Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Carole King - Speeding Time

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Speeding Time, the thirteenth album from singer-songwriter Carole King. The record was the first of hers that failed to chart in the US, and it might have led to the six year studio recording hiatus she took until 1989‘s City Streets.

Joining the legendary performer on this record were Bob Glaub (bass), Bobbye Hall (percussion), Plas Johnson (saxophone), Robbie Konodor (synthesizer), Danny Kortchmar (guitar), and Russ Kunkel (drums).

Side one begins with “Computer Eyes”, a synth pop ballad about a relationship that becomes cold and distance.

“One Small Voice” is the next track. It tells of how change can come from even the most likely of places - the honesty of a child. It references the classic tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

“Crying in the Rain”, written by King and Howard Greenfield, was originally recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1962. By changing up the pacing and adding synths, she does a great job updating this one for a modern day audience.

“Sacred Heart of Stone” is another track that looks at a relationship that has gone dead. Unlikely the opening track, though, this one the synthesizers do not overpower King’s voice.

The title track “Speeding Time” closes off the first half on a slower note. Its message is one of perseverance in the face of overwhelming change.

Side two starts with “Standin’ on the Borderline”, an optimistic song about taking a leap into the uncertainty of a new love. For me, this track easily beats out most of the tracks that preceded it on the record.

“So Ready for Love” has both an old and new feel to it; the old is like her early songs from the 70’s and the new is a light, 80’s sparkle. The mix works well for me.

“Chalice Borealis” is a commentary on how industrialization continued to have a debilitating effect on the environment. I like how it starts out with a simple percussion backing beat; it gives the whole song a bit of a Bohemian rhythm.

“Dancing” has a mid-tempo beat that is made just for doing so.

“Alabaster Lady” closes out the album with King at her piano. The lyrics seem to be a message to a woman whom King looks up to, imploring her to find the strength to do what needs to be done. It has a much more classical feel to it and really allows her voice to soar in the manner we have come to expect from her.

Speeding Time was a new experience for me as I was not heavily into the soft adult contemporary pop back in 1983/1984. I can definitely see how Carole King was trying to adapt to the changes in the music industry at the time; as a veteran song writer since the 60’s she clearly was aware of how popular music grew and evolved. For me, the songs here work better when the synthesizers are more underplayed. They don’t need to be fancy like the new-wave acts were doing at the time. Her strength comes from her voice and her lyrical spins.

For her smash hit 1971 album Tapestry, click here.

Also from 1971 was Music (click here for that review).

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