Archive for the ‘Carole King’ Category
Starbucks Serves “Self-Portraits” of Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman and Others
Some of the music featured on Starbucks Entertainment’s latest compilation album, Self-Portraits, is a bit atypical for a coffeehouse setting: Warren Zevon, Judee Sill, Randy Newman, John Prine, Loudon Wainwright III. The songs on Self-Portraits, by and large, demand attention, as all are drawn from the realm of the singer-songwriter with an emphasis on confessional or first-person songs. The 16-track CD focuses on the 1970s (with just one track from 1969), and although there are a few unquestionably familiar, oft-anthologized songs, there are also a few that might make this disc worth perusing.
The hit singles come first on Self-Portraits. Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” kicks off the disc, as it did King’s 1971 sophomore solo album Tapestry. That was, of course, the album that ignited King’s career as a solo artist, and the same could be said for James Taylor’s second long-player. “I Feel the Earth Move” is followed by “Fire and Rain,” from the troubadour’s 1970 Sweet Baby James, which featured (you guessed it) Carole King on piano. Though Judy Collins had the hit single of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” Self-Portraits includes Mitchell’s version from her 1969 album Clouds, and then segues to British piano man Elton John for a track off his second album: the ubiquitous “Your Song.”
Following “Your Song,” the disc – as curated by Starbucks’ Steven Stolder – veers off in interesting directions. Leon Russell, whose style was an influence on budding artist John’s, is represented with his piano-pounding “Tight Rope.” Like Leon Russell (a key player in the Los Angeles “Wrecking Crew” of session musicians), Jimmy Webb spent his formative years behind-the-scenes. In Webb’s case, he was a songwriting prodigy with hits like “Up, Up and Away,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” under his belt by the time he began his proper solo career with 1970’s “Words and Music.” From that album, Self-Portraits draws “P.F. Sloan,” Webb’s remarkable, multi-layered ode to a songwriting colleague. Any discussion of popular songwriters would be incomplete without a mention of Bob Dylan, and his “If You See Her, Say Hello” from his singer-songwriter masterwork Blood on the Tracks is the choice here. Perhaps the least-known songwriter here is Judee Sill, the troubled Lady of the Canyon whose small discography yielded touching and unusual gems like “The Kiss.”
Self-Portraits also includes tracks from artists with more explicitly folk leanings than, say, King, Webb and Taylor. Both Loudon Wainwright III (whose only hit single remains “Dead Skunk,” alas) and his wife Kate McGarrigle are heard here; Kate is joined by her sister Anna for “Talk to Me of Mendocino” from their eponymous album. Another folk hero, John Prine, gets a spot with “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone,” with which Prine draws comparisons between the Indian actor’s life and his own. From the Brit-folk scene, Richard and Linda Thompson (“Dimming of the Day”) and Nick Drake (“Northern Sky”) appear.
After the jump: we have much more on the new comp, including the full track listing and an order link! Read the rest of this entry »
In recent years, the retailer-exclusive bonus track has become an important if controversial part of music sales. Today’s Short Takes, then, is your public service announcement and guide to the bonus tracks available with three recent and upcoming titles from some of music’s most legendary artists. Chances are you might want to own these previously-unreleased rarities!
Last week saw the release of Carole King’s The Legendary Demos from Rockingale Records and Hear Music. Its thirteen tracks, recorded between 1961 and 1970, offer King at her stripped-down best, pounding the piano and passionately singing newly-minted compositions written for artists such as The Everly Brothers, The Monkees and ultimately, Carole King herself. Two additional demos have surfaced as iTunes exclusive downloads. “Every Breath I Take,” written by King with Gerry Goffin, was a 1961 hit for Gene Pitney as produced by the young Phil Spector, and the demo shows off King’s sure arranging sense as she vocalizes all of the dip dip doo bop bop bops plus the background harmonies! It’s joined by “Oh No, Not My Baby,” a Goffin/King tune introduced by Maxine Brown in 1964 after an abortive attempt by The Shirelles; it was later covered by Manfred Mann, Cher, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart and others. This demo is less revelatory as King already released solo versions of the song in 1980 and 2001, but offers a worthwhile comparison to those two familiar recordings. King is achingly vulnerable on one of her most beautiful songs. These tracks are available individually on iTunes.
