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A BIT ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Carole King was originally employed as a songwriter and wrote her first number one hit at the tender age of 17 as part of the Goffin and King partnership. That hit was the Shirelles version of "Will You Love Me tomorrow?" Goffin and King married and had two daughters and in the late 1960's they had a huge hit when Aretha Franklin released their "(You make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman". In 1971 Tapestry was released and it was Tapestry that really put King on the map and received huge praise and from her peers. Often described as the album that "provided the spiritual musical backdrop to the decade". Fellow song writer James Taylor recorded a version of King's "You've Got a Friend," released just before Tapestry and going all the way to number 1 in the USA chart. These successes gave King a first for a female singer/songwriter, with Tapestry winning all three of the key Grammy Awards:
* Record of the year
* Song of the year
* Album of the year
* Best female vocalist.
With more than 25 million units sold, Tapestry remained the best-selling album by a female artist. Of course Tapestry has been re-released several times and digitally re-mastered CD and MP3 versions created since that first 1971 release. My version is a CD version from the 1971 original and cost me £9.99.
1: I Feel the Earth Move 2.58
This up-tempo song, led by a thumping bar room type piano rhythm and King's instantly recognisable voice gets the album off to a great start. Basic, clean recording with an early break.
2: So Far Away 3.55
Beautiful missing a loved one song - instant slow down melody to this poignant ballad about missing a loved one. Featuring James Taylor on acoustic guitar to the fore a bit more than other tracks and a slow piano groove with laid back drums. Traditional folk type story telling song.
3: It's Too Late 3.53
"And it's too late Baby, now it's too late" This song about a relationship break up begins "stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time..." The lyrics admitting that the relationship has ended having run its course. This is one of my favourite King tracks. Typically, cheerful slightly jazzy tempo, balance the melancholy lyrics.
4: Home Again 2.29
A metaphorical lyric about finding love and more likely rekindling an old relationship, wrapped up in a lyric about home coming. Once again the Piano and drums are to the fore, with beautiful clear piano notes.
5. Beautiful 3.08
Another faster track, with a positive beat and message. "You're beautiful as you feel". A reminder to overcome the pain in your heart and put on a brave face and people will react to your positive outlook. A song that tells you to shake yourself down and be positive and you will be beautiful.
6. Way Over Yonder 4.44
I often wonder if this track was a favourite of Billy Joel's as it makes me think of some of his best work. Additionally, there is real soul in this track reminiscent of real southern Blues. Featuring a saxophone and strings, there is a bit more going on behind King's vocals and piano than some songs and a beautiful deep female background vocalist brings a touch of a gospel feel. The Sax cuts in and you are transported to a New Orleans club. Pure class.
7. You've Got a Friend 5.09
The classic track that was recorded by James Taylor and helped get Tapestry noticed when it was released soon after. A true song reminiscent of 1970's sing songs! This track is probably one of the most learnt contemporary piano pieces? This is a stripped back version - pure class and magic.
8. Where You Lead 3.20
Telling it how it is for so many teenagers in love. Following the love of your life to wherever they want to go, just to be with them. This is a fast moving melody with cheerful lyrics, wonderful drumming to the fore again, backing vocals by Merry Clayton, Julia Tillman and Carol King herself are perfectly in harmony both with each other and with the lead vocals. A true pop song.
9. Will You Love Me Tomorrow? 4.12
Where it all started and an "our song" for many couples. Covered by everyone from Graham Bonnet to the Shirelles (who had the original hit), with just about every genre of music in between, this is the version by the songwriter herself. A slow poignant start, this is a wonderful version that fits well with today's contemporary arrangements of many classic songs. Continues slow and steady, King's singing range is not great and this version is an easy one to sing. I know, because it is one of the few songs I can sing all the way through in tune! A true love song. How many of us have wondered about the question this song asks? Ends with a cheerful sudden lift on the piano keys: da da da da da da - da da da da da da . That leave the listener uplifted after the sadness and potential pain of the lyrics.
10. Smackwater Jack 3.41
"You can't talk to a man when he don't wanna understand" A country version, complete with a honky tonk (electric)piano. Tells the tale of a gun totting criminal.
11. Tapestry 3.13
I used to wonder why the album was named after this track? Then I grew up! A beautiful, slow track that showcases King's talents. Another song that tells a tale, this time a perfect folk song. So stripped back, this is just King and her piano. Amazing in its simplicity. This is the type of song that Ritchie and Candy Blackmore are doing in the 21st century. Carole King got there first in the 1970's!
12. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman 3.49
Again, this is obviously a different version to the hit version by Franklyn. Was this the version Franklyn heard before she sung it? I don't know, but this is again a stripped back songwriters version. Poignant in its lyrics and simplicity, at times the pain is raw in King's voice. King even risks rising to a high note and does so well, the key changes are good and clean and this has a wonderful live vibe to it, but oh, you can feel King's pain.
13. Out In the Cold (previously unrealised) 2.44
A mid-tempo pop song, with a touch of the "oh no not my baby" vibe with the harmonies. Cheerful and lovely and light after the raw pain of the previous track.
14. Smackwater Jack (Live) 3.21
A fast paced liver version, with great honky tonk piano and beat. King is a bit out of tune at the start and out of breath now and again, but it is a fun, speeded up live version, without the safety net of a backing band or track.
Penned entirely by King with the only exceptions being "It's Too Late" and "Where You Lead" co-written by Tom Stern and those jointly penned with Gerry Goffin being "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" "Smackwater Jack" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman". King's talent is obvious and the arrangements are such that they suit her voice. Whilst there is nothing remarkable about King's voice and she has a limited range, there is a truth and honesty about her singing, she holds a tune well, has excellent timing and key change ability. I like her voice and her singer/songwriter arrangements. The rawness at times, give the feel that this was an album done in one take. Whether it was or not? I don't know, but it sounds as fresh and young now as when I first heard the songs as a child. There is an honesty here. Tapestry is such an album that draws from a rich range of musical genres of its time and is a highly respected masterpiece by King's contemporaries as demonstrated by the four awards.
