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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The City: Now That's Everything Been Said

THE CITY: NOW THAT EVERYTHING'S BEEN SAID (1968)

1) Snow Queen; 2) I Wasn't Born To Follow; 3) Now That Everything's Been Said; 4) Paradise Alley; 5) A Man Without A Dream; 6) Victim Of Circumstance; 7) Why Are You Leaving; 8) Lady; 9) My Sweet Home; 10) I Don't Believe It; 11) Hi-De-Ho; 12) All My Time.

To round things out with Carole King, it is more than appropriate to include a mention of this record in her section — because it is only a pure technical formality, actually, that prevents one from including this, the first and last ever album of «The City», as the first entry in her regular discography. Indeed, before she went completely solo with Writer, there was this rather curious attempt, perhaps driven on by humility and shyness, to pass as just a piano-playing and singing member of a rock trio, with future husband Charles Larkey on bass and Danny Kortchmar on guitar. (Incidentally, the guest drummer here is Jim Gordon, of future Derek & The Dominos fame, though he hardly gets to swing and shine as efficiently here as he would there).

Actually, the only significant difference between Now That Everything's Been Said and Writer is that Danny gets to sing a couple of the songs — other than that, the sound is pretty much iden­tical, and all the songwriting comes from Carole and her lyrical co-writers: mostly Goffin, but also Toni Stern and David Palmer, all of whom would contribute words for Carole's music in the future as well. Importantly, this is where you will find Carole's first recorded versions of ʽSnow Queenʼ, ʽWasn't Born To Followʼ (already done by The Byrds), and ʽHi-De-Hoʼ (soon to be appropriated by Blood, Sweat & Tears); but even more importantly, this is the only place where you will find a small bunch of quite exquisite King originals that cannot be found anywhere else, and each of which is worth far more than any complete post-1982 Carole King album.

One is ʽParadise Alleyʼ, a simple-innocent pop rocker with an intricate arrangement of vocal overdubs in the chorus — from a time when heart-tugging moves came to the lady's imagination more naturally than earthquakes come to the Ring of Fire. Another is ʽWhy Are You Leavingʼ, with equally poignant vocal work on the chorus (the task is to sing the line "why are you lea­ving?" in as many different ways as possible, and it is accomplished). And still another great vocal move is found on the closing ʽAll My Timeʼ, where she plays around with her own echo: few people can just take a single line like "all my time, all my time belongs to you" and make it sound like an inspiring religious mantra, but this is exactly what is happening here, with a little help from that echo, of course.

That said, none of these songs is great from top to bottom: mostly we are dealing with a beautiful idea enclosed in a merely-okay setting. Although the record was already produced by Lou Adler, which means that the overall sound is tasteful and pleasant, Carole does act fairly shy, and there are no tracks where she and her piano would be in primary focus — most of the time, the «ca­mera» tries to put her in the context of her musician friends, yet the musician friends, too, try to keep it humble in order to give the piano lady her due, and so in the end it all comes down to a set of «after you, sir»'s and «after you, Ma'm»'s that is not highly satisfactory. In addition, what with Carole's writing style being so personal, it simply made no sense in the first place to not behave as a full-fledged solo artist, and I guess the public must have sensed that, too — «The City» never really managed to get decent publicity or to sell a significant amount of records. Heck, it even took more than thirty years to get it released on CD, and good luck trying to find a physical copy these days: if it weren't for the digital era, Now That's Everything Been Said would simply be forgotten. As it is, hopefully we will still remember it as a timid, but important first step in King's self-realization, and treasure it lightly for its share of proverbially heart-warming, oh-so-Carole King moments, so a thumbs up all the same.

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