Hit the jump to see what Paul Simon and Paul McCartney have in store, bonus track-wise! Read the rest of this entry »
Though there’s no one formula for creating a great song, there’s no denying the success of the method that flourished first in New York’s Tin Pan Alley (28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, for those wondering) and later a bit uptown in and around the Brill Building (1619 Broadway near 49th Street). A couple of blocks away at 1650 Broadway at 51st Street, during the halcyon days of the 1960s, you would have found the home of Aldon Music, and the team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. “Aldon Music has been described as boot camp for songwriters. That it was. And yes, we did write in cubicles,” King confirms in her recent, acclaimed memoir A Natural Woman. “The proximity of each cubicle to the next added an ‘echo’ factor. While I was playing the song on which Gerry and I were working, we heard only our song. As soon as I stopped playing, we could hear the song on which the team in the next cubicle was working. Not surprisingly, with each of us trying to write the follow-up to an artist’s career hit, everyone’s song sounded similar to everyone else’s…” But King doesn’t find this a bad thing at all: “[The] competitive atmosphere fostered by Donnie [Kirshner] spurred each team on to greater effort, which resulted in better songs.”
Hot on the heels of the publication of A Natural Woman, two indispensable new releases are revisiting those days of 1650 Broadway and proving just how right Carole King is. The music you’ll find on The Legendary Demos (Rockingale/Hear Music HRM-33681-02) and Something Good from the Goffin and King Songbook (Ace CDCHD 1327) amounts to one of the most joyful noises in popular music, and each title addresses a crucial part of the 9-to-5 Brill Building/Aldon Music process. The former makes available, for the very first time, the demos with which Carole King presented her newest songs to artists like The Monkees, The Everly Brothers and Bobby Vee. The latter includes Goffin and King’s songs in released versions by those very artists and many more.
The Legendary Demos, of course, starts at the very beginning, but it hasn’t arrived without its share of surprises. King’s publishing demos were well-known up and down Broadway; as producer Lou Adler accurately observes in the liner notes, “Within her piano, you could hear a string part, or another background part, and she did the background parts!” These seminal recordings, dating from 1961-1970, have long been requested, but until now have eluded commercial release. The good news is that all thirteen tracks show King at the absolute peak of her form. The bad news is that there are only thirteen tracks (compare with the twenty-six on Something Good!) and the album’s total running time is just under forty minutes. These songs – culled from some 118 hits penned by King – are just the tip of the iceberg.
The most eyebrow-raising aspect of the album may be the presence of five demos from 1971’s Tapestry, meaning that listeners are likely already familiar with King’s renditions of the songs. (A sixth song from Tapestry, “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman,” is heard in a galvanizing demo intended for Aretha Franklin, predating the Tapestry album.) The biggest thrill of Legendary Demos comes from hearing Carole King sing The Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday” or The Righteous Brothers’ “Just Once in My Life.” Good as these demos of “It’s Too Late” and “You’ve Got a Friend” are, one has the nagging wish that they had been saved for a Tapestry: The Demo release, allowing King’s versions of songs written for others to take the spotlight here.
King’s gifts as a vocalist truly come to the fore on these intimate demos. She never imitated a singer for whom she’s “pitching” a song (in fact, some of those singers ended up imitating King’s demo!) but adopted different tones and phrasing for each title that might recall the artist for whom the song is intended. More likely, it was just intuition of knowing which artist might be most suited to a particular composition and tailoring that demo to his or her strengths. Though the approach is non-chronological here, it still traces the journey from staff songwriter to singer/songwriter. Long before “confessional” songwriting was in vogue, honesty and believability was at the core of the Goffin and King songbook. Goffin had the knack for verbalizing the emotions of kids his own age; Goffin was just 20 and King 17 when they married in 1959. Although Legendary Demos also contains songs with lyrics by Howard Greenfield (“Crying in the Rain”), Toni Stern (“It’s Too Late”) and King herself (“You’ve Got a Friend,” “Tapestry,” “Way Over Yonder”), the early songs with Goffin are the heart of this collection.
