Sunday, February 12, 2023

Kat's Korner: Carly Simon LIVE AT GRAND CENTRAL

KatCarly Simon's LIVE AT GRAND CENTRAL is out and my copy arrived.  I had said (see "Kat's Korner: Carly Simon and Diana Ross send their regrets but Sam Smith showed up") that I might not review it.  I noted my well documented laziness/procrastination and that I might use AMAZON's inability to fulfill the order in a timely fashion as the reason for taking a pass.  And then I forgot it.  And then C.I. posted Carly's performance of "Coming Around Again" from this album and I thought, "Come on, you love Carly.  She's one of your all time favorites."  So I'm going to review it.

Is it worth buying?


And for the cover alone.



That's what I thought when I took it out of the packaging, before I even removed the vinyl.  

Carly's 70s album covers were rather notorious.  "Nipples."  I believe that was what John Lennon dubbed the cover for NO SECRETS.   1972 was when that album was released.  Bras weren't a requirement.  It's a nice photo, a tasteful one and it's a look that few could pull off (Janet Jackson pulls it off in the "Son Of A Gun" video).  ANTICIPATION had been considered sexy and it came out before NO SECRETS.  HOTCAKES was a nice cover photo but nothing notorious -- and she was pregnant with Sally at the time. Then came PLAYING POSSOM -- the third of the trilogy of albums she made with Richard Perry in the 70s.  The cover for PLAYING POSSOM was Madonna-like in the reaction some had.  Sears was a big retailer for music at this time and they refused to stock the album due to the cover.  It's an iconic photo that really drew attention to the work of the photographer Noram Seef.  Then came the tight close up on ANOTHER PASSENGER -- Carly was pregnant again (this time with Ben).  Then came BOYS IN THE TREES and the cover photo was sexy -- so were the photos inside and if you had the vinyl album or the sheet music/folio for the album, you know that included a topless photo of Carly.  Then same SPY and it was another close up cover (no pregnancy this time) and closed out the 70s.  

The 80s had TORCH with her and Al Corley (they met at the photo shoot and then began dating) which was a sexy cover as was SPOILED GIRL (her best 80s cover, I think -- I love the shadows and lights.  It was the only one from the 80s other than 1989's HAVE YOU SEEN ME LATELY.   Otherwise, it was close ups for the entire decade: COME UPSTAIRS, HELLO BIG MAN, COMING AROUND AGAIN, MY ROMANCE and GREATEST HITS LIVE.  Those albums with close ups?  Didn't really care for the covers.  And, in fact, thought the back cover photographs to COMING AROUND AGAIN, MY ROMANCE and GREATEST HITS LIVE would have made better covers.  ARISTA must have agreed with me somewhat because the back cover of COMING AROUND AGAIN became a poster that they gave out to the first few buying that album on vinyl, compact disc or cassette.  The cover's not a bad photo of Carly but check out the back cover sometime and you'll see why I'm making that argument.

Always wondered who was making the decision?  I always feared it was Carly and that she was trying to avoid some sort of backlash.

She was a confident and sensual woman and I liked that her 70s covers were not afraid to reflect that.  But if she'd decided to step away from that, I did understand it because the criticism she got in real time for PLAYING POSSOM was like nothing I'd ever seen.  There were women in chains on album covers that got less criticism -- and I'm talking about male bands using female models in chains for album covers -- or with bruises on their faces.  Cher, on her TAKE ME HOME album cover, got some pushback but even that wasn't like the way they came after Carly.  It made no sense.

The cover here is a close up.  It's a nice close up and they've chosen well from various frames available for the cover.  I still, honestly, would have preferred a body shot of Carly singing.  But it's a good frame and they use the background of Grand Central (Station) well.  

If you don't know, this is Carly's second live album.

