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Music Review: Carole King – Pearls: Songs Of Goffin And King

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As the 1970s came to an end, Carole King’s commercial viability was in decline and far removed from the multi-million sales success of Tapestry. Her recent releases had been competent if not outstanding, and 1980 found her at a crossroads of her career, needing to produce a commercially successful album.

Since her current compositions were not providing her with the success she desired, she returned to her past for material. There is an old saying, “That you can never go home again,” but she proved that you could return to your past musically, especially when it contained some of the best pop songs of the 1960s. It all added up to her best and most successful album release in years.

During the 1960s, she and former husband Gerry Goffin formed one of the most successful and brilliant songwriting teams of all time. Dozens of their compositions charted on the Billboard Magazine Pop Single and Rhythm & Blues Charts. They were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990 as a songwriting team. Once she decided upon the concept of her new album, she had a wealth of material from which to choose.

Pearls: Songs Of Goffin And King was released in 1980. Many of its songs would remain a part of her concert act for the rest of her career. It was interesting to hear her interpret her own songs that were associated with other artists. She filled in the sound with a full rock band, brass section, and background vocals.

“One Fine Day” and “The Locomotion” were both a part of Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. The first was originally a hit by The Chiffons. She stripped it down a bit, increased the tempo, and proved she could provide a pure pop vocal for one of her own songs. It became her last top 40 hit to date. “Locomotion” is one of the most successful songs of all time, becoming a number one single for both Little Eva and Grand Funk Railroad, plus reached number three for Kylie Minogue. King’s voice is different from Little Eva’s but her interpretation was similar. Other pure pop interpretations included “Hey Girl,” “Chains,” and “Oh No Not My Baby.”

She traveled in a very different direction on some of the songs. “Wasn’t Born To Follow,” and “Goin’Back” were both recorded by The Byrds and “Hi-De-Ho” by Blood, Sweat & Tears and it’s interesting to hear her solo versions and compare them to their famous rock band incarnations. She had recorded “Goin’ Back” for her Writer album but the song was completely re-worked here. “HI-De-Ho” was one of the most blues oriented songs of Goffin and King’s career and it forced her to stretch a little.

Pearls: Songs Of Goffin And King is an album I have continued to play on a regular basis down through the years. Charming is not a strong enough word for her performances on these tracks. It remains an essential, if underappreciated, album in her vast catalogue and is always worth a listen.

 

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