This feeling of tenderness”
With beautifully fortuitous timing, the soundtrack to Beautiful: The Carole King Musical won the Grammy for Best Musical Theatre on Sunday night, just as the West End production of this Broadway hit opens for previews at the Aldwych Theatre. And it just so happens that I have a copy of said soundtrack on CD to give away as a competition prize to a lucky winner.
I’ve already written a little about my love for Carole King’s music in this preview piece and I promised to review this soundtrack soon after – it’s only taken me three months to get around to it. It is a slightly odd musical theatre record to listen to in that coming from a biopic, it plays like a cross between a Carole King Greatest Hits and a compilation of hits from the 60s. There’s no sense of narrative propelling the score and the tracklisting isn’t strictly chronological either – in some ways, it’s just a bunch of songs stuck together on one album.
But what songs! From girl-group classics co-written with then-husband Gerry Goffin like ‘One Fine Day’ and ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’, to hits from her friends and contemporaries Cynthia Weill and Barry Mann like ‘He’s Sure The Boy I Love’, ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ and the extraordinarily successful and mainly solo-written album Tapestry which casually features such classics as ‘You’ve Got A Friend’, ‘It’s Too Late’, ‘So Far Away’ and ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ – it’s an undeniably stellar collection.
And in Steve Sidwell’s often gorgeously brass-heavy orchestrations, with additional arrangements from Jason Howland (also the MD), the music soars beautifully both in a manner you’ll recognise and also in unexpected ways, the earthiness of the demo-style tracks are particularly strong, revealing the musical integrity that is sometimes hidden beneath the sheen of the production of the time. Jessie Mueller’s vocal as Carole King is a thing of characterful beauty and supported by Jake Epstein, Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector along with the rest of the company, there’s a lovely sense of understatement about the whole affair – no big Broadway belting but rather a real appreciation for the quality of the music.