Even during the height of her early-1970s singer-songwriter successes, when the radio was shag-carpeted with Carole King songs, I never could get past the idea that another singer would have done better by those lyrics.
I know. Blasphemy.
But that made the news that singer Amanda Brecker — the talented progeny of trumpeter Randy Brecker and pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias — was tackling King’s Tapestry-era music all the more intriguing.
The 12-song Blossom, due February 26, 2013, from Decca, also includes hits associated with James Taylor (including “Sweet Baby James,” “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” “Something in the Way He Moves,” the King-written “You’ve Got a Friend”) — and Brecker does a fine job there, in particular during a sultry take on “Lonely Tonight.” Still, for someone who has been trying to find a pathway into one of the 1970s’ most celebrated albums for what feels like forever now, I raced right to the King cuts.
I wasn’t disappointed. Whereas King always sounded brittle and papery to my ear, Brecker imbues songs like “It’s Too Late” with a warmer approachability, and — this is where Blossom soars — she can swing. Meanwhile, producer Jesse Harris (Madeleine Peyroux, Norah Jones) updates these polyester-era pieces with a smart new instrumentation — understated and spacious, but with enough distinctive flourishes to keep the project from becoming too featureless.
Elsewhere, “So Far Away” sounds less precious, darker, so much more devastating. Brecker even reclaims “Natural Woman” from its current shampoo-commercial purgatory, giving it a bluesy majesty. These are no small things, especially for someone who has gone decades without hearing more than the first couple of notes on any song from Tapestry — as many as it took me to reach for the radio knob.
Amanda Brecker has given these songs the performances they always deserved.