Carly Simon, “Songs from the Trees: A Musical Memoir Collection” (Elektra/Rhino, two discs).
This is the companion disc to Carly Simon’s memoir “Boys in the Trees” (book review coming to the News soon.) This proves conclusively that Joni Mitchell, she’s not. But that’s part of the point; it’s why so many young women over the years have identified no matter what. It helped, though, to see her live in Buffalo just after her first LP hit it big. Fans were so in love with her at Kleinhans Music Hall that after she finished singing a song, they rushed the stage bearing gifts – flowers, for instance. With more disdain than embarrassment, she said she stopped the proceedings while fans could bring up their “items” (the word came out dripping with bile and hauteur). What you always have to remember is that she’s an American entitlement princess, the daughter of a rich and powerful American book publisher. How much of her famous “stage fright” is really upper-class alienation from the audience is an interesting question. While Mitchell was a struggling folkie bohemian who once had to give up a baby daughter for adoption, Simon was a leggy American princess courted by Warren Beatty so she could, years later, tell him how “vain” he is. Unlike Joni, Carly is no melodist. She was, perhaps, best right out of the box with “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be.” At the same time, there are lyrics that sound like Oprah episodes (“We want you to love the world/To know it well and play a part/And we’ll help you to learn to love yourself/Cause that’s where loving really starts.”) Obviously, some of these lyrics preceded melodies. And when the melodies arrived they were decidedly secondary (unlike “You’re So Vain” and “Anticipation” both of which had juicy pop hooks). But it’s probably true that without her intimate musical selfies, Alanis Morisette and Taylor Swift might not have happened. Whether that makes her songs confessional pop or Instagram Pop is up to you. You have to love a career collection though that follows up the sexy “Come Upstairs” with “The Right Thing to Do.” So in one song she sings “I’ll give you some wood/I’ll give you some fire/I’ll give you myself/And I’ll show you my desire.” In the next she sings “it used to be for a while/that the river flowed right to my door/making me just a little too free/But now the river doesn’t seem to stop here anymore.” Two and a half stars.
– Jeff Simon