CAROLE KING: LOVE MAKES THE WORLD (2001)
1) Love Makes The World; 2) You Can Do Anything; 3) The Reason; 4) I Wasn't Gonna Fall In Love; 5) I Don't Know; 6) Oh No Not My Baby; 7) It Could Have Been Anyone; 8) Monday Without You; 9) An Uncommon Love; 10) You Will Find Me There; 11) Safe Again; 12) This Time.
Every once in a while you might come across a warmly positive mention of this record as a «return to form» for Carole King in the new millennium — so let this review serve as a warning, because while we all have the right to love and cherish Ms. King as a 21-st century relic of a great age in popular songwriting, and her radiance and optimism (and voice, for that matter) show no sign of decay even as she is pushing 60, this should not be an excuse to give a truly insipid, by-the-book collection of poorly written and generically arranged adult pop tunes anything more than a passing glance. In fact, there's so much commonplace saccharine here that it almost makes City Streets seem like tough punk-rock in retrospect.
Not a lot of people (at least, not a lot of people whose musical opinions I'd be interested in) would regard it as a good sign that the «biggest» song here is ʽThe Reasonʼ, originally written by Carole for Aerosmith and having since then become a big hit for Celine Dion — with Celine herself reprising her part and singing a duet with the songwriter. Not a lot of people would find comfort, either, in hearing K. D. Lang support Carole on the even more insipid Disney-style ballad ʽAn Uncommon Loveʼ — and these are some of the biggest guest stars on the album, whose rather predictable cast also includes Steven Tyler on the upbeat pop rocker ʽMonday Without Youʼ (one of the few enjoyable numbers here), Wynton Marsalis on ʽI Wasn't Gonna Fall In Loveʼ (he may be a talented musician for all I know, but boy does he like to lend a hand to all sorts of schlock by other people), and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds as producer on most of the tracks, which might just be the root of all the other problems, but I don't feel much like investigating.
In short, when your first song sounds like Mariah Carey (without the smallest sign of redemption in the form of a powerhouse vocal) and your second song sounds like The Backstreet Boys (without the smallest sign of redemption in principle), the only remaining question is: «Is there anything worth pulling out of the wreckage?» Well, other than ʽMonday Without Youʼ, which at least gets a good physical groove going on... no, not really. The saddest thing of all is that within such a bland context, even a remake of an old classic like ʽOh No Not My Babyʼ sounds toothless and just as unexciting as everything else.
And here, I think, lies the answer to the question about why Carole did not put out even one LP of completely new material since 2001 — not to mention performing only one song from this one (the title track) on her ensuing Living Room tour; she may not confess it in public, but I'm pretty sure that deep down inside herself she knows very well that she has had nothing whatsoever left to say since at least the early Eighties, and all she can do in terms of creativity is depend on the kindness of babyfaced strangers. Which is actually worse than it could have been — at the very least, she could have chosen «retro» arrangement and production values for her new stuff, making it sound at least superficially like Tapestry. Instead, she is now trying to emulate the corny «Divas» who owe her much of their own existence in the first place — and ends up in the same ditch as Aretha Franklin, with their late-era careers having quite a bit in common. Anyway, in case you were wondering, no, this is not a comeback. Her live shows at the time were still wonderful, but this new studio material — terrible, just terrible. Thumbs down, definitely.