#36 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums List
Of the 12 tracks on Carole King's Tapestry
, released in early 1971, seven have become pop music standards, the kind of songs practically every music fan has heard. "I Feel the Earth Move," "So Far Away," "It's Too Late," "You've Got a Friend," "Where You Lead," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" are all
songs that I've been aware of for as long as I can remember, songs that have always been around. I mean, before I even knew who Carole King was, I knew these songs. And it wasn't like I grew up with parents who were obsessed with Tapestry
or anything, the songs are just everywhere
these days. You'll hear "I Feel the Earth Move" in a movie, see "It's Too Late" on a commercial, hear "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" in the dentist's office, hear "You've Got a Friend" in the elevator ... and then you find out these are all songs by the same artist
on the same album
and it's almost enough to make your head explode. And that's the biggest achievement here, that so many classic pop songs are on the same release. The album might be mostly just King and a piano, but Tapestry
features enough easy-listening goodness to last any listener a lifetime.
Since so many tracks here are common, I'd like to start this review by looking at three tracks from Tapestry
not everyone on the planet has heard: "Home Again," "Smackwater Jack" and "Tapestry." "Home Again," like every other song on the album, features solid piano work and a melody that is immediately catchy. What makes it standout is how, even though the song is just over two minute in length, you get a complete breakdown. At about the 1:06 mark, the drums do their thing, things get a little more dramatic and King takes over with that beautiful voice of hers, singing with passion and sincerity. That moment where things pick up is one of the album's definate highlights. "Smackwater Jack" is different from the other songs on Tapestry
in two ways. The song is more straight-up rock 'n' roll than most King compositions, featuring barroom piano, rhythm guitar and a bouncing bass part. And on top of that, the song tells a fun, relaxed story. Most of Tapestry
features love songs that your parents dance to at wedding receptions, but "Smackwater Jack" is about death and violence, the kinds of things that usually make rock fans everywhere wet themselves. "Smackwater Jack" is a great track, for sure, one that actually reminds me of old Bruce Springsteen. The third unknown track I wanted to touch one is "Tapestry," maybe the best ballad here. To be honest with all of you, this is my favorite song on the entire album. Part of that might be that I've heard it less than the radio songs, but that is selling "Tapestry" short as a song. I like it because I like it, not just because I've heard it less. The piano part is wonderful, her voice is as sweet as ever and the lyrics are legitimate poetry, not just words that rhyme at the right moments.
With those songs that often get slept on out of the way, we can now get on to the singles, arguably some of the very best pop music ever made. King worked as a professional songwriter for years before actually becoming a commercial success herself, and you can tell when you hear these songs that she was trained to make a hit singles at will. Album opener "I Feel the Earth Move," for instance, kicks off with an upbeat piano part and King quickly begins to sing, making the song's melody immediately clear. There is no wasted time on Tapestry
, no epic introductions or long experiments. When King starts, the songs are catchy from the opening seconds. "So Far Away" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" are perfect examples of this. Even when the songs are slow, the piano playing is precise and the verses flow perfectly.
"You've Got a Friend" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" are a little different in this regard, I suppose, since it takes more than hearing the opening seconds to know where things are going. "You've Got a Friend," for instance, is a tad boring at first. But James Taylor is the guy that made it huge, right? And he is always a tad boring, so it all makes sense. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" is basically all build up to one incredible hook, so it isn't quite as catchy as some of King's other tunes. But the hook is phenomenal and one of the album's finest moments. Then, of course, you have "Where You Lead," another song featuring some funky keyboard work by King. 12-year-old girls that visit Sputnik will recognize "Where You Lead" as the Gilmore Girls theme, but this is more than a song about a hipster mom who couldn't keep her legs closed in high school. This is a pop classic
. King is spunky throughout "Where You Lead" and it's a blast hearing her sing with two backup singers and having fun.
is one of the finest pop albums the singer/songwriter genre has ever produced. If you want easy-listening perfection that manages to actually not be lame for a single second, look no further than this album. Except for possibly Joni Mitchell's Blue
, it is the best album of its kind you'll ever find. And you can usually buy it for under $10 anywhere you go, so just go pick up a copy. I hope people that haven't heard the lovely Carole, if such people exist, check out her work immediately. You'll be glad you did.