Cher than King, the Billy Preston-ish keyboards save the day. Also, it's not difficult to detect a strain of feminism running through Tapestry, and while it may sound dated today, I respect that King it doesn't bash the listener over the head with it. A song like Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" annoys me to no end because it force-feeds a message. When you can work political/social messages in while keeping the focus on the music, it's a win-win situation.

Listening to Tapestry was a pleasure. It did not challenge the boundaries of what we consider music and it wasn't the most exploratory album I've heard. But it is a testament to how good the singer/songwriter genre can sound and to pop craftsmanship.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic, and is used for informational purposes only.