1. A&M Corner can now be found on Instagram! Follow us on our new account at @a.m.corner .
    You may also follow us on Twitter: @amcorner.

Official Review [Album]: "MADE IN AMERICA" (SP-3723)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Sep 1, 2013.

How Would You Rate This Album?

  1. ***** (BEST)

    9 vote(s)
    13.8%
  2. ****

    13 vote(s)
    20.0%
  3. ***

    24 vote(s)
    36.9%
  4. **

    17 vote(s)
    26.2%
  5. *

    2 vote(s)
    3.1%
  1. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    “MADE IN AMERICA”

    madeinamerica.jpg

    Catalogue Number: A&M SP-3723
    Date of Release: 06/09/81
    Chart Position- U.S.: #52; U.K.: #12; JAPAN: #44
    Album Singles: "I Believe You"/"B'wana, She No Home"
    "Touch Me When We're Dancing"/"Because We Are In Love"
    "(Want You) Back In My Life Again"/"Somebody's Been Lyin"
    "Those Good Old Dreams"/"When It's Gone (It's Just Gone)"
    "Beechwood 4-5789"/"Two Sides"
    Medium: Vinyl/Cassette/CD



    Track Listing:

    1.) Those Good Old Dreams 4:12 (Carpenter/Bettis)
    2.) Strength of a Woman 3:59 (Brown/Curiel)
    3.) (Want You) Back In My Life Again 3:39 (Chater/Christian)
    4.) Whe You've Got What it Takes 3:39 (Nichols/Lane)
    5.) Somebody's Been Lyin' 4:22 (Bayer Sager/Bacharach)
    6.) I Believe You 3:55 (Addrisi/Addrisi)
    7.) Touch Me When We're Dancing 3:19 (Skinner/Wallace/Bell)
    8.) When It's Gone (It's Just Gone) 4:59 (Handley)
    9.) Beechwood 4-5789 (Stevenson/Gaye/Gordy)
    10.) Because We Are In Love (The Wedding Song) 5:00 (Carpenter/Bettis)


    Album Credits:

    Those Good Old Dreams:
    Background vocals: Karen & Richard Carpenter
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: Ron Tutt
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Acoustic & Electric Guitar: Tim May
    Pedal Steel Guitar: Jay Dee Maness
    Percussion: Karen Carpenter, Paulinho DaCosta
    Harp: Gayle Levant
    Concertmaster: Jimmy Getzoff


    Strength Of A Woman:
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: Larrie Londin, Ron Tutt
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Electric Guitar: Tim May, Tony Peluso
    Oboe: Earl Dumler
    Harp: Gayle Levant
    Percussion: Paulinho DaCosta
    Background vocals: Karen & Richard Carpenter & The Carpettes: Karen Carpenter, Carolyn Dennis, Stephanie Spruill, Maxine Waters Willard
    Concertmaster: Jimmy Getzoff


    (Want You) Back In My Life Again:
    Background vocals: Karen & Richard Carpenter
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: Ron Tutt
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Acoustic & Electric Guitar: Tim May
    Electric Guitar: Tony Peluso
    Percussion: Paulinho DaCosta
    Synthesizer Programming: Daryl Dragon, Ian Underwood
    Tenor Sax: Tom Scott
    Concertmaster: Jimmy Getzoff


    When You've Got What It Takes:
    Background vocals: Karen & Richard Carpenter
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: John Robinson
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Acoustic Guitar: Tim May
    Electric Guitar: Tony Peluso
    Oboe: Earl Dumler
    Harp: Gayle Levant
    Percussion: Paulinho DaCosta
    Concertmaster: Jimmy Getzoff


    Somebody's Been Lyin':
    Background vocals: Karen & Richard Carpenter
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: Ron Tutt
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Acoustic Guitar: Tim May
    Percussion: Peter Limonick
    Harp: Gayle Levant
    Oboe: Earl Dumler
    Concertmaster & Solo: Jerry Vinci


    I Believe You:
    Background vocals: Karen & Richard Carpenter
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: Larrie Londin
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Acoustic & Electric Guitar: Tim May
    Congas: Jerry Steinholtz
    Concertmaster: Jimmy Getzoff
    Vocals arranged by Richard Carpenter


