Your Life is a Tapestry, Weave It With Love - The E & E Write-Off!

Aug 11, 2004 (Updated Aug 11, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:In only 15 words? This is quite possibly my favourite album of all time.

Cons:You gotta be kidding me.

The Bottom Line: For me, this album is pure magic from start to finish.

Carole King - Tapestry

Ode Records/1971
Folk/Easy Listening/Pop

Carole King isn't the prettiest singer you'll ever see, not by a long-shot. In addition, she doesn't have the best voice I've ever heard.. so why do I absolutely love this album? What is it that entices me to play it so often? Carole is a story-teller, she draws you into her world, enables you to see what she sees, feel what she feels and touch the tapestry of her world. Many of the songs on this cd are familiar to millions of people, chances are you've sung along to at least one of them. (Carole wrote or co-wrote all of them.) The production isn't fancy, with mostly acoustic instruments used, but I like that about it. Carole isn't trying to wow us her with technical mastery, although she's a gifted piano player. She wants to communicate whats inside her and at that, she is truly wonderful. Tapestry is one of my all-time favourite albums. It speaks to me in ways most other ones don't, the words are simple and yet so deep, the emotion reverberates out to me and I respond in kind.

This is another entry into the Excellent and Excrutiating Write-Off, co-hosted by two of the most top-notch fellas you'll ever find, CaptainD and Slarter. If you would like to enter, you need to write two reviews in whatever category you wish, (but both in the same category,) one a five star rating, the other a one star. My corresponding music one star review can be found here. You can see my two entries in the movie category here and here.

Carole King was born Carole Klein in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. She began playing the piano at the young age of 4 and formed her first band during high school. During her time at Queen's College, she knew Neil Sedaka, Paul Simon and Gerry Goffin who became her song-writing partner. In 1961, Carole and Gerry had their first number one song-writing hit with Will You Love Me Tomorrow performed by The Shirelles. By this time Gerry and Carole had married. Their next hit was Take Good Care Of Me Baby performed by Bobby Vee. The couple would eventually pen over one hundred chart hits together. During the 60's, Carole, Gerry and another man founded a record label called Tomorrow Records. One group they signed had a bassist named Charles Larkey. After Gerry and Carole divorced, she married Charles and they moved to the west coast of the United States. The two of them, along with Danny Kortchmar, formed a trio called The City and recorded an album. Carole was experiencing crippling stage fright and so the trio did not tour, which resulted in the album being a failure. However, the recording did have some songs on it that would later become known when covered by other artists, perhaps most notably, James Taylor's rendition of You've Got A Friend.

Carole and James became close friends and he continued encouraging her to perform solo. She released Writer in 1970 which did not receive much attention at the time but in 1971 Tapestry took the world by storm. The album remained on the charts for an astounding six years and was the best selling pop album for many years. Since then, Carole has released a number of albums, many of which reached number one or two on the charts. After the death of her third husband from a heroin overdose, Carole moved into seclusion in Idaho and became active in environmental causes. She continued releasing music periodically but none would have the impact of Tapestry. Carole has also appeared on Broadway in Bloodbrothers. She often contributes her talents to raise awareness of social issues including AIDS benefits, ecological protection and during 2004, has been performing in support of John Kerry's presidential campaign. In December 2003, Rolling Stone magazine placed Tapestry at number 36 in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In March 2004, Tapestry was selected to be added to the National Recording Registry. The registry, which was began in 2003, selects "recordings and collections of sound recordings that are deemed to be culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." (quoted from the official Carole King website, link below.) To date this registry has only 100 recordings.

As you will see in my review, this album is vocally driven. The music is mostly acoustic with Carole on the piano or keyboards and singing. James Taylor plays guitar on many tracks and on one he plays the granfalloon (whatever that is, I tried to look it up and have come up empty so far.) You'll also hear drums, electric guitar and bass, a saxophone, strings and even a conga drum. The music is uncomplicated and real. There are touches of jazz and blues and I've seen this album described as pop. However, I cannot define this album as pop although it certainly is popular. Folk is the closest word I can use to define the sound as I perceive it. There is a raw quality to the music Carole King produces, she draws me in and enhances my life by her words. This album is loved far and wide. If you don't know of it, I hope you will look for it. This recording is something special.

