Carole King: ‘A Natural Woman – The Ode Collection’ Liner Notes (1994)

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Joining in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Carole King‘s milestone Tapestry album on February 10, 2021, and the multiple Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and best-selling author‘s 79th birthday the day before, we’re presenting Stephen K. Peeples’ liner notes from 1994’s Carole King: A Natural Woman – The Ode Collection.

The anthology includes all the songs from Tapestry – which topped the Billboard album charts for 15 weeks, won four Grammys, charted for six years, is in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry, and has sold 13 million copies to date – along with highlights from King’s seven other solo albums for the Ode label.

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On February 6, Sony/Legacy dropped a digital iteration of the previously unreleased Tapestry outtake “Out in the Cold,” a bonus track on the 1999 CD reissue that’s never been available otherwise until now.

On February 6, Legacy also premiered a video of King’s 1971 BBC live studio performance with James Taylor accompanying on guitar. The set includes live performances of “I Feel The Earth Move,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “So Far Away,” “It’s Too Late,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” and more.

Legacy followed on February 10 with a new King music video for “It’s Too Late,” and two days later, a 50th-anniversary edition of Tapestry on black vinyl, featuring the original design of the Ode logos on the sleeve.

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Carole King: ‘A Natural Woman – The Ode Collection’ Liner Notes (1994)

I: Introduction

“I’m not that great a singer, and the songs are the thing that I have to get to the people I’m performing for. I can do that through records, and I’d just rather devote my energy to writing new songs I can give to people on records. I know it’s not the same as live, but I feel most comfortable that way.” —Carole King, 1973

 Well, what a difference a few decades make!

In 1993, 20 years and a lifetime of changes later, Carole King hit the road on her first major tour in years. Backed by a stageful of players and backing vocalists, and with zero stage fright in sight, the once-reclusive-Grammy-winning pop singer/songwriter actually enjoyed the experience.

Carole’s audiences and the press alike celebrated the return of this legendary recording artist, wife, mother, rancher, nature-lover, environmental activist, actress, and all-around rock ‘n’ roll survivor. She had a large time reconnecting with her audience and earned glowing reviews which noted her confidence onstage, passionate if not quite perfect singing, and energetic performances on piano and assorted electric keyboards – even guitar, an instrument not usually associated with her.

king the ode collectionJust as remarkable was the timelessness of the material she performed.

Carole’s setlist centered on classics from her epochal 1971 Tapestry album, which at 14 million copies upon initial release became the biggest-selling album in history up to that time, and made her the Rock Era’s most successful female songwriter.

It also swept the major Grammys in early 1972 and put her at the forefront of the era’s pop singer/songwriter movement, along with such influential contemporaries as Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, and Carole’s longtime friend and early mentor, James Taylor, not to mention the British contingent led by John Lennon and Van Morrison.

Carole also sprinkled her ’93 shows with gems from her first career as a hit songwriter during the early 1960s, when, often in collaboration with lyricist and first husband Gerry Goffin, she was among the handful of young “Brill Building” tunesmiths defining the style and sound of pop music.

Back then, thirtysomething years ago, Carole was just shy of terrified by the solo spotlight and performing in public. Working her Brill brilliance behind the scenes suited her gut-wrenching stage fright just fine.

By 1968, she was only slightly less mortified about going solo and being onstage, but knew the only way she could keep growing as an artist was to conquer her fear and get out in front of the public. So she began making what for her was an emotionally difficult three-year transition from writer-for-hire to writer/performer for real.

An unprecedented artistic, critical, and commercial success, Tapestry finally launched Carole to solo stardom in 1971. She may have taken her sweet time testing her wings, but once aloft, she soared. Other artists had scored many hits cutting her songs, but her way with one of her own was a thing of natural beauty, truly inspiring to behold.

The songs from Tapestry and the albums which followed during the next five years were equally at home on AM Top 40 and FM album radio playlists. Carole’s music helped pioneer adult contemporary radio, one reason even her fans’ parents were fans – a rarity in those years when the infamous Generation Gap between Baby Boomers and their folks gaped its widest. To many observers, she had emerged as her generation’s quintessential pop singer/songwriter, creating a new set of standards, in both senses of the phrase.

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Carole King at home in Laurel Canyon in 1971, working on a tapestry, waiting for the cat. | Photo: Jim McCrary.

Carole King: A Natural Woman – The Ode Collection (1968-1976) collects the essence of this second golden era, documenting her emergence and triumph as a solo artist via the recordings she made for producer/manager Lou Adler’s Ode label.

With their disarming honesty and simple, direct presentation, these songs vividly illustrate how Carole blended essential elements of urban American music with her own terrific talent and consummate professionalism, and why her romantic, confessional, visionary style of writing connected with such a large audience of men as well as women.

Carole’s hook-‘n’-riff-heavy arrangements and pumping piano playing draw from classic pop, R&B, gospel, and jazz. And her Brooklyn-accented vocals lend authenticity to the lyrics, whether hers or a co-writer’s, coming across to the listener as warm, familiar, comfortable, and real.

Sequenced chronologically, for the most part, The Ode Collection features a pair of tracks from Now That Everything’s Been Said, the lone and long-out-of-print 1968 album by Carole’s first recording band, The City; all 12 songs from Tapestry; and the brightest highlights from seven more of her most celebrated and popular solo albums – Writer, Music, Rhymes & Reasons, Fantasy, Wrap Around Joy, Really Rosie, and Thoroughbred.

kingYou’ll also find “Pocket Money,” Carole’s title theme for the Paul Newman/Lee Marvin film, and a rare King B-side (issued in January ’72 as the flip of “Sweet Seasons” but not on any LP), plus four unreleased King gems from the vault – “You’ve Got a Friend” with James Taylor from Carole’s memorable June 18, 1971, Carnegie Hall concert; the Rhymes & Reasons outtakes “Ties That Bind” and “This Time in My Life” from July ’72; and “Believe in Humanity” from her historic May 26, 1973, free concert in Central Park.

The body of work represented here remains the most celebrated, popular, and enduring of her solo career. It’s hard to overstate the profound importance and continuing influence of these songs and performances on pop music performers, writers, and listeners around the world.

As the 1970s dawned, millions of ’60s survivors were reassured by the warm imperfection of Carole King’s voice, the honesty of her songs, the simplicity of their production. The sound was instant nostalgia. Her music was a salve for the savaged soul, redemption for the ravaged romantic, balm for the beat-up and bandaged, hope against hopelessness. When the claws of cynicism closed in, a single listen to a song like “You’ve Got a Friend” or “Believe in Humanity” could save you from their steely clutches.

II: From Brooklyn to Tin Pan Alley: The Early Years

Carole King’s journey from her Brooklyn hometown to Manhattan’s Tin Pan Alley was mapped out way before she got into kindergarten.

Born February 9, 1942, Carol Joan Klein grew up in a music-loving household. As early as age four, she was taking piano lessons from her mother. In her teens at Lincoln High, where Neil Sedaka was a fellow student and early collaborator, Carol formed a vocal group called The Co-Sines, writing and arranging most of its material. “Goin’ Wild” and “Baby Sittin’” were among her earliest tunes.

After graduating Lincoln, Carol enrolled at Queens College, where she met writer and lyricist Gerry Goffin. Their affinity for pop music and writing led to their first song collaborations. The couple also fell in love, and were married in 1958.

