Judge Clark Douglas has seen fire and he's seen rain.
"It was, and still is, all about the music and the celebration of performing together."
James Taylor and Carole King both acknowledge that it feels like they've been playing together forever. It feels that way to us too, as the duo seem so comfortable together onstage and seem to have the sort of musical shorthand that people get after they've been with each other for many years. Even so, the bulk of their musical collaborations took place within a span of two years, from 1970 to 1972. Taylor and King were incredibly important to each other's careers at the time, performing each other's songs and working together on a regular basis. Though they've been friends for decades, they more or less went their separate ways after that creatively fertile period. In 2007, the duo decided that it was time to get together again and perform at The Troubadour, the legendary Los Angeles club where they had performed in 1971.
The result is a warm, emotionally involving concert I enjoyed immensely, as should any fan of these two. It really does feel like Taylor and King were meant to perform together; their musical languages are distinct and yet similar in so many ways. They play off each other's strengths, re-creating these much-loved songs in such a warm and tender manner.
The concert opens with Taylor and King alone together on the stage, he on the guitar and she on the piano as they perform charmingly intimate versions of Taylor's "Blossom" and King's "So Far Away." The latter in particular is just so sincere; Taylor walks over and quietly grabs King's hand afterwards as if to say, "Thank you." However, the concert doesn't sink under the weight of all the sentiment. Taylor quickly picks up the pace a little by introducing the back-up band and performing a rich, full version of "Machine Gun Kelly," followed by the legendary "Carolina in my Mind." King takes the microphone again with an impassioned version of "It's Too Late" before providing one of the liveliest performances of the evening with "Smackwater Jack."
Things get introspective again as Taylor and King revisit their respective earliest successes, "Something in the Way She Moves" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (the performance of the latter is marvelous, as Taylor and King harmonize to spine-tingling effect). Taylor then offers a trio of his best-known early songs, the very good "Country Road," the always-superb "Fire & Rain" and the charming "Sweet Baby James." King counters with an equally strong set: "I Feel the Earth Move," "You've Got a Friend" and "Up on the Roof." It's astonishing how many memorable tunes these two wrote in the early days of their careers. Finally, things wrap up the way they began: on a spare, simple, intimate note, with a performance of "You Can Close Your Eyes."
The concert is filmed in a simple but effective manner, with lots of lingering close-ups on Taylor and King's faces and hands as they perform. The lighting is kind of dim and we never really a good idea of what the venue looks like or what the size of the audience is, as attention is kept pretty exclusively on the two featured players (even the band members aren't shown too often). The image is a little bit soft, but perfectly satisfactory for what it is. The disc is quite strong in the audio department, as the tunes are well-distributed and very immersive. All of the audio elements are captured very nicely, and this combines with the strong performances to create an exceptionally tight live concert.
This is one of the few CD/DVD sets I've seen where the contents of the CD are pretty much exactly the same as those of the DVD (though the DVD is padded with more space and commentary between songs, along with some opening introductory words from Taylor and King). Nice to have the CD so you don't have to spend 75 minutes in front of the television set every time you want to listen to this excellent performance. There are no supplements included in the set aside from the booklet which offers a bit of info on the relationship between Taylor and King.
Deeply nostalgic, loaded with quiet emotion, and boasting superb performances from the two veteran musicians, Carole King & James Taylor: Live at the Troubadour is one of the best concert discs I've seen recently. That it comes with a CD and can be had for about ten bucks makes it a must-own for those who enjoy the music of either participant.
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