Carole King’s status as a legendary singer-songwriter is indisputable, after having written some of the most iconic pop songs of all time whether on her own or with renowned collaborators like Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann and Gerry Goffin.
Her songs continue to be radio playlist staples, covered by numerous performers and even soundtracks to TV commercials. A Beautiful Collection comes hot on the heels of the recent opening of ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ in London.
King’s greatest success is the quadruple-Grammy-winning Tapestry album. For those who don’t know what it is, it’s the 1970s equivalent to Adele’s 21: that important second album which everyone can appreciate, sells tons of copies and has songs on heavy rotation. Therefore, it’s hardly a surprise that SEVEN of the album’s tracks appear on this greatest hits collection.
The title track to this collection, Beautiful, promotes self-empowerment for the ordinary woman, as King’s charmingly ordinary vocals bring a sense of hope.
I Feel The Earth Move/It’s Too Late is one of pop’s greatest double A-side singles. The former still bristles with excitement and innuendo, thanks to its memorable thumping piano riff. It twists and turns amongst bluesier sections, vibrant choruses and ‘mellow as the month of May’ mid-tempo verses. It makes everyday listeners want to pump their arms in the air whilst presumably strolling to work as part of the daily grind. The latter also remains timeless, as it perfect to listen to whilst moping in bed after a breakup (a theme that’s already in the first line), before trudging out to get that morning coffee. With a melody custom made for girl groups yet delivered with King’s typically ordinary, smoky but relatable vocals over a reflective band performance, it’s no wonder that this won a Record of the Year Grammy and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. So Far Away also helps listeners to move on with their lives, despite lyrics depicting distance in relationships.
Then there are those tracks King wrote years before that album, transformed into simple but poignant piano ballads. Will You Love Me Tomorrow deliberately gets drawn out to effectively depict a sense of longing. You’ve Got A Friend, another Grammy winner for Song of the Year, may have been made famous by James Taylor. However, King’s version manages to convey its message of mutual support and consolation without being too soppy. Of course, King vocally can’t match Aretha Franklin’s gusto and the bombastic mood of the famous, earlier cover of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. Nevertheless, it’s the songwriting that shines through that bare arrangement, only supplanted by the odd harmony here and there.
King manages to maintain her quality songwriting even after Tapestry. Been to Canaan feels like an easy listening journey through the four seasons of the year, again suiting a quiet cup of coffee in the morning. There’s a surprisingly soulful, urgent kick on Believe in Humanity that reflects the turbulent 1970s amidst war, recession and hedonism. Jazzman (once featured on The Simpsons) is a sunny, feelgood and breezy track filled with saxophones, making it already perfect for strutting down New York City’s mean streets before Stayin’ Alive. The smooth, sophisticated yet relaxed groove of Only Love Is Real may have inspired chilled out tracks like Smooth Operator.
This compilation may be missing a few vital tracks like the Tapestry title track. However, Carole King’s discography is what singer-songwriters must aspire to, as time has proven that her songs will last for many years to come.