As Carole King, she made her solo vinyl debut in March of the following year, when ABC-Paramount Records released “Baby Sittin’” on 45.

Also in ’59, the label issued “Oh, Neil,” her answer to Sedaka’s “Oh! Carol,” a Top 10 hit for him earlier in the year. None of Carole’s singles made the charts.

Sedaka, in fact, was among the handful of artists then writing and recording their own material, like Chuck Berry, Paul Anka, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Eddie Cochran.

But as the ‘60s dawned, most of those pioneers’ careers had derailed or been neutralized. Berry was in the slammer. The Killer had been moitalized by the scandal over his marriage to 13-year-old-cousin Myra. Fats and Little Richard had been covered, co-opted, and commercially canceled out by whitebread guys like Pat Boone. Holly was dead in a plane crash. Cochran was dead in a car wreck. That would leave guys like Sedaka and Anka.

With few other surviving exceptions, most late-1950s pop record makers were still traditional post-Big Band-era singers who relied on a constant flow of fresh material from traditional Tin Pan Alley song publishers. Those were the old-school outfits that employed staffs of young, talented, creative, yet grossly underpaid songwriters to cheerfully crank out tailor-made pop tunes on demand, assembly line-style.

By the late 1950s-early ‘60s, though, Tin Pan Alley’s fantasy factory was being pressured to crank out more professional fare for a new, increasingly sophisticated generation of rock ‘n’ roll-crazy radio listeners and record buyers. Carole and Gerry could relate. So, with a little help from Sedaka by way of introductions, the duo landed gigs as staff writers with Aldon Music, which would serve as proving grounds and launching pad for their meteoric careers.

The Brill Building / “Uptown R&B” Sound

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1650 Broadway, New York, New York.

Actually located at 1650 Broadway, around the corner from the famous Brill Building, Aldon Music was a songwriting and publishing operation founded in 1958 by Don Kirshner (a music-biz entrepreneur with experience in songwriting, management, publishing, and plugging) and Al Nevins (who’d played guitar with a band called The Three Suns).

Kirshner and Nevins quickly assembled a stable of young songwriters that in addition to King & Goffin included Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil, and Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield.

“Uptown R&B” was what the trade came to call the compact classics crafted by Carole, Gerry, and their Aldon cohorts, as well as the other writers working for various song mills in the area, like Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich, and Burt Bacharach & Hal David. It was also referred to as “the Brill Building sound,” because the pop songwriting scene was more or less centered there.

Essentially, they were R&B-infused pop/rock songs penned by white, often Jewish New York writers to be recorded by anyone, from genuinely talented solo singers and vocal groups to teen idols, TV heartthrobs, and movie stars with marginal musical talent, out to milk their fleeting celebrity.

Each earning about $50 a week at the outset, and with Kirshner acting as their mentor/father-figure/slave-driver, King and Goffin toiled in a windowless Aldon cubicle just large enough for a beat-up piano and a chair.

Carole came up with her bright, hook-laden pop melodies and pumping, pounding rhythms and riffs on the piano, while Gerry worked on his simply eloquent lyrics. (Though tradition holds that a songwriting credit list the composer first, most of their collaborations were credited as Goffin/King.)

Tuneful and catchy, usually telling a story of romance, commitment, loneliness, and/or humor, the couple’s material dealt honestly with the intense emotions, anxieties, and insecurities of adolescent life, but without insulting their audience, instead, reflecting their lives and touching their hearts.

There’s no finer example of this straightforward approach than “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” as recorded by R&B/pop girl-group The Shirelles, whose single soared to #1 in early 1961 and elevated King & Goffin to new heights among contemporary pop tunesmiths.

As deep and wide as mainstream American pop itself, the duo’s catalog grew during the next five years to include more than 100 major hits. Another dozen-dozen more were recorded but never happened as singles.

The hit list is staggeringly long, but just the biggest successes include “Take Good Care of My Baby” and “Run To Him” (#1 and #2 hits for Bobby Vee in 1961); “Crying in the Rain” (The Everly Brothers, #6 in 1962); “The Loco-Motion” (Little Eva, #1 in 1962); “Up On the Roof” (The Drifters, #5 in 1962); “Chains” (The Cookies, #17 in 1962, The Beatles in 1963); “One Fine Day” (The Chiffons, #5 in 1963); “Hey Girl” (Freddy Scott, #10 in 1963; also Bobby Vee, The Righteous Brothers); “I’m Into Something Good” (Herman’s Hermits, #13 in 1964); “Just Once in My Life” (written with Phil Spector for The Righteous Brothers, #9 in 1965); and “Don’t Bring Me Down” (The Animals, #12 in 1966).

Many of these instant classics and dozens more of the duo’s compositions are now considered pop standards, sung and recorded over the years by hundreds of famous, near-famous, and wanna-be famous artists worldwide. They continue to generate a small fortune in record sales and royalties each year.

King & Goffin’s Productions

Early on, Carole and Gerry’s demos earned a reputation for their ready-made arrangements and clean production, if not for her homespun voice. As their hits kept coming, the writers became increasingly involved in producing the commercially released studio recordings of their songs. Few other non-performing tunesmiths were afforded such respect.

While some King/Goffin songs were rearranged to better suit the artist(s) cutting them, many records were near-carbon copies of the writers’ demos.

In fact, Kirshner liked one demo of a song Carole and Gerry wrote and produced on assignment for Bobby Vee so much that Donny put it out as a single – as is, and under Carole’s own name. First appearing on the Companion label and soon rereleased on Kirshner’s new Dimension imprint, “It Might As Well Rain Until September” made the Top 25 in the States, and stormed up the British charts to #3 in late summer/fall 1962.

Several months later, though, her Dimension follow-up, “He’s A Bad Boy,” barely scraped the bottom of the Hot 100. Brushes with solo notoriety behind her, Carole decided to concentrate on her writing and production for other artists. She didn’t release a solo single for another seven years.

Lou Adler: Aldon’s West Coast Connection

The word on King & Goffin and the other Aldon aces soon spread west to Los Angeles, where the outfit opened a branch office in 1961. On-board as general manager was fast-rising West Coast record producer and future entertainment entrepreneur Lou Adler.

“My relationship with the Aldon writers developed through representing them on the West Coast, which was taking over from the East Coast as the hub of recording during the early ‘60s,” Adler notes. “Those writers almost took over the industry prior to 1965 and The Beatles, after which the trend went more toward artists writing their own material.”

Adler knew Carole and Gerry’s work long before he flew to NYC to meet the Aldon staffers. “I’d heard many of their demos, which were always circulating among producers and A&R men. No one gave them back because they liked Carole’s vocals and piano feel so much. Her voice was raw, yet soulful, and her piano style combined R&B and pop in a way that was very important. And she also did all the background vocals on her demos. Just their overall sound – she had a lot of things going that the public hadn’t heard yet.

“When I first saw Carole and Gerry, it was a classic Tin Pan Alley scene,” Adler recalls with a smile. “Their daughter Louise [born in 1960] was in a playpen in the middle of this very tiny room, crying, while Carole was playing the piano and Gerry was standing behind her, writing lyrics.”

The Beatles Speed Demise of Heroes’ Careers

It should be noted that American popular music during this period, roughly 1959-64, would have been far bleaker were it not for the sheer talent and inventiveness of King & Goffin and their Brill Building contemporaries. These legends not only served as a link between traditional uptown Tin Pan Alley material and streetwise rock ‘n’ roll, but also helped bridge the enormous creative gap between Buddy Holly and The Beatles.

