Carole King & James Taylor’s Live at the Troubadour was recorded back in 2007. I’ve seen James Taylor perform live only once, during a Bridge School Benefit concert from just a few years before. It sounds weird to say this now, but JT might have been a little before my time–our older brothers and sisters were into him, perhaps, but not us.
Kids my age always respected him, though, because that was the Southern California Way in the ’70s. When I saw him play his hits at Bridge School, songs he had played thousands of times, I was endlessly impressed with his professionalism, his charm, and the way he’d take a sip from his coffee mug and nod approvingly at it. Mmm. That’s great coffee.
Great guitar playing, too.
I grew to appreciate Carole King much earlier than that. My older brother and older sister each bought a copy of Tapestry, and sometimes they’d be in their bedrooms playing it at the same time just to piss each other off. I grew up with that album, although I never owned a copy until recently when I pulled the trigger on a rare German pressing that sounded really nice. I wasn’t playing a lot of Carole King during my formative punk/new-wave/alternative years to be sure, but it was a much appreciated homecoming when I returned to this one-of-a-kind songwriter decades later..
Craft Recordings has just reissued Live at the Troubador, the first time it’s been available on vinyl. It gets the usual star treatment from Craft–double LP, gatefold, 180g pressing, remastered by Bernie Grundman. Carole King and James Taylor first performed together back in 1970, and this 2007 set celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Troubadour in LA. If you’ve heard this already, you’ll recognize what it is–two musical legends with, as King herself states, with a “musical connection and friendship [that] transcend time and place.”
That’s what you get here in this Craft Recordings reissue, a flawless and meaningful set comprised mostly of the hits between the two. Before you write that off as something inessential, I must remind you of that JT performance from not that long ago. Oh, he’s just playing a few of his hits and then they’re choppering him out of here. But he gave it his all. He gave us perfection. This album is just like that memorable performance because Carole King is right at the same level. She appreciates the audience and goes out of her way to show it.
Carole King and James Taylor were also joined on stage by drummer Richard Kunkel, bassist Leland Sklar and guitarist Danny Kortchmar, and that’s where this performance transcends time and space, to paraphrase King. I spent most of my youth listening to music that reveled in its sloppiness and its unbridled energy, but as I get older I grow fonder of the performers who were at the top of their game and shared the magic with the rest of the world. What this quiet and devastatingly mature album accomplishes–and a quiet and beautiful pressing it is–can’t be understated.
There are people out there who have given us their best, sometimes for bright and ephemeral flashes of genius that don’t last for very long, and there are those who have a lifetime of musical talent to share. Both talents are vital, and this is your proof.