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Official Review [Album]: "CLOSE TO YOU" (SP-4271)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Feb 4, 2013.

HOW WOULD YOU RATE THIS ALBUM?

  1. ***** (BEST)

    32 vote(s)
    58.2%
  2. ****

    17 vote(s)
    30.9%
  3. ***

    5 vote(s)
    9.1%
  4. **

    1 vote(s)
    1.8%
  5. *

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. There's not much need for second-guessing on the issue of Hal Blaine and "Close To You". Without Hal, the duo had done the OFFERING album and had a middling hit with "Ticket To Ride." Now, throw in the expertise of Herb Alpert, who handed them the song "Close To You", and the added boost from the legendary Hal Blaine, and all of a sudden, "Close To You" is a number one best seller.

    What would it have done with Karen on the drums? We'll never know. Bottom line is, at that point in time, they wanted - nay NEEDED - a hit record. Without one, they were headed for possible obscurity. So the boss offers you a song, you do it. The boss suggests a legendary drummer, you use him.

    Harry
     
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  2. song4u

    song4u Well-Known Member

    I love watching Caroline Corr play drums because she lays into them with every bit as much strength as any male drummer. I think Karen Carpenter would have loved watching her play too.

    Alas, in the early 70's, female drummers hadn't yet come into their own.
     
  3. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Agree with you there, Caroline plays drums like a guy, it's invigorating watching videos of her playing live!
     
  4. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    As always, excellent commentary from all!
    Questions:
    (1) Was Close To You intended as a single release to begin with?
    Is that why Herb Alpert insisted the duo record the song? Herb felt this song was a hit? Or, just,that it was the style for the duo to record?
    (2) The pianist for version#2 Richard was replaced, but, he insisted on returning to that role for the final version.
    What is that story,if any?
    (3) Hal Blaine, is fantastic, but, in the end, you can not realistically convince me that Karen Carpenter could not have drummed as
    well on that tune.
    (4) Offering, while not ending up a hit, as far as I can ascertain, had absolutely nothing to do with Karen Carpenter's drumming on the album.
    (5) As I have queried before, why was Karen strong enough to drum(and simultaneously sing) in Concert,
    but not strong enough as a studio/session drummer?

    Some Quotes:
    "Richard worked up an arrangement, but he wasn't sold on it."
    "Reluctantly he got down to it." (page 83, Coleman)
    "...Neither Richard nor Karen had been enamored of the song, at first."
    "It didn't stand up to me and say, I'ma hit." says, Richard ..."It was so soft, so slow." (page 85, emphasis in Coleman).
     
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  5. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    That's actually a really good question and I don't recall there ever being an interview where it was confirmed this would be a single release from the word go.
     
  6. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    The November 1973 Billboard Supplement has more regarding the song, however Google Books
    has 'blurred' the text, so about all I can read is this line:
    "Alpert did not want to sing the line 'sprinkled moon-dust in your hair'...and gave the lead sheet to the young Carpenters."
    "..That sheet sat on my electric piano for weeks...' , says Richard (Carpenter).
     
  7. Guitarmutt

    Guitarmutt Active Member

    OK, to be fair, they were not the Wrecking Crew for nothing. Hal Blaine and the rest played on a lot of records and ruffled a lot of feathers because they were good musicians who could play what was asked of them with aplomb.

    On a side note, it was really sweet to see Joe and Hal playing on Glen Campbell's (another member of the crew) last ever recording, I Won't Miss You, in the doc about Campbell's struggles with Alzheimer's.

    Life is full of unexpected twists and all we can do is try to keep driving through them to where we want to go, if we can.
     
