Stop in for a cup of coffee and a scone at Starbucks and grab the new Carole King album at the same time. At least that was the scenario back in 2005 when Carole King cut a deal with the coffee giant to sell her newest album in their stores. There must have been a lot of Carole King fans who drank coffee as The Living Room Tour became her most commercially successful album in several decades, reaching number 17 on the Billboard Magazine Pop Album Chart, while selling over 300,000 copies.
In addition to the marketing campaign, the album itself was a good idea. It was a stripped down and intimate live album on which she played the piano, guitar, and sang with only guitarists/bassists Rudy Guess and Gary Burr providing additional instrumental support. Her two daughters, Louise and Sherry, added vocals on two of the songs. It all added up to the focus being squarely on her music, which is as it should be with her work.
She relied heavily on her Tapestry material for the foundation of the album. Plus, King reached back into her vast catalogue of older compositions for more material, and finally included a few surprises to fill out the album, which comprises 21 tracks spread out over two discs.
It is always interesting to hear her interpret her own compositions that had been made famous by other artists. She gets at the essence of such classic songs as “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “The Locomotion,” and “Chains.” Her medley of “Take Good Care Of My Baby”/”It Might As Well Rain Until September”/”Go Away Little Girl”/”I’m Into Something Good”/”Hey Girl”/”One Fine Day”/”Will You Love Me Tomorrow” flows from one song to the next as she takes the listener on a simple but modernized ride through some of the better pop music of the 1960s.
Some of her biggest hits and well-known songs, “It’s Too Late,” “I Feel The Earth Move,” “Smackwater Jack,” “Jazzman,” and “You’ve Got A Friend” are brought back to life in an intimate setting. The lyrics are some of the best in American music and her live renditions give the songs different textures and nuances than the studio recordings.
One of the surprises was the inclusion of the old Monkees hit, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” which she composed with former husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin. It ceased to be a lightweight pop song as she gives the lyrics a new feel. Her inclusion of some of her lesser known material, “Peace In The Valley,” “Being At War With Each Other,” and “Wishful Thinking” demonstrate that even her obscure material can shine when presented with passion and emotion.
The Living Room Tour was a good idea, both artistically and commercially, as it brought many of her songs full circle. It proved that a good song is always a good song when performed by Carole King.
Article first published as Music Review: Carole King – The Living Room Tour on Blogcritics.