Let's begin:

I Feel The Earth Move
A mid-tempo love song. Who hasn't felt this way in the first throngs of infatuation? "I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky tumbling down." It's a happy song and yet... there's also something else. If this person left our life the world would end. Our emotions take over and we lose control, "Oh, darling, when you're near me, and you tenderly call my name. I know that my emotions are something I just can't tame. I've just got to have you, baby. I feel the earth move under my feet. I feel the sky tumbling down. I feel the earth move under my feet. I feel the sky tumbling down. I just lose control. Down to my very soul." I see this song as not only one of love but also as a warning.

So Far Away
A slower song of longing. Perhaps a longing because of physical distance, perhaps a longing because of emotional distance. I relate to this song in a sort of backward manner since I was one that moved away from a good relationship once. "So far away. Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore? It would be so fine to see your face at my door. Doesn't help to know you're just time away." I needed to spend time with myself, discover what was important to me. I don't regret it for myself but I regret the ones I hurt at the time. "One more song about moving along the highway. Can't say much of anything that's new. If I could only work this life out my way. I'd rather spend it being close to you." Two years later I returned to that relationship a different person... no, not different but more aware of myself. "Traveling around sure gets me down and lonely. Nothing else to do but close my mind. I sure hope the road don't come to own me. There's so many dreams I've yet to find." The journey will never end for me but the time I took away was necessary to see the path a little clearer. Someone once told me the Beatles song, Long and Winding Road reminded them of me.

It's Too Late
A break-up song with a happy tone... accept the inevitable and move on. "It used to be so easy living here with you. You were light and breezy and I knew just what to do. Now you look so unhappy, and I feel like a fool." When a relationship ends, at first it can be deeply painful. After a while we can step back and even though it hurt, perhaps we can be grateful for what that person brought into our life. If we had the choice to do it again, knowing the ending, would we? "There'll be good times again for me and you. But we just can't stay together, don't you feel it too. Still I'm glad for what we had, and how I once loved you. But it's too late, baby, now it's too late. Though we really did try to make it."

Home Again
My work used to take me away from home for short periods (an average of 24 hours per time) so I relate to this song in that way first and foremost. However, on a deeper level the words speak to me another way too. Being lost and wandering the world in a spiritual sense is something many can understand. Being disconnected from other people, even if it's self-imposed is an incredibly lonely feeling. This is a slow song with the piano at the forefront. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again. It's so far and out of sight. I really need someone to talk to, and nobody else, knows how to comfort me tonight." Humanity's search for belonging is obvious in every single culture the world has ever known.

This could be called my theme-song. I believe the words are true and we would all do well to pay heed. "You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face, And show the world all the love in your heart. Then people gonna treat you better. You're gonna find, yes you will, that you're beautiful as you feel." The outside reflects what's on the inside. Our thoughts determine, for a large part, what our life is and they certainly determine how we act and speak. Want to change your life? Pay attention to your thought life, to the negative things you think about yourself.... by listening to them you can change them. How do we change our thoughts? By changing our words. Do not allow yourself to speak negative things about yourself, I strongly believe in positive thinking and have experienced first hand the power it can have. "I have often asked myself the reason for the sadness, in a world where tears are just a lullabye. If there's any answer, maybe love can end the madness. Maybe not, oh, but we can only try." Pollyanna? Perhaps. But to me it's real. The message I see behind this song changed my life. It empowers me each and every time I hear it. When Carole sings the chorus for the last time during the song she emphasizes the words, it's as if she's pleading to the listener to pay attention. Please do.

Way Over Yonder
A gospel tone enters the album with this short, slow song. There is no overt mention of religion but it has that sound about it. Is she singing about heaven? Or about some place she belongs and can't rest until she gets there? "Way over yonder is a place that I know. Where i can find shelter from hunger and cold. And the sweet tasting good life is so easily found. Way over yonder - that's where I'm bound." Who among us does not want to find a place we can fully relax and feel safe in?

