Thursday, October 21, 2010

Album Review: Carole King & James Taylor - Live at the Troubadour (4/5)

James Taylor and Carole King are before my time, but I was intrigued by King after hearing her on Gilmore Girls and discovering her classic pop album Tapestry. It was enough to get me interested in Live at the Troubadour, a 15-track live set these two greats recorded in 2007 and released as an album back in May. The Troubadour, a West Hollywood, California, nightclub, was the first venue the two played together in 1970, one of many collaborations during their careers.

They clearly go together like peanut butter and jelly. Pulling on their rich catalog of material, mostly from the early '70s, the two make heartfelt live performance sound so effortless. Tracks alternate between solo work and duets, with spoken word interludes during which Taylor and King discuss the background of the songs. Taylor's highlights include country-flavored "Machine Gun Kelly," tender guitar ballad "Something in the Way She Moves" "Carolina in My Mind" is an obvious audience favorite, although not one of mine, and his stuff can get really sentimental, like "Sweet Baby James," which he introduces by telling a story the audience finds quite funny about how someone in his family named a baby after him.

I tend to prefer King's songs, such as the tender piano ballad "So Far Away." And of course it's great to hear soulful "It's Too Late" and stirring "I Feel the Earth Move," the two songs that constituted the big double-A side #1 hit from Tapestry. "It's Too Late" has a particularly nice piano solo in its bridge.

But the highlights are when they come together, like on the "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," the sincere love song King penned with her ex husband Gerry Coffin which has been recorded by many artists, including a #1 rendition by The Shirelles. And of course on "You've Got a Friend," a song King wrote and recorded for Tapestry but that Taylor also recorded and took to #1. This song just sums up everything that this album is about: a true collaboration sincerely espousing the importance of friendship that ends with the invitation to "meet me at the Troubadour." And it sounds so, so, so '70s. So much of Tapestry is represented here, it's a shame they couldn't fit in "Where You Lead."

If I'd been alive and listening to pop music in the early '70s, I'm sure I'd appreciate this even more, since much of its appeal seems derived from hearing two greats come together years later to sing the songs that made them famous. Come awards season, I think it is clear this will be a frontrunner for an Album of the Year Grammy nomination, and given Grammy's tendency to honor the greats, it may just win.

Best: You've Got a Friend, So Far Away, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, It's Too Late, I Feel the Earth Move, Machine Gun Kelly


J.Mensah said...

What an awesome album. I love "Machine Gun Kelly" and "So Far Away." Weren't you born in the early 70s?

ww_adh said...

No, 1977. So I was not really a coherent individual until the '80s.