Carole King and James Taylor – [Album]

Monday, 21 March 2011

My pen name for my Ground Control column is The Aging Punk. Not The Aging Hippie, and certainly not The Aging Folkie. Much of my youth was spent actively fleeing and/or fighting the music presented on this disc, so it is surprising how much I enjoyed it.

In its' commercial release, this CD accompanies a DVD documentary about The Troubadour, the Los Angeles club which helped launch the careers of so many singer/songwriters in the early Seventies. Unluckily, I wasn’t able to view the DVD, so I can only judge this as a standalone Greatest Hits of that movement.

Actually, the CD is less a greatest hits album than it is an overview of those artists who came through the Troubadour – that probably explains why Little Feat is here. It definitely accounts for Elton John’s inclusion (“Take Me to the Pilot,” an early song of his which fits the style of the other cuts), because he made his early reputation with an appearance at the Troubadour. From my standpoint, this eclectic mix of artists – many of whom are not strictly folk singers – certainly helps; even Aging Punks love Tom Waits and Warren Zevon.

The song selection is equally eclectic. Some choices are obvious – “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor, “It’s Too Late” by Carole King, and “Desperado” by Linda Ronstadt – and some inclusions – like “Love Has No Pride” by Bonnie Raitt and “Why Me” by Kris Kristoferson – are surprising but, again, my own personal taste makes a difference here; personally there are plenty of Randy Newman songs I would have chosen over “Sail Away.” I guess “Desperado” is a good pick for Linda Ronstadt, but, again, there are other songs I would have enjoyed more (but thank god they used Zevon’s version of “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” and not hers). I could say those things, but such complaints would be personal nitpicking; the intended audience of this CD would probably appreciate the entire song selection.

But my enjoyment of the disc goes deeper than a handful of songs I love. These songs are ingrained in my musical DNA. Hey, I went to a summer camp where we sang James Taylor and Carole King songs around the campfire (it was a very liberal camp, and it was the early Seventies). Part of the reason I rebelled so strongly against them in my college days is because they were so familiar; I knew every word “You’ve Got a Friend” (not included here, but equally representative), and wanted to replace them with the words to “We’re a Happy Family” and “Janie Jones.” Now though, I’m a bit (okay, a lot) older, and those folk songs and songwriters do bring back happy memories.

Moreover, I have a much greater appreciation of musical history now. I can see the line from James Taylor and Carole King to Warren Zevon and Tom Waits. I can see now how the commercial success of the former enabled the careers of the latter, and while the latter has had far less commercial success, they've still produced vital music. By placing them together, Troubadours provides that context.

This CD seems primarily aimed at aging folkies, who will relive the period in the early Seventies when singer/songwriters ruled. It would also serve as a great introduction of the era and style to younger listeners, who may not be familiar with all (or even any) of the musicians here. Hey, even this Aging Punk found something to like in it.



Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter
CD/DVD is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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