James Taylor guested on many of the tracks.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY:
I bought my copy as a CD from Woolworths a few years ago now. Available for download or on CD from many outlets including Amazon at £12.49 new CD from £5.49 as a MP3 download at the the of writing the review. Also occasionally to be found "used" on vinyl.
Youtube links for some "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" covers :
Thank you for reading my review and I hope you enjoyed it and learnt a bit about the album form it?!
~I was too young to get it fresh, and now I'm too old and contented to enjoy it~
Carole King's classic album 'Tapestry' was old when I was still young, an established world-wide best-seller long before I ever heard it. I first came across it when I was about 16, babysitting for the people who lived next door. In those days babysitting gave you free run of the record collection, the telephone and the fridge and a couple of quid an hour for making sure the baby didn't stop breathing. No wonder we were all happy to do it. By that time Tapestry was already more than a decade old, had received multiple awards and made Carole King's fame and fortune as a singer. Long before 'Tapestry' she was already established as a great song-writer, working with her husband Gerry Goffen, penning hits for other people and staying behind the scenes, behind the piano. Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman was probably her biggest hit, along with the Shirelle's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?". Then her friend James Taylor (yes, that James Taylor) lured her in front of the microphone and into the studio. Out came 'Tapestry', a collection of 12 songs each written or co-written by Carole King. Even now if you track down the Rolling Stone website's list of the Top 500 Best Albums of All Time, Tapestry is there at number 36. The awards and accolades are too numerous to list..
I didn't know any of that of course, I just liked the cat on the cover and the girl with the curly hair. I popped it on the record player and played it again and again, all evening long. Carole King's 'Tapestry' became a big prominent knot in my own personal clichéd tapestry of life. It's sold over 25 million copies since 1971 - several of them probably to me. Thinking about it now, I can only assume there were a lot of miserable people around in the 1970s and 1980s.
Tapestry saw me through my student days, playing through late night essay crises, accompanying me through falling in and out of love and solace in my bad habit for boyfriends who lived a long way away. Carole sang what I needed to hear at that time. Today I thought I'd give it another go, to see how it felt from the distance of time. It taught me a lot - mostly that I'm now too old, too happy and far too positive to listen to Carole King any more. It's time to consign it to the dustbin of things that meant a lot a long time ago and just don't suit me any more - like my lavender coloured velvet trousers I found hiding in the back of the wardrobe. Time to move on and wonder how this misery-fest of music used to move me so much.
~Put Your Records On~
There's someting a bit cheeky about the opening track - 'I Feel the Earth Move' - something misleading. It's upbeat, it's cheerful, it's all about the sheer joy and excitement of a new relationship and you could be forgiven for thinking there will be many more such joyful tracks to follow. Let me let you down not so gently. There aren't. This is the happy song - there aren't too many others. Make the most of it. This is the early, heady days of infatuation when you can't think about anything else but the person you love. Go for it Carole! 6 out of 10
Trouble is soon brewing, Carole is in love but he's not around. He's 'So Far Away' - or maybe he's home and she's on the road. I've never been quite sure. It's beautiful and wistful and for me it was one of my favourites. Why couldn't I do the wise thing and get a local boyfriend? Not so much Mr Right as Mr Right Here Right Now? Carole understood me. The man she loves is somewhere else and she wonders why we're all so busy moving on instead of settling down. This has to have been a standard late night track for separated couples. "One more song about moving along the highway can't say much of anything that's new" sung Carole and to be fair, no more songs were needed. She'd nailed it with this one. There's no other song that hits the mark so well with the possible exception of Nancy Griffiths' 'Outbound Plane'. Sad and poignant but I can't help still reacting to this one. 7 out of ten.
'It's Too Late' might just be the best song ever written about the sad, slow decline of a relationship that once had it all. It's a song about when you both know it's all over and you've just not got round to having the face to face time to admit that it can't be fixed. "Something inside has died and I can't hide and I just can't fake it" says Carole but she's not looking for anyone to blame. Instead she's looking back on how good things used to be before it all went wrong and forward to how good things can be again for both of them in the future after the split. There's a super soppy saxophone solo in there and a feel of a late night bar close to closing time. "I'm glad for what we had and how I once loved you". Could that be the most civilised and circumspect break up song of all time? There's no mud slinging, no blaming, just a recognition that enough's enough and they'll all be better off apart. 9 out of 10 for me - the best on the album.
'Home Again' is a sweet song about wanting to go home and about missing family and friends and it's a continuation of the theme of 'So Far Away'. A continuation but one that - for me - adds nothing but a heap of additional clichés. 'So Far Away' is SO good and 'Home Again' isn't. The lyrics are poor and predictable: " Snow is cold, rain is wet, chills my soul right to the marrow." Come on Carole, tell us something we don't know. Of course snow is cold - what were you expecting? At this point I start to realise that four tracks in, everything sounds the same. Her voice is the same whether the song is happy or sad, the backing music drifts into familiarity - here comes the musical interlude, there's the sax, here we go again. The lyrics are sparse and unimpressive. Thank goodness that CDs give us the fast forward button we didn't have with vinyl. 4 out of 10 from me.
'Beautiful' still confuses me all these years later. On the one hand it's almost an anthem to the power of positive thinking. She sings "You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart, and people gonna treat you better, you're gonna find - yes you will - that you're beautiful as you feel" . So why does she sing it like she doesn't believe it? This is one of those songs where the message and the tone just don't go together. It's a song about slapping on a smile and being positive but the melody and the backing music are sad and rather miserable. It sounds as if she's trying to convince herself of her message more than those who are listening. It's a miss for me - 3 out of 10.
'Way Over Yonder' is the last track on the first side. It's slow, slightly plodding, a rambling search for a place of safety and shelter. Whether this is a physical or a spiritual destination is ambiguous. This is supposed to be her paradise but she doesn't sound happy or excited - it's just more of a drone. "I know that when I get there, the first thing I'll see is the sun shining golden, shining right down on me" Click up a few more points on the cliché-meter. This is another one with a long musical interlude filled with soulful saxophone. The more I listen, the more I realise how astonishingly 'samey' so many of these tracks are and I remember this one always had me leaping up to flip the record over before it got to the end. 4 out of 10
That would have been the end of the first side back in the days of vinyl. It's a side that takes the listener on a journey. It starts so positive with the singer newly in love, goes through separation and break-up, through putting on a brave face and eventually looking for their safe sanctuary. I never really gave it too much thought back in my student days but I'm actually thinking I listened to some seriously miserable music. I must have driven people demented with some of my choices.
