Carole King's relatively sparse pre-to-late-'60s recordings have never been properly packaged with the respect they deserve. That leaves room for unauthorized compilations such as this one that at least make the material available for collectors in some form, albeit not in the best form. Indeed, this anthology was superseded in value by yet another unauthorized-looking mid-'90s compilation, Brill Tone's Brill Building Legends: Complete Recordings set, which had a whopping 57 tracks compared to the relatively paltry 22 on Hits and Rarities From the Sixties (every single one of which also appears on the Brill Tone collection). Yet for the few King fans who would bother to track down this material without being completists, Hits and Rarities From the Sixties is in one way preferable to the more extensive Brill Tone release, as it focuses on her highest-profile early solo recordings, without bothering with the demos, outtakes, and secondary officially released rarities that fill out Brill Building Legends: Complete Recordings. That actually makes it a better, more consistent listen, since so many of the rarities on the Brill Tone anthology were frankly weak and dull. Here the early King recordings, boiled down to their essentials, stand up as pretty good Brill Building pop on their own merits, though not as serious and sophisticated as the singer/songwriter material with which King would rise to fame as a solo artist in the 1970s. They include her one hit from the era, "It Might as Well Rain Until September," but also rare singles and LP cuts from 1958-1963 that, while often more lightweight and frivolous than the hits she was writing with Gerry Goffin in the early '60s, are pretty fun, like "Under the Stars," "Oh! Oh! It Started All Over Again," "He's a Bad Boy," and "Queen of the Beach." There's also her own version of "Crying in the Rain" (which she co-wrote), more famous via its hit rendition by the Everly Brothers, and mid-'60s sides by the Honeybees that she wrote with Goffin, as well as her 1966 single "A Road to Nowhere," a true signpost to the more mature lyrical aspirations of her later career. No points for the packaging, however, which has no liner notes or track details other than songwriting credits, and may well not have been mastered from the best available sources.
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