Hit the jump for much more on both new sets! Read the rest of this entry »
Carole King, The Legendary Demos (Rockingale/Hear Music)
Who wouldn’t want to hear early recordings of some of the greatest pop songs ever recorded? I know I would.
The late Monkee’s first post-band project released on CD and expanded with bonus tracks, as well as a CD/DVD of the band’s penultimate 1987 album with two bonus tracks and the group’s videography.
T. Rex, Electric Warrior: Deluxe Edition (Polydor)
The glam classic is greatly expanded overseas, with a bonus disc of unreleased demos and a DVD of rare performances. This is likely going to stay import-only, so get it while it’s hot.
Louis Armstrong, Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours (Smithsonian Folkways)
One of Satchmo’s last recordings ever, a short set with surprise bliss from his trumpet.
Cilla Black, Completely Cilla 1963-1973 (EMI)
The U.K. pop singer gets a swinging box set: five CDs of George Martin-produced tunes and a DVD of rare BBC television appearances.
ABBA, The Visitors: Deluxe Edition (Universal Music Catalogue)
The Swedish pop icons’ final album, reissued as a CD/DVD set, features plenty of extras, including an unreleased track heard in its entirety for the first time anywhere.
Some years back, I was attending a performance of Carole King’s Living Room Tour at New York’s theatre-in-the round then known as the Westbury Music Fair, its cozy environs just perfect for King’s intimate show. Midway through the set, a fan shouted to the stage, “Release your demos, Carole!” King smiled knowingly. “Talk to the publisher!” she replied. It clearly wasn’t the first time she had heard the request; indeed, legendary isn’t too strong a word for the original vocal-and-piano tracks supplied by King and her frequent lyricist and then-husband Gerry Goffin to the likes of The Monkees, Bobby Vee, Aretha Franklin, The Everly Brothers and others. Well, it’s taken a while, but a number of King’s demos are finally seeing official CD release as, yes, The Legendary Demos. On April 24, Hear Music will release the collection of 13 demos from King’s extensive repertoire of 118 (!) hits placed on the Billboard Hot 100.
Most of the songs on The Legendary Demos were written within the confines of 1650 Broadway in the offices of Aldon Music. These are the songs which established King as the Brill Building Queen, even though the actual Brill Building was down the street at 1619. Regardless of address, the songwriters ensconced in these buildings’ cubicles defined the sound of American pop music throughout most of the 1960s. The collection leads off with King’s demo of “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” a 1967 hit for The Monkees. That fab foursome also recorded “So Goes Love,” one of the lesser-known tracks on the new anthology, which was also covered by The Turtles! King’s 1961 “Take Good Care of My Baby,” a number one hit as recorded by Bobby Vee, is included in its original demo form. Gene Pitney is most associated with Goffin and King’s “Yours Until Tomorrow,” although that smoldering ballad was also recorded by artists as diverse as Dee Dee Warwick, Engelbert Humperdinck, Johnny Maestro and Cher!
The very next year, King moonlighted from Gerry Goffin when she teamed with Neil Sedaka’s usual lyric partner, Howard Greenfield, to deliver “Crying in the Rain” to the Everly Brothers. Don and Phil were duly rewarded with a No. 6 pop hit. Goffin and King supplied “Just Once in My Life” to another group of Brothers, although unlike the Everlys, the Righteous Brothers weren’t related! The Top 10 hit followed “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” which was actually written by Goffin and King’s close friends and closest “competitors” in the Brill Building hierarchy, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil!
