Music

Carole King: The Essential Carole King

An intriguing concept: one disc of Carole King the singer, one disc of Carole King the songwriter. It's not perfect, but it's a start.


Carole King

The Essential Carole King

Label: Ode/Epic/Legacy
US Release Date: 2010-04-27
UK Release Date: 2010-04-27
Amazon
iTunes

It's amazing that here we are, a decade into Sony's Essential series, which has given us (sometimes overly) exhaustive compilations of seemingly everyone under the label's large umbrella, and they're just finally getting around to Carole King. The concept of the Essential series is usually straightforward: typically two discs of the subject's hits and fan favorites in chronological order, in a recognizable package requiring little imagination or effort on the company's part, but with reliably high-quality results. They rarely deviate from the formula; Bruce Springsteen's entry in the series included a third disc of rarities, and now Carole King's is split even more radically, into a disc of King as "The Singer" and one of King as "The Songwriter", often in tandem with her one-time husband Gerry Goffin.

 

Despite the seeming obviousness of pairing the singer's hits with the songwriter's, this is a relatively underused approach. Sony did something similar, and revelatory, with Kris Kristofferson's work in the early '90s, but it's surprising how rarely anyone else has done anything of the sort. In King's case, what could've been a slapdash piece of product -- who'd have been surprised if Sony had taken 1994's A Natural Woman: The Ode Collection, redone the packaging, and voila: The Essential Carole King? -- instead winds up being an illuminating listening experience. Listen to King's hits on the first disc, and then hear how those melodic gifts were already abundant in the early '60s. It won't surprise anyone who's familiar with King's track record, but it's nice to have all these songs together in the same package.

 

Unfortunately, both the "Singer" and "Songwriter" discs leave something to be desired, and it's hard to decide which disc seems more like an afterthought. Let's consider the "Songwriter" disc first. Only a curmudgeon could bemoan the absence of "Don't Say Nothin' Bad (About My Baby)", "I'm Into Something Good", "It's Going to Take Some Time", "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby", "Porpoise Song", "Some of Your Lovin'", or any number of well-remembered Goffin/King hits, when "The Songwriter" does include songs like "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", "The Loco-Motion", and "Up on the Roof", songs that belong on any list of the finest pop records of any era. But allow me to be that curmudgeon for just a moment: In this age of the biggest record companies having ownership of the majority of older labels' catalogues, and with cross-licensing no longer being the prohibitive hurdle that it was in the reissue-happy '90s, why not give us more Goffin/King on the second disc? 15 songs is a lovely taste, the biggest songs are here in their very-familiar hit versions, and it's an enjoyable listen -- even Billy Joel's "Hey Girl", the lone post-'60s track, is welcome -- but it's hard not to wish for more. An 80-minute rundown of the best of the Goffin/King songbook wouldn't have a second of dull space.

 

That's more than can be said for the "Singer" disc of The Essential Carole King. As a complement to Tapestry -- the one Carole King album that Sony could've slapped the "essential" tag on and not been even slightly wrong -- it does a good enough job of assembling her hits. Sony's done this plenty of other times, although this one brings things embarrassingly up-to-date by including collaborations with Babyface and Celine Dion, neither of whose histrionics could be further from King's vulnerability and simplicity. Skipping a quarter century of King's career -- admittedly not a very fertile period -- and instead offering up two heaps of adult-contemporary cliches was a poor call. And what, no "Smackwater Jack"?

At this point, the only real reason for The Essential Carole King to exist is because King was a glaring omission from Sony's successful series. The approach they took would've made the wait worthwhile, had anyone actually been waiting for it. Now that Sony has tried something a little different with Carole King, perhaps someone will pick the ball up and really run with it. With Ace having compiled two discs of Goffin/King as part of their ongoing excavation of hits and misses by the leading songwriting and production figures of the '60s, there is a market for a Goffin/King package of wall-to-wall hits, or a more expansive box set similar to what Rhino did for Burt Bacharach with The Look of Love. Additionally, there has yet to be a proper collection of the pre-Ode recordings of Carole King. Essential offers one nod in the direction of King's pre-fame career in the form of her only real Brill Building-era solo hit, "It Might as Well Rain Until September". As a clearer link to the music on the "Songwriter" disc than any of her '70s hits, it's a welcome addition. What would be even more educational than yet another trawl through her adult recordings -- and probably even more listenable -- would be a package that combines King's early records and demos with other artists' recordings of the Goffin/King songs. Now that is what I would call the essential Carole King.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image