Carole King: Tapestry

Carole_King_-_Tapestry“My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue, an everlasting vision of the ever changing view.” – Carole King

How can you not like this album? I knew that I would enjoy it going in because, well, it was already in my collection! This is an album that, to me, tell the story of love. It starts out with feeling like you’re “tumbling down” into love, then comes the heartbreak and sadness, followed by friendship, and then finding you’re way back into love. Tapestry, by definition, is the complex combination of things or sequence of events. So what could fit that definition better than the journey of love?

This was a very successful album from the start. It has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. It has been certified diamond by the RIAA, received four Grammy Awards in 1972 (Album of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year), and remained #1 on the Billboard 200 for 15 consecutive weeks! Tapestry held the record for most weeks in the #1 spot on Billboard 200 by a female solo artist for over 20 years! This album has been listed on the Billboard 200 for over 300 weeks between 1971 and 2011. In 2003, Tapestry was ranked #36 on Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The same year, it was one of fifty recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. Isn’t that amazing?

Tapestry is the 2nd album by Carole King and was released in 1971 on Ode Records. Previous to her career as a singer-songwriter, she was part of that title: songwriter. Several of the songs on this record had already been recorded and were hits for other performers. For instance, Aretha Franklin had a hit with “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and The Shirelles’ had a hit with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” “You’ve Got a Friend” would go on to be a #1 hit for James Taylor. In fact, it was James Taylor that encouraged her to sing her own songs. I’d like to give him a great big hug!

Carole King is an amazing songwriter and this album showcases her talents. The songs on this album range from pop to soul to jazz to honkey tonk and many different genres in-between. She is able to demonstrate that not only can she write songs in many genres, but she can perform them, as well. She is as convincing during the Honkey Tonk number as she is during the soulful ones. Is there a limit to what Carole King can do?

Go get the album. It’s a classic and there is a reason it made it on the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time. It’s amazing and should be in every music lover’s collection. I’m going to print the following statement and place it in several prominent places: If in doubt, what would Carole King do?

All the songs were written by Carole King except where noted. I am just going to post my song notes as I took them. Feel free to disagree or to clarify my thoughts. I was more engaged with some songs than others, as you’ll note!

Don’t forget to note the musical/production personnel at the end of the post. You’ll see that James Taylor and Joni Mitchell contributed their talents to this album!

  1. “I Feel the Earth Move” – 3:00
    1. Begins with piano
    2. Background vocals – Carole King dubbed in?
    3. Other instruments added as song progresses
      1. At first thought it was just piano/vocal
    4. Piano motif as part of percussion
    5. Electric guitar and other instruments featured when vocal is absent
    6. Slows down toward end and lets it end with vocal alone
      1. Words: “Tumbling down” as the melody descends
  2. “So Far Away” – 3:55
    1. Begins with piano and guitar
    2. Piano part is very fluid, as well as being percussive
    3. Flute? Ends with flutish instrument
  3. “It’s Too Late” (lyrics by Toni Stern) – 3:54
    1. Latin rhythm? Bongo or tom-tom?
    2. Saxophone? In interlude
    3. Sounds like a jazz tune
  4. “Home Again” – 2:29
    1. Starts with piano
    2. Drums – not heavily featured but appear toward the middle of the song
    3. Piano serves in the percussive capacity
  5. “Beautiful” – 3:08
    1. Immediate voice with backing instruments
    2. “Show the world you’re beautiful as you feel”
    3. Synth?
  6. “Way Over Yonder” – 4:49
    1. Bluesy
      1. Hi-hat
      2. Piano
      3. Guitar
    2. Backing vocals – Carole King dubbed?
    3. Gospel blues?
    4. “Way over yonder. That’s where I’m bound.”
  7. “You’ve Got a Friend” – 5:09
    1. Beautiful piano leading
    2. May be a little guitar but it sounds mainly piano and voice
    3. 1:45 into the song, strings are added
  8. “Where You Lead” (lyrics by Toni Stern) – 3:20
    1. Piano +synth+electric guitar? At beginning
    2. Gilmore Girls theme!!!
    3. 60s girl-group vibe
      1. Backing vocals respond to lead
  9. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (Gerry Goffin, King) – 4:13
    1. Can hear the 60s
      1. Originally recorded by another artist in 60s
    2. Voice soars and is fluid
    3. Piano + guitar (acoustic?) and light drum set with voice
    4. Slower and more acoustic than the original recorded version from the 60s
    5. Harmonization with backing vocals
    6. More questioning and lyrical than typically associated with this song
  10. “Smackwater Jack” (Goffin, King) – 3:42
    1. Blues/honkey tonk
    2. Clear story – countryish
    3. Honkey tonk piano
  11. “Tapestry” – 3:15
    1. Very lyrical
    2. Piano/guitar both have roles as percussive and melodic
      1. Melodic lines the same time as vocalist moving – very beautiful
        1. Aids in the movement and the natural growth of song
    3. Synth? Weird instrument
  12. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Goffin, King, Jerry Wexler) – 3:59
    1. Soulful
    2. Always reminds me of the hair commercials from years ago
    3. Piano: octaves in bass + large spaced chords in treble
      1. Makes it sound bigger than it is: cool effect
    4. Dynamic constrasts
      1. Chorus always big and the verses much more subdued
    5. Belting song

Musical Personnel:

  • Carole King: piano, keyboards, vocals, background vocals
  • Curis Amy: flute; baritone, soprano, and tenor saxophone; string quartet
  • Steve Barzyk: drums
  • David Campbell: cello, viola
  • Merry Clayton: background vocals
  • Terry King: cello, tenor saxophone, string quartet
  • Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar: acoustic guitar, conga, electric guitar, vocals
  • Russ Kunkel: drums
  • Charles “Charlie” Larkey: bass guitar, string bass, string quartet
  • Joni Mitchell: background vocals
  • Joel O’Brien: drums
  • Ralph Schuckett: electric piano
  • Barry Socher: violin, tenor saxophone, viola, string quartet
  • Perry Steinberg: bass guitar, violin, tenor saxophone, string bass
  • James Taylor: acoustic guitar, backing vocals
  • Julia Tillman: background vocals

Technical Personnel:

  • Lou Adler: production
  • Vic Anesini: mastering
  • Chuck Beeson: design
  • Hank Cicalo: engineering
  • Bob Irwin: production on 1999 re-release
  • Jessica Killorin: packaging manager
  • Jim McCrary: photography
  • Michael Pultand: artwork
  • Smay Vision: design
  • Roland Young: art direction

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