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Carole King Music
Ode 77013
Released: December 1971
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 44
Certified Gold: 12/9/71

Carole KingAnyone who failed to follow up an album that had sold four million copies with a very similar album would have to be either a fool or Bob Dylan. Carole King is neither, and her new album Carole King Music, follows with gingerly tread in the footsteps of Tapestry. The spirit of her music remains warm and strong, her lyrics still carry personal messages of friendship and loyalty, and the same musicians are playing in back of her. Despite the similarity between the two albums, the songs on Carole King Music are not as immediately likeable and the new album doesn't have its predecessor's sure, unified sense of style.

Carole King is the most naturally, unaffectedly black of our white pop stars -- black in her phrasing, in the feeling of the songs she composes, and in her deep love of rhythm and blues. So it is fitting that she launches the album with "Brother, Brother," a song that appears to be a response to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." Carole evokes the musical feeling of Marvin's song with bongos and a beseeching vocal. Marvin had sung "Brother, brother, there's too many of you dying." Now a white sister takes up the same "Brother, brother" refrain and adds her heartfelt assent: "You have always been so good to me/ And though you didn't always talk to me/ There wasn't much my lovin' eyes could not see/ And I don't believe you need all your misery." Whether Carole is speaking to some generalized conception of blacks in America or to one raceless individual, her lyric stands as beautiful.

Carole King - Music
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
"Brother, Brother," the best song on the new album, is a perfect example of vintage King. The chord progression -- characteristically neat, logical, compelling and unforgettable -- marks it as a pop hit. The lyric, as usual, contains an urgent and complex message -- a hint of frustration, some warm words of encouragement and a passionate avowal that "you know I love you like no other." In her own songs (as opposed to those with lyrics by Gerry Goffin or Toni Stern), Carole invariably addresses a "you." She is incapable of writing a song that is not to someone; it is because she writes from this personal impulse, not from a pop impulse, that her songs are so moving. This same urgency to reach out and reassure gives her voice its haunting, inimitable tug.

Beyond all this, "Brother, Brother" is unmistakably cast in the black idiom. Three other songs on the album could serve as deadly accurate Motown follow-ups. One has no trouble hearing Smokey Robinson wrapping the raw silk of his voice around the exquisite first two bars of "Surely" -- one of the most subtle, serpentine melodic lines Carole has ever written. The wonderful rhetoric of the lyric, inflated with dignity borrowed from Roberts' Rules of Order ("Surely you know how I sta-hand on the issue of my loving you") is worthy of Smokey's "I Second the Emotion." "Brighter" and "Growing Away from Me" could both have come from the Motown songwriting team of Ashford and Simpson and would have made perfect numbers for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

I find that my second-favorite song on the album, one I listen to again and again, has the simplest arrangement. "Song of Long Ago," in which Carole celebrates the ripening of accidental friendships, features Carole on piano over a spirited bongo and bass bottom, with James Taylor filling in a rich middle on his acoustic guitar. Suddenly Carole has complete control again. The piano punctuates her vocal phrasing, the vocal stands out, and once again we hear what an instinctively brilliant singer she is -- a fact disguised by some of the other arrangements. When James weaves his voice with hers, it makes for a meaningful, touching duet, not just background filler.

But there are also whole songs that are disappointments -- throwaways like "Sweet Seasons" and "Back to California." And one of the lowest points on the record is the follow-up to "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" -- another Goffin-King classic, "Some Kind of Wonderful." Carole gave the Shirelles some real competition in her version of "Will You," but the Drifters' crisp "Some Kind" has it all over Carole's rendition, which is drenched in soupy background vocals.

Like Tapestry this album is rich in both emotion and melody, and in its almost encyclopedic view of friendship it surpasses most popular music. There is no question about the value of the content, only the validity of the style. Carole now has to choose between simplicity and complexity -- between piano-cum-combo and a full scale orchestra. The middle ground where she is now standing isn't good enough for her and the sooner she moves on the better. Meanwhile, "Brother, Brother," "Song of Long Ago," and "Surely" provide new evidence that Carole King continues to be one of the major individual talents in pop music today.

- Tim Crouse, Rolling Stone, 1/20/72.

Bonus Reviews!

Carol King's words on the back cover best describe the contents of this exciting package: "music is playing inside my head over and over and over again my friend, there's no end to the music." Suggested cuts? After one listen, all twelve will be your favorites. A blockbuster.

- Billboard, 1972.

This is Carole King's third solo album. In years to come it will probably be looked back on as one of those transition LP's that crop up in most artists' careers. 1971 saw Carole move from being a decent writer of pop songs into being a superstar perfomer. Small wonder then that Music is a rather cautious and steady LP.

Most of the dozen songs roll up into a pleasant enough little ball, but fall quite a bit short of the things on Writer and Tapestry. Exceptions: "Carry Your Load," marked by a thoughtful lyric; "Some Kind Of Wonderful," a blast from the past done up with as much energy as the original Drifters version; and "Back To California," the LP's final track and the only one where Carole pulls out all the stops, throws her head back and sings her ass off. Lots of talented folk turn up at the sessions: James Taylor, Merry Clayton, Danny Kootch and Abigale Haness to name a few. Carole's piano playing is precise and often invigorating. But what the record does most is whet the appetite for the next Carole King album. It just might be a great one.

- Ed Kelleher, Circus, 3/72.

Like James Taylor, Carole King is probably full formed and developed now, which is to say that this album is very similar to Tapestry. The songs of course are all new and the treatment very sympathetic. Perhaps she is stressing the performance a little more but it remains a delightful example of a creative performer at peak power.

- Hit Parader, 5/72.

Without the reserve of self-penned standards to draw upon, Music lacked the powerful resonance of its predecessor, Tapestry. Nevertheless, songs like "Sweet Seasons," "Brother, Brother," "Some Kind of Wonderful," and "Song of Long Ago" make this one of her better efforts. * * * *

- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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