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A Holiday Carole Which Really Shines
on November 5, 2011
"In December I will be,
a baubled bangled Christmas Tree..."
So sang Carole King, whimsically, on "Chicken Soup With Rice" the highlight of her 1975 Maurice Sendak "Really Rosie" collaboration. That landmark children's album marked a spirited departure in style and performance from her earlier more somber Ode albums. It's with that same joie de vivre that Carole King performs the 12 songs on her just released "A Holiday Carole."
Too busy writing her memoir, "A Natural Woman," Our Miss King turned the creative "reins" over to her daughter Louise Goffin to not only write the original songs on the album, but, also oversee production. r Louise, a long celebrated singer/songwriter in her own rite, rises to the occasion and delivers us a Carole King album, that, even though there are no Carole King compositions and only a few tracks on which she plays piano is as true to the artist's vision as anything she herself would have produced.
I guess the fact that Louise was born shortly after Carole left a recording studio back in 1960, might account for the fact that she is totally at home in the recording studio. Louise proves to be as talented as her mom and pop (Gerry Goffin) in crafting and producing songs which perfectly complement her client's strengths. Louise takes out a whole new pallet of musical colors and makes this album sparkle and shine, as much as, well, a baubled bangled Christmas tree.
The more one listens to each track, the more you'll hear hidden sounds, instruments, and flourishes, which breathe new life into seasonal songs we've all heard a million times.
The first electric guitar rift of the opener, the classic, "My Favorite Thing" lets you in on the fact that you're about to hear a seasonal album unlike any you've heard before. The jazz-tinged arrangement, as well as Carole's sly vocals, brings back the groove of "It's Too Late" and "Only Love is Real." The arrangement of "Carol of the Bells" is as original as any I have ever heard. Carole knows her vocal limitations and wisely allows a choir handle the frenetic vocals on this one.
While Carole does a fine job singing the traditional fare included ("Sleigh Ride," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and "Do You Hear What I Hear?," it's the original and offbeat choices which makes this one holiday album you should check out. "Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday" wisely capitalizes on the type of mournful, yet, celebratory ballad for which Carole first rose to stardom as a recording artist. The latin-tinged "Chirstmas Paradise," upbeat "Christmas in the Air" and haunting closing ballad, "New Year's Day" are as catchy and memorable as anything you'd find on radio today.
"New Year's Day" stands a good chance of becoming a holiday classic in its own right. Though she didn't write it, this Louise Goffin/Guy Chambers collaboration would fit in on any of Carole's many past collections.
Oddly enough, my favorite track on the album is Carole's version of Wham's "Last Christmas" which is only available on the Target exclusive version of the album. Carole's take on this one is pure Brill Building/girl group gold. Though she may be approaching 70, her talents are still as timeless and engaging as when she, as a teenage from Brooklyn, stormed the world of American pop music.