I was introduced to Carole King by my music-obsessed dad, who sees Tapestry as one of the most crucial albums in his music collection. The first time I heard her singing “Natural Woman” I was something like 11 years old. I had buck teeth, a bob hair cut and a side parting so deep that half my face was shrouded in hair. Long story short, I was weird. But I had pretty good music taste for someone so stylistically challenged. All thanks to my infinitely hip older siblings and my infinitely hipper dad. So along came the album “Tapestry”, downloaded right onto my iPod Nano (omg so retro), and played until it could be played no more.
Bit of backstory: Born in Manhattan, Carole King met future hubby and writing partner Gerry Goffin at school. They wrote loads of bangers together including “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” for the Shirelles and “Up On The Roof” by the drifters. Eventually, they got divorced and after a period of reluctance to perform solo, King released her first album “Writer” in 1970. Shortly after in 1971 she released “Tapestry” which would totally blow everyone’s socks straight off, including mine.
This album has everything: groove, soul, sadness, nostalgia, EPIC jazzy piano parts and a whole lot of lurve. There is a real sense of sass, as if King had been storing it all up over the years writing stuff for other people then just released it in a huge sass-cano all over this album. The fiery moments come in the form of a vibrant band sound, complete with mega jazz piano chords and rock ‘n’ roll bass guitar lines. The quieter moments are the kind of thing that would inflate the Grinch’s heart, with subtle yet nonetheless interesting piano accompaniments and crazily soulful vocal lines.
“So Far Away” which has some genius piano touches and plaintive lyrics. The best section is that “one more song about moving along the highway” bridgey part. King slays with an earnest vocal line and James Taylor makes an appearance on acoustic guitar. “It’s Too Late” (which remained on the charts for nearly six years) has a groovular riff, some sexy drum fills, a seductive saxophone solo and a STRONG bass line and some more of those bongo-like instruments. Holllllaaaa. The layered rhythms give this song so much variety and funk. “Where You Lead” has a more rocky vibe, the sweetest lyrics and some killer harmonies. “Beautiful” spoke to me the most as an – let’s not beat around the bush here – ugly 11-year-old. King was there before Christina Agulera, spreading those self-affirming vibrations every which way and telling people they didn’t need a knockout look to be a cool dude.
There is not a single song on this album that I’m not totally in love with and wouldn’t marry if it was legal to marry songs. The classics (“You’ve Got A Friend”, “Natural Woman”) rock just as hard as the lesser known ones. They are ALL beautifully constructed, with the perfect combination of instrumental balance, variety and soul. Listen to the album and discover the awesomeness of this woman for yourself and if you are enlightened, as you will be, maybe pop along to the musical “Beautiful” (which is based on King’s life). I hate musicals but this is not just your usual cheestastic cheese-fest. If nothing else it’s a chance to listen to her music performed live.
So there you are, listen and you’ll be grooving along to these songs 24/7. TRUST ME!
Here’s a linkeroo for tickets to “Beautiful” (starting at £15):