Sunday, 3 July 2016

"Now That Everything's Been Said" by THE CITY featuring CAROLE KING and DANNY KORTCHMAR (2015 Light In The Attic CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...







"...Wings Of Her Rhythms..."

After a full decade of writing winning hits with her husband and childhood sweetheart Gerry Goffin for other acts (Neil Sedaka, Chiffons, Shirelles, Crystals, Billy Fury, Bobby Vee, Drifters, Monkees, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield all benefitted) - it was time for the consummate songwriter CAROLE KING to step out of the Brill Building machine and up to a microphone in a band of her own. Thus the ill-fated one-album group THE CITY was born - and it appears pretty much stopped dead in its tracks only months after it was unleashed on a public that barely registered its existence.

THE CITY was:
CAROLE KING – Lead Vocals and Keyboards
DANNY "COOCH" KORTCHMAR [ex The Fugs]
Lead Guitar and Backing Vocals - Lead Vocals on "Man Without A Dream"
Duet Vocals with Carole on "My Sweet Home" and "I Don't Believe It"
CHARLES LARKEY [ex The Myddle Class] – Bass
JIMMY GORDON – (Guest) Drummer

Far from being wanting on the material front (there's genuine beauty and brilliance on display here) - a combination of other factors saw the album never get a chance. It’s arrival was initially announced in a full-page Columbia Records advert for Billboard in early January 1969 - the three-piece band 'crouched in front of an abandoned car' artwork pictured alongside the eclectic likes of space cadets Spirit, barroom brawler John Kay from Steppenwolf and electronics noodler Terry Riley. But instead of having the publicity and promotional might of Columbia behind the record - Lou Adler's 'Ode Records' (to whom they were signed) changed distributers to A&M Records and left the 'Ode' label stranded and without people to promote the album. Booked at over $80 in Price Guides - it's muted in fact that "Now That Everything's Been Said" on Ode Records Z12 44012 barely made into the LP stores and no one seems to know how many copies of this elusive record was pressed in its original 'colour' sleeve (on the back of the massive success accrued by "Tapestry" - a black and white cover reissue appeared in 1971 with the same catalogue number).

Ode tried two American 45s - "Snow Queen" b/w "Paradise Alley" in September 1968 on Ode ZS7 113 and then "That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho)" b/w "Why Are You Leaving" the following year in May 1969 on Ode Records ZS7 119 – but neither took let alone received airplay. It wasn't that the material lacked somehow - because Columbia Records label mates Blood, Sweat And Tears would take "That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho)" and shorten its title to simply "Hi-De-Ho" and make a No. 14 hit out of the song in July 1970 - long after The City's lone album had disappeared (the last CD reissue was a limited edition in 1999 that was deleted quickly). 

Which brings us to this fabulous sounding 2015 CD reissue from the revered 'Light in The Attic Records' of the USA who have done this overlooked and criminally forgotten obscurity a solid. Here are the urban details...

US released October 2015 –  "Now That Everything's Been Said" by THE CITY on Light In The Attic Records LITA 136 (Barcode 826853013628) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 12-track 1969 Ode Records album and plays out as follows (37:48 minutes):

1. Snow Queen
2. I Wasn't Born To Follow
3. Now That Everything's Been Said
4. Paradise Alley
5. Man Without A Dream
6. Victim Of Circumstance
7. Why Are You Leaving [Side 2]
8. Lady
9. My Sweet Home
10. I Don't Believe It
11. That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho)
12. All My Time
Tracks 1 to 12 are the album "Now That Everything's Been Said" - released January 1969 in the USA on Ode Records Z12 44012 (no UK release). Produced by LOU ADLER - it didn't chart.
NOTES: Tracks 1, 2, 5, 8, 11 and 12 written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin - Tracks 3, 7 and 10 written by Toni Stern and Carole King - Tracks 4 and 6 written by David Palmer and Carole King. The only cover version on the album is "My Sweet Home" written by Gospel singer Margaret Allison. Carole sings Lead Vocals on all tracks except three - "My Sweet Home" and "I Don't Believe It" which are duets with Danny Kortchmar - while Kortchmar takes the Lead Vocal wholly on "Man Without A Dream" with Carole providing some backing vocals during the chorus.

Produced for re-release by MATT SULLIVAN and PAT THOMAS - it comes in a card gatefold digipak with one of those annoying OBI bandana strips that isn't attached to the side of the digipak (who thought this was a good idea). The 24-page booklet has great liner notes from Los Angeles writer STEVE HOCHMAN that features newly attained interviews with Palmer, Kortchmar and Larkey. In truth the booklet is a little dull without photos (where are those singles, adverts etc) and it doesn't even bother with a catalogue number for the original LP? DAVE COOLEY did the 24-Bit/96kHz Remaster at Elysian Masters and its properly gorgeous. A gorgeous job done...

