July 14, 2005
Alongside Bob Dylan and Hank Williams, Carole King ranks as one of the great American songwriters of the 20th century. Unlike Williams and Dylan, who relied more often than not on singing their own hits to create their legacies, King’s reputation was launched in a tiny cubicle with a piano in New York’s famed Brill Building, writing for others. Her credits include “One Fine Day” by The Chiffons, “Up on the Roof” by The Drifters (Neil Diamond and Dean Martin also did interesting versions),” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by The Monkees, “Oh No, Not My Baby” by Dusty Springfield (absolutely stunning), “Go Away Little Girl” by Donny Osmond, “Hi-De-Ho” by Blood, Sweat, and Tears, “Don’t Bring Me Down” by The Animals, “The Loco-Motion” by both Little Eva [her baby-sitter] and Grand Funk Railroad, and “Chains” by the Beatles.
Her legend as a performer was sealed in 1971 with the release of Tapestry, a remarkable album featuring “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” “So Far Away,” “Natural Woman,” “It’s Too Late,” and “You’ve Got a Friend.” The record made soft rock hip, a California-besotted sound that was eventually turned to mush by less talented writers like the Eagles, Poco, James Taylor, and a slew of other post-hippies who tried to substitute with electric and acoustic guitars what King had done on a piano.
To witness Carole King sing from her astonishing catalogue is a rare treat. Stage fright (and no doubt an endless supply of money earned over her career) kept her from live performances for years. Recently, she has undertaken extensive tours armed with only a piano and a pair of guitarists. Perched behind the grand piano, King’s fingers pound the keys aggressively as her bouncing head of curls and endearing smile exhibit a childlike enthusiasm. If she’s scared, she doesn’t show it. Her voice has aged to a soulful rasp, and despite her 63 years, she’s still as easy on the eyes as ever. (Thursday, July 21, at the BJCC Concert Hall) —Ed Reynolds
There was a time when India.arie was going to be the supreme mix of Sade and Joni Mitchell. Now she’s just a perfectly reasonable presence on the soundtrack of Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Arie didn’t exactly come unhinged between Acoustic Soul and Voyage to India, but she certainly sustained a certain meltdown. It was all foreshadowed by self-obsession that went past navel-gazing and straight to the masturbatory—and you know there’s something seriously wrong when that’s a turn-off from a soul sister. It’s been several years since an actual album, but Arie’s voice holds up even when her melodies don’t. You’ll still want to ignore those lyrics. You’re better off trusting a U.N. oil-for-food program when it comes to advice for the downtrodden. (Friday, July 15, at the Alabama Theatre; 8 p.m. $39-$45) —J.R. Taylor
American Idols Live
Everybody knows that it’s Dick Clark’s “Caravan of Stars” on the short bus. You can also consider it a missed opportunity to shoot a superior reality show, since Bo Bice, Carrie Underwood, Constantine Maroulis, and the rest must be miserable on this obligatory summer tour when they could be pushing their solo careers. At least nobody’s going to be straining their voice while sharing a bill with nine other acts. It’s also a considerate way of cramming plenty of novelty acts onto one bill without having to pay Dr. Demento—or William Hung—as an emcee. (Friday, July 15, at the BJCC; 7:30 p.m. $37-$47) —J.R. Taylor
Kelly Clarkson/Graham Colton Band
Wait five days, skip this year’s models, and marvel at how a gal who chirps like a generic cell phone ring tone went on to win Idol and become . . . well, probably a cell phone ring tone. That slutty new makeover isn’t very believable, but who cares? Neither is Breakaway—although it’s really fun to hear her making a bold move from her pop past that still fizzles out with generic ballads. In a few moments, she almost rocks as hard as Quarterflash, though. File this as another fun cultural moment, and you’ll have a good dopey story when you’re sitting around reviewing the decade in 20 years. People might also remember Graham Colton as the Tab Hunter of mild jam-band pop, except Tony Perkins wouldn’t go to the movies with him. (Wednesday, July 20, at Boutwell Auditorium; 7:30 p.m. $25-$40)—J.R. Taylor
18 Visions/He Is Legend/The Black Maria
And here’s the point where post-thrash-punk-whatever becomes album-oriented rock. 18 Visions and The Black Maria are both perfectly fine and impressive acts whose songwriting uses every dopey trick that’s ever been utilized by Styx, REO Speedwagon, Heart, and other bands that you’re not supposed to like but you really do. (Well, in the case of REO Speedwagon, up to around 1978.)
The Black Maria is in especially good shape coming off of Lead Us To Reason, and it’s baffling that they’re stuck in the opening slot here. Meanwhile, I Am Legend is a mainstream metal act coming off of the surprising ambition of I Am Hollywood. The noise can venture towards more prog than punk, and there are a few other self-referential layers that make Legend the Thomas Pynchon of lit-rock—except they know how to keep it short. (Saturday, July 23, at Cave 9; 7 p.m. $10)—J.R. Taylor
Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
He should be a rock legend just for having been told by Keith Richards that he really needed to straighten out his act. And now he’s eight years sober and still stuck with a family heritage that—outside of New Orleans—is good only for scoring lots of free drugs on the jam-band circuit. Dumpstaphunk, fortunately, is a smart strategic intervention that imposes plenty of song structure on a quality band that could actually get away with jamming. They’re not the new Meters, but Dumpstaphunk also has Ian Neville to make it even easier to be the next best thing. They’re also smart enough to rely on other people’s songs—including at least one Meters cover. (Wednesday, July 27, at Zydeco; 8 p.m. $10, 18+) —J.R. Taylor &