Music

Carole King: Love Makes the World

King's new music will inevitably be compared to Tapestry, a monolith that not even King herself can get past.


Carole King

Love Makes the World

Subtitle: Deluxe Edition
Label: Rockingale
US Release Date: 2007-05-08
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

It honestly doesn't matter what Carole King releases these days, as she will keep running into the same problem every time: her material will inevitably be compared to Tapestry. For the uninitiated, Tapestry is King's 1971 masterpiece: the album that brought the singer-songwriter movement front and center into the '70s consciousness, allowing King -- who penned dozens of hits for others -- to finally shine in her much-deserved solo spotlight, while picking up Grammys and a handful of #1 songs to boot. Unfortunately, no King album since then has matched Tapestry's off-the-cuff brilliance. Even great, successful albums like the rush-released Music (which hit the same year as Tapestry) still paled in comparison to the soft-rock juggernaut that she created. So, when it comes to re-evaluating her 2001 independent effort Love Makes the World, yes -- it's going to be compared to Tapestry. The best moments (shock and awe) re-capture that Tapestry sound, and though Love Makes the World isn't essential listening, there's no denying that it's a pleasant, if not entirely satisfying, little disc.

Part of what makes Love Makes the World merely pleasant is how this disc is thematically one-note: we get love song after love song. Though this is no doubt King's strength as a songwriter, one can't help but feel that no new ideas are being tossed into the mix. These songs typify what Adult Contemporary radio has become these days, and let's face it: Adult Contemporary radio isn't a breeding ground for innovation. With that in mind, it serves as no surprise that King plays it safe, bringing in everyone from Celine Dion's super-producer friend David Foster for one song (the bland "It Could Have Been Anyone") to the actual Celine Dion for another (the wannabe power ballad "You Are the Reason"). As a matter of fact, the tracks with superstar guests come across as the weakest ones here (especially the k.d. Lang duet "An Uncommon Love"). The only collaborations that hold up to scrutiny are the mellow Babyface-assisted "You Can Do Anything" and a rock song (!) called "Monday Without You" that has a brief appearance by Aerosmith's Stephen Tyler. Next thing you know, she'll be dueting with Graham Nash …

… oh wait! She does duet with Graham Nash! Part of the inexplicable "Deluxe Edition" of Love Makes the World is a bonus disc that rounds up some very bland music videos together with a couple of unreleased tracks, including -- yes -- a duet with Graham Nash called "Two Hearts". The five bonus songs are not really worth much attention, except the upbeat "Where You Lead, I Will Follow", a duet with her daughter that got picked up as the theme song to the Gilmore Girls. Though the song still sounds better in 30-second title sequence form, it shows that a focused King is a consistent King, something that the bonus disc doesn't really highlight.

Yet, with all of these leanings towards radio-staple stability, there are still some very good songs embedded within the album. "Love Makes the World" is one of the best songs King has recorded in years, an obvious candidate for the eventual Greatest Hits-package. Riding a minimalist piano melody, the song seems to sit back while King's voice takes center stage, and -- especially in contrast to the rest of the album -- it's a breath of fresh air. "I Don't Know" begins drifting into Marc Cohn territory, but its playful lyrical themes elevate it above the clichéd sentiments of "The Reason" and "I Wasn't Gonna Fall in Love". Though closing number "This Time" tries a bit too hard to sound "soundtrack-ready", it's the simple, gorgeous "Oh No Not My Baby" that steals the show. Why? Because not only does this sound like a Tapestry-era chestnut, but it's just as focused as anything from her early-'70s output. Though her producers may keep trying to surround her with the latest soft-rock studio trickery, all King ever needs is a piano and microphone to make the magic happen.

If any album in King's catalog needs the "Deluxe Edition" treatment, it certainly shouldn't be Love Makes the World. Yet, as it is, it's still a solid release from an artist who hasn't lost touch with what made her great in the first place. Nothing she makes will ever live up to Tapestry, and you know what? Carole King is perfectly fine with that.

5

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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