You've Got A Friend
Some people think of this as a James Taylor song but Carole actually wrote it. It's a beautiful description of the kind of friend I try to be to the ones I love, no matter the distance (they know who they are,) "Close your eyes and think of me, and soon I will be there." Feeling utterly alone is one of the worst things I can imagine, I hope the people I care about will remember, "Winter, spring, summer or fall, All you have to do is call, and I'll be there. You've got a friend." I am deeply blessed to have a couple of people in my life that I know are this kind of friend to me also. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 (KJV). I'm not a religious person per se but I did study it years ago and could write an essay just on this verse. Why does it say friend specifically? This song often brings tears to my eyes as I listen.

Where You Lead
An up-tempo love song and boy do we need a break from the heaviness I've been writing about. A song of dedication "Wanting you the way I do. I only want to be with you. And I would go to the ends of the earth. Cause, darling, to me that's what you're worth." There is a line in this song, however, that sort of strikes me weird. "But if anyone can keep me happy, you're the one who can." I firmly believe our happiness should not be decided by the actions of others nor even by our own circumstances. I refuse to allow outward events to determine whether I am happy or not. Each of us has much to moan about in life and I have my fair share of course. I try not to though. My emotions do not control me but rather the reverse. That can come back and bite you though, since controlling our emotions can also make us distant from them. Striking a balance can be very difficult at times.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow?
A slow song about a one night stand that Carole wants to become a lasting relationship. You can hear the longing in her voice so clearly. "Is this a lasting treasure, or just a moment's pleasure?" How many of us have looked for love in the wrong places? Or mistaken lust for love? Or made wrong choices? The search for love can take us many places we would not normally go. I think the deepest desire for every person is to feel validated, to feel that we have not wasted our time here, that we are important and loved. Too often we mistake a momentary feeling for what we really need and eventually that feeling fades away. That is one reason I believe emotions cannot be relied upon when searching for who we really are in life.

Smackwater Jack
The only track I really don't connect to. It's a nice song but it doesn't speak to me as the others do. I'm grateful it's here however, for when I let it, this album can get very heavy for me. Heavy in a good way but heavy nevertheless. Jack is an outlaw that murders a congregation of people. Big Jim the Chief and his posse pursue and apprehend Jack, hanging him on the spot. There's a bit of a humourous tone with, "You know, the people were quite pleased, cause the outlaw had been seized. And on the whole, it was a very good year for the undertaker."

This is 100% Carole: she wrote the words and music and is the only artist mentioned, performing with just a keyboard and singing. The words are a little odd. First she begins talking about her life, "My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue. An everlasting vision of the everchanging view." I absolutely love that imagery. Soon though her words seem to become associated with death when she encounters a stranger, "In times of deepest darkness, I've seen him dressed in black. Now my tapestry's unravelling; he's come to take me back." While this song is a celebration of a life, it's also quite sad.

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
A love song to close the album, one most people are familiar with. I almost always hate this song when it is sung by anyone but Carole. When she sings it, it's not smarmy or sickeningly sweet.. there is a raw, innocent beauty to the words that no one else has ever, for me, been able to duplicate. We've traveled through the tapestry of our lives with this album but the closer is a song of hope, a song of strength, a song of love. "When my soul was in the lost-and-found. You came along to claim it. I didn't know just what was wrong with me. Till your kiss helped me name it." Love conquers all.

I've written a few music reviews during my short time with Epinions. Most of them were very difficult and intimidating for me since I have little understanding of the technical aspects of music. I was advised to write about how the music makes me feel and that is what I try to do now. Normally I listen to an album numerous times while writing the review, however for the first time, the bulk of this review was written while I just looked at the song titles and let them sink into my soul once again. Most of the lyrics I quoted were from memory, after which I double checked for accuracy. This is the most personal product review I have written, simply because this album is personal to me. It touches me in a way that is difficult to communicate.. almost every song has a life of it's own and will touch you in a different way. The only thing I am sure of is that it will speak to you, if you let it.

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