Paying close attention from their vantage point some 3,000 miles east of Manhattan, in the rough-and-tumble English seaport of Liverpool, were John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They’d cut their musical teeth as The Quarry Men in 1957, evolved into The Silver Beatles, and finally, by 1960, had dropped the Silver and gone for the gold.

The band’s early repertoire was loaded with covers of pop, rock, and R&B tunes by American writers and artists they’d first heard on 45s brought into port by merchant marines, or played in the same clubs John, Paul, George, Pete, and then Ringo played in Hamburg. Lennon & McCartney learned a great deal about the art and craft of pop songwriting from this new generation of Tin Pan Alley tunesmiths, Carole and Gerry primary among them.

In fact, early in their careers, Lennon & McCarftney were often quoted as saying all they “ever wanted to be was Goffin & King.”

At the same time, from artists like Holly, who wrote, produced, performed, and recorded his own hit songs by the time he was 21, Lennon & McCartney learned they could not only write, but also sing, play, and produce their own material.

It’s ironic that in autumn 1962, soon after Carole’s “It Might As Well Rain Until September” made its way up the U.K. charts, The Beatles were celebrating their first British hit – the utterly simple but undeniably catchy Lennon/McCartney original “Love Me Do.” The single not only launched the Fabs’ career but also signaled the end of the Brill Building era and the imminent takeover of self-contained artists and groups.

It’s also ironic that The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, Carole’s 22nd birthday. Lennon & McCartney eventually did meet King & Goffin. Whether any of them knew it then, the torch had been passed – for the time being.

The Screen Gems Era: Takin’ Care of Monkee Business Like There’s No Tomorrow

In 1963, Don Kirshner and Al Nevins sold Aldon Music to the giant Screen Gems publishing combine. The deal gave Kirshner control of Screen Gems’ music division, the Colpix label, and the writers, which included King, Goffin, and Aldon’s other staffers plus the Screen Gems crew in L.A. under Lou Adler’s direction.

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“With something like 33 Top 10 hits to Aldon’s credit, Donnie (Kirshner) had begun negotiating with Screen Gems Television and Columbia Pictures to sell Aldon Music… ‘Nothing’s gonna change,’ Donnie said. “It’ll only get better. I’ll be able to place your songs in movies.’ We were not convinced.” From Carole King’s autobiography, “A Natural Woman: A Memoir.” | Photo via CaroleKing.com.

During the next couple of years, writers like David Gates (later of Bread), Tommy Boyce, and Bobby Hart also joined the Screen Gems roster. All of them contributed many new and catalog songs to the operation, which fed movies and TV as well as recording artists.

Carole and Gerry launched a venture of their own in late 1965. After all, they’d learned the business inside out, and it was the next logical step for them. So, partnering up with New York-based pop culture/music journalist Al Aronowitz, the couple formed their own label, Tomorrow Records. One of the bands they signed, called The Myddle Class, gigged on the East Coast club circuit and attracted a bit of attention. But Tomorrow never arrived.

For King, though, the experience had at least a few bright spots. She met Myddle Class bassist Charles Larkey, who’d later become her second husband. He introduced her to guitar player Danny Kortchmar, nicknamed “Kootch.” Also erstwhile members of The Fugs, Ed Sanders’ infamous group of musical anarchists from Greenwich Village, Charlie, and Kootch would become Carole’s musical mainstays during her solo years. When she met him, Kootch was a member of The Flying Machine, fronted by another guy who soon became a close personal friend of hers, singer/songwriter James Taylor.

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James Taylor and Carole King.

In mid-1966, a new vehicle for Screen Gems material was created – a four-member pop group called The Monkees, whose hit TV show, chart-topping million-selling records, and sold-out live performances provided increased demand for tunes from Screen Gems writers during the next few years.

That was a good thing because by then, the teen-idol and girl-group eras were history. The most creative and successful career recording artists were the ones following the Lennon/McCartney lead, writing and performing their own, increasingly experimental, material. Psychedelia and proto-heavy metal were coming on fast, reflecting the counterculture’s rising influence on pop culture in general. So, as the decade surged forward, there was less demand for pop songs by professional tunesmiths like King & Goffin.

One of the team’s last major hits was “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” written with a little help from producer Jerry Wexler and sanctified and immortalized by Aretha Franklin in 1967, as the Queen of Soul moved into her early prime.

Also in ’67, Carole and Gerry hit No. 3 with The Monkees’ recording of “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

But by ’68, even members of the Pre-Fab Four were lobbying to write and produce their own material, and James Taylor was in London recording his first solo album – with British Invasion pop star Peter Asher producing for The Beatles’ new Apple label, no less.

On the personal side, Carole’s marriage to Goffin was then coming to an end, and they divorced, though they continued collaborating on songs and productions for years to come. Her relationship with Charles Larkey began to flower.

Professionally, she was ready to take another stab at moving from writer to writer/recording artist, and maybe even live performer. So, with West Coast connections already made via Adler and the Aldon/Screen Gems relationship, Carole and Charlie packed up her daughters Louise and Sherry (born in 1963) and headed west for the Hollywood Hills.

Gerry Goffin and Carole King, with daughters Louise (right) and Sherry, 1963.

III: Goin’ Up the Country With The City

“King’s homey, inspirational songs, sung in plain Brooklyn twang to the accompaniment of her own pounding pop-gospel piano, translated the upbeat sentiments of Rodgers & Hammerstein show tunes into the pop-music equivalent of a hearty chicken soup.” —Stephen Holden

Arriving in Los Angeles, Carole moved into Hollywood’s rustic Laurel Canyon, joining Joni Mitchell, Cass Elliott, and other counterculture Ladies of the Canyon, not to mention Frank Zappa and assorted Mothers of Invention.

The secluded, naturally beautiful environment made it a haven for the area’s hip counterculture (anti-Establishment-types with money and/or entertainment biz connections). Yet her place on Wonderland Avenue was also minutes away from the major restaurants, clubs, studios, and record labels on the Sunset Strip. Hollywood was just 10 minutes to the east, the beach at Malibu less than half an hour west.

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Carole King, Laurel Canyon. | Photo: Jim McCrary – Ode Sound + Visuals.

Musically, Carole began to reinvent herself almost immediately. She and Larkey hooked up with their old Flying Machine friend and fellow NYC expatriate Danny Kortchmar, and, with top session drummer Jim Gordon rounding out the basic lineup, formed a band they called The City.

Carole pitched The City to Adler, who by then in addition to his stint with Screen Gems had produced hits by surf duo Jan & Dean, go-go rocker Johnny Rivers, and folk-rocker Barry (“Eve of Destruction”) McGuire. He’d also managed and produced The Mamas & The Papas, founded the Ode music and film operations, coproduced the legendary June ’67 Monterey International Pop Festival, and produced the psychedelic rock band Spirit. 

“Because of Carole’s demos, industry people who came in contact with her knew her as a singer, and were always asking her when she was going to go solo,” Adler says. “But with The City, she was feeling like becoming a performer, but still not secure enough to come out as a solo vocalist.”

Adler signed The City to Ode and produced their only album, Now That Everything’s Been Said. Recorded at Arman Steiner’s Sound Recorders facility in Hollywood, the 12-song LP included the King/Goffin originals “Wasn’t Born To Follow” (recorded by The Byrds for their Notorious Byrds Brothers LP in early ’68 and the flipside of their “Ballad Of Easy Rider” single in fall ’69) as well as “Hi-De-Ho” (a Top 15 hit for Blood, Sweat & Tears in fall ’70).