Hit the jump for much more on The Legendary Demos, including the full track listing, a pre-order link and a song preview! Read the rest of this entry »
Review: Carole King, “The Carole King Collection: Simple Things, Welcome Home, Touch the Sky, and Pearls”
Carole King was ready for a fresh start in 1977. She had recently split from manager/producer Lou Adler’s Ode Records, the label with which she had signed back in 1968 as the lead singer of The City. It was, of course, at Ode where King triumphed with Tapestry, and over the years introduced a parade of memorable songs like “It’s Too Late,” “So Far Away,” You’ve Got a Friend,” “Sweet Seasons,” “Been to Canaan” and “Jazzman.” Yet the four albums recorded by King at Capitol between 1977 and 1980 have been overlooked since their original releases; all but one had never been domestically released on compact disc. Through her own Rockingale Records label and Concord Music Group, King has now reissued Simple Things (RKG 33601-02), Welcome Home (RKG-33597-02), Touch the Sky (RKG-33599-02) and Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King (RKG-33603-02) as The Carole King Collection. This quartet fills in a major gap in King’s catalogue, and there’s plenty to rediscover!
King’s band Navarro took the place of her Ode-era stalwarts like Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar and second husband Charles Larkey. But despite the fine musicianship of Navarro (guitarists Rob McEntee and Mark Hallman, bassist Rob Galloway, drummer Michael Wooten, percussionist Miguel Rivera and flutist/saxophonist Richard Hardy), the sound of Simple Things doesn’t stray too far from King’s stylistic signature. The title track “Simple Things,” co-written with King’s third husband, Rick Evers, features that same warm acoustic sound, augmented with a subtle string arrangement. King embraced a “back to nature” outlook both in life and in song, relocating with Evers to his home state of Idaho: “Simple things mean a lot to me/Some things only children can see/Simple things, like horses running free/And easy acceptance of life.” In making this life change, King had discovered an answer to friend and collaborator James Taylor’s “Secret o’ Life.” She even concludes in song, “The secret of living is life.” The album begins with “Simple Things” and ends with a reprise of the same sentiments in “One”: “He is one, she is one/A tree is one, the earth is one, the universe is one/I am one, we are one.”
Evers was King’s only co-writer for the LP, with three songs to his credit; the remaining seven compositions were all from King’s pen alone. He also contributed guitar to a couple of songs, with King herself stepping from behind the piano to play guitar on “Hold On.” She’s in fantastic voice throughout the album, contributing strong vocals and harmonies to ballads like the beautiful, piano-driven “In the Name of Love” and “Time Alone.” Richard Hardy fills in for Tom Scott for the jazzy saxophone on “Labyrinth,” and the beguiling Latin rhythms of Ode hit “Corazon” get a new spin on one of the most memorable tracks off Simple Things, “Hard Rock Café” – no relation to the chain of restaurants founded in 1971! Elsewhere, King and Navarro credibly rock on “You’re the One Who Knows” and “God Only Knows,” although the latter pales in comparison to another, rather better-known song of the same name. It’s hard not to read into the lyrics of “To Know That I Love You,” on which King sounds blissful in love: “Over and over again, we light the flame/Rediscovering that we are the same/And I love you.” Evers joins her for a duet on this touching paean to a deeply felt romance. Simple Things may be the great lost album of King’s long career, with the title song, “Hard Rock Café” and “In the Name of Love” all able to stand alongside her most sterling accomplishments.
We continue after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »
When Carole King left Lou Adler’s Ode Records, the label that guided her in the transition from urban Brill Building queen to singer/songwriter/earth mother, it marked the end of an era. And how would the Tapestry weaver top the two distinct periods that had come before? King signed to Hollywood’s venerable Capitol Records label, and the title of her first LP for the label said it all: Simple Things. King’s final Ode LP, 1976’s Thoroughbred, had emphasized a return to nature in its cover photo of the singer on a horse, and Simple Things would be a back-to-basics album. Yet only one of the four long players recorded by King at Capitol between 1977 and 1980 has ever been domestically released on CD, 1980’s Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King. That’s about to change, however. King herself is finally bringing her lost LPs to light via Concord Records and her own Rockingale imprint. February 28 will see the release of Simple Things (1977), Welcome Home (1978), Touch the Sky (1979) and the aforementioned Pearls. (King has had a long relationship with Concord, with past releases including The Living Room Tour and with James Taylor, Live at the Troubadour.)