~On the Other Side~
Side Two kicks off with the sublime 'You've Got a Friend', a song that King wrote but is generally better known as a hit for her friend James Taylor. I knew the King version for many years before the Taylor version but I have to be honest that his is better. This is about the power of friendship and the promise to always be there when your friend needs you. In our facebook era it's hard to forget that such a promise was a bigger commitment of time and money when you maybe didn't have a phone, had to go to the box down the road and then travel for hours on a bus to go and give support. "If the sky above you should grow dark and full of clouds and that old north wind should begin to blow, keep your head together and call my name out loud, soon you'll hear me knocking at your door" It might not be the best song ever written about friendship but it's close to the best. 8 out of 10
'Where You Lead' is another in the vein of 'You've got a friend' but is more about romantic love rather than friendship. To be honest it always strikes me as a bit soppy and desperate - she wants a place with flowers on the windowsill but if he wants to be in the city, then she'll do whatever he wants just to be with him. Quite clearly 1971 was not the biggest era for female empowerment. I'm uncomfortable with the doormat desperation - wise up girl, get a sense of compromise and stop being a sheep.
'Will you love me tomorrow?' is one of King's most covered songs with scores of different recordings. Why? Well undoubtedly because it's a very good song about the uncertainty of relationships. Here is all the excitement but also all the fear of the one night stand that might be the biggest thing to happen to you or might be forgotten as soon as it's over. The singer just doesn't know where she stands: "Tonight the light of love is in your eyes. But will you love me tomorrow?" she asks. The answer to that one is simple; if you don't know girl, then don't do it. If you need it to be more, you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. How's she going to enjoy herself if her brain is whizzing with questions? "Is this a lasting treasure or just a moment's pleasure?" My money's on the latter. Get to know him before you go too far. Carole King's version is not the best by a long way, but it's still good - 6 out of 10
'Smackwater Jack' is my least favourite song on the album and it sticks out like a sore thumb on an album full of heart-felt ballads. Out of the blue she throws us an upbeat story-telling song about man who cracks up and shoots a load of people. The sheriff forms a posse to go after Jack and deliver justice. "The people were quite pleased because the outlaw had been seized and on the whole it was a very good year for the undertaker." Jolly, bouncy songs about shoot-em-up massacres surely can't have been as utterly tasteless in 1971 as they would be today in an America where lonely men with shotguns go on the rampage all too often. I'm baffled. This one shouldn't be on the album and if the only way Carol King could bring a jolly tune was with a subject like this, it's just too weird for me. 1 out of 10.
Next we're at the title track - 'Tapestry' - a song that starts with great promise and then morphs off into a ludicrous story about a stranger in a coloured coat turning into a toad. I know there were a lot of drugs around at the time but how did this ever turn into a song? The opening line "My Life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue, an everlasting vision of the ever changing view" is OK but the weirdy magical story is almost as out of place as Smackwater Jack and his shotgun. I was singing along for years and now I wonder why I never stopped to notice what total guff this was. Was the idea of life as a rich tapestry well entrenched in our collective cliché bank before Carole King's track 'Tapestry'? I'm too young to know but it's an irritant to me. 4 out of 10
Finally there's something worth hanging on to the end for. King's big power-ballad '(You make me feel) Like a Natural Woman'. This is a karaoke classic for drunken women on hen nights to belt out unmelodic screeching. It's been often recorded and to give her her due, Carole King's version is as good as most. As an anthem it's up there with 'I am Woman Hear me Roar' or 'I Will Survive'. A pure unadulterated 1970s cheese-fest but marvellous fun in the right circumstances. 6 out of 10.
I will concede that it's entirely unfair to judge a record from 1971 by 2013 sensibilities but this is my review, my relationship with the album and so I'm going to do it regardless. I adored Tapestry for years, would have put it in any personal 'Top 20' and pushed it on people with great enthusiasm. Now I'm listening and thinking "Jeez, you were a miserable git - you and Carole needed to get out and have more fun" and we probably did. Like far too many young women I was moping about and feeling wistful when I probably should have been out shaking my tail feathers. It took a calm Sunday afternoon hunting for Tapestry on my computer to give me a cold hard slap in the face. Just as your grandma's bread and butter pudding wasn't as wonderful as you remember it, your favourite music sometimes turns out to be rather more dreary than you recalled.
You need to hear 'Tapestry' if you're going to claim to know anything about classic albums of the 1970s. That doesn't mean that you need to love it. I won't beat you up if you dismiss it as a rather nasal woman having a major romantic angst attack. I won't even be hurt if you look at me and wonder how I could ever have thought this was a work of art. Carole was always there whenever I was down, not to pick me up but to give me something to wallow in and to warble along to. I can't downplay how much this album meant to me in my 20s. If you're at the age to love and lose and love again, if you've got an unfortunate habit of far away partners, then you'll probably find the same comfort I found. But if you are happy, have a great relationship and you've not broken up with anyone in a long time (or fallen head over heels for a while) then you're free to move on to the next classic album and just put this one onto your 'tried it, didn't like it much' list. In terms of life's great aural experiments, it beats eating earwax.
I have listened to this album a lot lately since my laptop decided to wipe out my music and reset itself out of nowhere. I'm prone to disorganisation at home (I tend to be much better in others' homes/workplace, oddly enough) and an example of this was when I lost the memory stick with all my backed up photos, music and documents on so I had to reapply my personal touch to my laptop and rip all my albums. Admittedly I procrastinate too much and thus far I've only managed to put a handful on there but 'Tapestry' by Carole King is one of them. I guess this is one of the first so-called singer-songwriter albums I ever bought as at the time, at the beginning of my grown up music discovery adventure I knew it was a highly rated and influential album. It is also one of the best selling albums of all time; this doesn't necessarily mean it is better than one that doesn't sell or that I was going to adore it but it meant it couldn't be ignored. Thus far, it's sold 25 million copies globally.