  8. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Agreed, Hal Blaine and Wrecking Crew are fantastic.
    But, still, I remain puzzled.
    After all, was not Hal's last session of drumming done on the song Jambalaya--recorded 1972 ?
    So, though his tenure on Carpenters' Albums spans 1970-1972, and most (not, Please Mr. Postman) of the million-selling singles,
    if his was the 'Midas touch' of session drummers---who, then, would switch him out for another session drummer?
    Obviously, my questions have no answers, but, these decisions remain 'part of musical history'.
    Karen Carpenter sure put some drumming power into Please Mr. Postman.
     
    djn likes this.
  9. It should be noted that on their first few studio albums, Caroline Corr did not play the main drum track. She DID play the Celtic bodhran. I always heard it was the same deal as Karen Carpenter - record company execs that wanted really seasoned drummers on the studio tracks. But yes, Caroline can really bang 'em out. Watch her sometime on the Royal Albert Hall concert dueling on drums with none other than Mick Fleetwood.

    Harry
     
  10. Don Malcolm

    Don Malcolm Active Member

    Interesting questions, Gary, in a very intriguing thread...particularly because we do have the hindsight that "Close to You" was indeed the track that put R & K on the map. I'm going to try to answer/comment on your points and see what other thoughts are inspired as a result...

    (1) I think the answer is definitely "yes," and it's one of the most fascinating set of events in the C's career. Here is a track that somehow, some way Herb Alpert had a gut feeling about WRT Richard & Karen. I think we can hear some portents of the instrumental arrangement for "Close to You" in several of the tracks from Offering (specifically, "Don't Be Afraid" and "Clancy," where Richard shows some major flair for combining/contrasting horns with piano/electric piano).

    I think Herb "projected" the tune into what he'd heard previously, and--suspecting that it might have the right set of ingredients to jell for R & K--stayed with it as a "remote" producer/A&R guru, making them keep at it until they'd optimized the song. (We'd all love to hear the interim steps, which would augment/complete this most fascinating moment in their careers.)

    2) I think Richard was rightfully miffed about being pushed out of his role as a musician. Particularly at that point in time, the dude was a stellar pianist, with both "touch" and "speed" in addition to being rock solid rhythmically. I think he felt that he had to take charge at that point--after all, he was at least a "triple threat" (producer, arranger, instrumentalist--and we shouldn't be too hasty to sell his singing short, either...) and if they were to succeed he must have felt that he needed to be positioned to benefit from it in ways that would further his own ambitions.

    (3) I think you're right, but I also agree with Harry, Chris, etal: this was one of those subtle changes that happen in the music biz for both rational and non-rational reasons. Without hearing the interim tracks, we don't know whether Karen might not have been "off" in some way on this one--not easy to believe, but it's certainly not an impossible scenario, either.

    This action/decision is one of those moments in the C's career that we would ALL like to have been fly-on-the-wall for!

    (4) Absolutely true. I think the only problem with Offering is that there are so few up-tempo songs where Karen sings lead. That self-limited the album's commercial chances, because Richard just isn't distinctive enough of a lead singer to drive those up-tempo songs ("Wonderful Parade," "Turn Away," "What's the Use," "Clancy") in a way that would sufficiently engage a mass audience (IMO). These tracks really benefit from Karen's backup singing...but that fact just doesn't move them out of "deep cut" territory (and I say that unhappily, since I love 'em all and think they all deserve to be much more widely known).

    And Karen drums just wonderfully on all of those, btw.

    (5) This might be where the "boy's club" thing comes into play. Taking Karen off drums marginalizes her overall talent by emphasizing the portion of it that sells records. It would be a confusing set of signals to a "tomboy" who might have been better served psychologically if she'd been respected for all of her talents. She really should have been allowed to come to peaceful terms with her uniqueness, instead of having it slowly, subtly undermined (even in the midst of all that success).
     
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  11. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Don, thank you for the thoughtful responses to my questions ! Beautifully rendered, I might add.
    I enjoyed reading them very much, indeed !
    More questions spring to my mind--
    as they do on any Carpenters' album, if not, Carpenters' career.
    The contrast between the two albums--Offering and Close To You---gives one pause, doesn't it?
    I wonder when, and who, finally realized--between the production times of those two albums---
    that Karen Carpenter's vocals were a 'force to be reckoned with' ?
    I'm (re-) listening to the entire Close To You album, today.
    Did the listening public, back in 1970, know--or care--who was drumming on the song, Close To You ?