The Capitol era is marked by King’s retreat from the rapidly-changing environs of Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon for the greener pastures of Idaho. King had fallen in love with Rick Evers, a leather worker and musician who introduced her to the state she would call home for more than a decade. Evers, battling a heroin addiction against which King felt powerless, was a major collaborator on the first two Capitol albums. King told The New York Times in 1984, “Rick wasn’t disciplined enough to stay with anything long enough to pursue it to career success. I felt helpless watching him be caught up in the Los Angeles drug scene, but I eventually had to accept that it was karma, for lack of a better word. Even though I was not involved in the drug scene myself, I too felt I was in danger of being done in by L.A. And because I’m a survivor, I got out in time. The ending, tragic as it was, was also a beginning. I took three of my children and went back to Idaho, and built a new life.” Evers, King’s third husband, succumbed to his addictions in 1978, and King later married rancher Rick Sorensen, though that marriage ended in divorce.
Hit the jump for all the details on this Carole quartet, including pre-order links and track listings with discography! Read the rest of this entry »
It’s the lucky thirteenth part of our look at the many reissues of the 100 greatest albums of all time, as selected by Rolling Stone in 2003! We’ll explore the various versions of these classic albums on disc, letting you know which audio treasures can be found on which releases. In today’s group, we get the blues, meet the Brits, head to Laurel Canyon and fall in Love!
40. Love, Forever Changes (Elektra, 1967)
Welcome to the Top 40! Released just months after the so-called Summer of Love, Forever Changes was the third studio album by the group simply and boldly called Love. But more than just that four-letter word was on the mind of bandleader/songwriter Arthur Lee, who saw more than sunshine and flowers that summer. Love traded in the punchy electric guitar sound of the group’s first two albums (and successful singles like “7 and 7 Is” and a cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “My Little Red Book”) for a denser, more orchestrated style that incorporated strings and horns alongside acoustic guitars. Despite the often beautiful sound, though, Forever Changes was a song suite that referenced war, violence, drug abuse, failed romance and racial tension in songs like “A House is Not a Motel” (playing off another Bacharach/David song, “A House is Not a Home”), “The Red Telephone” and “Live and Let Live.” Bryan MacLean contributed the album’s single “Alone Again Or” which kicked off the album in a collision of AM-meets-FM styles.
Forever Changes has always been better-regarded in the United Kingdom than in its United States birthplace; it went Top 30 in Britain but only reached No. 154 in America. That hasn’t stopped the album’s cachet from growing every year, however, and it’s been celebrated in a number of reissues. The original 1987 CD of Forever Changes (Elektra 74013-2) retained the original track listing of the LP, and it was included in its entirety on Rhino’s 1995 double-disc anthology Love Story. In 2000, Rhino reissued the album with a brace of seven bonus tracks as R2 76717. These included demos, alternate mixes, outtakes, single sides and session highlights. A bare-bones mini-LP replica was released on CD in 2007 (Elektra/Rhino R2 74802) and a standard edition was released again (this time, in a jewel case) in 2011 at a budget price point. In 2008, though, the Rhino label issued the most comprehensive version of the album to date. The 2008 Collectors’ Edition (Elektra/Rhino R2 428796) featured the original album only as Disc 1, while Disc 2 included a complete Alternate Mix as well as ten more bonus tracks. This edition, partially remastered by Steve Hoffman, is the definitive version of this album.
39. The Beatles – Please Please Me (Parlophone, 1963)
The debut long-player from Liverpool’s favorite lads, Please Please Me was rush-released by Parlophone after The Beatles had taken the United Kingdom by storm with the singles “Please Please Me” and “Love Me Do.” Of the album’s fourteen songs (a common number for U.K. albums of the time, whereas U.S. releases usually had twelve), eight were Lennon/McCartney originals. Ten songs were recorded in a whirlwind day to supplement the four previously-released single sides. Under such inauspicious circumstances was a classic born by John, Paul, George and Ringo, and producer George Martin. Originals like “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and the title song were joined by covers of Goffin and King’s “Chains,” Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Barney Williams (Luther Dixon)’s “Baby, It’s You,” Phil Medley and Bert Russell (Bert Berns)’s “Twist and Shout,” and Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow’s ubiquitous “A Taste of Honey.”
