How many of you have heard Rod Stewart’s cover of Carole King’s So Far Away? Back in the Nineties I had a tape of Tapestry Revisited: A Tribute to Carole King, which I bought at Delhi’s Khan Market because I saw some artistes that I liked. I fell in love with it the first time I played it. I began to play it over and over again in my car stereo, and when I got home, I’d stick the tape into the tape deck and play it some more. I played it so often that I considered buying a back-up tape just in case this one got worn out due to repeated playing. I kind of liked playing tapes because I could rewind it or fast forward it to the precise moment I wanted and hear it again- there were so many sweet spots in this album. I have always been partial to Stewart, one of my favourites being his Foot Loose and Fancy Free album which had some great songs and I am not talking about Hot Legs alone. I knew he was terrific as a balladeer but the way he sang So Far Away moved me to tears. After I’d be done hearing it, sometimes I would feel the urge to pick up the phone and sing into it, my voice breaking, but that’s another story.
Each and every song in that album was fantastic, including Celine Dion’s You Make Me Feel Like (A Natural Woman). I loved the Bee Gees take on Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. All the while I listened to the songs, I kept wondering how good the original would be. I had a James Taylor version of You Got a Friend and I’d always thought it was his song till I heard the tribute album. It was not till a couple of years later that I was able to get Carole King’s original album from a second-hand music shop in New York (yes, those days you had to source the albums you wanted either by physically being in a place where they were available or from friends who had them, and I didn’t know anybody who had Carole King). She blew my mind away. It was warm, intimate and so pared down that when I played it to me, it seemed that the tribute album was overproduced. What got to me was that the album came out in the very early Seventies, which means it has been around for 41 years.
The other day after I listened to Tapestry again, just for the heck of it, I typed in Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow in YouTube. Believe it or not, just about everybody has covered that song, and from both genders, lest you want to argue that Bee Gees sound androgynous. Richie Blackmore (Rainbow) has done it, so has Bryan Ferry, Dave Mason, Sonny Bono (U2). Neil Diamond has put his own spin on it and Charles Earland played it on a Hammond B3. Women who have covered it range from Dusty Springfield to Amy Winehouse. I’d run out of space even if I were to simply list the artistes who sang this song. Another tribute album (A New Tapestry: Carole King Tribute) came out early this century, although I’ve not managed to get hold of it yet. I have to confess, I’ve not heard any other Carole King album, partly because I’m afraid that I’d be disappointed. It’s like reading Catch-22 and knowing that it would be well nigh impossible for Joseph Heller to give us a better reading experience. Unfair, but there it is.