Carole King and James Taylor – Live at the Troubadour (2010) – 2 discs – DVD:DTS 5.1, DD 2.0, 1.78:1 video for 16:9 display – Concord Music Group HRM-32053, CD: 63:46, DVD: 75:52 *****:
(Carole King – vocals, piano; James Taylor – vocals, guitar; Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar – guitar; Leland Sklar – bass; Russell “Russ” Kunkel – drums)
There is a sense of déjà vu and nostalgia to Carole King and James Taylor’s reunion performance CD/DVD, Live at the Troubadour. But that’s as it should be. The baby boomer singer/songwriter icons/idols crafted a soundtrack for a generation who survived the Vietnam War and Watergate, helped define the 1970s and who emphasized with the confessional, personal odes to affection, family and friendship King and Taylor penned.
Live at the Troubadour is a document of three nights – November 28-30, 2007 – when King and Taylor once again played at the 50-year-old venue to commemorate a series of shows they shared on the same stage in the early 1970s, when both artists started their careers. As such, the hour-long presentation includes hits – and some lesser known songs –featured at those original programs.
There are no surprises. Nearly every cut is well-worn, well-loved and well-established. King flits between selections from her huge-selling Tapestry album and singles she co-wrote as a Brill Building songsmith, while Taylor pulls from his first three records. The live renditions are not definitive but they retain an emotive impact refined by an intimate stage delivery with Taylor and King supported by longtime collaborators Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar on guitar, Leland Sklar on bass and Russell “Russ” Kunkel on drums, who all backed King and Taylor in 1971.
Taylor begins with two picks he does not often do, the honeyed “Blossom” and Kortchmar’s gangster story, “Machine Gun Kelly.” From there it is one fan favorite after another: King’s tale of relationship termination “It’s Too Late,” which has a stunning Kortchmar solo; Taylor’s celebration of rural life, “Country Road”; King’s romantic synopsis “I Feel the Earth Move”; and the obligatory “You’ve Got a Friend.” Highlights include a flinty, slightly funky version of character study “Smackwater Jack”; a poignant treatment of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”; and the encore duet of “You Can Close Your Eyes.” Taylor is in fine form, his voice tender and pitch perfect. King’s vocals are a bit rougher and at least once she does not hit her intended mark, but her gracious charisma more than makes up for any stumble.
While the CD suitably captures the music, the set is best experienced via the DVD. The film has very brief voiceover interview segments before and after the concert but more importantly showcases King and Taylor’s amiability as they trade anecdotes, jokes and reminiscences; smile and laugh; and reveal their camaraderie. The visuals are bereft of annoying editing or flashy camerawork: everything is hand-held and angles shift from close-ups to medium shots with occasional cutaways to the audience. There are some instances of poor focus, due to the Troubadour’s small size: visitors can affirm it is not set up for filming. The film is offered in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the images have been enhanced for 16×9 televisions. Viewers can choose either Dolby Stereo or an excellent DTS 5.1 Surround mix which preserves the nightclub’s warmth and informal atmosphere. A 20-page booklet filled with current and historical photos and helpful liner notes rounds out the package.
CD & DVD TrackList:
2. So Far Away
3. Machine Gun Kelly
4. Carolina In My Mind
5. It’s Too Late
6. Smackwater Jack
7. Something in the Way She Moves
8. Will You Love Me Tomorrow
9. Country Road
10. Fire and Rain
11. Sweet Baby James
12. I Feel the Earth Move
13. You’ve Got a Friend
14. Up On the Roof
15. You Can Close Your Eyes
— Doug Simpson