Lou Adler had produced six albums for Carole King, 1971’s Tapestry through 1976’s Thoroughbred. After four somewhat lackluster albums saleswise, he hoped to return her to the huge commercial success of her past.
Adler’s vision was to update and modernize her sound. It was the 1980s, and that meant synthesizers. King’s best work always centered on her voice interpreting her lyrics and music, and anything removing the focus from those strengths reduced the effectiveness and enjoyment of listening to her music. The album’s personnel reflected this new direction, as King was listed as a synthesizer player in addition to vocals and her usual piano virtuosity. Robbie Kondor was also listed as a synthesizer musician and Rob Meurer as synthesizer programmer. In the end it didn’t matter commercially as it was her first album not to chart in the United States.
After listening to the album several times during the last couple of days, it is better than I remembered. Maybe time has made it more appealing, but some of the songs are worth revisiting once in a while. It was by no means one of her better efforts, but it was not as bad as its lack of success at the time would indicate.
Side one of the original vinyl release contained three credible performances. Her remake of her 1961 composition (co-written with Howard Greenfield) “Crying In The Rain,” which was a big hit for The Everly Brothers, was a good example of an old hit being updated. The synthesizer shares the stage with Danny Kortchmar’s guitar and Plas Johnson’s sax work. The tempo is different, and it all added up to a nice re-interpretation of an old classic. “Sacred Heart Of Stone” has too many synthesizers, but the vocal and lyrics save the song. The title track has a classic Goffin/King melody and the chorus enhanced the lyrics. The only real downer was the lead track,“Computer Eyes,” where the keyboards go a little overboard, which unfortunately spoiled a fairly good song.
Side two is overall less successful. The best track was the five minute “So Ready For Love,” which found King back at her acoustic piano. The album closer “Alabaster Lady” is another longer track and is also worth a listen.
The album was an experiment that was not appreciated by the music-buying public of the day. There is some good music to be found here, but much of it suffers from 1980s overindulgence. While it’s not essential to the Carol King catalogue, Speeding Time is worth exploring.