The songs of Carole King and Gerry Goffin have been enjoying a rather spectacular renaissance on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to the success of King’s biographical Broadway and West End musical Beautiful. Happily, Ace Records has returned to the duo’s catalogue for a fourth anthology. Hung on You: More from the Goffin and King Songbook follows three previous excursions: Goffin & King: A Gerry Goffin and Carole King Song Collection 1961-1967 (2007), Honey and Wine: Another Gerry Goffin and Carole King Song Collection (2009), and Something Good from the Goffin and King Songbook (2012). It’s also the first volume in this series to be released following lyricist Goffin’s untimely death in June 2014 at the age of 75. Unsurprisingly, there are so many gems in the Goffin and King repertoire that Hung on You hardly feels like a fourth collection, featuring Ace’s typical blend of hits and rarities, classics and all-but-unknown titles.
With its 26 non-chronologically sequenced selections culled from the period of 1960 to 1970, Hung on You neatly encapsulates the key period in the duo’s career. (Goffin and King were husband and wife between 1959 and 1969, but occasionally collaborated over the decades that followed.) As with previous volumes in this series, it makes a compelling case not only for Goffin and King’s development as songwriters but for their versatility in the genres of R&B, pop and beyond.
The girl group sound is, of course, prevalent here. Producer Chet Atkins recorded “Don’t Let Me Stand in Your Way” in 1964 with Skeeter Davis in Nashville, but Davis’ multi-tracked vocals and the countrypolitan strings make the production a near-ringer for New York R&B. The real thing is heard on tracks like The Shirelles’ effervescent, soulful “What a Sweet Thing That Was,” produced by Luther Dixon. Goffin himself produced a number of tracks featured here including “You Turn Me On Boy” from The Honey Bees (in this case a pseudonym for The Orchids who had previously recorded Goffin and King’s “Harlem Tango”), The Cookies’ “Willpower” and Earl-Jean McCrea’s “Randy.” (In reality, Goffin’s interest in Earl-Jean was more than professional; he fathered her son while still married to King.)
Goffin and King were closely associated with young male singers such as Bobby Vee and Tony Orlando, both of whom are represented here. So is Dion with 1963’s “This Little Girl,” a minor hit for the former Belmont in his trademark swaggering, foot-stomping doo-wop-influenced style. Freddie Scott’s majestic “Hey Girl,” produced by Goffin and arranged by Garry Sherman, was included on Something Good. Here, the Scott/Goffin/Sherman triumvirate offers the smoldering “Where Does Love Go,” every bit as classy as its predecessor but lacking its melodic hook. Of the female vocalists most associated with Goffin and King, none could come close to Dusty Springfield who counted fourteen Carole King songs in her discography. Dusty’s earthy, rock-and-gospel-infused “Hi-De-Ho (That Old Sweet Roll)” would be a standout on any release, as it is here. “Hi-De-Ho” appeared on the only album by Carole’s group The City alongside the haunting “Snow Queen,” sung here by The Tokens against an echo-laden Wall of Sound backdrop.
Not every song here is one of the team’s finest, though that’s part of the fun. The Clovers’ “The Sheik,” with its insistent saxophone wails, is pure novelty in Leiber and Stoller style. “Please Hurt Me” from “Loco-Motion” singer Little Eva (who famously spent time in the Goffins’ employ as a babysitter) is cut from the same cloth as The Crystals’ even more controversial “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).” Phil Spector, of course, also cut “Please Hurt Me” with The Crystals. A couple of Spector productions are among the strongest cuts here – the Righteous Brothers’ stunning title track (which followed another Goffin and King song, the even more thunderous “Just Once in My Life”) and The Crystals’ “No One Ever Tells You,” the B-side of the aforementioned “He Hit Me.”
The songs of Goffin and King, though created in New York’s Brill Building, travelled quite well. California pop king Gary Usher had his studio group The Hondells deliver a laid-back “Show Me Girl” (better known in its recording by Herman’s Hermits across the pond) while the Golden State folk-rockers The Hearts and Flowers added a lush harmony pop touch to the bleak “Road to Nowhere” (written in the wake of Goffin and King’s personal breakup). British performers took to Goffin and King’s music as much as their American counterparts did, and a few songs even were British-only releases. One was The Countrymen’s yearning folk-rock-style “This is How It Feels,” left unrecorded by any American singer. Hung on You also features Truly Smith’s rather lovely rendition of “The Boy from Chelsea,” written as “The Girl from Chelsea” for Davy Jones in his pre-Monkees days. The Monkees had the most famous version of ‘Sometime in the Morning,” which is included here in a version by The American Breed of “Bend Me, Shape Me” fame.
Compiler/annotator Mick Patrick ties it all together in his excellent track-by-track liner notes featured in the 16-page booklet. His notes make reference to so many other worthy tracks by the duo that one hopes Volume Five is on the horizon! Nick Robbins has splendidly remastered all songs. Hung on You: More from the Gerry Goffin and Carole King Songbook is available now from Ace and can be ordered at the links below!
- Hung on You – The Righteous Brothers (Philles 129, 1965)
- Hi-De-Ho (That Old Sweet Roll) – Dusty Springfield (Atlantic 2647, 1969)
- Road to Nowhere – The Hearts and Flowers (Capitol 5829, 1967)
- Don’t Let Me Stand in Your Way – Skeeter Davis (RCA 8450, 1964)
- You Turn Me On Boy – The Honey Bees (Fontana 1505, 1965)
- What a Sweet Thing That Was – The Shirelles (Scepter 1220, 1961)
- Will Power – The Cookies (Dimension 1012, 1963)
- This Little Girl – Dion (Columbia 42776, 1963)
- The Sheik – The Clovers (United Artists LP UAS 6099, 1960)
- Am I the Guy – Tony Orlando (Epic 9452, 1961)
- Show Me Girl – The Hondells (Mercury 72626, 1966)
- Sharing You – Bobby Vee (Liberty 55461, 1962)
- When My Little Girl is Smiling – The Drifters (Atlantic 2134, 1962)
- Randy – Earl-Jean (Colpix 748, 1964)
- Anything Can Happen – Walter Jackson (rec. 1962 – issued Kent CDKEND 263, 2006)
- It’s Gonna Be All Right – Theola Kilgore (Mercury 72564, 1966)
- Where Does Love Go – Freddie Scott (Colpix 724, 1964)
- Please Hurt Me – Little Eva (Dimension 1019, 1963)
- So Many Lonely People – Henry Alston (Colpix 731, 1964)
- Don’t You Want to Love Me – Connie Stevens (Warner Bros. 5691, 1966)
- Keep Your Hands Off My Baby – The Orlons (Cameo LP 1033, 1963)
- No One Ever Tells You – The Crystals (Philles 105, 1962)
- The Boy from Chelsea – Truly Smith (Decca F 12700, 1967)
- Snow Queen – The Tokens (BT Puppy LP BTPS 1012, 1970)
- Sometime in the Morning – The American Breed (Acta LP A-38003, 1968)
- So This is How It Feels – The Countrymen (Piccadilly 7N 35229, 1965)