The original 1987 CD (Capitol CDP 7 46435-2) was the first time Please Please Me saw an American release; its tracks were released in America on such U.S.-only LPs as Vee-Jay’s Introducing…the Beatles and Capitol’s The Early Beatles. In 2009, the entire Beatles catalogue was remastered, and a new CD of Please Please Me (Capitol 09463 82416-2) replaced the 1987 issue. It was, of course, included in the complete Beatles stereo box set (Capitol 50999 69944-9) . The album was also released on CD in mono as part of the Beatles in Mono box set (Parlophone/EMI 50999 69945-1, 2009).
After the jump, we’ll traverse some Muddy Waters, head west and check into the Hotel California! Read the rest of this entry »
Spin Doctors, Pocket Full of Kryptonite: 20th Anniversary Edition (Epic/Legacy)
The “Two Princes” guys…hey, stop laughing…have their hit debut album remastered and expanded – cut that out! – with a bonus disc of demos and rarities. (Official site)
Four Essential compilations get the third-disc treatment. Note that the Celine Dion title is identical to 2008′s My Love: The Essential Collection and the Aerosmith set is identical to 2002′s O Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits. (Amazon: Aerosmith, Celine, Byrds, Carole)
The R&B singer’s original label, having recently lost her after a nasty court battle, decides to raid its vaults and finds 14 good tracks. (Official site)
The Association, Renaissance: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition (Now Sounds)
Another great Association LP, nearly doubled in length by bonus tracks! (Now Sounds)
Alberta Hunter, Downhearted Blues: Live at the Cookery (RockBeat)
The legendary blues singer with a great story (Hunter sang from the ’20s to the ’40s before leaving the music scene to become a nurse – and then made a surprise comeback after retiring from that career in the ’70s) is represented on CD with this hard-to-find performance from 1981. (Amazon)
Ice Cube, Kill at Will (RockBeat)
Cube’s beloved 1990 EP is now available on CD and vinyl from one of our new favorite reissue labels. (Amazon)
One year before “Da Doo Ron Ron,” eleven before “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” and eighteen before “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield taught the world that “Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do” with their immortal wordless refrain. Sedaka went on to become the king of the “Tra-la-las” and “shoo-be-doos” with his early rock-and-roll records, and the Juilliard-trained musician was one of the relatively rare few rockers of his generation equally adept at both performing and songwriting. As active members of Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music stable (which could also claim Carole King and Gerry Goffin as well as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil!), Sedaka and his frequent lyricist Howard Greenfield turned out one tune after another for a great number of famous artists. Following in the footsteps of its compilations devoted to other Brill Building greats like Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Goffin and King and Mann and Weil, Ace devotes the latest installment of its Songwriters and Producers series to the team of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Where the Boys Are will be available on September 6 in the U.K. and features 25 tracks, 17 of which were written by the team and a further eight penned by one member with an outside collaborator.
Where the Boys Are spans a remarkably prolific 15-year period from 1956 until 1971, at which time Sedaka began in earnest to rekindle his solo career. (1974’s Sedaka’s Back sealed the deal.) His last hit in the U.S. had come in 1965, and he’d tried to make it over the next few years almost exclusively as a songwriter in an era when the Brill Building was waning and singer/songwriters were becoming the norm. (It was lost on many that Sedaka had been writing his own material since he was a teenager.) He had a great amount of success even after RCA Victor dumped his recording contract in 1966, and his songs, with and without Greenfield, were recorded by The Monkees, The 5th Dimension, The Cyrkle, Frankie Valli and more. Ace’s, well, ace producers Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce tell that story from its very beginning.
Hit the jump for a look into the Brill Building hits of Sedaka and Greenfield! Read the rest of this entry »