In 1987, she did a concert for HBO entitled CARLY SIMON -- COMING AROUND AGAIN after COMING AROUND AGAIN produced four radio hits and became a platinum album.  Along with great tracks from that album -- "Do The Walls Come Down" is one of my favorites of songs never released as a single and I've always loved "Two Hot Girls (On A Hot Summer Night)" -- Carly also performed some of her older hits -- of course "You're So Vain," but also "Nobody Does It Better," "Anticipation," "The Right Thing To Do" and "You Belong To Me."  A year later, the special became a music album and also a big hit.  It would become another platinum album for Carly.  

To promote MY ROMANCE, Carly did another HBO special, 1990's CARLY IN CONCERT -- MY ROMANCE.  Along with torch songs (some of the same songs from MY ROMANCE the music album but some additional torch songs not on that album), Carly performed her own "We Have No Secrets."  

Okay, let me quibble.

Carly, please do one more live album.  Just an acoustic one you record in your home studio or maybe outside your home for ambient sounds to accompany the music.  And please do "We Have No Secrets."  Here is is from LIVE AT GRAND CENTRAL.

I love that song.  And I love the words she wrote.  But, I really think that live she should change one word.  "Swore."  To the line, "And later when you told me, you **swore** she was a bore."  I just love the way that sings.  I get it, the man in question is playing down this other woman.  Here's the verse:

The water was cold
The beach was empty but for one
Now you were lying in the sun
Wanting and needing no-one
Then some child came, you never asked for her to come
She drank a pint of your Rum
And later when you told me
You said she was a bore
Sometimes I wish
Often I wish
That I never knew some of those secrets of yours

He's playing down the woman.  But I just love how "Swore" sings -- especially with "You swore she was a bore" giving it that inner rhyme.

Carly did a lot of music specials on TV after signing with ARISTA.  She also did one of the earliest music videos. 1979's "Vengeance" would become the second video by a woman that MTV played on its first day on the air (August 1, 1982).  But Carly liked the specials because she can get nervous on stage.  She hemorrhaged on stage during 1980's COME UPSTAIRS tour.  Music specials were a way to get the music before the audience. So, for AMC, she made 1997's SONGS IN SHADOW: THE MAKING OF CARLY SIMON'S FILM NOIR and, in 2005, there was A MOONLIGHT SERENADE ON THE QUEEN MARY 2 which aired on PBS.  On the latter, she worked in some of her hits in addition to traditional torch songs like "Where Or When."  But LIVE AT GRAND CENTRAL is all Carly.

Coming nearly a decade after the release of GREATEST HITS LIVE, the album offers repetition in only two song choices: "Coming Around Again" and "Anticipation."  From the new album (LETTERS NEVER SENT) that she was promoting, there was "Touched By The Sun" (written about her friend Jaqueline Onassis), "Letters Never Sent," "Like A River," "Davy" and (my favorite song on LNS) "Halfway 'Round The World."  Along with those songs, she also dips into her own hits to perform "I've Got To Have You" (the Kris Kristofferson hit is among her biggest hits ever in Australia), "Haven't Got Time For The Pain," "Jesse," "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" and the song that she won the Academy Award for . . . and the Grammy for . . . and the Golden Globe for, "Let The River Run." So five hits not recorded live before and two hits that were recorded live for GREATEST HITS LIVE.  She also offered two deep album tracks -- as already noted, 1972's "We Have No Secrets," and also 1978's "De Bat (Fly In Me Face)." 

The sound quality?

This vinyl release is amazing -- warm but crisp.  The singing?  To hear Carly live singing "Jesse" is something of a miracle.  That's one of her all time great songs.  From beginning to end.  And she invests it with so much.  I get chills when she sings that opening line, "Oh, mother say a prayer for me, Jesse's back in town it won't be easy."  Of all her upbeat songs, this has long been a favorite for me and one I've played on piano for years.  I love this song.  And if I'm blown away by the live performance, I think you will be too.


And that pretty much sums up the whole album though "Jesse" is the high point for me.