I feel like everything about this album has been said in other reviews already so I'll probably keep this short (I think I'm capable of that sometimes!). I think that the first thing I noticed about 'Tapestry' was how simple it was; I don't mean it in a derogatory way - quite the opposite. So often your favourite music grows on you after several listens because it takes awhile to take in the layers of craft within: those tight harmonies, that rhythm guitar, those drum fills, that bassline, hidden meanings in those lyrics etc. With this album, it's quite stripped down and it gives it this warmth and intimacy that makes it, at a risk of being cliche, a perfect rainy day album.
Carole covers subject matter that everyone can relate to and sings with an ethereal quality which lacks any pretension or complication which in turn makes it a universal album. In other words, 'Tapestry' requires less effort than other albums released by female singer-songwriters / vocalists who emerged in the '60s and '70s such as Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Laura Nyro or Nico; whose music require you to be in a certain mood to really enjoy it. I should add that in fairness the same applies to many male singers too. I think this is because of two things: simplicity and emotion. This album keeps things simple, as already stated and Carole King touches on a range of human emotions that we all feel at some point and emotions are, hopefully, universal. Whilst Joni Mitchell is applying clever lyrics, a widely ranging vocal talent and covering many genres of the music spectrum or whilst Nico or Laura Nyro are engaging in dark subject matters and the acquired deep-voiced vocal, Carole King's music is straight, approachable and down to earth. If Charlie Chaplin is no longer funny to people now as he once was, it's because every one has copied his humour to the point it is no longer fresh. So the fact that 'Tapestry' still seems fresh and enjoyable considering all the female singer-songwriters since its release in 1971, and particularly those with a piano, is testament to its timelessness. If imitation is apparantly the truest type of flattery, then this album has been consistently flattered.
I guess Carly Simon would be the obvious comparison to this but course Carole King had already been writing hit upon hit many years prior, and was a seasoned professional at crafting the perfect pop song, particularly with songwriting partner and one time husband Gerry Goffin, with whom she also collaborates once or twice on this album.
'Tapestry' gives you just over half an hour of twelve perfect piano-driven, slightly jazz-tingled pop. Of course if you get the bonus track edition like me you get an extra studio track and some live versions.
All the songs are recorded in more or less the same delivery, they all begin with and retain the piano theme and range from ballads to uptempo cheery pop. The album gives a balanced idea of Carole King's talent at not only interpreting her own songs but also the wealth of material she has created and given to other major artists. On 'Tapestry' you'll get Carole's own rendition of 'You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman' made most commercially famous by Aretha Franklin of course as well as the much recorded 'You've Got a Friend' perhaps made mostly famous by her close friend James Taylor and 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow?', taken into the charts on both sides of the Atlantic by the Shirelles in the '60s. As you'd expect all these songs are given the piano treatment and stripped of their commercial feel, freshened up and instead retain their ethereal quality, like all of the tracks.
'I Feel the Earth Move' kicks off the album, the B-side of single 'It's Too Late'. Both are famous in their own right and have received plentiful airplay; the latter song is the third inclusion on 'Tapestry'. The first track is almost a bouncy reaction to that feeling of being becoming an experienced adult and being touched first time round - I may obviously be wrong!
'So Far Away' is a beautiful near-acoustic ballad featuring James Taylor playing acoustic guitar appregios beneath Carole King's passionate vocal and light piano as she bemoans, "So far away, doesn't anybody stay in one place any more? It would be so fine to see your face at my door," she continues with almost a frustrated nod in the direction of herself, "One more song about moving along the highway, can't say much of anything that's new." The song ends with the wistful flute, an expressive instrument that so often turns up in music of this era. 'Home Again' continues the thematic trend of combining loneliness and travel, again a ballad which slightly lifts the mood of the album though. Carole's voice is particularly passionate at times, "Snow is cold, rain is wet, chills my soul right to the marrow," the drumming is ever so slightly heavier but still gentle and precise. If Bob Dylan changed how male vocals are seen to the masses, perhaps Carole King did the same thing to female vocals. Although easier on the ear than Dylan's voice, she put natural soul and passionate phrasing rather than simply singing pretty or technical prowess at the front.
'Beautiful' is a positive melancholy pop number which gives a nod to a more positive outlook and happier well-being which once again includes her emotional observations of watching the miserable commuters passing her by at the station. During a time that women, and to an extent men too, are made to follow society's unrealistic idea of the perfect image and all look wrinkle-free and perfect, Carole King sings about beauty radiating from within. What makes this a joy is that although an attractive woman, Carole King herself emits the natural all-American girl image. Whether this song would have worked at the time coming from say, Jane Birkin or Brigitte Bardot is an interesting question.
I think this is part of Janis Joplin's attraction too and that is that women tend to relate to other women whose image threatens them less, or in other words an everyday looking women whom they can relate to.
'Way Over Yonder' is where Carole King says she is bound; this song is vague in its meaning but a beautifully epic jazzy number with a light percussion and a sweet saxophone solo, which continues to gently weave in and out of the vocal until the end of the song. I'm not sure where she is singing about but perhaps she is talking about overcoming her troubles and envisaging light at the end of the tunnel. Although not strictly jazz in the purest sense, I always imagine going past a smoky jazz club and someone singing inside.
'Where You Lead' is again an uptempo, basic, bouncy pop song with catchy refrain and light harmonies that no doubt you'll sing along too, where the narrator puts the one she loves ahead of materialistic demands and personal dreams: "I always wanted a real home with flowers on the window seal, but if you want to live in New York City honey you know I will," those harmonies become slightly bouncier and have a light gospel feel. This one seems to be a nod in the direction of the old, soulful three piece girl groups of the '60s, so many of whom partly owe their chart success to Carole King. It's not hard to envisage Carole singing this and being backed up by three ladies throwing back those harmonies behind her whilst grooving in the old fashioned girl group style.