    Touch Me When We're Dancing:
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: Larrie Londin
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Acoustic & Electric Guitar: Tony Peluso, Tim May
    Harp: Gayle Levant
    Oboe: Earl Dumler
    Percussion: Paulinho DaCosta
    Tenor Sax: Tom Scott
    Background vocals: Karen & Richard Carpenter & The Carpettes: Karen Carpenter, Carolyn Dennis
    Concertmaster: Jimmy Getzoff


    When It's Gone (It's Just Gone):
    Background vocals: Karen & Richard Carpenter
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: Larrie Londin, Karen Carpenter
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Acoustic Guitar: Dennis Budimir, Fred Tackett
    Electric Guitar: Tim May, Tony Peluso
    Pedal Steel Guitar: Jay Dee Maness
    Percussion: Karen Carpenter, Bob Conti
    Oboe: Earl Dumler
    Concertmaster: Jimmy Getzoff


    Beechwood 4-5789:
    Background vocals: Karen & Richard Carpenter
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: Ron Tutt
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Electric Guitar: Tim May
    Harp: Gayle Levant
    Tenor Sax: Tom Scott
    Concertmaster: Jimmy Getzoff


    Because We Are In Love (The Wedding Song):
    Bass: Joe Osborn
    Drums: Ron Tutt
    Keyboards: Richard Carpenter
    Electric Guitar: Tim May
    Percussion: Peter Limonick
    Harp: Gayle Levant
    Choir: The O.K. Chorale under the direction of Ron Hicklin, Conducted by Frank Pooler
    Concertmaster: Jerry Vinci


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Produced by Richard Carpenter
    Arranged & Orchestrated by Richard Carpenter
    "Because We Are In Love (The Wedding Song)" & "Somebody's Been Lyin'" arranged by Richard Carpenter & Orchestrated by Peter Knight. "I Believe You" arranged by Paul Riser.
    Recorded at A&M Recording Studios
    Engineered by Roger Young
    Additional recording by Dave Iveland
    "I Believe You" engineered by Ray Gerhardt
    Mixed at Sound Labs and A&M Recording Studios
    Mix-down engineer: Roger Young
    Assisted by Stewart Whitmore
    Mastered at A&M Recording Studios by Bernie Grundman
    Special thanks to Gary Sims, Pat Peters, Ron Gorow, John Bettis, Jules Chaikin, Herb, Jerry, Gil and the entire A&M family.
    Art Direction: Chuck Beeson & Jeff Ayeroff
    Album Design: Lynn Robb
    Illustration: David Willardson, Willardson & White, Inc.
    Photography: John Engstead
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2015
  2. Song4uman

    Song4uman Active Member

    Looked up Gayle Levant. She is still playing on recordings and has played on many albums.
     
  3. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Yikes! I was afraid this one would come up. What a disaster of a record. It's so completely tame and MOR! A total about-face from the previous album. Karen sounds muted on most of it and the production is incredibly overdone throughout. This is the sound of Richard totally asserting himself. This is the sound we'd get on his solo album, "Time" some 6 years later too. Karen sounds like a cog in a machine here more than ever before and not the centerpiece as should have been the case. Terrible album on the whole. Touch Me" and "Good Old Dreams" get by on their vocal arrangements and "I Believe You" gets by on Karen and arranger Paul Riser. Beyond that, a total throwaway...IMHO

    Ed
     
    JBee, Aaron Moyer and Rudy like this.
  4. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Isn't it interesting that he cites this as one of his favourite Carpenters' albums? It's almost like he had to assert control back after the near-miss that would have been Karen's successful solo album. Karen's vocals are mixed terribly on most of these tracks and they're swamped in strings and a dull mix. They're nowhere near as 'upfront' in the mix as they had been on even the most recent release, Christmas Portrait. On that, she sounded rich, full and present. On MIA, she sounds thin and airy, and I don't think that's down to her illness at all. You only have to listen to the vocal on 'The Uninvited Guest' for proof she was still top of her game.

