Friday, February 24, 2012

Carole King: "Pearls: Songs Of Goffin And King" (1980/2012 re-issue) CD Review

Gerry Goffin and Carole King are one of pop's best songwriting teams, having composed a lot of great top-ten hits such as "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Take Good Care Of My Baby," "The Loco-Motion," "One Fine Day" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday." They also wrote some seriously cool tunes which didn't reach the top ten, like "Porpoise Song," which The Monkees recorded for their 1968 film, Head. (Carole King also co-wrote my favorite Monkees song, "As We Go Along.")

And now re-issues of four Carole King albums are being released, three of which have never been available on CD in the United States. The fourth, Pearls: Songs Of Goffin And King, is an album of tunes written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and made popular by other artists. With one exception, the songs on this album were all recorded by other artists first, before Carole King began her solo career. It's a pleasure to be able to hear her own renditions. This is a really good album of songs you most likely already know, but of versions you might not have heard.

"Dancin' With Tears In My Eyes"

Pearls open with "Dancin' With Tears In My Eyes," a gloriously upbeat disco pop song. This is the only song on this record that wasn't previously recorded by another artist. It's a song about a woman still hitting the dance floor after a breakup.

"The Loco-Motion"

"The Loco-Motion" is one of Goffin and King's most famous songs. It was first recorded by Little Eva in 1962, and also recorded by Grand Funk Railroad, The Chiffons, Dee Dee Sharp, The Ventures, Kylie Minogue and Ringo Starr. Carole King's version features a nice sax solo. It also features Christopher Cross on rhythm guitar.

"One Fine Day"

"One Fine Day" might be the most well known composition by Goffin and King. It was recorded by The Chiffons, as well as Rita Coolidge and Natalie Merchant. And it's been featured in films like Fingers (1978), The Flamingo Kid (1984), The Joy Luck Club (1993), and of course the movie One Fine Day (1996), which was named after this song.

This is a good, brisk version, and has a fun saxophone lead part at the end. This version was also a hit, reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Hey Girl"

Certainly, you've heard The Righteous Brothers' rendition of "Hey Girl." Other artists who have recorded this song include Freddie Scott (who recorded the original version in 1963), Bobby Vee, Donnie Osmond and George Benson. I love Carole's vocals on this one. Here is a bit of the lyrics: "Hey girl, this can't be true/How am I supposed to exist without you/And hey girl, now don't put me on/What's gonna happen to me when you're gone."

"Snow Queen"

"Snow Queen" is the most interesting song on this release. This version has a sometimes jazzy piano that reminds me a bit of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" at the beginning. And halfway through, the guitar too takes on a jazzy vibe. The instrumental section is excellent. And the lyrics are good, with lines like "You may not think you're a loser/But in mid-air you'll be hung while you trip on your tongue/And it'll only amuse her."

"Snow Queen" was recorded by The Association, The Tokens, The City and Blood, Sweat & Tears.


Carole King's version of "Chains" begins with vocals and finger snaps before kicking in with that great rock beat that has a bit of swing. I really love this version. The horns are great. "Chains" was originally recorded by The Cookies, and then a little later by The Beatles (it was included on their first LP, Please Please Me).

"Hi De Ho (That Old Sweet Roll)"

"Hi De Ho (That Old Sweet Roll)" is probably the most fun track on the album, with a great brass section that gives it a bit of a New Orleans feel. Carole King's vocals are just so cool, particularly when she sings, "Once I met the devil - he was mighty slick/Tempted me with worldly goods/Said I could have my pick." This song also features some excellent backing vocals. I absolutely love this song, which was originally recorded by Blood, Sweat & Tears.

"Wasn't Born To Follow"

"Wasn't Born To Follow" is my favorite song from the album - a song I've always loved. This one will be familiar to anyone who has seen Easy Rider (and if you haven't seen it, seriously, what is wrong with you?). The Byrds' rendition was featured in that film. (The backing track for a Monkees version was included on the third disc of the deluxe edition of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees.)

Carole King's own rendition is phenomenal. It starts with banjo, played by Mark Maniscalco, and also features Betty Whitlock on fiddle. The lyrics are definitely late-1960s, and absolutely wonderful: "And when it's time I'll go and wait/Beside the legendary fountain/Till I see your form reflected/It its clear and jeweled waters/And if you think I'm ready/You may lead me to the chasm/Where the rivers of our visions/Flow into one another." And Carole King really stresses that last line, "I was not born to follow."

Dare I say it? This version is better than that by The Byrds.

CD Track List
  1. Dancin' With Tears In My Eyes
  2. The Loco-Motion
  3. One Fine Day
  4. Hey Girl
  5. Snow Queen
  6. Chains
  7. Oh No, Not My Baby
  8. Hi De Ho (That Old Sweet Roll)
  9. Wasn't Born To Follow
  10. Goin' Back

Musicians on this release include Carole King on vocals and piano; Mark Hallman on guitar, harmonica, and backing vocals; Steve Meador on drums; Charles Larkey on bass; Reese Wynans on keyboards; Eric Johnson on rhythm and lead guitar; Miguel Rivera on congas and percussion; Richard Hardy on flute and saxophone; Christopher Cross on rhythm guitar; Mark Maniscalco on banjo; Betty Whitlock on fiddle; Ray Crisara on trumpet and cornet; Don Knaub on bass trombone; Bobby Meyer on trumpet and cornet; Tomas Ramirez on tenor sax; and Michael Munday on trombone.

Pearls: Songs Of Goffin And King is scheduled to be re-released on February 28, 2012 through Rockingale Records and Concord Music Group. Also to be released that date are three other Carole King CDs: Simple Things, Welcome Home, and Touch The Sky, none of which have been previously available on CD in the United States.

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