'Smackwater Jack', co-written with Gerry Goffin, leaves the emotional / personal theme of the album and is more of a light piece of storytelling, based upon a Western theme, and it breaks the album up nicely: "You can't talk to a man with a shotgun in his hand," there's those girl group-style harmonies again and some electric guitar. The title track is more or less all about voice and piano, a beautiful ballad which by today's standards may seems slightly twee, lyrically, but I'd argue that is only because in the twentieth century the soul has been sucked out of many things and we're taught anything in the love/emotional sense is tacky, in a world where everything has to have 'edge' (when in reality nothing comes close to real emotion). The track has a slight storytelling theme albeit it possibly remains personal again, this time though the story is spoken in first person by the narrator, about their life being a tapestry made up of good times and bad times and the inclusion of a man.
'Tapestry' ends with Carole King's version of 'Natural Woman' which has gone from massive radio hit to acoustic number promoting the mature woman. I love Aretha's version but it's a talent to write a song that becomes pop chart hit then take it and record it yourself, and reinvent it this passionately and maturely.
I can understand if some people, particularly younger people, would allow this album to go over their heads at first, seemingly because it can seem like a stripped down version of something we listen to all the time these days. Indeed this is lesser produced and very light in comparison. However, like I mentioned about Chaplin's humour as an example, you've got to take into account how original this was at the time of its recording and release, the soul put into it and its association with the so-called everyday person, i.e. the listener. Of course listeners of the time will already appreciate this. :)
This album exudes a certain warmth which comes from Carole King's earthy vocal and lyrics but although personal songs, they are of universal nature so are ambiguous and basic enough to be interpreted personally which is why everyone can relate to them. Everyone knows about the feeling of being down and self depreciating at some point, or having low self esteem. Everyone knows how it feels to have traveled somewhere or have a loved one travel somewhere and be away from them. Everyone knows how it is to have someone make them feel good, even if only in a short space of time. This is what makes this album to timeless because we all understand it.
Although I listen to it a lot myself, there was a lot of progressive rock and lyricists were trying to become more daring during this era (just compare this with what Bob Dylan, Lou Reed or Joni Mitchell were writing about) and with this album, Carole King magically managed to strip things down t bare emotion and step back in time whilst moving the position of the female singer ahead years. Being that this is such a warm, 'rainy day' album at least to me, this is one album that must be great to listen to through the warmth of vinyl. I'd love to own it on a big, beautiful LP. Nonetheless, this currently is available on Amazon itself at £5.17 but a used version is going from a s little as £2.13 on marketplace. I'm also pleased to state it is available on vinyl albeit sadly at over £30 with Amazon.
*I said I was keeping it short but as usual it never happened! Haha :)
~ Tracklisting ~
I Feel the Earth Move
So Far Away
It's Too Late
Way Over Yonder
You've Got a Friend
Where You Lead
Will You Love Me Tomorrow?
You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman
Out in the Cold (a studio track)
Smackwater Jack (live)
Today, it's expected that most albums that are released will have at least a couple of songs which have been penned by the artist and, more to the point, nobody bats an eyelid at the idea of a female singer/songwriter, but way back in the dim and distant past, the music industry was rather short on female songwriters. The only one who springs to mind, in fact, is Carole King who, it could be argued, was the first of her kind and paved the way some decades before the likes of K T Tunstall, Amy Winehouse and Katie Melhua.
Carole King began her writing career back in the 60s in partnership with her husband, Gerry Goffin, and wrote several hits such as Will You Love Me Tomorrow and It Might As Well Rain Until September but following the break-up of her marriage, she seemed to disappear for a while, although she had a couple of attempts at releasing solo albums which failed to achieve any commercial success. Eventually she re-emerged in 1971 with her first solo album success, Tapestry.
This album (or LP as we called them back in the day) was an almost instantaneous success and became the best selling album of all time (until Thriller, of course). I'm sure Tapestry is still lurking in many a record collection and if you have it, get it out and listen again: I'm sure you'll be as agreeably surprised as I was.
Tapestry has been re-released several times since 1971 and digitally remastered CD and MP3 versions have additional material. Although this review is for the CD version it's based, in the main, on the original release, although I have listened to the two additional tracks included on newer versions.
Most of the songs on the album are introspective and folky with very little accompaniment other than King at the piano plus guitars and the odd backing singer or two. All the songs are written by Carole King herself, with a couple being co-written with others, and the general mood of the entire album, I'd say, tends towards melancholy introspection and gives the impression of someone coming to terms with herself and with life. This isn't the melancholy of the suicidal though but rather more of regret for things past and uncertain hope for the future. This isn't music to make you feel hyper but to soothe and de-stress and even, maybe, to make you think about your life and where it's going.
All of the songs are delivered in Carole King's distinctive and somewhat adenoidal voice and, although I think it's probably fair to say she isn't the best singer in the world, she has a quality to her voice which gives her songs a depth of meaning that would be lost if they were sung by a more proficient voice.
Track 1: I Feel the Earth Move
This gets the album off to a good start being a fairly up-tempo song, very much in the tradition of early Neil Sedaka with an insistent and thumping piano rhythm and drum and guitar accompaniment. It's filled with the anticipation and pleasure that accompany the beginning of a relationship.
Track 2: So Far Away
A lyrical and poignant ballad about love and separation. The ensemble of drums, bass guitar and piano are enhanced by the addition of a flute as well as Carole King's friend, James Taylor, on acoustic guitar.
Track 3: It's Too Late
Another sad song, this time about the end of a relationship acknowledging that it's run its course and its time to move on. The beat is mid-tempo and isn't particularly melancholy but has a positive message that life goes on. "I'll be glad for what we had and how I once loved you."
Track 4: Home Again
This is one of my favourite tracks. It's the shortest on the album but packs a lot of emotion into the limited timespace. Soft, poignant and lyrical, this is a song about yearning for loved ones and being together.
Track 5: Beautiful
This track has a positive message, this time about how to present your best side to the world and reap the benefits. Like track 1, this is fairly up-tempo both in beat and mood.
Track 6: Way Over Yonder
There's a bluesy/gospel feel to this track and with the addition of backing vocals, tenor sax and a string quartet the message is one of hope and expectation of better things to come.
Track 7: You've Got a Friend
Another favourite and, of course, the song made famous by James Taylor, who again plays acoustic guitar on this track. Although there are other backing instruments playing, the main emphasis is on the song and the piano, giving the ballad a pure simplicity which doesn't need any enhancement.
