The year was 1971. The singer-songwriter era of classic rock music was beginning. Musicians were no longer dependent on getting their material from the songwriters of Tin Pan Alley. They were writing and performing their own material. One of the artists poised to make the most of that transition was Carole King.
She had been writing music for more than a decade. Her songs, mostly co-written by Gerry Goffin, had been recorded and been hits for the Chiffons, Bobby Vee, Aretha Franklin, the Monkees and the Beatles. But by the start of the 1970s, King had moved to southern California and it was time for her to start recording and performing her own music.
Her first album, in 1970, was "Writer. " It peaked on the Billboard chart at number 84. It also had only average reviews. The disappointment of "Writer" didn't stop her. A year later came the highlight of her recording career with the release of "Tapestry."
"Tapestry" sold more than twenty-five million albums worldwide, making it one of the biggest selling albums of all-time. It was the number one album on the Billboard 200 chart for fifteen consecutive weeks. It remained on that chart for almost six years. It wasn't only the sales numbers that were large, the reviews were, too. All of them in the 5-star, 10/10, A-plus rating range. Jon Landau of Rolling Stone said King had created an album of surpassing personal intimacy and musical accomplishment.
The awards were more than plentiful. Four Grammys which included, Album of the Year, Record of the Year for "It's Too Late", Song of the Year for "You've Got A Friend" and Best Female Pop Record Performance.
While the sales, awards and reviews mean "Tapestry" will be an album that will be remembered and talked about for generations, the question asked is how does it sound fifty years later. Is the album as good and relevant in 2021 as it was in 1971? Is "Tapestry" an album that is still in your record listening rotation?
The songs themselves are still great. "It's Too Late", "You've Got A Friend", "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "A Natural Woman" remain classics. The problem I have with it is the arrangements. "Tapestry" is mostly a bare-bones piano and voice album. There was nothing wrong with that in 1971. It's a major reason why the album sold so well and was so critically received. But now, I want more sound. I need more sound. I'm not asking for a Phil Spector Wall of Sound, but give me something other than a piano.
Among the musicians playing on "Tapestry" is Danny Kortchmar on guitar, Russ Kunkel on drums along with three different horn players. You can hear them playing softly, supporting the songs. You also have James Taylor and Joni Mitchell doing background vocals. When you have world-class musicians, use them!!
Last year we saw a couple of classic rock-era musicians, Yusuf/Cat Stevens and Dave Mason, revisit and update "Tea for the Tillerman and "Alone Together." They put new arrangements on those fifty-year-old albums. Neither turned out great, but it was interesting to get a different take on songs that you loved. "Tapestry" is a great candidate for this. So Carole, if you're reading this (yeah, right) or someone tells you about this (yeah, right), what do you think? "Tapestry '21"....especially with drums, sax and guitars...has a nice sound to it, doesn't it?
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