“At the time, Carole found security in being part of a group,” Adler observes. “Though she did 90% of the vocals on the album, and even though in most cases it does sound like a record by a solo artist, she still didn’t feel ready to have her name out front.”

On the street in late ’68, Now That Everything’s Been Said earned some favorable reviews and had a strong following among musicians and songwriters. But the LP wasn’t out very long before Adler switched Ode’s distributors, and it suffered a cruel fate.

“It had just been released through CBS when I went to A&M,” Adler says. “I pulled it back from CBS, but decided against re-releasing it on A&M.” By then, Carole was already moving into the next phase.

Carole King: Writer

For King, The City experience was invaluable in suiting up to fly solo, though it took another year of preparation. By spring 1970 – packing 10 new and vintage Goffin collaborations and two more penned with Toni Stern, and brimming with encouragement from Larkey, Taylor, Adler, and other close friends and associates – Carole was finally ready for takeoff.

With Adler tied up elsewhere making the movie Brewster McCloud, the March-April sessions for Carole King: Writer were produced by John Fischbach at Crystal Sound in Hollywood, where Gerry had produced a number of other projects. Andrew Berlinger engineered, and Goffin handled the final mix.

Ably supported by Kootch, Larkey, JT, and other musician friends and acquaintances, Carole made an auspicious, if at times tentative-sounding, debut with Writer, out in late September ’70. The album didn’t chart right away, but those who heard her own interpretation of “Up On The Roof” (a Carole & Gerry-penned Top 5 smash for The Drifters in 1962) and more recent King/Goffin originals like “Child of Mine” knew she was on the verge of greatness.

Tapestry

With her second solo LP, 1971’s Tapestry, King weaved a work so intensely personal, the definitive versions were hers alone to sing.

The album was named for the needlepoint piece Carole worked on between takes (as pictured on the album’s cover photo, taken at the Wonderland house) and later presented to Adler.

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But there was much more behind the title. Threading their way through these songs were myriad emotions she expressed in the studio with an honesty that was rare and refreshing, then or any other time.

Tapestry was among the handful of classic albums that defined the singer/songwriter era, hence its inclusion on The Ode Collection from first note to last.

“I don’t see how you could leave any of these songs off,” muses Adler, who heard the album start falling into place the first time Carole played him a few of her new solo compositions, and a couple she’d penned with Toni Stern.

“Lou Adler was one of the most effective producers in the business. Among his many attributes, for me, the most valuable was his ability to give his artists a safe space in which to be creative. Lou had ideas of his own, but he saw himself mostly as a facilitator. Like all great sidemen, he knew when not to play.” From Carole King’s autobiography, “A Natural Woman: A Memoir.” | Photo via CaroleKing.com.

“When she was writing for other people, Carole was, in effect, impersonating somewhat the sound and feel of an artist’s hit, trying to write follow-ups,” he points out. “So even though her demos maybe all could have been put out because they sounded like her songs, they weren’t really true to her as an artist.

“But between doing The City and Writer albums, Carole really began writing for herself,” he says. She was getting it, was in great voice, and feeling more secure than ever. As an artist, it was just her time. The freshness and sensitivity of her solo work and the songs with Toni helped make Tapestry what it was.”

With many of the key support players from Writer on hand, the Tapestry sessions unfolded on January 4, 8, 11, 12, and 15, 1971 in A&M Studios B & C on what used to be the old Charlie Chaplin Films lot on La Brea Avenue just off Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. All the rest of Carole’s Adler-produced albums for Ode were recorded at the same facility.

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“Engineer Hank Cicalo shared with me his recollections of the Tapestry sessions at A&M Studios… ‘I always put the players where everyone could see each other. Your piano was in the middle of the room, with the drums where you could see them and the drummer could see you. I put everyone around you in a semicircle so everyone could see you because you conducted with your head. I always changed the control room lighting for the mood of the song and I did the same with the lighting in the studio.’ I never knew any of that.” From Carole King’s autobiography, “A Natural Woman: A Memoir.” | Photo by Jim McCrary via CaroleKing.com.

[Tapestry’s primary engineer was Hank Cicalo, and the studio band Adler assembled to back Carole’s piano and vocals included Russ Kunkel and Joel O’Brien (drums), Charles Larkey (bass), Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar (guitar), and Ralph Schuckett (electric piano).]

With nary a weak song among the dozen (seven penned by Carole alone, three with Goffin, and two more with Toni Stern), Tapestry included the title track (100% Carole as writer and performer, “Beautiful,” and “Where You Lead” (covered by Barbra Streisand for her Barbra Joan Streisand LP later in ’71 and featured on her Live Concert at the Forum in fall ’72), plus Carole’s own soul-deep version of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

Adler sought to complement her songs with no-frills production. “I had a definite theme in mind, to have that lean, almost demo-type sound, with a basic rhythm section and Carole on piano, playing lots of her figures. Those are things everyone always liked about her demos.”

Curtis Amy played soprano sax on “It’s Too Late” and baritone sax on “Smackwater Jack,” which also featured Ralph Schuckett on electric piano and background vocals by Carole with Merry Clayton and Julia Tillman.

James Taylor was on hand for many of the Tapestry dates, adding acoustic guitar to “So Far Away” (with Amy on flute), “Home Again,” and “Way Over Yonder” (with Amy on tenor sax), and introduced string quartet leader/arranger and viola player David Campbell, who would soon become one of Hollywood’s most in-demand arrangers and composers of songs and scores for records, TV, and films.

The Mitchell-Taylor Boy & Girl Choir (aka James Taylor and Joni Mitchell) record backing vocals for Carole King’s “Tapestry” track “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” at A&M Studios in Hollywood, January 1971. | Photo: Jim McCrary, repost via @jonimitchell.

JT also played guitar and “grandfalloon” on “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (with Larkey again on upright bass, and backing vocals by The Mitchell-Taylor Boy & Girl Choir – as in Joni and James), and “You’ve Got a Friend” (with Larkey playing upright bass in Campbell’s string quartet).

Taylor, in fact, was in the neighborhood working at another Hollywood studio, recording new songs for his next LP, among them “You’ve Got A Friend.”

When his single version hit the airwaves a few months later, listeners aware of his friendship with Carole assumed she wrote it for him, but that wasn’t the case. “‘You’ve Got A Friend’ wasn’t written for James,” she later told Billboard. “It was one of those moments when I sat down at the piano and it wrote itself from someplace other than me.”

In early March 1971, with Tapestry and the album’s first single “It’s Too Late” backed with “I Feel The Earth Move” out just a few weeks and on their way up the charts, Carole hit the road on a major national tour – her first – opening for JT and playing piano in his band. They played more than two dozen cities.

“That [tour] turned out to be enjoyable in some ways,” Carole reflected in conversation with Adler on October 18, 1972, recorded between sessions at A&M. “But one of the things I dislike about performing, at least under those circumstances, is that you lose the spontaneity after doing it once or twice.

“I mean, you gotta go and take the same show on the road,” she continued, “and somehow you do manage to get some spontaneity just because it’s a new audience every night. But sometimes you can see it in James when he’s been working too hard, and some people will put him down for it, between numbers you may show that you’re dragged. But somehow, when you start singing a song, you just get lost in it, and the fact that you’ve done it before doesn’t really matter. It’s just that I don’t like the part between numbers.