Track 8: Where You Lead
Fairly up-tempo beat and backing singing makes this track very slightly reminiscent of the Supremes and Mowtown.
Track 9: Will You Love Me Tomorrow
This must be Goffin and King's most famous song and Carole King revisits this in a much more lyrical and simplistic way than when it was first recorded by the Shirelles. I actually prefer this version which is more appropriate for the song dealing as it does with the doubts of uncertainties of new love. My album has a studio version but the remastered CD now has a live version which is equally as good.
Track 10: Smackwater Jack
Probably the most up-tempo song on the album, this track is a cheerie little number despite being about some outlaw who shoots up a town and gets hanged!
Track 11: Tapestry
The remastered album has a live version of this son whereas the original was a studio recording. This is a soft, lyrical and very introspective ballad. Being the early seventies, the song turns a bit mystical and although I thought I knew what the song was about at the beginning, by the end it's turned into something fairly incomprehensible but a pleasant song nevertheless.
Track 12: Natural Woman
Carole King co-wrote this song and although Aretha Franklin's wonderful soul version is the better known, this version is equally as good, displaying a poignancy and rawness of emotion that's missing from Aretha's version. This is Carole and piano singing to one man and pouring out how loving him has restored her sense of self.
Track 13: Out in the Cold (previously unreleased)
This is the most 'pop' sounding track on the album and wasn't on my original vinyl but is included in remastered CD versions. This is the most 70s sounding of all the tracks and, for me, is a bit of a take-it-or-leave-it song.
Track 14: Smackwater Jack (live version)
The final track is a second outing for Smackwater Jack, best described as the "unplugged" version. I get the feeling this live version was included on the remastered CD just to make up the numbers. To my mind, it isn't as good as the earlier studio track and isn't the best song on which to end an album. The original album ended with Natural Woman which seemed a far more appropriate choice.
It is very rare indeed, especially in this day and age, to find a full length album that does not suffer from consisting of a few hits and the rest fillers. Carole King's Tapestry succeeds in doing so.
Released in 1971 this is one of the most successful albums in pop history and arguably the first to bring the female singer/ songwriter to the fore. There is not a bad song on this album and many will be recognised for the more famous cover versions (James Taylor 'You've Got A friend' and Aretha Franklin '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman' to name 2).
King possesses a voice of remarkable warmth and expression that she uses to great effect here. The backing on all tracks in light and airy with very simple instrumentation. Nothing is ornate or forced. Each song is backed delicately by King's piano work and is of work of great craft.
Even the lesser-known songs such as I Feel The Earth Move (the nearest we get to rock here) reach the same heights as the better-known numbers making this one of the finest albums recorded.
Recently given as a gift from a great long time friend who has emigrated from the UK to another country I have been listening to this album on and off for the last three weeks. It is such a great album to listen to I was completely bowled over by the singer and the fact that for a long time I never considered Carole King's music let alone her voice or knew of the songs which she had written. Her music however fits easily into the easy listening bracket and it is impossible not to miss unless you like more modern singers such as Eva Cassidy, Joss Stone and others. However given that King has written many songs including the soundtrack opening theme to Star Trek Enterprise it's no surprise that she still has longevity to her strengths.
The difference here is that Carole King has written a few classics you may well know and heard of. It's a 1970's easy to listen kind of an album, although this version is a remastered version which irons and smoothes out the analogue sound and includes two previously unreleased tracks, one of which is a live version already seen earlier in the album.
"Tapestry" by Carole King however marks a few firsts; this is an award winning album written by the singer as well as being one of few releases made by a woman by a woman in 1971 even though not many music lovers were aware of her then. That is enough for anyone to consider particularly if they like female singers and pop music in general. "Tapestry," however is not Carole King's first album though. **This is a long review! **
1) I Feel The Earth Move
A brilliant fruity felt piano starts this song with brightness and its easy to see with its funky bass line why King has been called one of the best song writers of her time. Carole King however was one of the very first female artists to independently release her own album back in the 1960's and this is it. As such this original song is just great to listen to not just because it is least offensive in instrumentals but features great piano playing which the electric guitar repeats. You will know the song well as it has been covered by Martika and Martha Moore and was included in many 1980 dance compilation albums. My favourite part though is the way King sings "tumblin' down," in line to the music, right to the end of the song (word painting).
2) So Far Away
It could well have been written by so many other artists, not just The Carpenters where the sound of this music emulates many songs, but this heart felt song has wonderful lyrics which still hold realism today whilst the instrumentals still feature warm piano, hushed backing vocals, a strumming guitar and a drum beat which again is the least offending sound. It does however have shades of the song, "When I Need You," made famous by Leo Sayer (and ironically written by another writer called Carol Bayer Sager) although given the time line it could well be the case that Sager wrote it after King's debut. Of course given the similarities it is a slow and sad heart rendering ballad even though there are some tough moments in King's voice but this is all that is needed to carry the message of longing.
3) It's Too Late
This could well be a song which is crucial and applicable to my love life! I've heard and played the story myself even though this song is very old. I'm sure there is also a cover version of this song kicking about although it has a great vibe to it thanks to the piano lick and bluesy feeling. King's voice is very resonant at the pitch in the song particularly through the verses. But crucially what is more important is the fact that she really does define words very well right through to the endings of most of the verses which makes a change to most of her singing rivals and writers. The instrumentals are similar to other songs although there is good shimmering effects on hi hats of the drum section and a creamy electric piano against the traditional piano followed by a short solo on soprano saxophone. Just as well the British public liked it as it got a top spot in the UK charts...
4) Home Again
This is one of my favourite songs on the album even though it is slow and very sad. The melody line is really well written (just as most of the songs are on this album) with obvious emotion pouring out at the sides of King as she sings about a longing to see her lover at home. A lovely extended piano solo plays out the song before King sings the next verse whilst all the time, the tightness and quality of the recording shows very little weakness in terms of structure. The lyrics aren't insipid but like most of the words from all of the songs on this album; it has been written from the heart and appears very real.
