Back in 2007 James Taylor and Carole King returned to the Troubadour for three nights to celebrate the famed venue’s 50th anniversary. This 500 seat West Hollywood club continues to play a central role in the discovery of new artists and especially played an important role in both of these artists’ early solo careers. Returning for the first time together in almost 40 years, King and Taylor celebrated their enduring friendship as they accompanied each other on their classics including, “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Fire and Rain,” “Blossom” and “I Feel the Earth Move.”
When James Taylor arrived in Los Angeles as a 21 year old rising singer-songwriter in 1969 he met songwriter Carole King, a recent New York transplant. Six years his senior, King had already penned a decade-long string of chart-topping hits, including “The Loco-Motion,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” among many others.
Their friendship deepened when he invited King to play in his band at the Troubadour during a six-night residency he had booked at the venue. Although King preferred her common role behind the scenes, Taylor urged her to perform her own material between his sets, leading her into the spotlight as she subsequently released her solo debut a year later. Meanwhile, Taylor found his commercial breakthrough with “Sweet Baby James,” and they co-headlined the Troubadour in 1970.
For this recording the duo reunited at the Troubadour 37 years later joined by the same musicians who supported them during their original feature show back in 1970. Across the 15 tracks on this live album, guitarist Danny Kortchmar, bassist Leland Sklar, and drummer Russ Kunkel back King and Taylor as they play a selection from their vast canon of collective hits. Originally released in 2010, the widely acclaimed, gold-certified title debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and spawned a record-breaking Troubadour Reunion Tour, which found King and Taylor selling out arenas in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Craft Recordings, a label that focuses on high quality master recordings, has just reissued Carole King and James Taylor’s bestselling album “Live at the Troubadour” as a 180-gram 2-LP vinyl debut. Of greatest interest to high resolution audio collectors, the historic recording has been reissued for the first time as a 96kHz / 24-bit stereo hi-res download which had been previously sold as a CD/DVD bundle. As a fundraiser to help support the Los Angeles based Troubadour’s reopening after the devastating effects of the pandemic, an exclusive numbered commemorative poster signed by poster artist DKNG, as well as a very limited number of posters also signed by Carole King and James Taylor are available only at the Craft Recordings webstore.
The album opens with a duet that gently disperses across the stereo field as Taylor’s voice melodically sings “Blossom.” The blend between his acoustic guitar and King’s piano comfortably falls snuggly underneath his rich and clear vocals. While there is a strong central focus, the ambience lightly flows across and behind the stereo channels. With a very natural sound, the mix contains a smidge of treatment from the effects rack allowing the acoustic instruments to purely shine.
One can absolutely hear the room, feeling a sense of being present at the club during their performance as King sings and plays “So Far Away.” Dynamics are good, offering a real sense of sitting in the room with the audience spread widely across the left and right channels.
For some high resolution audio fans, the real magic will happen as the band kicks in on Taylor’s impassioned song “Machine Gun Kelly.” The solid and full bass fills out the bottom, adding punch to the tracks as it locks in with the strong drum work. The imaging of the stereo field becomes wider with the symbols and tom toms spreading out, along with adjustments to placement of instruments across the stereoscape. Some light effects are added to the crunchy electric guitar which dynamically punches through with fantastic zestyness.
Still the integration of the audience with the performance takes listeners right into the club on King’s “It’s Too Late.” As the band elevates and cools off the complement of the audience is delightful. This kind of interactive characteristic is often omitted from live recordings. Yet, having captured and included it is a most welcome addition that provides such a natural feel to this wonderful recording. As one would expect, the high resolution download files truly sound fantastic with no noticeable distortion and plenty of breathing room. A stand-out on this track for me is the biting guitar solo with its ever present sound, followed by the soft and free-flowing piano solo.
For those who intimately know both Taylor and King’s work, these renditions offer a sweet take on their classic hits with some minor stylistic adjustments. Yet, from my perspective, it is the interplay between these two longtime friends that makes this collaboration so special for fans. The set has been masterfully recorded and presented with a pure audio quality that comes through with distinct clarity. While I have reviewed the high resolution audio files here, which are available at various download sites, analog enthusiasts are sure to enjoy ample audiophile quality on the vinyl release too.
Of course, for many long-time fans, the dazzling magic of this album is very likely “You’ve Got A Friend.” This King penned song is one of their most well-known and found on each of their respective solo albums from back in the day. They trade vocals throughout the tune as they move through the verses and harmonize on the choruses. Simply put, it is a very heartfelt piece that encapsulates the sentiment of this entire recording.
The album closest with one of my favorite songs by Taylor, titled “You Can Close Your Eyes.” The duo harmonizes over Taylor’s acoustic guitar finger picking, in a perfect modern folk way gently closing out a fabulous set of music.
Absolutely recommended for fans of either James Taylor or Carole King. Audiophiles will find this live recording to offer a real sense of being at the show, and depending on one’s preference, pick up either the hi-res digital download or limited edition 180g vinyl 2-LP set. Collectors of modern folk and fans of live performances will also find this a most worthy addition to their collection.
Reissued October 22, 2021
2.0 96kHz / 24-bit lossless download or 180g audiophile 2-LP vinyl set. Also available for streaming.