“I’m not that great a singer, and the songs are the thing that I have to get to the people I’m performing for,” King emphasized. “I can do that through records, and I’d just rather devote my energy to writing new songs I can give to people on records. I know it’s not the same as live, but I feel most comfortable that way.”

On newsstands in early April ’71 was the issue of Rolling Stone in which Jon Landau reviewed both her new album and her previously ignored solo debut, Writer: “…Tapestry has fulfilled the promise of her first [album] and confirmed the fact that she is one of the most creative figures in pop music.”

From the Troubadour to Carnegie Hall

Tapestry was flying out of the stores and in power rotation all over American radio by May 18, 1971, when Carole made her solo concert debut, opening a six-night, 14-show stand at the legendary 250-seat Troubadour in West Hollywood. She co-headlined with Taylor, whose “You’ve Got A Friend” was just about to be released as a single.

Though Carole was still near-terrified about performing publicly, she went over well with the enthusiastic Troubadour audience. “Her strong, ofttimes piercing voice and her two-fisted style of piano playing helped generate excitement,” wrote reviewer Eliot Tiegel in the June 5 edition of Billboard.

“From what I hear and see now, she’s totally different,” Adler observes today, “but back then, performing was a real chore for Carole – she just didn’t like it. So any performance you could encourage her to do was a plus!

“I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to step out on that Troubadour stage. You never know as a producer or manager what that emotion’s really like. You can take them right up to the edge, but once they take that step onstage, they’re on their own. But Carole was squeezing my hand so hard, I knew she was churning on her way up to the stage, although when it was over, she did enjoy having accomplished it. I think there was something in her personality and character makeup that allowed her to overcome her fear of performing, so that when she came off-stage, she was elated.”

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Doug Weston’s Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, 1970s. | Photo: Dean Musgrove, Herald-Examiner Collection, Los Angeles Public Library.

Carole soon went back to the Troubadour to play her first completely solo headlining gig. Even by then, she was still so worried she’d bomb, she over-prepared, if anything.

“I had my act really carefully worked out, and knew exactly what I was going to do,” she recalled later in her aforementioned conversation with Adler. “And at the end of my third number, the applause – thank goodness there was applause – died down. Then I heard this disembodied voice coming over a speaker saying, ‘Carole, you’re not going to believe this, but there’s been a rumor that there’s a bomb here in the Troubadour!’

“And for some reason, I was so relieved it wasn’t me who was the bomb that I said so to the audience, and that kind of broke the ice. I really felt comfortable up there. I realized that a stage is, after all, a stage, and I’m there to do a show. All I have to do is be myself, and do whatever it is I do, and that seems to work out okay.”

On Friday night, June 18, 1971, Carole was onstage playing her first concert at New York City’s legendary Carnegie Hall, this time with James Taylor as her special guest. Their duet version of “You’ve Got A Friend” was the evening’s highlight.

“Returning to my hometown, which happens to be the biggest in the world, was really gratifying,” she recalled, talking with Adler at A&M. “There were two shows, and since I’m not a trained singer, my voice was shot for the second show.”

Lou accentuated the positive: “But I think the excitement of [playing] Carnegie, and that James was a surprise guest – when you said to the audience, ‘Just a minute, I want to introduce you to a friend,’ and came back onstage with him on the other end of your hand…”

Carole: “…in a beautiful white suit…!”

Lou: “You were both tired, but the excitement was there.”

Carole: “Yes, I really did enjoy that performance.”

Tapestry, Too

Carole King’s Tapestry provided a colorful, comfortable musical backdrop for the American scene during spring, summer, and autumn 1971.

Sparked by the heavy airplay and post-concert word-of-mouth sales, the double-sided “It’s Too Late” b/w “I Feel The Earth Move” took over Billboard’s #1 spot the week ending June 19, just in time for Carnegie Hall. The single stayed on top five weeks, and on July 21 earned Carole her first gold 45. It went on to become the #16 single of the entire decade.

Out in mid-February ’71, Tapestry scored gold certification June 7, and hit #1 on Billboard’s album chart the same week “It’s Too Late” nailed #1, knocking off The Rolling Stones’ hard-rocking Sticky Fingers LP. If anyone still needed convincing that the popular mood and musical tastes were softening, that did it.

Mounting exposure and sales of Tapestry prompted Writer to finally hit the album charts in May ’71; Carole’s debut stayed on for six months, rising as high as #84.

Tapestry was still America’s top album the week ending July 24, when “It’s Too Late” had its five-week run at #1 cut off at the pass by The Raiders’ “Indian Reservation.” After one week, James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend” jumped into #1 for the week ending July 31. It kept the Top 5 warm through the end of August, by which time Carole’s “So Far Away” b/w “Smackwater Jack” single was out and keeping the heat on through October when it cooled at #14.

Tapestry stayed #1 for 15 weeks, through the week ending September 25 (it was finally knocked off by Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells A Story), and on the LP chart an astounding 302 weeks, from April 1971 through January 1977, Tapestry was pop music’s longest-charting album until the week ending March 26, 1980, when Pink Floyd’s seven-year-old Dark Side Of The Moon LP surpassed it. Tapestry remains the longest-charting album by a female solo artist in pop history.

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Time magazine cover, February 12, 1973.

The album also smashed all existing sales records. Upward of 14 million U.S. fans bought it upon initial release, more than any other LP up to that time (the record remained unmatched until Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive in 1977).

To date [1994], Tapestry has sold more than 22 million copies worldwide and is still the all-time best-selling album by a female solo artist.

Noting King’s emergence on the solo singer/songwriter scene, Time observed that with Janis Joplin gone, Carole seemed poised to become the new “Queen of Rock.”

This was hardly the kind of notoriety she was after. Though her music had become increasingly personal, and its success on record and onstage had made her an international star almost overnight, she tenaciously held onto her privacy offstage.

“After Tapestry took off, I never really noticed that much change in her,” Adler recalls. “Awards and accolades never really meant that much to Carole. She didn’t go to the Grammys in 1972 when Tapestry was nominated. She still had a difficult time doing press interviews. Her children were at an age where they needed her and drew her away from those things. Her relationship with Charlie was still somewhat new. All those things kept her from falling into, if you will, those star traps that often open up when somebody catches an album that big.”

Carole King: Music

In summer ’71, as Tapestry blanketed the airwaves, Carol was already preparing and recording material for its follow-up, Carole King: Music. Adler produced the sessions with many of the same players they worked with on Tapestry, with a couple of notable additions, like percussion ace Bobbye Hall and guest horn/wind players like Oscar Brashear and Plas Johnson.

Of the 12 tunes, King wrote eight alone and three with Toni Stern, and dipped deep down into the Aldon ditty bag for a classic penned with Goffin (“Some Kind of Wonderful,” a No. 6 R&B/No. 32 pop hit for The Drifters in 1961). Here, we have a pair of Carole’s solos – “Music” and “Brother, Brother” – plus two Stern collaborations – “It’s Going To Take Some Time” and “Sweet Seasons.”

“With Music, I think I felt we had to go beyond the simple production of Tapestry,” Adler recalls, “and that’s the reason we added woodwinds and a whole horn section, as opposed to just a single horn. Plas Johnson, Ernie Watts, Bill Green – guys like those were very heavy jazz players. At the time, it did feel like a natural progression.

