The Song Writer’s Breakout
Tapestry, a sprawling epic including hit after hit, was a chance for Carol King to show off her own material.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #36
If you are over 50 or like any type of old music, you’ve heard Carol King’s work.
Between her writing career and people doing covers of her songs, King has given hit singles to several other well-known artists, including James Taylor, Quincy Jones, The Animals, The Drifters, Roberta Flack, and more. Known as a prolific song writer in the 60s with her then husband Gerry Goffin, King didn’t have any platform of her own as her pervious band “The City” was disbanded between label switches and her debut album “Writer” did not make much movement on the Billboard charts.
Then Tapestry released. Carol King was launched into another stratosphere as one of the most successful, solo-female acts.
The album has sold over 25 million copies, won Grammys for Album, Record, Song and Best Pop Vocal by a Female, and then stayed on the billboard charts for 313 weeks. Tapestry is 12 songs, mostly what you would categorize as easy-listening, soft rock. Outside of a few tracks, the album is mostly down-tempo with strong melodies. All of the instruments are tried and true piano, drums, strings and guitar giving it a well-grounded and clean sound. Through this simple and reduced set up, King conveys her singer-song writer talents clearly.
The highlights off the album for me were:
It’s Too Late:
The first single released to promote the album “It’s Too Late” encompasses Tapestry as a whole: subdued, poignant, and pure. King has an amazing ability to get out of her own way and let her song writing do the work. The spaces and gaps are more powerful than when instruments are competing: in just one song, she highlights guitar, sax and voice solos with barebones backing, but never are you overwhelmed.
She is able to get away with such a reduced presentation because her songs are just that good — she knows how to write hooks and create drama that doesn’t need to be bolstered by crazy instrumental backing.
Will You Love Me Tomorrow:
Written for the Shirelles in 1960 and later covered by Roberta Flack in the 70s (which is actually my favorite version), “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” continues with the simplistic theme of the album, showing that you don’t need lots of things going on to have a good hit. The song highlights King’s ability to write a relatable story as the lyrics instantly transport you to your own life and any personal doubts of continued infatuation:
“Tonight you’re mine, completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow?”
A more vocally challenging song than other entires, “Home Again” is a more sentimental story discussing home-sickness. This was a song I never heard before, and at the time I was at an eight-week rotation in Eastern TN. The sparse lyrics hit me right in the gut, making me feel exactly what I was supposed to feel.
“Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever gonna make it home again
It’s so far and out of sight
I really need someone to talk to
And nobody else knows how to comfort me tonight”
I feel like what we are missing in today’s music are the song writers; we have plenty of performers and talented musicians, but the people writing the material just aren’t of the same quality, or maybe music has been reduced to the lowest common denominator due to the rise of Spotify, iTunes and Youtube. Oddly enough, these are the same vehicles that I use to listen to all the classics. I don’t know whether I’m part of the problem (preventing innovative, new music) or part of the solution (discovering old classics).
Regardless, Carol King is poetry and her niche of soft-rock, relatable songs with clean presentation is money — Tapestry deserves a listen.