Saturday, September 22, 2012

Carole King - Tapestry (1971)


Tapestry was a critical and popular success that catapulted Carole King into the spotlight. This album is the next subject of the singer/songwriter trend in popular music I started with Laura Nyro's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. This album could be viewed as one of the peaks in the commercial success of singer/songwriter music which is why is it the next installment. Many people are familiar with the tracks "I Feel the Earth Move," "It's Too Late," or "You've Got a Friend" which is not really true with the singer/songwriter material I covered earlier. Stylistically, King does many of the same things that both Nyro and Rundgren did before her such as embracing a variety of styles and overdubbing her own voice to create lush harmonizations. The early 1970s, specifically 1970-1972, seem to be the real golden age for singer/songwriter music as the style began to enjoy a lot of critical and financial success. The album opens with the classic track " I Feel the Earth Move" which is most interesting for the rhythmic transition in the bridge from a very uptempo song to a more laidback feel. This is one track where you can really see King's influence of jazz music such as the solo exchange between the piano and the guitar which seem to have a jazz feel. The rest of the album is really in strict stylistic contrast to the first track as the majority of the album is ballads. One of my personal favorites is "So Far Away" because it has such a marvelous development. The track begins with little instrumentation (piano, voice) and slowly builds to have a wide instrumentation including even congas and flute. Yet, in the same way that it builds, it fades with only flute, guitar, and drums. I also enjoy how the piano outlines the beat allowing the bass to act like a countermelody. "It's Too Late" shows again how King is the master of the transition. The song starts out in such a laidback feel, that's it is a bit of surprise when the chorus approaches and the tone of the track changes entirely. The transition is carried out by the piano and the guitar that syncopates the accompaniment rhythm right before the chorus. Part of the success of this album is not only the melodies, but the lyrics provided by King's songwriting partner Gerry Goffin. It's lyrics like these that give the empowering quality to a song like "Beautiful." After listening to "You've Got a Friend," you may question why the James Taylor cover has become the quintessential version of this tune. The vocal tones of King combined with the orchestrated strings provide an infinitely more complex emotional delivery than the very under-orchestrated version by Taylor. The piano is definitely the driving force behind this album. It is the key to nearly every transition and the perfect compliment to Goffin's lyrics sang by King. I only highlighted the well-known songs or personal favorites on the album, but there really isn't a bad track on the album.

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