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Music Review: Carole King – Simple Things

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Carole King’s contract with the Ode label had expired with her last release and with it her overwhelming commercial success also ended. While she would continue to be moderately successful, there would be none of the commercial highs that dominated the first part of her recording career.

She released her first album for the Capital label in July of 1977. Simple Things marked the beginning of an evolution in her musical style. She would rely less on dramatic, gritty, and personal lyrics and would move toward what can best be described as a more laid-back or pastoral style of writing.

Her sound had begun to fill in as a horn section, strings, background singers, and a full band made appearances on many of the tracks, giving them a different feel from many of her classic songs of the past. The fact that her daughters, Louise and Sherry Goffin, were listed as the two supporting vocalists proved that time was moving on and she was maturing, individually and professionally, for better or worse. She also returned to writing most of the material herself as she only used co-writer Rick Evers on three of the ten tracks.

The songs had a laid-back and flowing style to them. They fit together into an easy and for the most part pleasant listen. There was some good material, but the whole was not up to the caliber of her best work. In the final analysis there were a lot of good songs but no truly outstanding song or two to push the album over the top and make it memorable.

“In The Name Of Love” has been covered by the likes of Barbra Streisand and Linda Ronstadt. King’s own version was a slow, meandering piece that followed the melody as it ebbed and flowed. The title track had some striking chords that caught your attention for a time before settling back in the flow of the music. “Hold On” found the guitar sound sharing the stage with her piano. “One” has a nice melody but the philosophical lyrics of unification feel dated as would some of her stories and lyrics in the future. On the other hand, she rocked out a bit on “God Only Knows,” and “You’re The One Who Knows,” which was always welcome.

Simple Things was an album that sort of disappeared into her catalogue of releases. The music was good but not enough as to make a person choose to listen to this album over many of those that preceded it. Pleasant but not essential.

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