Pros: 33 very enjoyable songs on 2 CDs for 112 minutes
Cons: more of an introduction to King
Very recently Carole King turned 72. Her awe-inspiring career as a piano-playing pop singer and songwriter for dozens of groups as well as herself didn't hit full stride, perhaps, until 1971's Tapestry, but she doesn't seem to have ever written a bad song. 2010's 2-CD Essential Carole King only offers a fraction of her output, basically from the first seven years with songs from top-charting albums Writer, Tapestry, Music, Rhymes & Reason, Fantasy, Wrap Around Joy, Thoroughbred, her score for Maurice Sendak's Really Rosie, and then a couple of enjoyable later songs recorded with Babyface and Celine Dion. It doesn't give a full understanding of her career that has lasted until now, I believe, and may be more appreciated by a new or casual listener.
The CD has two discs – the first called “The Singer” has 18 hits that I love putting on when I just want to chill out and relax to the soothing warmth of her voice and earthy lyrics, with a second called “The Songwriter” that has only fifteen hits by groups like the Shirelles, Drifters, Monkees, Everly Brothers, Aretha Franklin, and Bobby Vee. I have heard most of the hits before on the radio, but not all because they were before my time. The first runs about 71 minutes and the second about 41. The next year I notice SonyLegacy added another disc if you're more than a casual fan.
This is a very fun CD to listen to, not only soothing. King is one of my favorite songwriters and singers because she sings without any pretensions or like royalty. She's a real, big-hearted woman singing about life and love so you can relate to her emotions and stories with a feeling of joy and gratitude that she's not some celebrity with her head in the clouds. She plays piano on the 18 songs, usually with some classy accompaniment. The second disc makes me feel like I'm in the do-wopping 1960s and I want to dance like a maniac! There's great musicianship and singing on it as well. King sings one of them “Up on the Roof” with James Taylor on disc one and its version by the Drifters certainly has a different energy like an explosion, but I love both interpretations.
If you've never listened to a Carole King album, not even the groundbrreaking Tapestry (my only album), and are getting bored with today's music scene, try out The Essential Carole King. She's a natural woman you'll fall in love with.
Tracks on Disc 1: It Might as Well Rain Until September, Child of Mine, I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, It's Too Late, You've Got A Friend, Sweet Seasons, Been to Canaan, Corazon, Jazzman, Nightingale, Only Love Is Real, Medley of hits, Really Rosie, Pierre (Live), You Can Do Anything, The Reason, Now and Forever.
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