Beginning with 1971’s classic Tapestry and ending with 1976’s Thoroughbred, Carole King produced a series of six albums that were commercially successful, artistically creative, and which elevated her to the upper echelon of singer/songwriters in American music.
Thoroughbred was issued during January of 1976. It was her last album for the Ode label and signaled the end to the mostly joyful, romantic, and honest songs that dominated her work up until that time. It was an album where the guitar playing of Waddy Wachtel, Danny Kortchmar, and to a lesser extent James Taylor, shared center stage with King’s piano. There was also a heavy dose of acoustic guitars mixed in with the electric. It all added up to a pleasant, if not very venturesome, King release.
It was a solid album of good music. There were no real outstanding tracks that can be considered among her best, but on the other hand, there were no clunkers either. Thoroughbred quickly received a gold record award for sales and reached number three on the Billboard Magazine Pop Album Chart.
“Only Love Is Real” was released as the first single and barely made it into the top 30 at number 28. It was a smooth and polished mid-tempo pop song that had a wonderful union of guitar and piano. The other single, “High Out of Time,” just managed to crack the top 100 but deserved better. It was a piano-based ballad that had a similar sound to some of her best work of the past and had an innate beauty to it. While the songs tend to meld into one another, “Ambrosia,” “Still Here Thinking Of You,” and “So Many Ways” are a cut above the rest.
King had achieved a stature where she could regularly attract famous musicians and vocalists to assist her. This album featured David Crosby, Graham Nash, J.D. Souther, and sax player Tom Scott, in addition to the above mentioned guitarists. After using Dave Palmer as the lyricist on all the songs for her previous album, Wrap Around Joy, she only used him once here. She wrote five of the ten songs herself and combined with former husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin on the last four tracks.
Thoroughbred may not be King’s most energetic or unique effort, but it fits nicely into her catalogue of releases at the time. She has more essential releases to be explored, but it remains a satisfying listen.