A new volume in Ace’s Songwriters series is always a cause for celebration, and all the more so when the writers concerned are Gerry Goffin and Carole King. As arguably the greatest of the so-called Brill Building teams, their catalogue is unmatched in its quality and hit-rate. No songwriters of the era articulated the emotions of adolescence and the pains of teen-dom with quite the same mix of innocence and sophistication of Goffin and King; they were, after all, still teenagers themselves when they were crafting much of this material, so were experiencing the same emotions as their audience. Even so, you might think that, this being Ace’s third collection of their compositions, the well of hits might have run dry. But then “Something Good” opens with the Drifters’ joyous ‘At The Club’ (the superior and rarely heard single version) and you know that once again Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce have served up another peerless compilation of classics, near misses and lost obscurities.
You’ll find hits aplenty on “Something Good”, including essential recordings from the Chiffons (‘One Fine Day’), the Byrds (‘Goin’ Back’) and the Cookies (‘Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby)’). But, as is their way, the compilers have again taken the path less travelled, usually plumping for a more obscure interpretation (or, more often, an earlier recording) of a catalogue favourite. Thus we get Bunny Sigler’s version of ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ over the Shirelles’, ‘The Loco-Motion’ interpreted by Dee Dee Sharp rather than Little Eva, and a version of ‘It Might As Well Rain Until September’ from Bobby Vee instead of Carole’s own take. Whether this is by design isn’t clear (or particularly relevant), but boy, it ain’t half refreshing.
Revelations also come thick and fast. Bobby Goldsboro’s warm, optimistic ballad ‘The Time For Us’ is new to me, and is the only known recording of this number. At the other end of the spectrum is the Eccentric’s’ (that’s not a typo!) ‘What You Got’, a snotty, clangourous freakbeat gem apparently modelled very closely on Carole’s original demo. She could turn her hand to anything, it seems. And it’s always a joy – though one tinged with melancholy – to hear Lesley Gore’s ‘The Old Crowd’, a vibrant yet achingly wistful rumination on lost youth, and for me as good as anything Gerry & Carole wrote.
The sleeve notes tell the story behind each recording, and the booklet is brimful with the kind of photos and details you come to expect from Ace. The CD’s strapline indicates that this third instalment of the Goffin & King songbook might just be the best one yet. Who am I to argue?
By Harvey Williams