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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Carole King: Speeding Time

CAROLE KING: SPEEDING TIME (1983)

1) Computer Eyes; 2) One Small Voice; 3) Crying In The Rain; 4) Sacred Heart Of Stone; 5) Speeding Time; 6) Standin' On The Borderline; 7) So Ready For Love; 8) Chalice Borealis; 9) Dancing; 10) Alabaster Lady.

The less said about this one, the better. In an almost desperate last attempt to refresh and revita­lize her sound, Carole teams up with Lou Adler, the producer of Tapestry; enlists Goffin to co-write four new songs with her; retains Danny Kortchmar, while at the same time hiring a whole new team of players; and records her own ʽCrying In The Rainʼ, which we mostly knew earlier from the Everly Brothers cover (but apparently, Tammy Wynette had turned it into a hit once again as late as 1981, so Carole probably thought the time was ripe).

And none of this helps, because Speeding Time is a bland, dull, and tired album — more pre­cisely, an album chockful of bland arrangements, dull playing, and reflecting a deeply tired artist. For some reason, Adler must have thought that it was time to move on and adapt, and so, in the place of the somewhat old-style, but generally tasteful arrangements of One To One, we get entire fields of synthesizer weeds and electronic drums, laid out in the nascent adult-contempo­rary style, against which King's echoey vocals have to do battle.

The title of the first track is telling — "Computer eyes / It hurts to tell you I don't really want you", she goes as prompted by Goffin's lyrics, "...don't want to program making love / I like it real and with feeling". Perhaps the plastic bubbling keyboards and the hollow electronic boom of the drums are actually supposed to reinforce the point of the lyrics, but the lyrics are over sooner or later, and the bland production is not. As beautiful a song as ʽCrying In The Rainʼ is in its ori­ginal incarnation, you will have to wait several more years for A-ha to show you how to reinvent it real creatively in the synth-pop era (not to mention that even then, it would hardly have worked without Morten Harket's God-like vocals). This sped-up arrangement with apprentice-level dinky keyboards just cheapens the sentiment.

I suppose that not all the songs are really bad, but the production hackjob sucks all the life out of them anyway. All I can remember is the exact same plastic keyboard texture all over the place; no outstanding work from the rhythm section, no poignant guitar solos, and, of course, this is not what Carole needs for support as a vocalist, as she sounds lost in this electronic pomposity and overwhelmed by studio trickery (which may have seemed dazzling at the time but now just seems rote and dated). The only song where she is able to recover is at the very end — ʽAlabaster Ladyʼ, where the synthesizers give way to a dense set of piano overdubs, and once the song begins to expand and build up, even the electronic additions no longer mar the overall effect. But... it's too late baby now, it's too late. Something inside has died, and it smells.

It is hardly surprising that Speeding Time would be Carole's last album in six years — it was a good thing, I suppose, that she preferred to sit most of the decade out, even if she did not seem all that embarrassed about the record, going on to work with Adler even more on the soundtrack for the 1985 movie Murphy's Romance (I've heard a couple of songs from that, and they are every bit as hopeless as anything on Speeding Time). Still, I love and respect Carole King's legacy way too much to ever grieve about the fact that she did not put out an LP in 1986 or 1987; I do not think it would have merited a stronger thumbs down than this flop (unless she began investing in hair metal or something), but you do have to stop if you're out of inspiration, or if you find your­self in a strange new world of technology about which you do not really care.

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