It’s funny, I seem to have shifting moods when it comes to music and the season. Thinking about it last week, there are definitely albums I will only listen to in the winter, and some in the summer. Maybe I’m just odd (I think most people will agree that is very true – including my father-in-law last night) but Christmas songs should only be played in December, and artists such asThe Beatles are the same – they feel very wintry for me. In the summer, well, I’ve been playing Carole King’s Tapestry an awful lot.
This is one album where I had to have an original 1971 copy on vinyl. I’m not usually so pedantic, but I just had to. Luckily it’s not an original vinyl that commands hideously high prices and there was a sigh of relief from the Lover (thankfully). It’s an honest and sincere album, and I defy anyone listening to it to not recognise most, if not all, of the songs. I know that the term ‘classic’ is bandied around like it’s going out of fashion, yet Tapestry is a classic album. It’s characterised by smooth flowing lyrics and superb musical composition. Tapestry was released at a time when music was in the doldrums, The Beatles had broken up and the music world had been rocked by the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin. People needed to chill out after the frenetic shift in music that was the 1960s.
The beauty of the Carole King lies in her ability to express our emotions for us in a way we may not have been able to do so. And what better area to touch? The songs touch the most universal emotion of all – love and melancholy. It was a great shift in styles for King – her success was at its peak a decade earlier when she was a songwriter alongside her husband Gerry Goffin, penning a great many pop tunes aimed at the teen market. Tapestry certainly isn’t amongst those groundbreaking albums often touted in the best album polls, but it really doesn’t need to be because it’s the album’s simplicity that is its biggest asset.
Ok, so the clue to the album is its title. Tapestry is indeed a tapestry of songs – it announces its presence with authority and from start to finish each song is in perfect order. From the first song: I Feel the Earth to You Make Me Feel (if anyone out there has ever attempted tapestry, you’ll know what I mean about order), there isn’t a song out-of-place. Yes, you may recognise the songs sung by other artists (but isn’t this the highest form of recognition of brilliance), such as “You’ve got a friend” which James Taylor made his own – but these songs are firmly King’s.
The album starts with a strong and forceful: I Feel the Earth Move (Under my feet), and then drops back to a slow and melancholic: It’s Too Late. It’s hard to imagine anyone bettering Will You Love Me Tomorrow (a hit for the Shirelles back in 1961, written by King), yet King makes it even better by slowing it down and heightening the melancholy of the lyrics, indeed King’s own versions add a personal, fragile tone to proceedings. The title song: Tapestry, never fails to bring some sort of tear to my eye, a mournful tune that manages to both look to the past and be hopeful about the future. Something we can all relate to in some form or another. The last song: (You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman, is an anthemic end to the album, you can’t but not sing along to it whether it’s King’s version or Aretha Franklin’s.
This was really the first album after the Beatles broke up where you found more than one or two hit singles. Tapestry remains a simple, classic album of pop music. It is also an important album because King established the model for the female singer-songwriters of the 1970s, such as Carly Simon. The album won four Grammys in 197, including album of the year. It’s still in the top 25 highest selling albums of all time. But statistics is just one side of the story. Popular art becomes a classic only when it has elements that can make it stand the test of time. It has to be simple, yet complex. It has to appeal to all audiences speaking their emotions, usually of sorrow and not total happiness. Only then can art travel from one time zone to another.
Tapestry is truly one album that’s stood the test of time.
The Knitty Gritty:
So this album is available on: LP, CD, Digital Download and Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer…
No Secrets – Carly Simon
I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin