The Legendary Demosby Carole King
Carole King's influence as a songwriter and as a monolithic force in the history of American pop music is far-reaching and inarguable. In the minds of many, King's story begins with Tapestry, her 1971 solo breakthrough album that went on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide and spawned a stream of FM radio classics for generations to come. What some people don't know about is her tireless work as a songwriter leading up to her own incredible solo work, penning songs that would become huge hits for everyone from the Monkees to James Taylor to the Turtles. The Legendary Demos gathers together for the first time ever the working demonstrational tapes King made of her compositions, the same tapes that these bands would reference when learning and recording their versions of the songs, as well as personal rough drafts of songs that would later appear on Tapestry. Recorded hastily and stored for decades on tiny plastic reels, there's a rawness and urgency to these recordings. Often put to tape in the course of an afternoon, directly after conception with the help of various session musicians, these demos are crackling with a triumphant sense of carefree spontaneity. The intimacy of these tracks is what makes them truly special. Tracks from the Tapestry era like "It's Too Late," "Beautiful," and "You've Got a Friend" capture all the breezy lushness of their studio versions with more Spartan arrangements of piano and vocals way up front. Their softly powerful delivery gives the feeling of an incredibly gifted friend casually practicing in the next room. Earlier demos cut when King was in her teens working as a staff songwriter at Brill Building contemporary Aldon Music give up a haunting rendition of "Crying in the Rain," a spare and focused "Take Good Care of My Baby," and a downright majestic piano and vocal version of "Just Once in My Life," all huge hits for the Everly Brothers, Bobby Vee, and the Righteous Brothers, respectively. The songs are already familiar staples, but King's lilting, almost instinctively brilliant performances shed light on the true spirit of her songs. Her soulful vocals on "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" resound with more verve and yearning than her later Tapestry version and arguably more immediacy and reaching than even Aretha Franklin's legendary version. The Legendary Demos is a fantastic example of a collection of unreleased material that really works rather than some lackluster hodgepodge of archived filler. Even the occasionally marred or crunchy fidelity of some of these songs doesn't detract from their potency. If anything, it adds to the fly-on-the-wall feeling of listening in on a true genius at different phases of her genre-shaping development.
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