CARLY SIMON – ” Carly Simon ” Released February 9th 1971

Posted: February 10, 2021 in MUSIC
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What it was not was a vocational interest—at first. Carly Simon embarked on the path of higher education via Sarah Lawrence College initially; when she wasn’t attending classes, Simon wrote songs for her own enjoyment. At the behest of her second eldest sibling Lucy, Carly was soon conscripted into The Simon Sisters—the winsome folk duo cut three albums between 1964 and 1969 across the Kapp and Columbia labels. Limited chart success drove the pair to amicably part and return to their pre-Simon Sisters lives. 

Flitting through a series of side jobs among them a counselling position at the Indian Hill Camp in Western Massachusetts, circa 1969—Simon kept writing material. In the spring of 1970, journalist Jacob Brackman a close friend and future creative compeer to Simon, organized a dinner party at which the enterprising musician crossed paths with manager Jerry Brandt. Taken with Simon, he offered to represent her as a client. Shortly thereafter, her demo made its way to Jac Holzman, proprietor of Elektra Records

Like Brandt, Holzman sensed that Simon had the potential to make a mark, but he and his freshman artist each held very different views on how to actualize this opportunity. Holzman felt Simon was better suited singing other people’s songs; Simon saw herself as an “in-house talent”—or plainly put, a stock lyricist. For Simon, the anonymity of being a songwriter for Elektra would afford her artistic autonomy without having to conventionally venture back into the public eye. This impasse didn’t endure for long.

Considering all the pros and cons of her situation, Simon bravely stepped into her role as the leading lady behind Carly Simon. Labour on the long player commenced in the late fall of 1970 with its reveal earmarked for February of 1971. Eddie Kramer, a proven producer whose work with Jimi Hendrix had thrilled audiences, was put forward to steer Carly Simon at Holzman’s suggestion Simon agreed.  Jimi Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer may seem an odd choice to helm a singer-songwriter collection, but the combination works, with folk-rock and string arrangements framing Carly’s voice beautifully. The material is also remarkably assured, offering nuanced looks at the ebb and flow of relationships

Because Simon was not only a songwriter, but an arranger too, her working relationship with Kramer was occasionally fraught with tension the two weren’t always in agreement over the compositional direction for “Carly Simon”. A balance was dutifully sussed out though and Kramer did his best to cast a sound for the album so it could communicate Simon’s ethos effectively. 

Opening with the evocative chamber pop of “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be” and closing on the amber-hued folk of “The Love’s Still Growing,” these two selections and the eight in between are presented unassumingly by Simon. And yet, a dichotomous air of purpose lingers over Carly Simon the intent of its titular heroine to demonstrate her eclectic stylism cannot be disguised. Kramer pulled out all the stops with an expert crop of session instrumentalists under his direction bringing fullness and colour to each track, but Simon also made sure she wasn’t obstructed as a singer. Her vocal instrument which spins from dusky to silvery tones plays well against the demure psychedelia of “Another Door,” the genteel country of “Rolling Down the Hills” and the bluesy rock of “Just a Sinner.” 

That latter cut was one of three entries on Simon’s self-titled debut not to bear her writing-composing stamp, along with “The Love’s Still Growing” and “Dan, My Fling,” which were penned by Mark “Moogy” Klingman, William “Buzzy” Linhart, Fred Gardner and Jacob Brackman, respectively. 

Brackman’s script for “Dan, My Fling” was loosely based on Danny Armstrong, a former flame of Simon’s. That she intimated this real-life tale to Brackman and trusted him to translate it to song form with Gardner spoke to the strength of their shared personal-collaborative bond. Simon and Brackman partnered again on “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be,” the lead-off single from Carly Simon. 

Prior to signing with Elektra, one of the post-Simon Sisters gigs the singer-songwriter held down was with the National Broadcasting Company or as it was commonly known, NBC. Simon was scoring “Who Killed Lake Erie?,” a documentary special regarding lake pollution that aired in 1969. Said special is where the musical seeds were sewn and later repurposed for “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be.” With the haunting, orchestral accompaniment in hand that was to give Simon her first formal chart smash, she reached out to Brackman for assistance. 

A bold inquiry into the viability of the institution of marriage, the song story drafted for “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be” came out of the many discussions Simon and Brackman had about the inevitable matrimonial transition relationships took. Although she did not write “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be,” Brackman’s narrative guidance ensured that it stayed in Simon’s voice. It was the perfect anthem for a generation coming of age during the ever-evolving Women’s Liberation Movement.

Barring “Reunions,” an ethereal anecdote on friendship written in a three-way split by Simon, her close friend Billy Mernit and Kramer, the remaining words and arrangements for “Alone,” “One More Time,” “The Best Thing,” “Another Door” and “Rolling Down the Hills” sprung solely from her imagination. A vivid sense of curiosity, emotion and power permeates these pieces where Simon continues to explore all the finer points of love and the general human condition. Simon’s entries—and those that she did not create herself hang together superbly and promised that Carly Simon would be a cohesive listening experience.

Simon made quite a splash in the inaugural quarter of February 1971 with both Carly Simon and “That’s the Way I Always Should Be.” The album and single wowed pundits who correctly denoted Simon as an instant sensation to rival the likes of Joni Mitchell and Carole King her two eventual peers whose first LPs had already made landfall in 1968 and 1970. Some reviewers, unmoved by Simon’s charms, snarked that her project was too coifed and poised, a supposed by product of her “well-to-do” background. That small bit of negative critical chatter did not keep Carly Simon from selling solidly. When Simon netted two GRAMMY Award nominations in 1972 for Best Pop Female Vocalist and Best New Artist, it served to further cement her standing as a rising star; she won in the latter category. 

What followed that maiden affair was a wealth of commercial, critical and creative triumphs. But it all began with “Carly Simon”, a sensual and intellectually charged collection that announced Simon not only as a woman of the moment, but a figure set to endure for decades to come.

Happy 50th Anniversary to Carly Simon’s eponymous debut album “Carly Simon”, originally released February 9, 1971.

Thanks to https://www.albumism.com/

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