Carole King

Love Makes the World

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Bouncing around smaller indie labels in the '90s after a few failed albums on majors, Carole King rebounded with this self-released 2001 disc on her own Rockingale (an anagram of Carole King and a takeoff on her song "Nightingale") imprint. Although it's not a totally successful return to her past triumphs, the disc is one of her best post-'70s albums and occasionally even rivals her most enduring work. Wisely, King returns here to her strengths of melodic love ballads. While only a few selections match the natural woman charms of Tapestry and Music, King remains in terrific voice. When she keeps the arrangements stripped down, as on the closing "Safe Again" and "This Time," she taps into that N.Y.C. singer/songwriter vein that made her finest albums so memorable. Guest appearances from Babyface, k.d. lang, and Wynton Marsalis are hardly necessary, since King carries the weight of their songs herself. On the downside, Celine Dion's exaggerated influence is far too intrusive on "The Reason," overloading a perfectly good track with the bombastic ballad treatment Dion is recognized for. King sounds stiff and by the time the screaming guitar solo comes in, it's obvious this is not the approach that best suits the singer or her songs. Nor does the rock beat and big hooks of "Monday Without You," a misdirected slice of generic radio rock. The majority of the album fares much better, with King's distinctive piano and heartfelt, often gritty vocals belting out tunes with spare accompaniment. The string quartet on "Uncommon Love" seems organically relaxed and k.d. lang remains appropriately low-key throughout the duet. The yearning of "You Will Find Me There" recalls the simple poetic honesty of "You've Got a Friend" both lyrically and musically. Reprising her '60s hit "Oh No, Not My Baby" -- co-written with Gerry Goffin -- for the second time (she had already interpreted it on 1980's Pearls album) is unnecessary, but the solo piano backing illustrates the song's timeless qualities and fits nicely into this disc's overall flow. Certainly her classiest and most consistent collection since the late '70s, Love Makes the World proves that with a songwriter as accomplished as Carole King, less remains more.

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