Reissue CDs Weekly: Carole King, Abba, Sheena Easton | New music reviews, news & interviews
Reissue CDs Weekly: Carole King, Abba, Sheena Easton
What could have been the legendary songwriter's debut, the Swedish popsters' swansong and the Pop Idol blueprint
Carole King: The Legendary Demos
For one whose appreciation of Carole King, the songwriter, has never truly been distinguishable from her appreciation of Carole King, the performer, a listen to the treasure trove that is The Legendary Demos is a curious exercise indeed. Perhaps it’s the presence on this collection of early cuts of six tracks that would later appear on Tapestry, King’s 1971 breakthrough in her own right, but even with the knowledge that many of these recordings were put together as showcases to be pitched to other artists, it is hard to dissociate them from a voice that already seems confident, self-possessed, at such an early stage in the singer-songwriter’s career.
Opening the collection is a full-band recording of “Pleasant Valley Sunday” which manages to reduce what would become The Monkees' 1967 number three hit to a nursery rhyme. The lyrics, penned by then-husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin, become a biting critique of cookie-cutter suburbia as fall from King’s lips with poise, maturity and not a little cynicism.
While some of these songs are, of course, demos in the traditional sense of the word - stripped-back renditions of songs better recognised with the added gloss and polish of later professional releases - they are no less charming for it. One of Tapestry’s more soulful cuts, “Way Over Yonder”, is elevated by the power of King’s gospel-tinged vocal to something holy. Wthout any production flair, it is possibly the most intimate performance here. The oldest performance here is a 1961 take of “Take Good Care of My Baby”, made famous by Bobby Vee. Like "Way Over Yonder", it is also a simple piano-and-vocal performance, but so playful in its youthful heartbreak that it could not sound more different.
Each track oozes sensuous potential, from a richly resigned "So Goes Love" to "Like Little Children", with its petulant horns and assured vocal performance. Together they create the equivalent of the magnificent debut a 20-something Carole King never recorded - and for that we should be thankful.
Abba’s final album, 1981’s The Visitors, is not their best, but it is their most interesting, pointing to where Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson would go next. It was created in difficult circumstances: Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad divorced as the recording sessions began. It wasn’t known at the time, but the end of Abba was inevitable in the wake of its release. The Visitors was recorded, mostly digitally, at the band’s own Polar Studios and new technology colours the songs, especially the Linn drum. Songs like the swaying “Head Over Heels” and the yearning “Slipping Through My Fingers” are recognisably Abba, but the dramatic arrangement of “Soldiers” and the orchestration and chorale of “I Let the Music Speak” lay the ground for the musicals Ulvaeus and Andersson were soon composing. The bonuses collect material recorded subsequently, before the split. A medley of album demos has been compiled specially. Frustratingly, “Just Like That” from their final sessions is not included (only extracts of the songs have been released previously). The second disc in the package is a DVD with ads, promos and fascinating TV appearances from the time of the album and the following year, when they were promoting their single's compilation. Questions about the future and if they'll ever split are dodged, not-too deftly.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
The real world and the weather impinged but couldn't keep Glastonbury down for long
Is there anything left to mine in the eternal Eighties revival?
Long-awaited, psyched out debut from DJ-producer duo is an entertaining ride
Are you hipster and highbrow enough for Metronomy's in-jokey pop?
Music crosses borders in the shadow of war, with Bassekou Kouyaté and Paul Weller
Peculiarly packaged two-volume collection of essential Seventies Nigerian soul-rock
Scottish and English folk ballads are given the ambient drone treatment by the Earth mainman
British space-funk collective blend local and global while keeping rumps shaking
The producer and record label boss delivers a beautiful blend of influences
Yet another frustrating album from the art-punk outfit
A glimpse of what Europe's cosmopolitanism can really mean in Barcelona
From alt-pop to doom metal to Haitian party tunes, all musical life is here