CAROLE KING: IN CONCERT (1994)
1) Hard Rock Cafe; 2) Up On The Roof; 3) Smackwater Jack; 4) So Far Away; 5) Beautiful; 6) Natural Woman; 7) Hold Out For Love; 8) Will You Love Me Tomorrow; 9) Jazzman; 10) It's Too Late; 11) Chains; 12) I Feel The Earth Move; 13) You've Got A Friend; 14) Locomotion; 15) You've Got A Friend.
I like how this was officially called The Colour Of Your Dreams Tour, yet a grand total of one song from that album actually made it onto the accompanying live album — perhaps she did perform a bit more on stage, but I doubt it, because, well, it's Carole King, and if Carole King goes on stage, she has to do Tapestry in its entirety (8 out of 12 songs, to be accurate — the other four they don't play on the radio that often), plus a few of the lively golden oldies like ʽChainsʼ and ʽLocomotionʼ, and before you know it, you're running out of time and nobody wants to hear the crap you've been writing of late anyway. Who we're kidding?
Time has pretty much rendered this record useless, particularly now that the vaults have been opened and you can listen to a young and fresh Carole singing the same songs at Carnegie Hall in 1971 — but she does have the advantage of preserving her voice and charisma in an immaculate state, so as long as she and her band do not tamper too seriously with the songs, it doesn't make that much difference whether you're listening to a 1971 or a 1993 performance: the lady carries that classic vibe with her in her pocket wherever she goes, and she'll be sticking to her guns even if we all turn into a bunch of grinning post-modern nihilists overnight.
Unfortunately, from time to time they do tamper with the songs, and as hard it is to spoil a great Carole King tune when Carole King herself is performing it, they almost succeed with ʽBeautifulʼ, which is given a smooth and soulless adult contemporary sheen — apparently, as a «pleasant surprise» for the audience, which sits in befuddled silence as it is treated with several bars of a milk-curdling «atmospheric» intro, then feebly cheers at the sounds of "you gotta wake up every morning...", with most of the people probably feeling duped rather than pleasantly surprised. A less serious misfire is the new glam-rock setting for ʽChainsʼ, with distorted guitars and fiery solos — the song does not exactly lose its fun quotient, but the fun does seem cheapened.
If it's any consolation, lead guitar duties are consistently handled by none other than Slash, who now takes it to the stage after collaborating with Carole on ʽHold Out For Loveʼ — yes, that is the one and only song from Colour Of Your Dreams that made it onto here, with a dutifully extended lead guitar break from the man, and Carole also encourages him to let his hair down (as if it already weren't) every time she does a «rocker», which leads to odd results. Then again, you just might be interested in Slash's take on ʽLocomotionʼ or ʽJazzmanʼ (ʽJazzmanʼ actually works very well, with inspired solos from all of the band members, including short, energetic breaks from the bassist and drummer), because, after all, we're not talking about some completely generic hair metal guitar player here... aren't we?
I could certainly do without Carole choosing one of her worst songs ever to open the concert (ʽHard Rock Cafeʼ — no, Ms. King, not even the presence of Slash legitimizes any part of this as a «hard rock» show, even if it does kick ass from time to time), and while I have nothing against backing choirs or Crosby and Nash, it was hardly necessary to include two versions of ʽYou've Got A Friendʼ, one of them with a young choir and the other one with two aging hippies. Why not do ʽRaspberry Jamʼ as an encore instead? Surely her band is capable of building up a beautiful not-altogether-pop vibe — they do it well enough on ʽJazzmanʼ.
But in the overall context of these 73 minutes of live performance, that is nitpicking; and as much as these echoes of Carole's insipid early 1990s style jab and sting the senses from time to time, I cannot agree with the occasional assessment that on this album, Carole redoes her classics «in Nineties' fashion». Most of the arrangement details and accompanying vibes really stay the same, so, if anything, this album works as proof that if you wanted to go to a Carole King show in 1993, you needn't be afraid that she'd fuck it up too much. Does it prove anything else? Well, it does offer hope that any Carole King show, as long as she's alive, will always be enjoyable to a large degree — actually, I have the Living Room Tour DVD from 2005, and it's even better than this one (no bad songs whatsoever), though probably not worth a separate review. The only important thing is never to let her remember that it's not 1971 anymore. — you do that, and you're in for a huge embarassment, almost inevitably.