Carole King - Tapestry
Perhaps the difference was that, unlike say Joni Mitchell, Carole King was not trying to make any sort of statement. Ironically, many of her songs have ended up as statements in themselves. No, Carole King set out to put together an album of classy pop songs, songs which would appeal across the generations because they spoke of the same themes to which women, of whatever generation, could relate. And of course, lest we forget (as I am sure we often do), Carole King was a successful songwriter long before she became a performer, and some of the songs of Tapestry, notably "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" which was a hit for the Shirelles some years before, are from her large repertoire of songs penned for other people. Her performing career was perhaps delayed because it was long assumed by the record companies that she did not have the voice herself to sustain a performing career and so it was not until the seventies dawned that she began to sing what she had written herself.
What Carole King did with this album was to bring together a collection of songs, old and new, and give them a flavour all her own. Her voice, which some may describe as weak, is perhaps best described as fragile. Aware of that, she has deliberately softened down the tone of her songs. At times, there is an incredible soulful quality which seeps through. Tracks such as "Natural Woman" and "It's Too Late" convey both the feeling and emotion of the theme as well as the self-empowerment which women had begun to enjoy as part of the feminist liberation movement. And therein lies the message I spoke of earlier. Unlike Joni Mitchell, this is politics with a small ‘p'.
Of course, the album is not perfect - few are. When King goes up-tempo, the frailty of her voice begins to show. On "Smackwater Jack" she just does not seem able to hold the lyrics as well as on other songs on the album. This is even more apparent on the live track on this extended and remastered CD I have acquired where at times her voice seems overwhelmed by the backing. But that should not detract from the overall listening experience. This is as good a collection of laid back, soulful pop songs you will find. There are artists who have failed to put together compilations better than this, respected and well known artists. Now that I am able to relate the songs, to the woman, to the album, I shall be returning to Tapestry again and again.
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