Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Carole King: Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King [Capitol, 1980]
Forget Jerry Garcia, Robin Williamson; hell, forget Laura Nyro and Melanie. Pop's ultimate hippie isn't some sagaciously addled bohemian-for-life. It's this Brill Building alumna--she can afford it. A fireman's daughter who married her lyricist before she was one-and-twenty and divorced him before she was too old to trust herself anymore, she proved she wasn't born to follow by producing an enduring monument to you-do-your-thing-and-I'll-do-mine and then sank into the quicksand of live-and-let-live. I had hopes she'd pull out by returning to her ex-husband's lyrics, which combined commercial pith with a foretaste of the benevolent-to-cosmic truisms to come. Unfortunately hippie simplicity demands a bad faith foreign to the Shirelles, who always knew they were in show biz. While her versions of Goffin-King's late hits for the Byrds and Blood, Sweat & Tears come naturally enough, she can't do "Chains" or "The Loco-Motion" straight. At her best, she condescends kindly like the Bowie of Pin Ups. At her worst, she half-swings 'em, like a folkie gone jazzie, or Bobby Rydell at an oldies show. B-