Album of the Week, November 3: Tapestry by Carole King

CaroleKingTapestryCarole Klein was born in Brooklyn in 1942. She demonstrated a strong interest in music at an early age, channeling it into writing songs. By the age of 18 she had co-written her first #1 hit, Will You Love Me Tomorrow? with soon-to-be husband Gerry Goffin. Over the next decade she would write and co-write a vast number of successful singles for other artists, becoming one of the most successful pop songwriters of all time. (By Billboard chart stats, she is the most successful woman songwriter of all time.) She and Goffin divorced in 1968 and she formed the short-lived trio the City before beginning a solo recording career. While working on her first album, she became friends with James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and future songwriting partner Toni Stern. Writer was a moderate success with no singles. When King went back to te studio, a raft of friends and admirers joined her. The result was a stunning work of introspective folk pop that became one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Title Tapestry
Act Carole King
Label Ode Release Date  2/10/1971
Producer Lou Adler
U.S. Chart  #1 U.K. Chart  #4
Tracks
[U.S. Hot 100]
  1. I Feel the Earth Move [#1 flip]
  2. So Far Away [#14]
  3. It’s Too Late [#1]
  4. Home Again
  5. Beautiful
  6. Way Over Yonder
  7. You’ve Got A Friend [#1 by James Taylor]
  8. Where You Lead [#40 by Barbra Streisand]
  9. Will You Love Me Tomorrow [#1 by the Shirelles]
  10. Smackwater Jack [#14 flip]
  11. Tapestry
  12. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman [#8 by Aretha Franklin]

King had seven original compositions plus two new songs written with Stern and one written with ex-husband Goffin. She added her interpretations of two of the bigger hits she and Goffin wrote for others and the mix is magical. With clean production, brilliant accompaniment, and a comfort with her own voice and playing that she had not previously demonstrated, King helped launch the 70s singer-songwriter phenomenon.

Things start delightfully with I Feel the Earth Move. A lusty song about passion and its power, it’s a joyous performance. The band rocks just enough and King really digs into the lyrics, demonstrating a jazzy soul that stands out among the quieter songs. So Far Away is a more sedate but no less powerful song, a yearning tune of absence. The third hit in a row was the album’s first single, It’s Too Late. With the B-side hit I Feel the Earth Move, it spent five weeks at #1 and was the #3 single of 1971. It’s one of King’s finest songs (written with Stern in this case), a majestic pop masterpiece. Tinged with regret but no bitterness, it ends a relationship with a sad, strong resolve.

The next trio are songs of positive spirit. Home Again is a simple but solid antidote to So Far Away, capturing the power of having a place to feel centered. Beautiful is a great anthem of self esteem. A song of hope and destination, Way Over Yonder closes the set with a lightly gospel feel.

Two of the songs on Tapestry quickly became hits for others. You’ve Got A Friend is a wonderful song of support and love that has become a standard for two singer-songwriters. While working on Tapestry, King and a few other musicians also pitched in on James Taylor’s Mud Slide Slim while Taylor played on her album. Friend wound up on both discs and became Taylor’s only #1 hit just one week after King’s hit left the top. Both versions are sublime and the message of friendship resonates nicely in the collaborative spirit of the recordings. King’s other Stern collaboration, Where You Lead, is another uplifting gospel-tinged song. Barbra Streisand picked it up as a single and then recorded it live in a medley a year later.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow has charted six times since the Shirelles took it to #1 in 1961. King opted not to release her version, but it’s a standout on the album. She reinterprets it as a more feminist treat-me-as-I-deserve song than its early readings. Smackwater Jack is a new song co-written with Gerry Goffin. It’s a fun story song in which neither the criminal nor the sheriff comes across very well, but a bit of an odd throwaway on such a strong, emotional album. Tapestry is a perfect title track, capturing the reflective nature of the album overall.

King wraps things up with a spirited version of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, a song she originally wrote specifically for Aretha Franklin. While she lacks the chops of the Queen of Soul, she reclaims the song brilliantly. Together with I Feel the Earth Move, it bookmarks the album nicely with statements of passion and fulfilling sexual identity. Launched by Tapestry, King maintains a successful singing and writing career more than four decades later.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

2 Responses to Album of the Week, November 3: Tapestry by Carole King

  1. One of the greatest albums ever made.

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