About a year ago, I acquired a little more than two crates worth of old vinyl LPs (about 200, give or take, records). I’ve listened to some of them, the ones I already knew and liked, but the majority of the records have stayed put in the box they came in. I figured I’d start making my way through the collection of vinyl. I don’t intend to research any records that I’m not familiar with, so hopefully I’ll arrive at as objective a review/summary of each records as possible. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never tried my hand at music criticism/record reviews. Off we go.
First up, Carly Simon’s 1972 record No Secrets.
this is not Joni Mitchell
Prior to listening to this record, all I knew of Carly Simon was “You’re So Vain,” which is on this record, and everyone knows it, and “Anticipation,” not on this record, which I knew because J Mascis covered it on his rarely cited acoustic record Martin & Me (which is a great record that I let someone borrow and never got back. Shit–different story).
No Secrets is a record that sounds indecisive as to whether it’s soft-rockin and a little pissed (“You’re So Vain” and “(We Have) No Secrets”), loose with melodies that are winding but not totally inaccessible (“The Carter Family” and “His Friends Are More Than Fond Of Robin”), or country-tinged and subversively feminist (“Waited So Long” and “It Was So Easy”). To me, soft-rockin and pissed works best for the record.
“You’re So Vain,” “(We Have) No Secrets,” and arguably “The Right Thing To Do” are the strong points that show Simon’s ability to put together a well-written, catchy, and specific but relatable pop song. Each of these songs has a little bit of earned meaness, mixed with the implication that whatever got fucked up can be worked out, that makes good hit pop songs. Since there’s probably little original to say about it, I’ll forego the discussion of “You’re So Vain,” but “(We Have) No Secrets” exemplifies this description just as well except that the relationship in question isn’t over, which makes the song that much more realistic and relatable–and isn’t that what good pop songs are good at? These three strongest songs are all, it should be noted, credited solely to Simon. Three of the ten songs are co-written by Simon.
So the record has its faults, notably “The Carter Family,” “His Friends Are More Than Fond Of Robin,” and “Night Owl.” “Night Owl” was written by James Taylor, who I’m no fan of at all, and has Simon proclaim to be a night-life person who can’t be bothered to wake up during the daytime. Whether she, or Taylor, were big enough night owls intent on raising hell and then singing about it in vague animal metaphors to warrant the song’s existence, I don’t know. But I do know I don’t have to buy it. Neither do you. The song is pretty shitty.
Aside from the other winding, melodically constipated poor man’s Joni Mitchell songs, I enjoyed the record. It’s harmless, mostly innocent, early 70’s easy listening that reminds you of riding in your mom’s, or dad’s, car on the way to dinner at a shitty family restaurant. There’s something to be said for vaguely recognizable nostalgia.
Will I listen to it again? You’re So Vain, No Secrets–yes. The rest, only by accident.
Next up: Emerson, Lake, & Palmer-Self-Titled
Then: Michael McDonald-If That’s What It Takes