‘If You Read The Papers . . .’

One of the new arrivals on the CD shelves here is a minimalist box set collecting five of Carole King’s first six albums, a set I wandered upon by accident as I browsed at Amazon. The set includes Writer (1970), Music (1971), Rhymes & Reasons (1972), Fantasy (1973), and Wrap Around Joy (1974). It skips, as you can see, 1971’s Tapestry, perhaps because Epic figured anyone interested in King’s work already had it, or perhaps the label thought they might spur sales of that masterpiece by leaving it out of the box set.

It’s pretty basic: A slipcase and the five CDs in reproductions of the five original jackets (sans any gatefolds). But the music is all there, and I have a good magnifying glass for the fine print on the back. (Not all the jacket backs listed the session musicians, but I have some online sources for that info.)

Anyway, as I was ripping and tagging the CDs this week, something about the set kept nagging me. I’d read something about it a while back, and this morning, as I was sorting through posts here about King, I remembered: Back in the spring of 2011, when I added King’s “It’s Too Late” to my list of Jukebox Regrets – the brief list of records that should have been in my Ultimate Jukebox project of 2010 but were somehow missed – reader and friend Yah Shure mentioned the box set:

I recently obtained the collection of Carole’s first five albums (sans Tapestry) and had one “Oh, I remember this!” moment after another. Carole seems to be one of those artists who we take for granted, hovering below our everyday radar until the next refresher course beckons. One of her deeper cuts I’ve always liked is “Goodbye Don’t Mean I’m Gone,” from Rhymes & Reasons.

“Goodbye Don’t Mean I’m Gone” is a good track, one I’d not heard before this week. Having listened, I looked again at the comments on that ten-year-old post and found my pal jb’s pithy (and accurate) assertion that the piano figure that opens “It’s Too Late” is “the sound of the summer of ’71 distilled to a few seconds.” And I looked once more at the comments and found one by the regular reader who calls himself porky:

Like jb, the Tapestry singles instantly capture that era when I hear them . . . But give “Believe In Humanity” a spin, and it also captures that eerie early-to-mid ’70’s sense of doom that hovered over lots of records back then. Hearing them in the dark via a transistor radio only added to those vibes.

With the track now at hand, I followed porky’s advice, and he’s absolutely right: Despite the hopeful couplet at the end of each verse and despite the coda, that sense of doom in the two verses prevails (and could easily be applied to this era’s arc as well). The track – which went to No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the summer of 1973 – is at the bottom of the post. Here are the lyrics:

If you read the papers you may see
History in the making
You’ll read what they say life is all about
They say it’s there for the taking
Yeah, but you should really check it out
If you want to know what’s shaking
But don’t tell me about the things you’ve heard
Maybe I’m wrong, but I want to believe in humanity

I know it’s often true – sad to say
We have been unkind to one another
Tell me how many times has the golden rule
Been applied by man to his brother
I believe if I really looked at what’s going on
I would lose faith I never could recover
So don’t tell me about the things you’ve heard
Maybe I’m wrong, but I want to believe in humanity

Maybe I’m living with my head in the sand
I just want to see people giving
I want to believe in my fellow man
Yes, I want to believe

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