“There are things on Music I really love – the title song, the jazz feel, and the freedom taken on the tag of it. We enjoyed making it a lot. No expectations of what it was going to sell or the fact that we were trying to follow up Tapestry…we just enjoyed making Music.”

The Greek Theatre Debut

In late summer 1971, about five months pregnant and just wrapping up the Music sessions, Carole made her triumphant debut at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The legendary outdoor venue then seated about 3,500; she sold out four nights, August 18-21. She’d come a long way in the short time since her coming-out at the comparatively tiny Troubadour, but was still very much a natural woman, much to the relief of her early fans and supporters. Among them was longtime Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic Robert Hilburn, who observed in his glowing review of Carole’s first show that she gave the most important concert of the summer because it most accurately reflected the current mood of contemporary music.

Carole’s opening acts were erstwhile Aldon stablemate Barry (“Who Put The Bomp”) Mann and “Outa-Space”-man Billy Preston, then hot as the electric piano-playing fifth Beatle on The Fabs’ Get Back sessions released as their swan song in spring 1970 as Let it Be, and red-hot off George Harrison’s August 1 Concerts for Bangladesh just three weeks before this Greek gig. Yet King commanded the evening with her simple, direct, heartfelt, natural style, backed occasionally by Larkey on bass and Curtis Amy on sax.

It would be eight months before Carole would perform publicly again. In the meantime, she and Charles added to their family in December 1971, when their first child – her third – Molly Larkey, was born.

The family had even more cause to celebrate that month when Music hit the charts, soon following Tapestry to #1, if for a mere three weeks this time, though it, too, quickly scored gold. In January, “Sweet Seasons” (backed with “Pocket Money,” Carole’s title theme song from the modern Western comedy starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin) was released as the first Music single; it reached #9.

Music sold more than two million albums at the time, but was dwarfed by Tapestry,” Adler observes. “I happen to think that if Music had been the first of the two, it could have been a lot bigger than it was. Not to say it would have been as big as Tapestry, but I think without any comparison, Music could have been bigger.”

The 1972 Grammy Grand Slam

On March 14, 1972, at Felt Forum in New York’s Madison Square Garden, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences honored Carole with an unprecedented four Grammys in the major categories – Best Album and Best Female Vocal Performance for Tapestry; Best Single for “It’s Too Late”; and, as a writer, Best Song for “You’ve Got A Friend.” It was the Grammy equivalent to a Grand Slam, and the biggest sweep of the major awards by a female artist in Grammy history.

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“The year 1972 started off on a high note after Molly’s arrival. Then on March 14, I attained the highest possible pinnacle of success to which a recording artist and songwriter could aspire. I was awarded four Grammys for my work on Tapestry.” From Carole King’s autobiography, “A Natural Woman: A Memoir.” | Photo by Jim McCrary via CaroleKing.com.

But Carole didn’t fly to New York for the awards ceremony, as Adler mentioned earlier; he scored two Grammys as producer of the Best Album and Best Single that night and accepted her trophies on her behalf. He received a warm response when he smiled and explained from the podium, “Carole is not here because she just had a baby, and is home learning to be Mother of the Year!”

As a writer, Carole also participated in others’ Grammy nods that incredible night. Quincy Jones won Best Pop Instrumental Performance for his stylishly funky take on “Smackwater Jack.” James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend” was up for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male; he took home the latter trophy. And Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack were nominated for Best R&B Performance by a Duo for their soulful cover of the same song – but hey, it was up against Ike & Tina’s immortal cover of John Fogerty’s “Proud Mary.” ‘Nuff said.

The other big winner that night was Isaac (“Shaft”) Hayes (can you dig it? Raht own!) But capping the evening, Carole and James’ friend Carly Simon, soon to marry him, won the Best New Artist Grammy. This triumphant trio represented the domination of the contemporary pop music scene by this new generation of American singer/songwriters.

The McGovern Benefit

In her first onstage appearance since the Greek shows in L.A. the previous August, Carole coheadlined an April 15, 1972, benefit concert with Barbra Streisand, James Taylor, and Quincy Jones and his Orchestra.

Staged at the 18,700-seat Forum in Inglewood, the “Four for McGovern” event was organized by film stars Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine for presidential hopeful Sen. George McGovern (D-South Dakota), the favored candidate among the anti-Establishment counterculture and those against America’s war in Vietnam. It was the first of many such concerts.

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The Forum was SRO, with 2,000 Hollywood hipsters paying $100 each for the good seats and 16,700 civilians warming up the cheaper seats. The benefit netted a quarter-million dollars, but McGovern’s campaign was nonetheless doomed. President Richard M. Nixon won re-election by a landslide in November, successfully, if only temporarily, keeping a lid on his involvement in the Watergate Hotel break-in the previous summer.

After that scandal finally broke, a sense of betrayal, dismay, and helplessness about the direction of the country spread far beyond the counterculture, and into the national consciousness.

Rhymes & Reasons

A few months after the McGovern benefit, Carole was back in the studio, putting down tracks for her fourth solo album, to be titled Rhymes & Reasons.

She’d recently bought a farm in rural Canaan, Connecticut, and had been spending a lot of time there, relaxing with her family, reflecting, and writing. Many of her new songs took shape there.

“As with any artist, the albums Carole made sort of represent what was happening in her personal life, where she was living at the time,” Adler says.

All the other material written for Rhymes & Reasons was new, too; for the first time, Carole didn’t mine any nuggets from the pre-solo King / Goffin mother lode. Of the 12 tunes recorded, six were hers alone, four composed with Toni Stern, and one each written with Larkey and Goffin. Here we have a trio of solo tunes – “Bitter With the Sweet,” “Goodbye Don’t Mean I’m Gone,” and “Been to Canaan.”

And released here for the first time are two tracks there wasn’t room for on the original album – Carole’s “Ties That Bind” and “At This Time in My Life.”

“We added strings, a big difference from the first two albums,” Adler notes. “And we kept the horns. But there was also more of an R&B feel to the rhythm section, something that Carole, of course, has roots in as far as her writing and piano playing. She played electric piano and organ as well as piano, and we had David T. Walker on guitar and Harvey Mason on drums – we were getting more into session players on this album.”

Rhymes & Reasons shipped gold at the beginning of November 1972 and scored mostly favorable reviews. “Been to Canaan” was simultaneously released on 45 with “Bitter With the Sweet” as the flip. The single peaked at #24, but like most of Carole’s 45’s at the time, also received lots of airplay on album-oriented FM stations. The LP rose to No. 2, where it dug in for five weeks in late ’72/early ’73 (held at bay by The Moody Blues’ Seventh Sojourn), ultimately charting for seven months.

Fantasy

While much of the material on her first four solo albums was confessional, King wrote 13 songs for Fantasy by stepping “outside herself” and speaking “as if I were someone else,” as she put it in “Fantasy Beginning.”

“It was as close to a conceptual album as anything Carole ever did,” Adler says. “She was deeply troubled about things like people who, for one reason or another, were stuck in a ghetto or some other dead-end situation, with drugs, or alcohol, or suicide being about the only ways out.”

Carole recorded Fantasy at A&M in early ’73 with Adler and the same basic rhythm section as on Rhymes & Reasons. From a production standpoint, Adler says they moved even more toward an R&B sound. “Harvey Mason and David T. Walker were with us once again. The horns were definitely jazz and R&B. This was also the first session on which we brought in Tom Scott, who also had a real influence.”