    Another quote (Richard Carpenter--May 26th,1971 Observer-Reporter):
    "...He sang it for us (sic. Close To You), and I saw dollar signs..."
    Source:
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?n...4spdAAAAIBAJ&sjid=fF4NAAAAIBAJ&pg=813,4183684
    Carpenters Hit With Soft, Fat, Harmony
     
  12. No. When the song first hit, it was just another record by some "group" called Carpenters. The overdubbed harmonies made it sound like a vocal group on the order of a New Christy Minstrels with some girl out front singing lead. The trumpet in the middle sounded just like something Herb Alpert would play. Then the vocals are double-tracked for awhile with the ever-present backing harmonies from the "guys and girls" in the group.

    I had recalled liking another song by this Carpenters "group" some months prior, a rendition of "Ticket To Ride" that had caught my ear. So I bought this new record. Flipped it over and heard some of the "guys" in the "group" take the lead with the "girls" doing backup on "I Kept On Loving You".

    It was weeks later when the DJ's on the radio began filling us in that Carpenters were a brother-sister duo doing all of the vocals, with him on piano and her on drums.

    Harry
     
  13. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    This album keeps me thinking, raises more questions in my mind:
    (1) Richard Carpenter loathes the Cover of the Album--as he now says--but, did he really express
    the same misgivings at that time? Until the "...image came to overshadow the music " (Paul Grein),
    I doubt that he ever gave the cover photo another thought (at that time).
    (Has Richard expressed the same loathing about the Offering Cover--is that really why those unsold copies were destroyed?)
    (2) As late as November 1973, I find a quote where Richard Carpenter explains that he is "still learning" about
    producing; thus, exactly what was Jack Daugherty's role in those early hits, and why was he dismissed ?
    The albums took consecutively longer to produce when Daugherty wasn't around, as well as charting lower, in general.
    Is this why Horizon was such an emotional on Richard Carpenter, did he bite off more than he could chew ?
    (Coleman does mention Jack Daugherty as liaison early on in the career and helped with accounting for Agnes, page 120).
    In 1970, it is unlikely that Richard Carpenter had much professional knowledge of 'record producing'.
    And, yet, the story goes that Jack's importance lay only in getting the Carpenters' demo to Herb Alpert.
    (3) Werner Wolfen (An A&M Lawyer) details his first meeting of the duo (Coleman, page 96-98) :
    "...introduced to them soon after the success of We've Only Just Begun, I didn't like them...they didn't seem to be
    interested in advice."
    Did success change the duo? Or,were they always 'cocky, impressed with themselves' ? (Wolfen, in Coleman).

    Ah, indeed, so many roads to choose!
     
  14. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Richard's own recollections below about these very album covers...enjoy!

    Richard Carpenter: 'They repackaged Offering. Offering had a dismal cover, but at least it was a period piece! There was a sunflower growing on the lot and the photographer picked it up, yanked it out, gave it to Karen. It was very 'sixties'. And of course, I saw a thing just the other day that said I think 'now let's scowl for the camera!'. It was talking about how all these new groups go out of their way, and so did some of the rock groups back in the sixties and early seventies, to scowl at the camera. And it showed different examples of these big acts and they're all scowling at the camera.

    But I say, it was '69 and we weren't about to smile...and we scowled at the camera. So in a way, even though it was shot up, and it was called by one DJ the 'nasal shot' (the Offering cover, which I know most people haven't seen)...at least we weren't smiling. And it's very sixties, Karen's holding that sunflower...but it didn't look like the two of us. There was something about the picture! I look Asian, Karen looks like she has an allergy..it's not good.

    [​IMG]

    So when Close To You takes off in July and August of '70, the record company comes and asks if they could repackage and retitle Offering as Ticket To Ride, since Ticket To Ride had enjoyed a modicum of success. And we were working up at Tahoe at the time. They rented a sailboat, beautiful thing, we went out to Tahoe...we just had on t-shirts and jeans, we weren't close to each other, they took the shot and it was terrific! That should have been the Close To You cover. [Exasperated] They put it on Ticket To Ride!

