"Tapestry" at 45rpm Forty Plus Years Later Sounding Better Than Ever

In 1972 and '73 you'd hear this classic album playing in every hippie crash pad and college dorm room in America. It was a "chick" album guys could dig. Her friend James Taylor had encouraged the veteran song writer to sing her own songs.

Despite her Brill Building songwriting accomplishments that included everything from "The Locomotion" to "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (covered here too)—the list could go on for webpages— King remained in the background and thought of herself more like an early '60s housewife in the Laura Petrie mold than as a free-spirited artist.

The '60s and female liberation helped change all of that. Thus the long-haired, barefoot cover look that King wore better than many of her same-aged compatriots who tried to catch up.

With Lou Adler producing at A&M Records, King recorded this set of originals probably on a low budget with equally low expectations, backed by a small, changeable bass/drum/guitar combo that often included Taylor and friend Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar as well as Russ Kunkel and other names familiar even then to album jacket credit aficionados.

The simplicity of the arrangements gave the set an almost publisher's demo quality with which King was certainly familiar. The spare sound put her voice front, center and larger in the mix than even many more accomplished and experienced singers were placed on their records.

King's direct, forthright singing and the basic nature of both the recording and the arrangements were perfect for the singer, the songs and the times. The goal was to strip away the previous generation's slickness and make Carole part of the next generation and it was perfectly realized musically and even sonically.

Whatever the expectations, even had they been high, were surely exceeded by wide margins. The album won 4 Grammys® including "Album of the Year". Even though the awards were and are highly politicized and Adler had the Rolodex to get things done, Tapestry surely got the awards based on merit.

The album is packed with classics that haven't at all dated. Songs like "Beautiful", "You've Got a Friend," and of course "(You Make Me Feel LIke) A Natural Woman" became a generation's anthems but they continue to resonate, though probably not with Katy Perry fans (though I bet with Perry).

There's not a less than brilliantly crafted song among the dozen and if you listen to "Way Over Yonder" I can't help but think you'll agree that it is the inspiration for "Saturday Night Live's" closing theme.

Despite being recorded on the old Chaplin soundstage at A&M— a superb sounding room—and probably mastered by Bernie Grundman who ran A&M's mastering facility, I never thought of the original as being a particularly great sounding record—not after some of the previous decade's sonic extravaganzas. However, in 1999 when Classic reissued the album the improvement was noticeable. King's voice remained warm sounding, the close-miking still somewhat obtrusive and congesting, but the original's boxiness had been relieved and if you didn't inappropriately turn the volume up it still sounded somewhat like an underproduced demo, but a good underproduced demo.

This new double 45rpm reissue from ORG Music mastered by Bernie Grundman and Chris Bellman takes Tapestry as far as it probably will go and it's gone far! It sounds is if they've removing much of the boxiness, particularly from around King's voice. That diminishes somewhat the bass line but the improvement in clarity and rhythmic pacing makes it well worthwhile. The overall tonal balance is greatly improved. Whether its the 45rpm speed or something else, the kick drum on "So Far Away" pops as never before and that's just the start of what those familiar with the album might notice for the first time, like the clarity of the electric piano lines on "It's Too Late". The instrumental separation and overall spaciousness have never been more pronounced. Nor have the closely miked drums ever sounded this clean and full.

While I suggested that the production was sort of like a demo, it wasn't played like one. The level of musicianship is of course way beyond a demo toss-off and the love and support of all involved for Carole's endeavor was obvious then and more so now. The production's intimacy has never been this well served on record.

Music Direct Buy It Now

conjotter's picture

Hi Mike.

Wonderful review of a great record.

More of the same please!

Your music reviews are my favourite postings on the website.

Regards, CJ.

39goose's picture

 Hey Mike,

I have an used copy of Classic Records 45  and some sealed copies of the ORG. Which one is better ??

just an old friend of Chad from Lafayette, William.

Michael Fremer's picture

I didn't know Classic reissued this at 45. I don't have one so I can't answer your question but I'd say, if you have that, spend your $ on something new.

JC1957's picture

Mo-Fi has plans to do Tapestry as well.

Vinyl and SACD.

rakalm's picture

The live at Carnegie Hall Concert Mobile Fidelity LE double LP is great as well.  It was recorded on June 18th, 1971 shortly after Tapestry was released.  It was her 1st show ever.  I would love to see that reviewed as well.  JT was the special guest.  She did 2 shows and the 2nd one was at midnight.   She had a string quartet join her on several numbers.  Kootch and a bass player were the only other musicians.  Very nice stripped down sound produced by Lou Adler.

Michael Fremer's picture


rakalm's picture

Was wonderful for you to include a link to this review I didn't know existed.  I think the crowd was as nervous as she was and may have accounted for the lack of humor.  You really can hear the hall on this one.  Her emotion is almost palpable.  Next to Tapestry, I think the most important release of her career.  Your review nailed it on the head.  I guess this was taped on reel to reel?

rosser's picture

I too was always disappointed in the sound of original pressings of Tapestry. So I was looking forward to getting the ORG 45 rpm. I agree that the backing band has never sounded more present, clean and 3D. Unfortunately, the main problem I always had with this record -- the vocal distortion/mic compression on numerous cuts -- seems to be on the master, so that was not fixed, or fixable. I was hoping it was a mastering or pressing issue, but it sounds like it was recorded that way. Your description of the demo mindset makes sense -- I guess they didn't realize they were recording a stone classic, which is a shame. Still, this is probably the best it's ever going to sound. I just wish the vocals were recorded better. 

Jay's picture

Thanks Mikey.  That one's going on my christmas list... smiley

WaxtotheMax's picture

I have the original pressing, so its all I have to go on and I obviously have loved that one by default. This review has me deciding to make the upgrade. Thanks for yet another insightful review Michael!

markp's picture

I have the Classis Records 33 RPM, and the ORG 45 RPM.  The ORG is stayind sealed for now, seeing that MOFI has their own 33 version...and who knows..might double down with a 45RPM version later.  

JohnEcc's picture

To my ears the 1980 CBS Master Sound pressing sounds better than the Classic 33 RPM reissue.