Tapestry was one of those albums that was so good, you looked for reasons not to like it. At the time of its release, I was the program director of my college radio station, and it was an album that was played over and over again. Its better known songs quickly became ingrained onto the American musical consciousness. I remember banning the record for a period of time along with Chicago II and the second Blood, Sweat & Tears album.
The album seemed to appear from nowhere. Carole King had been a very successful songwriter with former husband Gerry Goffin, but had released only one moderately successful album the year before. While Writer had been a well-crafted album, it gave no hint that she would become a commercial juggernaut.
The success of Tapestry was mindboggling. It was the number one album in the United States for 15 consecutive weeks and remained on the Billboard’s Pop Album Chart for almost six years. It has sold over 25 million copies worldwide to date. Throw in four Grammy Awards and you have one of the most successful albums in music history.
Time has allowed me gain some perspective and reassess the album. The result is yes, it’s still that good.
King managed to issue an album of simple beauty and sincerity that ran counterpoint to much of the music that was being produced during the Vietnam War era. The music and lyrics are pop with a hint of folk. This fusion of style and sound made it appealing to several generations of music fans, a rare achievement at the time.
The music rotates from ballads, “So Far Away” and the number one single hit “It’s Too Late,” to uptempo pop such as “I Feel The Earth Move,” and “Where You Lead,” to the famous “You’ve Got A Friend.”
The emotional center of the album was “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “(You Make me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” The Shirelles had a number one hit with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” but King’s passionate vocal reduces their version to lightweight pop. Aretha Franklin’s interpretation of “A Natural Woman” remains a soul classic but King’s original, while different, is just as emotional in its own right.
“You’ve Got A Friend” will always be associated with James Taylor but her own version, at over five minutes, remains just as good.
It is an album with no weak tracks and many of the songs have been extensively covered by other artists down through the years.
It remains just about the perfect album. The music was uncomplicated but the lyrics gave everything a depth. The lyrics were also personal and universal at the same time. It all added up to an album that was laid back, unpretentious, and an effortless listen.
King has produced a lot of good music since Tapestry, but nothing the equal of her perfect album. It should be a part of everyone’s music collection; after all, 25,000,000 music buyers can’t be wrong.