    [​IMG]

    When Close To You comes out, it's time for the [photo] session. This Vice President [A&M VP Gil Friesen] I was telling you about, who talked us out of Top Of The World, said 'we're going to dress you properly this time'. So he takes me to Mr Guy, which is this fashionable boutique in Beverly Hills. I don't know where on earth he took Karen. He got her a gown, he got me a very nice (I mean I'm sure of course our royalties took care of it)...he selected a Cashmere blazer, very nice, and this very nice shirt. And it was all very dressy. And Karen's in a gown [chuckles] and out we go with the photographer the next day or so to Palace Verdis, which is this beach community...'the city by the beach'.

    It was overcast, the photographer puts us out on a rock. The waves were crashing over the rocks, Karen's hair was damp, frizzing...and I saw a couple of amateur photographers..I remember this very well. And they were taking the very same picture like, 50 feet away from us. But they were amateurs! And I was bitching at the photographer, and I said 'what the hell are you doing?!'. First off, there's nothing original about this whatsoever. Nothing! And secondly it doesn't even make any sense.Why would you put on a Cashmere jacket and a gown, and leather boots and dress slacks...and sit on a rock by the beach? Why would you do this?

    [​IMG]

    And I remember thinking 'it can't be good, it can't be good'. It wasn't good. We were in working, again trying to get this album done a few days later, working on one of the album cuts. And in comes the Vice President with the picture. And after being so unhappy with the Offering shot, where of course we didn't say anything, we told ourselves especially now that we had a hit, we're gonna say something if we don't like this. And he says 'how do you like it?'. And of course we didn't like it at all...'we don't like it'. And he said 'learn to live with it!' That was it!

    (BBC Interview Archive 1993)


    http://www.amcorner.com/forum/threads/favorite-carpenters-album-cover.6560/#post-59050
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2015
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  15. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Perhaps there always was more control exercised over their career
    than I would have heretofore surmised.
    A career of serendipity and control.
    Thank God for their respective talents.
    The early career is as mysterious to me as the later part.
     
  16. cam89

    cam89 Active Member

    I love this album...my favorite in fact! I also love the photo. I remember shopping at Sam the Record Man store in Wpg, Mb....actually I was more just looking at these new cds of The Carpenters , some cassettes and LPS. And I saw this one of CLOSE TO YOU . This was Fall of 1988. I fell in love with the cover. I thought it was tastefully done and reflected the music inside.
     
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  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    I Notice, too, Jim Horns, on Woodwinds:
    member of The Wrecking Crew, also.
     
  18. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    This, from the Booklet of The Singles 1969-1973:
    Close To You
    " Burt asked Richard to compose a Medley of Bacharach songs.
    --Alpert suggested Close To You,
    Karen and Richard decided that although not right for the medley,
    the song would make a strong single
    ."
     
  19. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    I just listened to this album. The first Carps album I've listened to since Christmas, btw.
    It's excellent- and I remember why I loved the duo from that first listen.
    The vocals and instruments fill the headphones. Karen's voice is stunning and versatile. There's not a dog song in the bunch, and its got a raw but unrefined yet polished energy that was lost with the Tan album forward. A definite career defining work.
     
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  20. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Herb Alpert Profile 2011:
    Trusting his instincts, Alpert, who two years earlier had enjoyed a rare hit as a vocalist with the Burt Bacharach-Hal David song “This Guy’s in Love with You,” slipped the Carpenters another Bacharach-David tune.
    “Herb gave us the lead sheet to ‘(They Long to Be) Close to You,’ ” says Carpenter.
    “It was just lyrics, melody, and chord symbols. I did the arrangement.
    A&M released ‘Close to You’ in May 1970.”
    The record shot to number one, selling more than three million copies in its first run. The Carpenters became the best-selling act in A&M history.

