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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Carole King: One To One


1) One To One; 2) It's A War; 3) Lookin' Out For Number One; 4) Life Without Love; 5) Golden Man; 6) Read Between The Lines; 7) Boomerang (Love Is Like A); 8) Goat Annie; 9) Someone You Never Met Before; 10) Little Prince.

In retrospect, this record managed to receive some accolades — largely for its lack of embarras­sing moments, I guess, and a stark adherence to the classic production style of the Seventies: in fact, it is quite notable that not only Danny Kortchmar from her own band returns to play guitar, but even former husband Charles Larkey is back on bass, while at the same time Mark Hallman is retained as both player and co-producer. Furthermore, with her Capitol contract expired, Carole now allies herself with Atlantic Records, and reconnects with both former-former husband Gerry Goffin and with Cynthia Weil for some of the lyrics. I mean, this is as good an arrangement as could ever be thought of for 1982, right?

Well, the album does have a fairly nice sound in the end, but as far as Carole's songwriting form is concerned... not really sure. Too many recycled chord sequences, too few fresh ideas: the title track, for instance, tries to impress us with an unexpectedly cool melodic shift in the middle, but once you understand that the pattern is mostly just taken over from ʽStand By Meʼ, it's just not so cool any more. The single, by the way, was the last time any single from Carole managed to get on the charts (although, granted, she did not put out any singles again until 1989, by which time her old fans had probably readjusted to the modern adult contemporary market).

With a little effort, I could single out ʽIt's A Warʼ as a cut above the average, although the alleged «anger» of its lyrics (Ms. King complains about people being cruel to each other on an everyday basis and about how "people I had never met were out to get me", now who could any of these people be?... oh wait a minute...) does not agree very well with the generally cozy and friendly melody. But at least it has a chorus that is (a) catchy and (b) does not directly rip off any other song I know, and when multiplied by Carol's charisma (she even mentions to sing about her enemies and "people thinking mean" with compassion rather than hatred), that's reason enough for keeping us happy on a record where most other songs, in comparison, sound about as inspired as you'd expect yourself to be merely from looking out of your window on the ten thousandth rainy day of your uneventful life.

I mean, I just cannot help mentioning the amazing coincidence that both Carole King and Cheap Trick put out a song called ʽLookin' Out For Number Oneʼ in precisely the same year of 1982, but apart from that, the only thing I can say about the King song is that it is written in the funk-pop genre, completely inappropriate for Carole's personality (not that the Cheap Trick song was much better, but at least it was more in their usual rocking style). And as much as (not that much) I enjoy the quiet, tepid flow of ʽBoomerang (Love Is Like A)ʼ, I also cannot help mentioning that the idea of love as a boomerang was already polished to pop perfection by ABBA in their ʽBang-A-Boomerangʼ seven years earlier, and they did their best to bring out the ʽboomʼ in the ʽBoom­erangʼ part, whereas Carole's song here might just as well have been called ʽTerrapin (Love Is Like A)ʼ or ʽEndorphin (Love Is Just A)ʼ.

Towards the end, Carole remembers that she used to be a rocker, too, and lets rip with ʽGoat Annieʼ, a blues-pop-rock combo with a «hard» angle and a heart-tearing story about a 75-year old goat herder refusing to let herself be driven off her land — a cool anthem to personal liberty that even Ted Nugent would have appreciated, but not much by way of creative songwriting. Come to think of it, this sounds more like typical Bonnie Raitt material, and should have featured a couple awesome slide guitar solos. Anyway, «rocking Carole» is forgotten fairly quickly, with two un­memorable ballads to finish the album (one of them called ʽLittle Princeʼ, ugh) and an overall impression of... well, just another day in the life. I'd say I get about as excited about this music as I get about the album cover — far be it from me to request a «glamorous» look from Carole, but come on now, she looks like somebody who's never ever left Queens on that photo, even if we all know that she was actually born in Manhattan.

1 comment:

  1. "a cool anthem to personal liberty that even Ted Nugent would have appreciated"

    Uh..she kinda looks like Ted on the cover.