Spotlight Album Review #3

Reviewed on this page:

Before Carole King made her landmark Tapestry album in 1971, she had already been a successful songwriter in the '60's. Her partner in that endeavor was her then-husband Gerry Goffin, from whom she was divorced by the time she found her own fame. King and Goffin were masters of what is known as Brill Building pop. They were among many professional songwriters who worked at the famous New York block of music publishing houses. They wrote hits for numerous artists, including the Shirelles ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow"), Little Eva ("The Loco-Motion"), and Aretha Franklin ("(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman"). Brill Building pop went out of fashion after the coming of the Beatles. After it became fashionable for musicians to write their own songs, King was able to join and stand out among the resulting multitude of singer-songwriters, but Goffin (who died in 2014 at the age of 75) achieved far less fame than his ex-wife. He had continued success as a lyricist, having co-written #1 hits for Diana Ross ("Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To?)") and Whitney Houston ("Saving All My Love For You"). But his own recording career consisted of only two albums that were released two decades apart. The first of those, the 1973 double album It Ain't Exactly Entertainment, is out of print, but is now available as an mp3 download.

Upon listening to It Ain't Exactly Entertainment, you'd probably never guess that it was recorded by a man who co-wrote more than fifty Top 40 hits. The album actually is fairly entertaining, though it ain't exactly commercial, and it certainly doesn't resemble Brill Building pop. It contains folk-rock similar to that of Bob Dylan, though Goffin's lyrics are more quirky. Goffin had an offbeat and somewhat boozy-sounding sense of humor, as evidenced by the first two tracks and "The Last Cha Cha on Jackson Highway". The songs "Maryland Again" and "It's Not The Spotlight" effectively convey a feeling of longing. Goffin and his backing musicians stretched out comfortably on the 12-minute jam "Set Job". The gospel-inspired "Sister Henry" is another standout track. The album is inevitably dated by its politics, which concern Watergate ("Cherokee Medicine", "Everything and Nothing") and Vietnam ("Rainy Day Flying", "Honorable Peace"). Anyone who is not well-versed in the politics of that time may be puzzled by the lyrics of "Chicago (You)", though political junkies should find that song to be an interesting snapshot of its era's discourse. In spite of its sometimes time-specific lyrics, It Ain't Exactly Entertainment is very nearly a lost classic. It is recommended most highly to aficionados of Dylan-esque folk-rock. (Note: this album was once available as a 2-CD set in Japan, with packaging designed to resemble a miniature 2-LP set. That set has also been discontinued. The album is currently available as an mp3 download).

Track Listing:

1. Down On The Street
2. Reverend Bottom's Tojo Saloon
3. Cherokee Medicine
4. Chicago (You)
5. Sail Away Ladies (P.D.)
6. Maryland Again
7. The Last Cha Cha on Jackson Highway
8. It's Not The Spotlight
9. It's Alright To Be Alive
10. Everything and Nothing
11. Set Job
12. What Am I Doin' Here
13. Sister Henry
14. Your Precious Ears
15. Honorable Peace
16. Rainy Day Flying
17. Zebulon Pike


Other spotlight album reviews:

#1: Sigur Ros - "Von" (1997)

#2: Various Artists - "Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea" (1981)

#4: The Graces - "Perfect View" (1989)

#5: Genesis - "Calling All Stations" (1997)

#6: hindu love gods (1990)

#7: Various Artists - "Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970" (1996)

#8: Distractions - "Nobody's Perfect" (1980)

#9: Deconstruction (1994)

#10: Juicy Groove - "First Taste" (1978)

#11: Emmylou Harris - "Gliding Bird" (1969)

#12: Various Artists - "Beyond The Wildwood: A Tribute To Syd Barrett" (1987)

#13: Candy - "Whatever Happened To Fun..." (1985)

#14: RTZ - "Return To Zero" (1991)

#15: Klark Kent - "Kollected Works" (1995)

#16: Various Artists - "Rainy Day" (1984)

#17: Alex Chilton - "1970" (1996)

#18: Feist - "Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down" (1999)

#19: Attila (1970)

#20: Slipknot - "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." (1996)

#21: Eyes Adrift (2002)

#22: Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)

#23: Elliott Murphy - "Aquashow" (1973)

#24: Evanescence - "Origin" (2000)