Music Review: ‘The Essential Louise Goffin’

The Essential Louise Goffin

Offspring of famous artists face skeptical audiences whose first inclination is often to suspect that they’re simply cashing in on their household names. What such audiences fail to consider is that the children of stars inherit genes as well as monikers. That’s undoubtedly one reason why many of them—including Hank Williams Jr., Julian Lennon, and Jeff Buckley, to name a few—really do possess considerable talent.

Add to that list Louise Goffin, the eldest daughter of Carole King, one of the most successful pop artists of the 70s, and Gerry Goffin, who, with King, wrote many of the biggest hits of the 50s and 60s. Though Louise has not achieved her parents’ level of fame, she has been sporadically making noteworthy records for about 35 years now.

The latest addition to her discography, The Essential Louise Goffin, Vol. 1, is another such record, though it’s title seems misleading. Clocking in at only 39 minutes, it ignores most of the singer’s career; instead, it presents seven tracks from her last three independently released albums, plus a trio of new recordings. Among the latter group: her parents’ classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and two songs she co-wrote, the atmospheric “5th of July” and the moody “Devil’s Door,” a collaboration with a group called Cyanide Social Club that reminds me of the Animals. Maybe a subsequent Vol. 2 will dig deeper into her archives.

In the meantime, Essential offers ample evidence of Goffin’s compositional ability. But her strongest suits are probably her voice and interpretive skill. Not everything here takes full advantage of those talents—the reading of “A Natural Woman,” for example, doesn’t add anything significant to earlier versions—but at her best, Goffin conveys vulnerability, intimacy, and a winning pop/rock sensibility.

On standouts like the self-penned “Archives” and “Some of Them Will Fool You,” which she co-wrote, she establishes a sound that hovers somewhere between Rickie Lee Jones and 60s girl groups. Other highlights include two tracks from her parents: the unjustifiably obscure “If I’m Late,” a folky, harmonica-spiced track that would make a nice companion to Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind”; and “Take a Giant Step,” the Monkees hit, performed here with harmony vocals by Jakob Dylan, another offspring of a star. I also like Goffin’s reading of “It’s Not the Spotlight,” which Gerry Goffin penned with Barry Goldberg and which is probably most associated with Rod Stewart.

I’d love to hear Louise Goffin tackle material from Phil Spector acts like the Ronettes and the Crystals as well as more from her parents’ rich catalog but, meanwhile, I’m happy to have this collection.

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