If you were old enough to follow what was happening on the radio in 1971, you knew Carole King’s Tapestry was a big deal. King had already built a venerable reputation as a songwriter, co-penning with then husband Gerry Goffin a canon’s worth of pop classics, from “Take Good Care of My Baby” to “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” But not even her acclaimed solo debut, 1970′s Writer, had prepared King or the listening public for the impact that Tapestry was about to make. The album’s lyrics were both frank and adult, whether the subject was a breakup (“It’s Too Late”), desire (“I Feel the Earth Move”), missing someone acutely (“So Far Away”), or a turning point in a relationship (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” a less plaintive version of which had been carried to No. 1 by the Shirelles in 1960). King, a Brooklyn native who, at the age of 14, would take the subway to the city to shop her songs around to the record companies, had a powerful, unaffected singing style and a distinct interpretive perspective that people connected with viscerally. “Initial response to this beautifully produced and performed album predicts wide acceptance,” a reviewer for Billboard observed at the time. In fact, the album held on to the No. 1 spot on Billboard‘s album charts for 15 weeks and remained in the Top 200 for six years. Joni Mitchell’s equally groundbreaking 1971 album, Blue, by contrast, peaked at No. 25 five weeks after its release. This edition of Six Degrees features albums that, like Tapestry, are as unabashedly melodic as they are emotional. Throw them all together into one playlist and hit shuffle, as I did, and you’ll find they weave together rather seamlessly.
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By J. Edward Keyes on 02.28.12 in Spotlights
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