"Beautiful," has a strange Beatles kind of a feel even though it hasn't been written to incorporate a knock on humour effect. It mimics the upbeat music of Lulu without being too loud but at times it doesn't allow you to tap along to the rhythm because of the nature of this song even though it has a strong fast swing to the song and plenty of accompaniments in between the songs. I wish I could say it is as strong as other songs on this album but it isn't.
6) Way Over Yonder
Similar to "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman," which King also wrote this is a slow 6/8 ballad with a similar and recognisable piano part which could have been lifted from the latter song. However as King sings this song, I am reminded a little of Janis Joplin (without the obvious added roughness which made Joplin in my mind) in the way King sings this song - obviously at the time the two ladies were close in terms of musical style - but again like other singers, King was the first and foremost singer of her time and as such this gospel like song comes across very strong and defiant with romantic but realistic lyrics. Joss Stone could look at this song for inspiration infact.
7) You've Got A Friend
This is the song that my friend dedicated to me... it has to be said though that it was never a favourite song of mine until I heard Carole's own version of it - again as with all of the songs on this album, she wrote this one and this has to be one of the most famous friendship warming song known to man and woman. About the only aspect which blunts its performance here is a decent drum beat; snare drum, hi hats and bass drums are all missing here, only using hand drums/bongos to fill out the beat with a bounding bass line. For some though that is not a bad thing. What I do love about the song is Carole's young voice which has shades of 1970's American folk about it but you have to listen out for it. James Taylor however was made more famous by his cover of this song though.
8) Where You Lead
"Where You Lead," has another funky sound to it, similar to "I Feel Earth Move," although it does sound like "You've Got A Friend," in content and structure. This doesn't mean it's a bad song as it has a better backing vocal section of women, stronger and secures a better feeling of a good rockin' song even if it is bereft of a lot of electric guitars. I really like the funky electric piano in the background but even though there is sentimentality in this song, it's not bad for being a little overly funky. Now I know where Christine McVie got her inspiration from where changing the ending of songs comes from!
9) Will You Love Me Tomorrow?
You will know that this song was made famous by The Shirelles even though it was co-written by Carole and her husband Gerry Goffin. Here it is a slower, more drawn out original and at times really works very well even for the most part it has a lot of fluidity which works well from the voices against the piano and usual King sound which has already been witnessed on the album. I do however love King's voice as she goes through the verses, particularly with words such as "Pleasure," which brings out her American speaking voice. It is a lovely edition of a well known song even if it is sparse and comforting against the cover version by The Shirelles.
10) Smackwater Jack
I love the start of this song with a heavy bass line thumping out a rock and roll feel. It does however remind me of Janis Joplin's take on "Me & Bobby McGee," with an apt and boosted sound of electric guitar picking its way through the song and a much finer detailed sound board including a decent drum beat and plenty of electric piano riding through the song. You won't be disappointed by the sheer gloss in this song or the fact that King really rides the song for all that it has some real cool moments. There is one other lady who could do a cover of this song really well, although to my knowledge she has never tried; Tina Turner. The only downside to this song I feel which is important is the fact that it is quite short.
Folk and dreamy lyrics float along a song with tremolo organ and a bright tinkling piano as the story unfolds. It is not a great song in terms of plenty of instrumentals but one which is probably most loved for its simplicity despite key changes towards the end. It is however a good track which sits in a circle of great songs and typically King can't resist but put an extended piano solo at the end to signal the finality of the song.
12) You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)
There are so many cover versions of this song other than the most famous one made by Aretha Franklin, it is hard to believe that here sits the original before everyone else wanted to sing it for themselves. Here though there is the most glorious full piano part which I love against Carole's simple but beautiful voice. At times she is full and flowing whilst at other times she is strong and emotional which isn't hard to spot. I have to say though that Celine Dion's version (featured on one of her solo albums) is closer to King's version rather than Aretha's. The difference isn't just the backing vocals but the fact that King makes a statement singing the phrase "You make me feel..." with each word clearly separated from the last.
13) Out In The Cold (previously unreleased)
There are a few hints here of Neil Sedaka in this song, not just the way the melody rules the accompaniment out of turn and in some places not fully on the start of the phrases which adds interest. But it is a very positive song even though it has a slightly ambiguous title which says otherwise. Yet again thanks to the date of this album and in the period of music within the 1970's there are some hippy elements embroidered in the track even though it is another foot tapping song which for the best part sounds great instrumentally and tight whereas the lyrics in my mind take a back step and don't seem so important.
14) Smackwater Jack (live & previously unreleased)
The live version shows up King's great ability to sing live even though she is not afraid to "hang loose," literally with the verses. There are no other instrumentals here other than the piano playing alongside as her shotgun and the edge of roughness is obvious in this version which actually complements the standard version here.
The CD cover and back cover have been delicate with information, which centres on black and white photos of a very young Carole King whilst the inlays don't reveal lyrics of the music. You can however find almost all the songs on virtually every internet song lyric company as this album is one of the best albums that America has ever produced let alone a singer who still writes songs now and again but is seldom seen in the public eye.
The price however can be bought from £5-99 and upwards from most leading record shops brand new including Fopp Record stores. Amazon UK also sells this album brand new at £5-99.
Over vinyl and audio cassette versions of this album (which I have had the pleasure of hearing particular songs from over the years) the quality of sound on the CD is better although there are limited differences for all that the fact that album has been remastered. What is more important though is the fact that the price is a bargain brand new.
It is not difficult to see why "Tapestry" has received so many awards and nominations; it is an album which is bristling with great songs and original versions of songs which are well loved, have a timeless quality about them and generally can lift the spirit whenever you put the album on. It is no wonder that the album sat in the charts for six years even if it was King's second solo album. And even today some artists have gone on to cover some of the songs featured on this very album.
However the volume of actual sound of the album is subtle and heart warming which serves up perfect ingredients for an easy to listen album. Elevated by the fact that it is so well known and perfect inspirational content for aspiring musicians and artists as well as music lovers of soft folk rock and fusions of slow love lost ballads. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2008.
