The Essential Carole King
Were you to take a random sampling of the average music listener and say to them: “Quick, hum a few bars of "One Fine Day." Now, "(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman." Great. Now who wrote them? Chances are most people could belt out the entire tune for you right on the spot, but few would be able to identify Carole King as the songwriter.
Partially, this phenomenon has to do with how we view musicians. We love the sparkly, charismatic lead singer, but care less about the bass player keeping the beat, and even less about the person who created the music in the first place. Celebrity culture loves performers, not writers. But this also has to do with what we think of songwriters when we do give them a few moments consideration. The average Joe you asked about the songwriter might take a stab at it: Bernie Taupin? Neil Diamond? Not many of us can pinpoint who wrote the pop songs we love, but we often assume it’s a man behind the curtain.
This collection will blow you away. The Essential Carole King is divided into The Singer and The Songwriter giving us a huge sampling of King’s catalogue. The first CD is perfect reflective, comforting music to turn on after a long day at work. Admittedly, songs like "The Reason" (yes, a duet with Celine Dion) and "Sweet Seasons" cross the line into “easy listening” and make you wonder if King was just sort of churning out radio-friendly tunes. But hey, we’ve all got to make a pay check. Not to worry, classics like "I Feel the Earth Move" and "You’ve Got A Friend" are the bread and butter of this collection, a perfect compilation of unpretentious well-crafted lyrics and unique but catchy piano riffs.
If anything, the problem with this album is that The Songwriter CD can’t quite match the genius of the songs Carole performs herself. The dated, high-pitched Monkees singing "Pleasant Valley Sunday" seem sort of silly after listening to "It’s Too Late," and The Everly Brothers crying in the rain isn’t anywhere as authentic as King singing "So Far Away." None the less, there are a lot of good quality songs here that most of us have heard on the radio a million times. Dusty Springfield’s "No Easy Way Down" is a welcome rediscovery.
Any serious music lover should own this collection. Next time you attend a wedding and "The Loco-Motion" inevitably comes on, you can shimmy up to your fellow dancers and remind them this song was written by a female songwriting legend.