Fantasy hit the bins in early May, was generally well-received by critics, and earned gold on June 26, the day after “You Light Up My Life” was released as a single b/w “Believe in Humanity.” Radio flipped it over, and “Humanity” hit the Top 30 while “Light” dimmed at #67.

More than one observer noted that it took a lotta moxie – not to mention heart – for a young Jewish woman from Brooklyn to write a Spanish-language song and record it Latin-style. But follow-up single “Corazón” was a Top 40 single that fall and became another enduring hit for Carole on FM radio.

Her first album since Tapestry not to hit #1 or #2, Fantasy peaked at a relatively disappointing #6 during late summer ’73, though it charted for 37 weeks.

The Central Park Affair, or El Corazón de la Ciudad de Nueva York

Carole liked Fantasy and those songs and musicians so much that she wanted to take them on the road,” Adler remembers. “It was her first tour since Tapestry, and certainly the first with her own band. We did maybe a dozen shows in spring ’73, the biggest one in New York.

“She wanted to give something back to the city, because after living in California and Connecticut, she was returning to where she was brought up, where her career started. So I investigated Central Park, and we did it over the Memorial Day weekend. I think it was the first time such a major free pop concert had been given there. It was certainly one of the largest. Everything about that event was incredible – it was a huge homecoming.”

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Carole King and Lou Adler at soundcheck for her concert in Central Park on May 26, 1973. | Photo: Jim McCrary, via Carole King Facebook.

Carole’s first and only live NYC appearance in more than two years, the historic Saturday, May 26, 1973, Central Park affair drew an estimated 200,000 mostly longhaired counterculture-types and other King fans who braved the day’s threatening skies.

Among the many VIPs on hand were Carole’s mom, Joni Mitchell, Faye Dunaway, and Jack Nicholson; the latter remarked to reporters that “this and the [Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel] Ellsberg trial are the only two events it’s proper to be seen at in public.”

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A view of the stage and audience at Carole King’s concert in Central Park on May 26, 1973. | Photo: Jim McCrary, via Carole King Facebook.

From the stage, Mayor John Lindsay gave Carole a warm introduction, and she was warmly welcomed by the multitudes stretching a half-mile back on the Great Lawn behind the Delacorte Theatre. Still, everyone could hear pretty well, thanks to Chip Monck, the Monterey Pop and Woodstock veteran who staged the event, setting up a sound system that put out six times more juice than he’d needed to power The Rolling Stones’ tour of the States the previous year.

With 16 mm movie cameras documenting the event, Carole opened her set solo at the piano, singing and playing familiar favorites. Then, her Fantasy rhythm section and horns joined her to premiere songs from the new album, including “Believe In Humanity.”

With fans climbing the sound towers and swaying precariously back and forth, Carole wrapped the show with “You’ve Got A Friend,” and there wasn’t a dry eye in the park as she exited the stage, exhausted yet elated.

As the final ovation faded, the fans dug out the plastic garbage bags they’d been handed on the way in, and picked up most of their own trash on the way out. Theodore Mastroianni, Deputy Commissioner of Parks, was so moved at this uncharacteristic display of environmental sensitivity that he wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times, expressing his amazement and gratitude that King’s fans had cleaned up after themselves so well, saving his staff many hours of costly overtime.

Wrap Around Joy

King spent most of the next year out of the public eye, though she did surface Valentine’s Night 1974 to see Bob Dylan & The Band wind up their historic Before The Flood tour at the Inglewood Forum, along with other celebs like Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Ringo Starr.

Carole had also been writing reams of material with a new collaborator, David Palmer. She chose a dozen of their new ones to record for her sixth solo LP, Wrap Around Joy.

“Charlie played bass, and Andy Newmark was the drummer, the only time he played on any of Carole’s albums,” says Adler, who produced the April ’74 sessions.

“We went back to Kootch on electric guitar, and added Dean Parks. Carole went back to piano, mostly,” he says. “We kept the horns, stayed with David Campbell for the strings. Tom Scott had the big solo on ‘Jazzman,’ and we reached way back for Jim Horn to solo on ‘Wrap Around Joy.’

“Louise and Sherry sang background on ‘Nightingale.’ They were about 14 and 12 then, and Carole wanted very much to involve her daughters. She was in the studio, taught them all the parts, and sang it with them.”

On April 23, five days after wrapping the Wrap Around Joy sessions, Carole and Charles were blessed with another bundle of joy – her first boy, Levi, born by natural childbirth in Los Angeles. He was her fourth child, their second, and their first son.

Out in mid-July, Wrap Around Joy got off to a slower start than the previous few albums, but put Carole back on top, scoring gold by mid-October and hitting No. 1 in November. Leadoff single “Jazzman” (b/w “You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine”) was a No. 2 pop smash in November and December, and “Nightingale” (with “You’re Something New” on the B-side) soared to No. 9 in early 1975.

Wrap Around Joy was a good, solid album, with the title song and ‘Jazzman,’” Adler says. “’Jazzman’ was one of our best records, and one of her biggest singles.”

In fact, Carole scored a Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female Grammy nomination for “Jazzman” in early ’75. But on awards night March 1 at the Uris Theatre in New York, the trophy went to Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You.”

Really Rosie

Carole was already headed up the pop album charts with her next album – her first project especially for children, an audience she was intimately familiar with by then. Produced by Adler and out on vinyl in late January 1975, the Really Rosie soundtrack reached #20 on the pop LP chart, no mean feat for any album, especially one geared to kids.

Really Rosie was something Carole and I were both really excited about,” he enthuses. “We were contacted by Maurice Sendak, one of the foremost children’s book artists and lyricists, although he wrote them as poems and not lyrics. And by putting Carole and Maurice together, her music and his lyrics, the result was a half-hour CBS-TV special and an album that still does really well. It was a very gratifying project for Carole.”

Early the next year, Really Rosie earned a Best Recording For Children Grammy nomination (the award went to The Little Prince, narrated by Richard Burton and featuring Jonathan Winters and Billy Simpson). A decade later, the TV special reached another generation of young people when it was released on home video. And now, The Ode Collection spotlights “Really Rosie” and “Alligators All Around.”

Thoroughbred

Things were not so rosy as 1975 moved into ’76; perhaps there were alligators all around, especially on the personal front. After more than six years together, Carole and Charles Larkey split up, though they continued working together, as with first ex Gerry Goffin before him.

Carole bought a ranch in Idaho, and sought peace there. “Before I went to Idaho,” she said recently. “It was ‘life in the fast lane.’ I wanted peace of mind and to get away from that kind of life. I just wanted to be with my family and live a more natural lifestyle.”

“She was going through some real turbulence in her life,” Adler remembers, “and there was some turbulence between us, too. She had moved her family up to the ranch. We may have been in negotiations on a contract…a lot of things. It was just a very unsettled time for her, for me, and for us together.”

Some of the material Carole wrote during those months reflected this turmoil, directly or indirectly. By August, she had a dozen tunes together, and went into the studio with Adler.

“I didn’t think Thoroughbred had a definite direction,” he says thoughtfully. “To tell you the truth, as a producer, I just didn’t have a real fix on all the songs. We were also using a lot of people who weren’t with her before, and even though they were good players, the sessions didn’t seem as comfortable as they had in the past.”

Adler pauses, then smiles. “For me, the best thing about Thoroughbred was introducing [guitarist and later writer/producer] Waddy Wachtel – he played alongside Kootch, who’d been with us since the beginning. The album was Waddy’s first major project. Whenever you introduce a talent who goes on to success like he did, you feel good about it. He’s also a really good guy.”

