It’s forty years since Carole King and James Taylor performed together for the first time. In 2007 they re-visited the Troubadour in Los Angeles to celebrate its 50th anniversary and re-live their youthful partnership, along with the same musicians that joined them in 1970. This joyful reunion is released as a CD/DVD combination on 31st May.
On reading the track list the first reaction is to think ‘well, of course they’re going to play that …and that, and that…‘ the simple truth is, though, that this pair have such an impressive list of song writing credits, any choice of 15 songs from their combined repertoire would invoke such a reaction. They write classics, they perform classics, and failure to play a good selection of those classics at a reunion gig would be pure folly.
It’s tempting to sneer – this is, after all, nostalgia, pure and simple. I tend to bang on about innovation in music – finding new musical directions to explore, new collaborations to throw variables into the mix. When this CD arrived the temptation to deride the lack of originality was strong. Once the album started to play, however, I was utterly powerless and singing every word, held completely to ransom by these two consummate professionals. There’s a reason they can play together after 40 years and still enthral an audience – it’s because they’re two of the best in the business.
I suppose you have to forgive the American audience their over-enthusiastic, and badly-timed, whoops and cheers. I’ve been trying to for years but still haven’t managed. As far as the performance goes, though, there’s not really much to forgive. They’re mortal, they stumble here and there, but you’d hardly notice. James Taylor’s vocals are as smooth and accomplished as ever, his guitar accompaniment light and accurate. Although Carole King’s voice struggles here and there, showing the signs of four decades of passionate singing, her craft and enthusiasm easily make amends, you can even forgive her the cheesy nostalgic additional verse in You’ve Got a Friend. What King and Taylor do in this performance is take the audience (whether the A-list celeb’s present on the night or us mere mortals listening to the recordings) on a journey through some of the songs they’re best known for. They do this with impressive showmanship, with what’s clearly a carefully arranged and rehearsed set (rather than a half-baked attempt to go over old ground without putting much thought into it), and with a love for music and song that’s been a major factor in their decades of success.
The duo are taking the whole show on a ‘world’ tour, currently rolling across the U.S. Their world doesn’t include Europe at the moment, but we’re promised that dates will be announced. The tour also features the original support band from The Troubadour; The Section: Danny Kortchmar (guitar), Leland Sklar (bass) and Russ Kunkel (drums). Other members are Robbie Kondor (keyboards), Arnold McCuller (vocals), Kate Markowitz (vocals) and Andrea Zonn (vocals and fiddle).
There’s plenty to enjoy on this album and the DVD is a bonus that could just as easily have been marketed as a separate item, so that’s refreshing. There are no surprises in this reunion other than the realisation that, after 40 years, Carole King & James Taylor still sound fantastic.
So Far Away
Machine Gun Kelly
Carolina In My Mind
It’s Too Late
Something In The Way She Moves
Will You Love Me Tomorrow
Fire And Rain
Sweet Baby James
I Feel The Earth Move
You’ve Got A Friend
Up On The Roof
You Can Close Your Eyes