As with any record, how it is received often depends on the listener’s expectations. To get this out of the way right now, this record is not Tapestry, and that’s because only Tapestry can ever be Tapestry. Starting out as a mere record in 1971, that album became a force and then a movement unto itself, living for 300 weeks on Billboard’s best-selling album charts and becoming the mark against which all that followed is measured. The real point is that Ms. King certainly hit a responsive chord in large numbers of humanity.
If now when in the midst of the new growing soft-rock movement the music listener longs for quality, Carole King can supply. Love Makes the World is unique these days because it is so listenable, the lyrical messages far from being generic are effective short communications about basic emotions that can be empathized with by a great many people. King’s voice and playing are as lovely as ever, her language when singing sometimes carrying traces of a New York accent that only makes for a more genuine-sounding conversation. The overall tone is relaxed, a laid-back mood that is fitting for good friends talking and sharing their notions about good feelings.
This record, and King’s own record company Rockindale, came about in part because King was tired of record company beancounters dictating creativity using the same old multi-level marketing strategy: invite eight big names into the studio in order to cross market to their fans. As it ended up, she invited eight big names into the studio, but at least it was on her own terms. While some reviewers might gripe about Celine Dion being among them . . . frankly, I’m pretty out of it and barely know who she is, so I didn’t even notice she was there on “The Reason” because the arrangement and the lyrics got all my attention in this much superior version.
If someone else hadn’t told me that was Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler singing background vocals on “Monday Without You”, he would have remained a nameless back-up singer trying to steal the scene in an otherwise rich arrangement. The lyrics are a fascinating direct expression about the simple mix of feelings: the obsessiveness of thinking about the object of one’s love can be a delightful pastime, strangely enjoyable even when fearful of losing that person’s love, because at least you’re thinking about love. By the way, while it’s easy to dismiss catchy pop tunes, don’t underestimate King’s prowess in her arrangements, because every section here drops in seamlessly and evokes the spirit of the piece, which is like a slightly quickened heartbeat and sigh just hearing the name of your crush.
Maybe a little lightweight philosophically speaking, “You Can Do Anything” is a low-key, gentle reminder of how to pull out of temporary tailspins or doldrums, on those days when there seems little use in even making plans because chances are good nothing’s going to go your way. As a duet with “Babyface” and in terms of content, this song might be mildly cloying to world-wise adults, but the uplifting and affirming message just might work for much younger listeners, and they’re probably the ones who need it most.
Carole King devotees, or indeed anyone interested in how record projects are put together by an artist such as Ms. King, will be drawn in to her separate interview CD that is part of this double package. Lots of plain talk about the business of making music from a successful insider’s view, the simplest seeming observation is built on decades of deep experience.
There was nothing about this record I could wildly object to, and when King is good (such as on “Safe Again”), she is very, very good. Before playing the disc, I was a bit taken aback seeing Humberto Gatica’s name credited as producer, because of his own major Celine Dion connection and the fact he produced Johnny Mathis’s only average album. But the fact is that Gatica obviously has a talent for bringing out a sparkle from the female vocalists he works with and his unerring intuition for song placement only refines as time goes on. His skills show, as this record is properly paced and plays very well as an album.
In terms of my own emotional investment in this record, all I can really say is that Carole King’s music brought much personal pleasure and joy to one of my dear friends, and that fact alone makes Carole King all right by me. I think I can safely say she would have loved hearing Love Makes the World.
// Notes from the Road
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