Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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Tapestry – Carole King (Full Album)

When it comes to women who have trail-blazed in the music industry, it’s often the critical darlings that take the limelight. People like Patti Smith, Aretha Franklin, Debbie Harry and Bjork are regularly cited – quite rightly – as paving the way for many that followed. But the first solo female artist to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Song of the Year, the first woman to be awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the creator of – until the late 90s – the best-selling female solo artist album of all time (and still in the top 50, with 25 million sales) – the recipient of all of these operated as an initially backroom creator of 60s pop songs, and found fame with the down-home warmth of melodic, piano-based soft rock. Carole King was never gunning for critical credibility.

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Starting out as a songwriter at the legendary Brill building in the late-1950s, Carole King was the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century in the US, having written or co-written 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and wrote 61 UK chart hits, making her the most successful female songwriter on the UK singles charts in the 20th century. Writing with then-husband Gerry Goffin, the Goffin-King partnership was responsible for a slew of classic songs that are considered standards to this day – The Loco-motion, It Might As Well Rain Until September, Up On The Roof, I’m Into Something Good, Pleasant Valley Sunday, (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman, Goin’ Back, amongst many others.

But in 1968 King and Goffin divorced, and she headed to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles, at the time an artistic hub that was home to musicians such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, The Byrds, James Taylor and many others. King decided to re-invigorate what had been a stalled recording career, releasing her first solo album, Writer, in 1970. But it was Writer’s follow-up that was to be the making of the her.

On Tapestry King wrote or co-wrote all of the songs, including a number that were resurrected and reinterpreted from her earlier songwriter career. Recorded simultaneously with James Taylor’s Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon album, and using the same bunch of musicians, Tapestry inadvertently set a template – alongside Joni Mitchell’s Blue – for the confessional female singer-songwriter album. With it’s pastoral and homely vibe echoed in the iconic album cover and packaging, this was an album that eschewed the heaviness of the late ’60s rock generation, and instead took an deliberately more open, organic, and softer approach. But when allied to genuinely great songs (Tapestry is a fine example of an all-killer/no-filler album, where every song is a classic in its own right), it couldn’t fail. It’s not all domestic bliss – some of these songs have real pain at their heart – but there is a reassurance and comfort that comes from these songs that sucks you in and wraps you up. They are old friends that you always feel comfortable in the presence of. They are those ever-present reminders of an old home, memories filling every crevice. This is an album to treasure, forever.

So one of the challenges with this songbook is that King writes, and performs, with piano. Consequently there are more chords and changes than you might necessarily want. And sometimes the timing can get a little tricky, particularly as the singing gets somewhat loose over the backing. But if you know the record, many of these songs will be embedded in your brain, and that will carry you through. Throughout I’ve tried to strike a balance between something that is playable, and something that retains the nuances of the original.

<Full Album Songbook>


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A Gallimaufry of Songs

I’ve been pulling together my annual update to the UkeTunes songbook. And in the process I’ve come across a number of songsheets that I’d put together over the last twelve months for various reasons, and which haven’t made it on to this site. So I thought I’d collect them all together into a single post, in an attempt to clear the decks. Here they are – click on the song titles for the song sheets:

 

  • Andante Andante – Abba
    Another movie-inspired song, this slightly obscure Abba album track (from 1980’s Super Trouper) found its way into the Mamma Mia sequel, and as a result has had a new lease of life breathed into it.

 

 

  • I Wish – Stevie Wonder
    Another great song from a classic album, this time Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life. Funky.

 

 

 

 

 

  • The Lucky One – Alison Krauss
    A beautiful, sublime ballad from the rather lovely Alison Krauss. This was one of the first tracks that got me into country music.

 

 


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It’s Too Late / You’ve Got A Friend – Carole King

tapestryRecords don’t come much more iconic that Carole King’s 1971 sophomore solo album, Tapestry.

<It’s Too Late>  <You’ve Got A Friend>

It’s a recording for which the records and superlatives are almost never ending. The winner of 4 Grammy awards in 1972 (including, album, record and song of the year), seller of 25 million copies, second only to Dark Side Of The Moon for number of weeks on the Billboard album chart (313 weeks), ranked the 36th best album ever by Rolling Stone in 2003, all of these statistics and critical acclaim are surprising when you consider that Tapestry is really such a humble and relatively unassuming record.

During the 1960s King had established herself – alongside then-husband Gerry Goffin – as one of the leading songwriters in the Brill building in New York, penning hits for others such as The Loco-motion, It Might As Well Rain Until September, and Up On The Roof. But it wasn’t until the late 1960s, following a divorce from Goffin and a move to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles, that King focused more on recording her own songs, in the process becoming the archetypal singer-songwriter.

Tapestry is chock full of bone fide classics. Even if you’ve never heard it before it will be immediately familiar, the songs having become part of the DNA of popular music. It’s Too Late was the lead single (coupled with I Feel The Earth Move) and was number one on the US singles charts for 5 weeks, and won that Grammy for best record. You’ve Got A Friend won the best song Grammy, and was a US number one for 4 weeks when covered by James Taylor.

I thought there would be plenty of songsheets for these songs, but none of them worked for me. So here’s my versions. There’s nothing particularly to say about these, other than they have quite a lot of chords (You’ve Got A Friend in particular). But those chords are the things that add the colour, so stick with them (You’ve Got A Friend has a few “optional” chords – in subscript – that can be easily omitted if you want). A bit of feel in the strumming is in order as well, adopting the standard ukulele strumming patterns kind-of kills these songs, so listen well to the originals to get that feel. You’ve Got A Friend (G) is a semi-tone down from the original (Ab) so you’ll need a capo on fret one if you want to play along (but it does make it a whole lot easier to play). It’s Too Late is in the same key as the original.

Enjoy!

<It’s Too Late>  <You’ve Got A Friend>