Carole King and James Taylor: Live at the Troubadour

Long past their heyday, singer-songwriter royalty come together for an enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable, live album.

Carole King and James Taylor

Live at the Troubadour

Label: Hear Music
US Release Date: 2010-05-04
UK Release Date: 2010-05-31

Live at the Troubadour, a nostalgia-trip meeting of Carole King and James Taylor on the stage of one of L.A.'s most hallowed clubs, debuted at number four on the Billboard 200. This is maybe a little surprising. The CD/DVD combo is a pleasant trip down memory lane, but with so many other roadmaps available, who really needs this one when the original albums provide a more direct route to the past?

Granted, there are surely worse things than spending 75 minutes with Carole King and James Taylor, particularly when they avoid anything of more recent vintage than 1971. There's certainly no reason to complain about the set-list; all of Taylor's earliest hits are present, along with half of Tapestry and several songs that demonstrate the overlap of the artists' careers ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "You've Got a Friend", "Up on the Roof"). The rationale seems to have been that these would've been the songs you'd have heard them play at the Troubadour almost 40 years ago. But it's also a tacit acknowledgment that King and Taylor are both decades past their peak. Tapestry and Sweet Baby James remain among the handful of albums that define the singer-songwriter outbreak of the early '70s, and although both artists would continue to have hits and loyal fan bases, neither would record a better or more satisfying album.

So why has Live at the Troubadour performed so well? It can't be that Tapestry and Sweet Baby James have gotten boring, and it seems likely that this live album will send listeners back to the original albums with renewed enthusiasm, rather than prompt them to hit "play" on this one again. This begs the question: who will listen to Live at the Troubadour more than once or twice?


Well, as a one-time experience -- or two-time, if you must, although the DVD alone is probably the more engaging document -- it's much more pleasant than history would lead you to expect. Taylor's mannered singing on "Country Road" and King's corny coda to "You've Got a Friend", in which she sings about the Troubadour, are the only cringe-inducing moments. Otherwise, most of these midtempo oldies are taken at a slightly slower pace than back in the day, and there's an occasionally gauzy, stereotypically "soft-rock" feel to the arrangements, but nothing that would suggest that this pairing, at this moment, was any kind of mistake. Taylor is generally in excellent voice -- frankly, his voice hasn't changed a whole lot over the course of his career -- and King only sounds like she's stretching when she's reaching for a high note or on the faster numbers, when an exhortation like "Yeah!" comes across half-assed. On a more pleasant note, her harmonies on "Sweet Baby James" are a nice surprise, and it's tempting to wish she'd added more throughout the show.

But none of the charms of Live at the Troubadour make it a substitute for the original records, and the relative novelty of this being King and Taylor together doesn't really add enough to the music to make it the sort of thing to return to. That the performance is warm and engaging is perhaps a minor surprise; that it's ultimately forgettable shouldn't be.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.