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Hotcakes
Carly Simon

Elektra 1002
Released: January 1974
Chart Peak: #3
Weeks Charted: 35
Certified Gold: 1/22/74

Carly SimonHotcakes, Carly Simon's best album, contains more fun than profundity. Its relaxed quality seems more attuned to her nature than the occasionally ponderous production style of earlier albums. And while it may lack the No Secrets blockbuster, "You're So Vain," it is on the whole, a more stylish and enjoyable album.

Although Simon continues writing about her childhood, most of Hotcakes is devoted to songs of love, marriage and the pursuit of happiness. She's at her best when balancing an engaging innocence with sly sophistication, as on three fine cuts, "Forever My Love," "Think I'm Gonna Have a Baby" (the last enhanced by her wry sense of humor). Less effective when she becomes too self-conscious, a few cuts display the uncorrected flaws that marred earlier work: "Older Sister" is too coy; "Grown-up," too precious.

Carly Simon - Hotcakes
Original album advertising art.
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But while she is no great lyricist, she reveals a flair for hiding awkward verses behind a catchy chorus or pungent one-liner. In so doing, she gets plenty of help from the excellent musicianship of the sidemen and stars who accompany her, and the easy-listening pleasantness of so many of the melodies. As a result, "Misfit," a misguided piece of social criticism, is almost saved by a good arrangement, a fine vocal and an unexpectedly warm chorus.

Musically, Carly Simon continues to mature. Her singing (often double-tracked, sometimes rising to an effective falsetto, occasionally enhanced by inspired harmony and backup) is the real center of the album, holding all other elements in perspective. Together with Richard Perry's comparatively restrained production, the result is an ingratiating stylishness.

Two special tracks mark Hotcakes as a step forward. "Mockingbird" (of all things) may be the album's most convincing love song and, with James Taylor helping out, rocks joyously through one chorus after another. "Haven't Got Time for the Pain," co-written with Jacob Brackman, is her best song to date, and may prove to be the album's sleeper, something of a tough "Killing Me Softly." I only wish the rhythm section came through with greater depth -- her voice and the song could have easily coped with that. Paul Buckmaster's arrangement is as enchanting and effective here as his others are throughout the LP. He now appears to be the very best arranger in the business.

Hotcakes isn't that deep, but it's honest. Carly Simon never apologizes for writing about herself or the well-to-do background that has been so gratuitously criticized. Instead, she has made an album that brings out her strengths and hides her weaknesses. As she sings on "Mockingbird," she's learned how to "...ride with the tide and go with the flow." The best thing about Hotcakes is that she makes us do the same.

- Jon Landau, Rolling Stone, 2/28/74.

Bonus Reviews!

Carly Simon's voice is not my idea of lovely, but she is smooth, and she is stylish in a studied, middle-class sort of way. A fine album this is, too, flowed only in the quality of a couple of songs that seem to have sprung not from the need to get something said in words and music but from the need to fill up an album. "Just Not True," written solo, and "Forever My Love," written with husband James Taylor, are examples of such fluff. But then "Misfit," "Grownup," "Think I'm Gonna Have a Baby" (which she did), and, especially, "Older Sister" are all marvelous, and that's a hell of a lot of marvelous songs for one little phonograph record. Carly and James also do a nifty job of singing "Mockingbird," James sounding almost (you're not going to believe this) happy and getting almost frontal toward the end, which would be a first, you know. The arrangements are good, too, particularly if you crank up the bass at the part where Klaus Voorman starts acting out this athletic fantasy he has. The backing is a bit stiff occasionally -- but you should wonder, as I do, if I'd even bother to notice that if I didn't know Richard Perry was the producer for the second Carly Simon album in a row. Carly's outlook is as middle-class as her vocal style is, but intelligently not apologetically so, and that means vast numbers of people can congratulate themselves for having good taste as they sit down and identify with her. That's what I did.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 5/74.

Hotcakes holds up well and represents an intelligent approach to commercial record making. Her past albums were serious-sounding with playful overtones; Hotcakes is playful-sounding with some serious overtones -- a balance that best suits her for the time being. But lest she is mistakenly stereotyped as a mere light artist, "Think I'm Gonna Have a Baby," "Forever My Love" and especially "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" are substantial songs and performances, superior to almost everything else she has so far recorded. A provocative record, Hotcakes leaves me wondering where she will go next.

- Jon Landau, Rolling Stone, 6/6/74.

"You're So Vain" left a nice afterglow -- as Ellen Willis says, it proves that rock and roll is so democratic that even a rich person can make a great single. But except for "Mockingbird" (buy the forty-five if you must) the album's most interesting moment occurs when Simon whistles. Need I add that her whistling is flat musically and epistemologically? C

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

A glowing, pregnant Carly Simon smiles out from the cover of Hotcakes, one of her biggest selling albums, which featured the gold single "Mockingbird," a duet with her husband James Taylor that effectively remade the old Inez and Charlie Foxx hit and bested it on the charts. The album also included another hit, "Haven't Got Time For The Pain," as well as "Misfit," in which a wife implores her carousing husband to come home, and "Think I'm Gonna Have A Baby," which celebrated the joys of same. With such tracks, Hotcakes was an autobiographical concept album that defined domestic bliss at a time when Simon's listeners also were catching their breaths and turning inward. * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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