By William J. Dagendesh
In their reunion concert, pop performers Carole King and James Taylor prove that balding, geriatric musicians can still write and play good music.
In “Carole King and James Taylor: Live at the Troubadour,” aired on Rocky Mountain PBS recently, Taylor and King prove that simple is better. Released on DVD, the event is visual experience for fans who get to see these artists perform their musical repertoire in the simplicity for which it is known.
Years of musical collaboration on numerous albums inspired the duo to share their stories with a new generation, King told the audience. In fact, people younger than King’s daughter, singer Louise Goffin, are discovering the story-telling talents of these legendary performers. Even Taylor once said he hopes his songs touch a new generation.
The duo’s patience has paid dividends.
Watching these two artists perform reminds one of a family reunion where relatives you haven’t seen for years smother you with hugs and kisses, and compliments over having grown so tall. It has been nearly a generation since these two artists last performed live and, from this writer’s point of view, it has been worth the wait.
King kicked off the concert with her 1971 double-sided chart topper “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move.” The foot-stomping piano riff that opens the latter number inspired concert-goers to tickle imaginary keyboards on an imaginary baby grand piano – the instrument that long ago became King’s trademark.
King also performed “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” a number she wrote with ex-husband Gerry Goffin and made famous by the all girl group, The Shirelles. Singers Melanie, Jackie DeShannon and a host of other artists also covered this pop chestnut. The tender ballad “So Far Away” brought tears to some who connected with King’s lyrics.
Not to be left out, Taylor crooned his classics “Country Roads” and the eerie “Fire and Rain” with the same world weary resignation that introduced these pop classics four decades ago. He also sang “Sweet Baby James,” a song he long ago wrote to honor his infant nephew, and which more than hinted that this talented singer/songwriter was here to stay.
Unlike some artists, these singer/songwriter/musicians deliver their songs live with the same note-perfect performance that is found on their original disc recordings. Neither of them stray from the songs’ original melody structure in an effort to expand the run time or prove they can play blistering riffs alongside today’s top musicians.
Speaking of top musicians, Taylor at one point during the concert introduced the band accompanying him and King, and thanked the people who helped guide and shape their careers.
During their chat with the audience, Taylor and King explained how some songs originated and evolved, and how they collaborated on certain melodies. King also thanked Taylor for his musical support over the years, Taylor responded in kind and both applauded the record-buying public. Alas, performers don’t get along like this anymore. Remember the legal battles between the members of Pink Floyd?
Also, Taylor talked about his relationship with the legendary ‘60s British rock group, The Beatles, who in 1969 wanted to sign Taylor to the bands’ newly formed Apple Records label. When the Beatles’ kingdom started to crumble, Taylor’s manager, Peter Asher left the rotting Apple and took Taylor with him in an attempt to save what he saw as a promising career.
Incidentally, Asher, who is one-half of the British pop duo Peter and Gordon, and is the brother of actress Jane Asher who once dated Beatle Paul McCartney, attended the reunion concert.
However, the concert’s show stopper was the acoustic-flavored “You Got a Friend,” a tender ballad King wrote for her 1971 Grammy-winning “Tapestry” album and which Taylor took to the top of the singles charts. Both King and Taylor traded verses on this pop chestnut, and it is their vocal collaboration that sums up the friendship of these two celebrated tunesmiths.
It’s obvious age is catching up with these two pop icons. Taylor’s once coal black, shoulder-length hair has gone from parted to unparted to departed. King, who is still a siren at 68, has added a few pounds to her once petite frame and boasts more than a few patches of gray to her curly gold tresses. However, Taylor and King, like a fine wine, get better with age.
Because of their simple lyrics intertwined with simple melodies, these songs are classics in their genre and timeless in their appeal. In a day and age when screaming guitars, pulsating drums and trite lyrics are the norm, it’s nice to know simplicity can still generate interest among all ages, proving that Taylor and King still possess what many of today’s artist’s lack: talent.
Although not a Grammy-winning performance, the concert is magical because it brings concert-goers of all ages together even if for one night. Music lovers of all ages would do well to add this DVD and accompanying CD to their collection which can be viewed as a combination live and greatest hits package.
So tear open the snack packages, toss the disc into your DVD player and treat yourself to 90 minutes of some of the most treasured pop music at its simplest and most beautiful.