Carole King / James Taylor

Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter [CD & DVD]

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Morgan Neville's documentary Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter looks back on the L.A. singer/songwriter community of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, with its primary focus on Carole King and James Taylor. The film does a good job of charting the trajectory of King and Taylor's careers as well as the heyday of Doug Weston's club The Troubadour, which was a launching pad for many successful L.A. acts of the day. However, whenever the film pulls its focus from its two principles, it seems to get lost, and while there are several other figures who contribute witty and perceptive commentary in the film's interviews (especially Steve Martin, who was a fixture at the Troubadour in his early days as a standup comic), the film ultimately has too many holes and puts slightly too rosy a glow around King and Taylor, sometimes feeling more like an infomercial for their Live at the Troubadour album than an objective documentary. A ten-song CD is included with the Hear Music DVD release of the film, and though it primarily focuses on artists covered in the film, it also adds a few acts that don't make the cut in the movie, most notably Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, Tom Waits, and Little Feat (whose leader Lowell George wasn't a singer/songwriter in the traditional sense but was a powerfully influential figure on the L.A. scene of the day). At 35 minutes, the CD seems a bit skimpy, but the songs are well chosen and offer a lovely overview of an era of great record making, and ultimately captures a broader range of what made the L.A. soft rock community memorable than what's in the film. Perhaps the people who compiled the CD should have been given two discs to create a more lengthy celebration of the Laurel Canyon sound, with the DVD as an extra rather than the other way around.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
blue highlight denotes track pick