When Carole King‘s Tapestry was released on Olde Records, I was five years away from being a twinkle in my parent’s eyes, and yet this album has had a significant role in my musical development. The hit singles have been recorded and re-recorded by other pop stars over the years, and are firmly integrated into American musical culture. The album itself remains a classic and must-have in most musical collections, which makes it ripe for the picking, again.
This time around, Sony Legacy is putting a different spin on the remastered collection, Tapestry: Legacy Edition, by throwing in selections of live performances of the songs from 1973 to 1976. The live versions are arranged in the same order as the album, with the exception of “Where You Lead,” which she had stopped performing live shortly after recording it due to what she perceived to be a conflict between the song’s message and the recent revival of the feminist movement, as she explains on the Welcome To My Living Room DVD.
Many writers over the years have praised and analyzed the songs on Tapestry, and if you want to delve into that, there are plenty of resources out there to help you do so. You probably even have your own opinions and reflections on this classic album. For me, it’s a connection with my parents as well as my first real introduction to the singer/songwriter genre. It is difficult for me to step back and critically think about these songs because they are tied to emotions and memories.
The thing that makes this particular release of Tapestry unique and worthy of the collection of any Carole King fan is the second disc of previously unreleased live recordings. Producer Lou Adler says the live versions, with just her voice and piano, are like the demo versions he first heard of the songs. “Those songs are alive with just piano-vocal,” he writes. “Within that piano, you’ll hear vocal lines, string line, bass line, maybe a guitar solo line.”
Indeed, I find myself mentally filling in the songs with the added elements of the studio recording arrangements. When King does something slightly different in the live version, it stands out. Sometimes my initial reaction to the change was positive, but most of the time it took a few listens to get used to it. King’s voice is not as strong on the live tracks as it is on the studio recordings, where she had time to rest it between sessions.
Part of the power of King’s live performances is her presence, which is not easily conveyed in an audio-only recording. This particular recording is able to maintain the momentum of a live concert with only a few stumbles, as tracks from different performances are noticeably placed side-by-side, leading to some level and balance shifts mid-stream. However, these variations are less apparent on cheap speakers than on high-quality headphones, so you’ll most likely not notice them in casual listening.
The collection also includes extensive liner notes from noted music writer Harvey Kubernik. The essay provides the listener with a brief overview of Tapestry‘s role in modern American music history. The information is available in a variety of sources, as referenced by Kubernik, but he does a fine job of synthesizing and providing his own commentary.
Tapestry: Legacy Edition sheds a slightly different light on the classic songs, highlighting the subtle shades and tones in them in a way that other live recordings have not. Tapestry is one of the seminal pop albums of the 20th century, and even if you already have multiple versions of it in your collection, you’ll want this one, too.