Although this album was released in the early Seventies, it remains popular to this day. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Cover / Artwork ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This cover is very simply by today's standards, with "Carole King Tapestry" in red, and a picture of Carole relaxing on a window with a cat. The inlay card of the CD is fold out - with the lyrics and song information on one side, and a large picture of a Tapestry on the back. There are also several small pictures of the recording of this album on the same side as the Tapestry. The CD itself is black and white with "Carol Kind Tapestry" written on in with black and white details of the tapestry in the background. ~~~~~~~~~~ Album Feel ~~~~~~~~~~ The feel of this album is very laid and relaxed back in general, despite Carole's powerful singing. It has almost a live feel to it - you could almost image each song being recorded in one take. This doesn't mean the album isn't professional though!! Its just doesn't have the slick production that we grown used to in the last few years - which is probably a good thing! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Track by Track ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. I Feel The Earth Move This is a great start to the album. Its one of the more fast tempo songs on the album. I just love the emotions of Carole's voice on this track 2. So Far Away Carole's piano playing on this track is beautiful. Its very much a ballad and you can almost feel the sadness in her voice. 3. It's Too Late This is a very well known song, as its been covered many times. I love the lyrics of this track and the chorus is very catchy. 4. Home Again I love this song for its simplicity - there are only a few lines of lyrics in it and the musically accompaniment is minimalist. Carole's voice is so powerful in this one. 5. Beautiful This is one of the most uplifting tracks on the album.
It has a great message too. 6. Way Over Yonder Way Over Yonder is my least favourite track on the album, but its still great. Its hard to believe this track was only written in 1971 because it has a really old feel to it. 7. You've Got A Friend This is probably the most well known song on the album. James Taylor's cover version of this is the most famous one. Incidentally, James plays Guitar on this track. 8. Where You Lead I love the lyrics of this track and the musical intro. 9. Will You Love Me Tomorrow? This is another of the very famous, oft covered tracks on the album. A very simple track with very powerful vocals from Carole. 10. Smackwater Jack This track is very different than the other tracks. It has a Country Music feel to it, and the lyrics tell a story. The backing vocals on this are great and the chorus is very catchy. 11. Tapestry Then we come to the title track and penultimate track, which has a very basic, simple melody to it. Not one of the best tracks on the album. 12. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman This is one of my favourite tracks. The production is very simple, the lyrics and vocals are very powerful. This is the most famous tracks on the album. Carole actually did backing vocals for Celine Dion on her version of this. ~~~~~~~~~~ Conclusion ~~~~~~~~~~ I know its a cliché, but you don't get albums like this anymore - and I'm only 21! I can't imagine any album that's been released recently being so popular in more than 30 years time and whose tracks have been covered so many times. It is one of the most enduring classic albums ever released. I recommend that you get yourself a copy (If you don't already have one!) PS - If you're wondering about the title, it's a lyric for the song "Tapestry"
I just lost my flatmate in tragic circumstances. As I watched him walking down the aisle with his new flatmate for life, organ music in the background, I found myself adjusting to new realities. Having had access to his CD collection for the last 3 1/2 years in which we had shared, I suddenly found myself in a situation where his musical taste was all important - which of his albums did I now HAVE to go out and buy? In actual fact, out of his entire collection (much of which is crap) I felt the need to purchase two albums - this is one of them; ELO Greatest Hits the other. The very first time I heard the album it felt like an old friend. My initial impression was "there seem to be a lot of cover versions here!" then I looked at the cover notes and realised that Carole King has written quite a few phenomenal songs which have been covered by various artists or which are very familiar from other sources. This album is brilliant from the opening bars of "I feel the earth move" through "You've got a friend", "Will you love me tomorrow" to the storming finale of "(You make me feel like a) Natural Woman" and those are just the ones that you'll definitely recognise. Rest assured that there is no filling on this album - all the songs are greats. King is a marvellous singer - songwriter. The album doesn't just have nice tunes but is lyrically superb too and has a good mixture of songs to blast out and slower ones. When this album was first released in 1971 it sold by the box load. Carole King is cited as an influence by many leading female artists and with good reason. 30 years on I would suggest that no collection should be without Tapestry.
Carole King's Tapestry destroyed the market in 1971 and was the album which everyone wanted to imitate - and because of that it now sounds unoriginal and dated, but don't hold that against it, as it was sheer musical excellence. Who could argue against songs such as "I Feel The Earth Move" and "It's Too Late" coupled with her most personal versions of "You've Got A Friend". She isn't as good a singer as Joni Mitchell, and she doesn't have the grace of Judy Collins, but in 1971 Carole King was the queen of the music world.
This is one of those old albums that you always remember to be better than it actually turns out to be when you put it on again. 'It's Too Late' and 'You've Got A Friend' are fabulous ditties, but the most of the album just sort of sloshes over you. There's no escaping the fact that this is very safe, inconsequential music; although as I said, you'll remember it more fondly once you've put it away again.
You probably haven't heard the name before but I bet you already know quite a few of her tunes. That classic get up and shake your stuff tune 'I feel the earth move'? 'You've got a friend'? The perfect song for playing when you've split up with a scumbag 'It's too late'? (they used it for a car ad not all that long ago...) Don't remember that one? Okay, how about the slightly corny but still amazing 'You make me feel like a natural woman'? Perhaps the more discerning music fans among you think there are too many love songs here to make this album of any interest to you. Not so. Carole manages to fill her songs with an emotional intensity which is only equalled in modern times by singers like Beth Orton. 'Tapestry' is not just made up of commercial ballad after commercial ballad - Carole is certainly NOT a prototype Mariah Carey or Celine Dion. 'Way over yonder' is one of the most powerful and uplifting songs I have ever heard: it is the perfect atheists hymn. The raw beauty of Carole's voice accompanied only by a piano is breathtaking. By contrast, a lively tune like 'Snapwater Jack' manages to be funny and ever so slightly country and western in the best possible way. If I sound like I'm waxing lyrical that's because this piece of music truly deserves praise of the highest kind. All girls who sing, play the guitar and write their own music but are in search of suitable role models (and let's face it, there aren't that many to choose from these days) NEED to own this album.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 I Feel The Earth Move
2 So Far Away
3 It's Too Late
4 Home Again
6 Way Over Yonder
7 You've Got A Friend
8 Where You Lead
9 Will You Love Me Tomorrow?
10 Smackwater Jack
12 (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
13 Out In The Cold
14 Smackwater Jack