The Essential Carole King

by Sue Katz

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday May 11, 2010

The Essential Carole King

This recently-released double-CD reminds listeners of why Carole King is one of the most highly respected singer-songwriters in the business. One disc contains her own recordings of 18 songs she wrote. The other disc gives us 15 songs by artists whose careers were enhanced by their opportunity to record a Carole King creation.

As a writer, King's songs - often done in collaboration with Gerry Goffin (they were married for a period of time) - have remained standards in a number of genres from R&B to pop. As part of the stable of songwriters working for Don Kirshner's Aldon Music in the legendary Brill Building in NYC, she fed a plethora of singers their hits. From The Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" in 1959 to "Just Once in My Life" the 1965 hit for the Righteous Brothers to Aretha Franklin's 1967 hit "A Natural Woman," King has proven herself to be one of the most successful musicians of the last century.

This 2010 compilation "The Songwriter" includes just a sliver of the hits she penned for other artists, but the disc gives us Little Eva doing "The Loco-Motion," the Drifters climbing "Up On The Roof" and even the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday." It has been suggested that the complications of securing the rights from so many groups limited the selection, but the range of artists and styles is sufficient testimony to her versatility as one of the great popular songwriters.

"Tapestry" was her 1971 breakthrough as a performer herself and may well have been the album that proved how far a singer-songwriter could go. King won four Grammys for "Tapestry." It certainly proved that a songwriter singing her/his work with self-accompaniment was a viable professional path. "Tapestry" remained on the charts for an unbelievable six years and has sold over 25 million copies around the world.

The disc entitled "The Singer" opens with the unripe King singing "It Might as Well Rain Until September" (1962) in a barely recognizable voice. She had been encouraged by her friend James Taylor to establish herself as a solo artist, but success only came in 1971. "The Singer" moves into the best songs from "Tapestry" along with cuts from her subsequent albums. Besides the iconic "I Feel the Earth Move" and "You've Got a Friend," there are several duets, including "The Reason" with Celine Dion.

Considering the depth of her body of work and the legions of artists who climbed up the charts on the back of her talent, no two-disc collection is going to be comprehensive. But now that Carole King is back in the spotlight, not the least because of her recent sell-out tour with James Taylor, this is the perfect taster for new fans and a poignant reminder to long-time admirers of all that King has given us.

Sue Katz is a "wordsmith and rebel" who has been widely published on the three continents where she has lived. She used to be proudest of her 20-year martial arts career, her world travel, and her edgy blog Consenting Adult (, but now she's all about her collection of short stories about the love lives of older people, Lillian's Last Affair.