As well as Gerry Goffin - King started writing with two new lyricists for this album - David Palmer and Toni Stern. Guitarist Danny Kortchmar had been with The Fugs - Bassist Charles Larkey and New Jersey Vocalist/Songwriter David Palmer had both been part of THE MYDDLE CLASS who managed three 45s in 1966 on Tomorrow Records. Along with Carole King they formed the core of the group (the three on the cover). Legendary Drummer Jim Gordon was brought in for the sessions and was asked to join the band after the LP was completed but refused (went to the UK to Clapton to form Derek & The Dominoes).

Los Angeles tunesmith Toni Stern has had her songs recorded by huge names like Barbra Streisand, The Carpenters and The Isley Brothers but will be forever remembered for "It's Too Late" from Carole's "Tapestry" - often cited as one of the Top 100 tunes of all time. Her lyrical collaboration with Carole King began with The City LP and you can 'so' hear the beginnings of "It's Too Late" in the hurting melody "Why Are You Leaving". The more bopping element of "Tapestry" surfaces with the title track "Now That Everything's Been Said" (another co-write with Stern) - a finger-clicking tune about pain. "Paradise Alley" is excellent and is the first of two co-writes with Steely Dan's David Palmer. The other is "Victim Of Circumstance" but it's not as good.

The album's most famous song "Snow Queen" is a staggering beginning - a truly brilliant and very spacey song to have the 'Goffin/King' credit to its name. If I were trying to convince someone of the album's merit - I would play this first and it's hardly surprising that it became a (failed) lead off single. Ace Records of the UK quite rightly gave the song pride of place on their February 2014 CD compilation "LOU ADLER: A Musical History" - a fantastic set that covers the Producer's career and long-association with Carole King (see my separate review for Ace CDCHD 1384). The other track that sends me is the beautiful and moving "Man Without A Dream" sung by Danny Kortchmar with help on the choruses from Carole - the kind of hidden nugget that blows you away with its lovely melody. By their own admission the band was listening to every important album around at the time (1968) - Laura Nyro's "Eli And The Thirteenth Confession" comes shining through on "Lady" (piano and vocal runs) while they were definitely channelling the Stax Records output of The Staples Singers while recording the warbling guitar and vocals of "My Sweet Home" sounding like they auditioning for Pops Staples. They were consuming Miles Davis and John Coltrane - which explain the jazzier elements of "Snow Queen" - but "I Wasn't Born To Follow" (covered by The Byrds on their "Notorious" album) and the incessantly catchy "Hi-De-Ho" (covered by Blood, Sweat & Tears on their second self-titled album) is pure Goffin/King hit making material. The LP ends on the lovely "All My Time" - the remaster soaring as the melody plays. For sure the whole album is not all genius by any means - but the beauty is definitely there on many of the songs - and when it hits you - look out...

Danny 'Kootch' Kortchmar went with Charles Larkey into JO MAMA who had albums on Atlantic Records - Kortchmar would get his own solo album on Warner Brothers in 1973 not surprisingly called "Kootch" (Warner Brothers BS 2711 was reissued in 2008 by Wounded Bird and contains the excellent "Come Strollin' Now"). He would also be forever a part of the East Coast mafia of musicians who played with absolutely everyone of California singer-songwriter significance - Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell to name but a few.

David Palmer would of course join the hallowed ranks of Steely Dan for their stunning October 1972 debut album "Can't Buy A Thrill" on ABC Records on which he takes Lead Vocals away from Donald Fagen for "Dirty Work", "Midnite Cruiser" and "Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)". He sung backing vocals on their 1973 platter "Countdown To Ecstasy" and would later do vocal work with Big Wha-Koo on ABC Records - even punching out a single called "She's My Baby (And She's Outta Control)" with Timothy B. Schmit of The Eagles on the 1982 soundtrack to "Fast Times At Ridgemont High". More importantly he would join up with Carole again for the No. 1 album "Wrap Around Joy" where he co-wrote every song.

The City asked the legendary drummer Jimmy Gordon (who had played with The Everly Brothers and drummed on "Pet Sounds") to join the group but took a call instead from Eric Clapton and swelled the ranks of Derek & The Dominoes. He is credited as writing the beautiful piano-coda that centres "Layla" and also graced the ranks of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass". Carole would release "Writer" in 1970 on A&M Records (with the Ode Records logo on the label) – another than nearly failed too - and then level all albums in sight with her magnificent "Tapestry" LP in 1971.

"...The key to my happiness...I let it slip away..." – Danny Kortchmar sang with Carole King on the beautiful and moving "Man Without A Dream".

Don’t let this happiness pass you by. And well done to the good bodies at LIGHT IN THE ATTIC for warming us with Carole King and The City's lone LP - available again after all these decades in the digital permafrost...

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