    Source:
    http://www.lamag.com/longform/herb-alpert-always-in-tune-11/
     
  21. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    1975/6 Evelyn Wallace, Carpenters Superstars Fan Club Newsletter:
    "Richard debated between Close To You and two others he had taped. They were all beautiful songs and it wasn't
    easy deciding between the three of them. He Finally chose Close To You and the rest is now history."
     
  22. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    FL
  23. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    Herb Alpert tells the "Close To You" story multiple times in recent interviews. He had gotten "This Guy's In Love With You" from Burt Bacharach, thanks to the suggestion of the director of a Tijuana Brass' TV special. (The director wanted to film Herb without the trumpet for a change.) So Herb called up Burt and asked if he had a song that he liked, but hadn't had a good recording. Burt sent "This Girl's In Love With You," which Herb liked, so he flew to New York to meet with Hal David to change the lyrics for a male singer. Then Herb asked Hal if HE had a song that hadn't gotten the proper recording, etc. and Hal sent him "Close to You," which Herb then later recorded as a possible followup to "This Guy." Larry Levine, Herb's engineer, told Herb that his recording of "Close to You" sounded terrible, so Herb shelved it, and then later gave the song to Richard Carpenter. In none of the interviews did Herb ever say that he "insisted" they record the song, just that he gave the song to Richard. But, as Harry points out above, when the owner of your record company, the guy who signed you and who has had many hits of his own, suggests a song, you should definitely listen to him.

    Many newer readers may not know that I was in the retail music business from 1970 until last year, so I was around for the entire rise and fall of the Carpenters. The reason "Offering" (and Ticket) didn't do well is because it wasn't commercial enough, and the drums are part of the lack of commerciality. They didn't sound like pop drums, they sound more like jazz drums. It was a good quality record for sure, but it wasn't a "pop" album of the type that was selling at that place and time. When "Close to You" came along, Herb Alpert and Burt Bacharach knew instinctively that the Carpenters' recording was going to do well. (Bacharach recalled Herb playing the song for him over the phone and Burt says, "I knew we had a smash...home run.") Keep in mind that those guys, being "veterans in the business," had an ear for this type of thing. If you take the title song out of the mix, Close To You (the album) has a stronger sound for sure, but if not for that title song, I think they'd have maybe had a minor hit with "We've Only Just Begun" (same way they had had with "Ticket") and then it would have been right into the obscurity file. The "Close To You" single opened all the doors for them, and they were also very lucky to have A Song For You (an album full of particularly strong songs) come out just as it became fashionable to release three, four or five singles from an album.

    As for Hal Blaine's not being used as much on later records.....a group that is trying to get that first hit is a way different animal from a group that's established. First of all, by the time they had a few albums under their belts, the Carpenters had their "sound" established and had some idea of what a hit record of theirs would sound like, whereas on the first couple of albums they were still finding their identity so to speak. Then there's the fact that, once they had a few hits, their records were GOING to sell a certain number of copies regardless of who was playing the drums. Could Hal Blaine have improved some of their later works? Who knows, but it's possible. The fact is, once they were firmly established as A&M's top sellers, they had the power to say "Nope, Karen's going to drum on this album."

    Richard's hatred for some of their album covers has been well documented, but they were really the first "brother/sister" act to hit the pop scene and I can see where they'd be difficult to market. It may have been easier on the marketing departments if there really had been a four or five piece group to pose in the pictures. As for Richard and Karen "insisting" on a different cover photo for Close To You, when that album was being prepared they had had exactly one #1 hit and no hit albums yet, so while their clout was certainly growing, they didn't quite have the muscle yet to insist on full creative control of their album covers. (Even when they got that perk, the covers really didn't get much better....consider the Now and Then cover shot.)
     
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  24. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Very well said, Mike. That's exactly how it works and sums up the whole thing!
     
  25. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Mike, I second that sentiment, very well said.
    Thank God, We've Only Just Begun didn't 'land in the obscurity pile'.
    Now, that is a Masterpiece of a song.
     
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