The sessions stretched from August into September, and Thoroughbred finally bolted from the gate in mid-December. Of the ten cuts, four were King/Goffins, one was a David Palmer collaboration, and five were Carole by herself on vocals and piano, including “There’s A Space Between Us” (featuring additional vocals by James Taylor) and “Only Love Is Real.”

With “Still Here Thinking Of You” on the flip, “Only Love Is Real” was the first single, issued in late January; it barely cracked the Top 30 in April. Even more disappointing, its follow-up, “High Out Of Time,” stalled at #76 in early June. And though it scored gold and made it to #3 in Billboard that spring, the album charted for just 21 weeks.

“We didn’t really come out of Thoroughbred with a strong single,” Adler says. “Truth is, by that time, Carole and I had probably lost whatever chemistry that had made us a good match for so many years.”

After her 1970 debut album, Writer, and not counting Really Rosie, Carole had scored six gold albums in a row, three of which – Tapestry, Music, and Rhymes & Reasons – had also gone on to platinum and multi-platinum status.

But after Thoroughbred, the Ode years were not only historic, they were history.

Almost two years later, Adler assembled Carole King: Her Greatest Hits – Songs Of Long Ago to document the era’s many highlights. Out on Ode in March 1978, it was gold within a month, her last to achieve that honor.

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IV: Epilog

“I used to have a fear about performing when I was younger, but I don’t anymore.”
–Carole King, 1994

Carole’s musical career and personal life since parting company with Lou Adler and Ode are certainly worthy of at least another anthology or three, though she has never regained the level of success she enjoyed during the early-to-mid-1970s.

Still, King reigns today as pop music’s all-time most successful female songwriter, with eight #1 singles to her credit. Her peers have honored her with many of the recording industry’s most prestigious awards, not the least of which were the four major Grammys she won in ’72 for Tapestry.

It really is just about impossible to go through a day without hearing at least one Carole King or Carole King & Gerry Goffin song. As a tribute to the vast and enduring influence of their work together, the duo was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1987.

A year later, Carole and Gerry were honored with the National Academy of Songwriters’ Lifetime Achievement Award. And in 1990, they joined the pantheon of legends inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

On her own, Carole has also continued to be a vital artist, and increasingly visible, especially in the ‘90s. She recorded new solo albums for Capitol (Simple Things, 1977, her second-to-last gold LP; Touch The Sky, 1979; Pearls – Songs of Goffin & King, 1980; City Streets, 1989), her Capitol-distributed Avatar label (Welcome Home, 1978), Atlantic (One To One, 1982; Speeding Time, produced by Adler in 1984), and, most recently, her own King’s X label, distributed by Rhythm Safari/Priority (The Color Of Your Dreams, 1993; In Concert, 1994).

As an actress, Carole has starred in New York theatre, playing a role in A Minor Incident, staged in late 1987-88 at the West Bank Café (and occasionally jamming in local clubs between and after shows).

In the children’s arena, one of Carole’s most memorable roles was costarring as Goldilocks’ mother in the Goldilocks & The Three Bears episode of Shelley Duvall’s award-winning Faerie Tale Theatre, originally produced for the Showtime cable channel and seen often since on The Disney Channel.

In 1991, Carole joined Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Little Richard, Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Heart’s Ann & Nancy Wilson, Meryl Streep, and other superstars contributing to the acclaimed For The Children benefit compilation. Released by Disney Records, the album netted a tidy sum to fight pediatric AIDS. And in 1994, Carole contributed to Life’s a Lesson, an album of Jewish liturgies produced by jazz musician/scholar Ben Sidran.

Today, rather than shying away from performing as she did before and during the Ode years, Carole King is now right up front at center stage, performing her music with a new self-assurance. When tomorrow came, we really did still love her.

Stephen K. Peeples, April 1994

Peeples is a Grammy-nominated producer/writer based in Los Angeles and would like to thank Mark Lewisohn, Martin Scott, Fred Bronson, Holly George-Warren, Stephen Holden, Eliot Tiegel, David Campbell, Hope Chasin, and Bill, Nadine, Scot, and Veronica Joan Peeples for their assistance with this project.

 A Note From the Producer

Carole King: A Natural Woman – The Ode Collection (1968-1976) is a musical history documenting the early solo recording career of someone who, for a 10-year period between 1961 and 1971, had been one of the most respected songwriters in the pop field, but had not really taken that next big step forward – to become an artist on her own terms.

Especially in the initial recordings, you’ll hear what made A&R men and producers not only record her songs with their artists, but also stay close to her demo arrangements.

You’ll hear the evolution of an artist who was perfect in the sense that she was also objective. Carole could step aside and listen to herself as a vocalist, and know when she was on and when she was off. As a songwriter, she really wrote records. She was one of the greatest at writing riffs and she could give you a full arrangement for a record. At the same time, she would also take input as to her songs, her vocalizing, and even her playing. As good as she was in all three of those areas, that kind of objectivity is testimony to her openness, her art, her professionalism.

Carole had all the tools. In the years we worked together, my roles as a producer included being a catalyst for all her individual talents and being an objective sounding board. I was also a manager – whatever she needed. I was trying to fill all the positions and take care of whatever situations were necessary to make it possible for her to do whatever she wanted to do, or didn’t want to do.

I’m also gratified that Carole’s recordings for Ode have reached so many people and have been so successful over the years, right up to today. But it’s most gratifying to know that this music not only represents an important part of pop history, but is timeless, and worthy of preserving and enjoying for generations to come.

Lou Adler, April 1994

* * * * *

(Special thanks to Carole King and Lou Adler, and to Rory Aronsky and Harvey Kubernik for assistance with this 2021 post. Be sure to read King’s acclaimed New York Times-best-selling 2012 autobiography, A Natural Woman: A Memoir.

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Grammy nominee Stephen K. Peeples was raised by career newspaper journalists and music-lovers in Miami and Los Angeles. His Grammy nomination was for co-producing the “Monterey International Pop Festival” box set with Geoff Gans and exec producer Lou Adler (Rhino/MIPF, 1992). • Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series for Westwood One from 1988-1990, and writer/producer of hundreds of WW1 programs in the preceding five years. • His first music industry gig was as an Associate Editor (Radio, West Coast Country) at Cash Box magazine in Hollywood in 1975. He went on to be a Media Relations-PR executive for Capitol Records (1977-1980), Elektra/Asylum Records (1980-1983) and Rhino Entertainment (1992-1998). • Moving online, he was Rhino’s first web editor (1996-1998), then elevated to content editor of Warner Music Group websites (1998-2001). • Based in the Santa Clarita Valley just north of L.A., Peeples was the award-winning Online Editor for The Signal newspaper’s website from 2007-2011, and wrote-hosted-co-produced SCVTV’s WAVE-nominated “House Blend” local music TV show from 2010-2015 (archived online and still airing in reruns). • The Santa Clarita journalist is now a News Editor at SCVTV’s SCVNews.com, SVP/New Media for Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. and developing a biography of notorious Texas Artlaw Boyd Elder. • For more info and original stories, visit https://stephenkpeeples.com/For exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, subscribe to Peeples’ YouTube channel.


Article: Carole King: ‘A Natural Woman – The Ode Collection’ Liner Notes (1994)
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Category: News and Reviews

Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com