April 22nd, 2008
02:38 PM ET

Unspooling 'Tapestry'

Before there was “Millennium,” before the “Bodyguard” soundtrack, before “Thriller” and “Saturday Night Fever” and “Rumours,” there was “Tapestry.”

Carole King has been writing hit songs since the late 1950s.

Carole King’s opus, just released in a new, 2-CD “Legacy” edition, came out in March 1971 and quickly became the biggest, fastest-selling album of its time. It spawned a No. 1 hit – “It’s Too Late” – spent 15 weeks as the top album in the country, ranked as one of the top-selling albums of both 1971 and 1972, and stayed on the Billboard album charts for more than six years.

It also won King, who had risen to fame as one of the great Brill Building songwriters of the early ‘60s, the Grammy for album of the year.

Thirty-seven years later, it’s still a revealing record. King didn’t have overwhelming pipes, nor did she hide her voice behind a layer of coyness. She simply sang – about breakups, about sex, about death (in the rather cheerful “Smackwater Jack,” with lyrics by her ex-husband, Gerry Goffin), about life for a woman just turned 30.

“[‘Tapestry’] is an album of surpassing personal intimacy and musical accomplishment and a work infused with a sense of artistic purpose. It is also easy to listen to and easy to enjoy,” wrote Jon Landau in Rolling Stone, praising King’s “marvelously expressive” voice.

King’s quiet, polished directness was a staple of the singer-songwriter movement, a group that included Cat Stevens, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and her friend James Taylor. (Others, including Neil Young, Paul Simon and Van Morrison, were also lumped into the genre at times, though “singer-songwriter” soon became synonymous with a kind of lightweight earnestness that Young, for one, couldn’t wait to leave behind.)

At 67, King is still making and performing music - and, given her amazing output (much done with Goffin), she has plenty to work with. But “Tapestry” remains a high point in a long and honored career.

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer

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