Carole King and James Taylor at The Troubadour “Live”

Carole King and James Taylor at The Troubadour “live” has been re-released by Craft Records. This iconic album is now available in 24/96KHz high-res audio and 180 Gram Vinyl!

If you ever wanted to hear a performance that has the same venue, musicians, and much of the same songs that this enigmatic couple performed in 1970, then this album is a superb example of this. Carole King and James Taylor go back to their roots, 36 years before they were signed to their first record label. This is an album for fans of the music of a particular time in history when the world was in chaos and musicians wrote their songs to both ease the pain and have a platform to talk about their viewpoints.

The Live recording features session musicians Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, and Russ Kunkel and just happen to be the very same musicians that played these sets in 1970.! Leland is a Bass hero of mine as well as a beard Aficionado!

I love when artists can bring a band back together and produce the same magic that they did when they were much younger. There is just an enchantment that occurs when people get together that can musically flow and shift cooperatively and in perfect unison.  Every one of these musicians is a master of their craft and this album is another example of this mastery.

While the album is live it does have a coziness that reminds me of a small club type of show until the crowd starts cheering at the end of songs. Then you know you are at a somewhat larger event. And do yourself a favor and listen to James’s talk to the crowd between songs, He says some downright hilarious things!

James’ vocals are on point, as he does not miss a beat while hitting every note perfectly considering his age. His suave and smooth vocal tone comes through scrupulously. Here he has been recorded at center stage while moving back within the depth of the soundstage mix — as it should be. The recording catches his voice without any sibilance or overly chesty bass characteristics. James’s guitar work has great acoustic body and string detail while setting beautifully in the mix with the other instruments.

Carole’s’ vocals are a little more aged and raspier but overall, she hits her notes and puts on a great performance. Being a vocalist is one of the hardest things to keep at a top-notch level when we age. Being that she is some 36 years older she does a fantastic job. Songs like Will You Love Me Tomorrow really show off her voice in all its glory as well as being one of my favorite songs on this album. It is just a touching song and Taylor does a remarkable job of backing vocals on this track.

Carole King and James Taylor at The Troubadour

Russ’s drums come through the mix very well and stay in their firm location behind the band driving the rhythm while the bass drum is snappy and dynamic. The toms on his kit display a great sense of depth and tone to them and stay with the set as they sweep across the full soundstage. Songs like Country Road and Machine Gun Kelly possess the full band playing and the drums sound dynamic, with great impact and weight. The cymbals for the most part are detailed and true to their sound, although at times they can get a little splashy and disconnected from the music. But the overall drum presentation on the album is quite good.

Dannys’ guitar work on this album is first-rate and although there are a lot of singer-songwriter songs played here, he does a tremendous job at filling in electric guitar parts where they work best. Country Road, Machine Gun Kelley, and Smackwater Jack showcase the talent of Danny’s guitar work). His hum bucking guitar tone cuts through the mix and sounds soulful and true.

Lelands’ bass guitar work acknowledges him to be a true legend of his craft. When the music calls for it, his bass comes through with authority and weight while never getting chesty or boomy. However, there are a few songs like Carolina On My Mind that I would have liked to hear Leland bring out the acoustic bass to get a more acoustical type of sound to go with Jame’s guitar. Nonetheless, songs like It’s Too Late put me back in my place affirming Leland’s bass sound is right on! I guess one of the kings of bass guitar knows a lot more than I do!!!

Sound Quality Analysis:

While touching on a little of this above I wanted to expand on my thoughts on this album’s sound quality. My Analysis here is based solely on the 24/96KHz high-resolution files played off of Qobuz. The high-resolution version of this recording has been finessed and re-mastered by the good people at Craft Recordings. While I have heard the original CD version of this album the revisited version is more centered on the instrumentalists. The vocals and instruments seem to spring out from a more dead silent background. Strings have a bit more shimmer and detail while the bass response is much more dynamic and punchier.

Although soundstage width is not this album’s strong suit, the stage is mostly set from speaker to speaker without a whole lot of sound coming from past the speaker’s boundaries. (Remembering the early days of stereo). What width it does have allows the instruments to emanate within their own locational space and nicely separated.  

Imaging is good on this album and vocals are only off-center when the vocalist is off-centered on the stage. Interestingly, the electric bass and guitar are where they should be whether on the right or left, and do not permeate directly from the speakers but their own space between them. That tells me that the recording and mixing were done right. One of my main problems is when an album is mixed to where you can tell that there was no time taken to position the instruments of a live event properly in the mix. Whether it’s a live or studio album there needs to be time taken to get the image localized right to fit the performance.

Finale

If you are a fan of older 70’s rock and folk music and love the soul and passion that these performers had then owe it to yourself to give this album a spin. Whether it’s the 96/24KHz files on Qobuz or the 180-gram vinyl through Craft Recordings. This is a true masterpiece of music that celebrates a time in history that many music lovers adore.

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