CAROLE KING Tapestry (Ode/Epic/Legacy)
What strikes most when listening to this latest reissue of Carole King's perennially popular 1971 album is how bluff the instrumentation sounds, even by the standards of work by singer-songwriter contemporaries such as Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, both of whom appear here. There's no opulence to these arrangements, the functionality of the music emphasised by the boxy piano sound and woody thump of percussion. The songs appear like highly advanced demos - apparently at the behest of producer Larry Adler, who felt it would be the best way to present these songs, many of which had already been recorded as demos for other artists. It's only when you listen a little deeper that it becomes apparent that the jigsaw puzzle pieces of backing vocals and vocal ad-libs are already in place, and these are the finished articles.
And those finished articles are pretty uniformly great. There are about half-a-dozen songs here that have entered the very fabric of popular culture over the last 30 years, admittedly more as a result of innumerable cover versions than the composer's own interpretations, but any album that manages to collate "I Feel The Earth Move", "It's Too Late", "You've Got A Friend", "Where You Lead", a slow, stately "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" is clearly the work of an individual with talent to burn. "Tapestry" is the happy pop face of the singer-songwriter movement, a fabulous album that sneaks up on the listener (it took me years, rather than weeks or months, to begin to appreciate it fully) rather than impresses from the outset.
This current issue, like most of Sony's Legacy releases, does some justice to the album's status: James Taylor offers some brief and rather insubstantial booklet notes, and there are a smattering of extra tracks. "Out In The Cold" was recorded during the "Tapestry" sessions but makes its first appearance here: it's pleasant but a little melodically obvious - it sounds like a 60s girl group thing, which even the 60s girl group things on the album proper somehow avoid. There's also an equally welcome piano/vocal live version of "Smackwater Jack".