When Carole King released Rhymes and Reasons during October of 1972, she was in the midst of a string of seven albums, from 1971’s Tapestry to 1977’s Simple Things, that elevated her to the top echelon of music superstars, both artistically and commercially. It was a rare accomplishment for a singer/songwriter, such as King, to maintain the level of creativity and popularity that she achieved during that seven year period.
The classic Tapestry was now two albums in the past, so it was easier for this release to be accepted on its own merits, unlike its predecessor Music. It was another strong album as the music was smooth and the lyrics incisive.
While she used a number of musicians in support plus some horns and strings, she still managed to create an intimate album, which focused on her piano and voice. Producer Lou Adler had begun to layer her piano playing, which gave the music a fuller sound, thus enhancing the listening experience.
She continued to write or co-write all of the tracks. The lyrics were introspective in many places as she used her personal experiences to create a number of the stories. The album also had an underlying spiritual (but not an overtly religious) quality, which was confessional, gentle, and ultimately uplifting.
The songs were entrancing as she invited the listener to join her as she expresseed her joys and disappointments. It consisted of 12 tracks and they just fly by and make you want to start over again.
“Peace In The Valley” is the emotional and musical center of the album. It was a song about a lack of brotherhood and fellowship but remained hopeful that they will come in the near future. The song was sorely needed at the height of the Vietnam War.
There was a lot to like here. The album’s best known song, “Been To Canaan,” was a hit pop single and topped the Billboard Magazine Adult Contemporary Chart. It was a song of longing for what had been that still resonates almost 40 years later. “Bitter With The Sweet” was a jazzy little tune, a style she would explore more fully in the future. “The First Day In August” had a poignant beauty that proved simple is best at times. “Gotta Get Though Another Day” was a song about the drudgery of life, while maintaining hope.
Rhymes and Reasons is one of the more emotional and philosophical albums of her career. In the final analysis it can be considered a soundtrack to life, both hers and anyone who listens to the music. It remains an essential listen on the musical journey of Carole King.
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