CAROLE KING: COLOUR OF YOUR DREAMS (1993)
1) Lay Down My Life; 2) Hold Out For Love; 3) Standing In The Rain; 4) Now And Forever; 5) Wishful Thinking; 6) Colour Of Your Dreams; 7) Tears Falling Down On Me; 8) Friday's Tie-Dye Nightmare; 9) Just One Thing; 10) Do You Feel Love; 11) It's Never Too Late.
This is quite a sad story, really. The early Nineties saw plenty of (at least temporary) comebacks by veterans, revitalized by the general «shredding of the excesses» of the previous decade — and one could have sincerely hoped that Carole King could fall in that category. Unfortunately, it did not happen: Colour Of Your Dreams (yes, the full British spelling is quite explicit on the cover) is about as inspiring and coloUrful as its album cover, which, like City Streets, seems to be making yet another point of Carole as «tough street girl», sort of the female equivalent of Bruce Springsteen in his «tough street guy» incarnation. But it looks fake and cheap, and so does the overall style of the songs.
Bad news arrive immediately — the first five seconds of the record, when a few seemingly Casio chords boink against a thin cobweb of cheap drum machine beats, may be enough to turn you off immediately, «now and forever», to quote one of the song titles. And while it does get better than that eventually, this is still a true sign that production issues have not been normalized — much of the record remains inescapably stuck in plastic adult contemporary mode (no surprise, really, considering that Rudy Guess is retained as co-producer from last time). In 1983 or even 1989, this could have merely meant yielding to fashionable pressure; alas, in 1993 this means that the artist is not sensing any problem with such an approach, and what could be technically forgiven several years back (horrible production back then could still somehow agree with decent melodies, see Fleetwood Mac's Tango In The Night, for instance), is now a crime against humanity.
Not that the record is particularly lazy or anything. Carole tries her hand at several different styles, alternating between quiet piano ballads (or synth ballads), loud idealistic anthems (ʽHold Out For Loveʼ, with Mr. Slash himself making a guest appearance), soft-pop-rockers (title track, fast tempo and tough attitude attached), odd Dylanesque blues-rock tell-tales (ʽFriday's Tie-Dye Nightmareʼ), and then there's even a couple of nostalgic pushbacks with ex-husband Goffin, resulting in ʽStanding In The Rainʼ (supposedly a follow-up to ʽCrying In The Rainʼ?) and ʽIt's Never Too Lateʼ, whose title clearly echoes ʽIt's Too Lateʼ, yet the song itself is like a carbon copy, mood-wise and style-wise, of ʽNatural Womanʼ, what with the tempo, the broken piano patterns, the musical ascension, the gospel harmonies — everything.
But I don't feel as if any of that stuff really works. The Goffin/King numbers are precisely what they are — faint, unconvincing echoes of former glories, way too self-conscious and too bent on looking into the past for inspiration. The pseudo-Dylan song is an embarassment — she is trying to throw up a heap of nonsensical lyrics as if she were Bob circa '65, and she might just as well be trying her hand at a Handel-style oratorio. The title track is bland and inoffensive at best. And the most recognizable tune of 'em all, ʽNow And Foreverʼ, may only be so because it was used in A League Of Their Own, a corny baseball melodrama with Tom Hanks and Geena Davis with Billy Joel and James Taylor on the soundtrack to complete the curdled milk effect.
The only good thing I can say is that the voice is still intact, along with the overall radiance, idealism, and charisma: spiritually, Carole King never grows old, and that's adorable — and on a personal basis, probably more important than still being able to come up with unforgettable melodies. However, this does not save the album from a thumbs down assessment. The least she could have done in this situation was to make all the record sound like ʽIt's Never Too Lateʼ — even if the genius has departed, this might have been a tasteful, if still forgettable, trip down nostalgia lane. As it is, it's a rather glum mix of nostalgia with banality and corniness, hardly forgivable for a songwriter of Carole's stature even in her later years.