    After many years of listening to the individual tracks and the album in its entirety, my enthusiasm for this album has waned massively. It's so predictable and formulaic. 'Lovelines' is a much better album than this, which speaks volumes given that it was a posthumous release.

    I used to champion this album in my early days of fandom. Weird how tastes change.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2013
    A&M Retro and LondonRobert like this.
  5. I liked this album a lot when it came out and thought it an improved and contemporary sounding album compared to Passage ad AKOH, which are two of my least favorite albums. When It's Gone is an amazing song to me. I also very much enjoy Strength of a Woman. Those Good Ol' Deams bores me, though. Its my lest favorite on the album.
     
  6. aaflyer98

    aaflyer98 Well-Known Member

    Having this album as my Avatar, I obviously like it. However, that may be for very sentimental reasons. Having been an original fan club member since 1972, I saw the Carpenters career peak, then wane. And with Horizon (ironically when RC took full production credits) saw the Carpenters go deeper into Middle Of the Road music. Charts were not kind to the Carpenters from 1976 (A Kind Of Hush) to 1977 (Passage). 1978 saw the Christmas Portrait HIT album, Thankfully. But 1978 also saw what would be the first single from Made In America, "I Believe You". I called several radio stations in the LA area and they would not play it. I asked why, they said it's not a hit.
    Then as you longtime fans know, we had a Carpenters drought for all of 1979, 1980. Nothing. We didn't know what was going on like we do now.
    So 1981 comes along, I'm a senior in high school and the Carpenters have a new hit single, "Touch Me When We're Dancing"! A big deal for us fans! Finally a hit pop single, the first since "I Need To Be in Love" barely cracked the top 20.
    And a new album, Made In America. Of course, I wanted "Strength Of A Woman" to be the next single, keeping in the pop vein. "Back In My Life Again" was the 2nd single, and a station had a segment called "Love it or Lose it." where they played new singles. This song was voted to "Lose it" and it was never played on that station again. And so it goes. As time goes by I have defended this album and love it for what it is, but realize it didn't have the pop potential it needed to succeed. And what kills me is, with what we know now, Karen's album was shelved to make this. Some outstanding tracks, though, remain favorites, especially the underrated "When It's Gone (It's Just Gone)".
     
  7. AM Matt

    AM Matt Well-Known Member

    The song "(Want You) Back In My Life Again" is one of my favorites from that album which I do have the remastered 1999 CD. Matt Clark Sanford, MI
     
    Nessie likes this.
  8. LondonRobert

    LondonRobert Active Member

    I 'discovered' the Carpenters in mid 80's. I worked in a record store and ordered one album per week from the back catalogue and paid for it out my wages ( we got paid cash then!).
    One day i was looking in another record store and imagine my surprise when i saw this 'new' album in it's racks....... I hadn't heard of this one, so i bought it and couldn't wait to play it when i got home.... I was really surprised because it just didn't 'sound' like Karen and I agree with Newvillfan - it's down to how her vocals were mixed, other tracks around this time that have since been released sound a lot better. At the time i liked finding a 'new' album, but now it's one of the least i play....... Lovelines and Voice of the Heart I play much more.
     
    newvillefan likes this.
  9. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    I couldn't agree more with all of these comments. I was so shocked and happy to discover the single and the album on the same day in June, 1981, that I couldn't believe my eyes.

    When I played it for the first time, I knew immediately something was 'off' as soon as Karen started singing. The vocals were mixed too low, and Richard's productions were spread all over it. My first inclination was, 'Well, he's showing off big time after what just happened with the solo release'. It's like he was saying, 'I'm back', to the extreme, and Karen had been deliberately mixed lower to accentuate his gifts.

    I will maintain that theory as long as I'm around. It might have even been a subliminal move on his part....or not. But I always remember an interview with Karen from the late '70's where she mentions how Richard always mixed the lead vocal very 'up' so it wasn't lost in the mix, and then he does a 360 on 'Made In America'.

    'Touch Me When We're Dancing' and 'Back In My Life Again' remain two of my very favorite Carpenters tracks, but the rest of the album pales in comparison. I liked it a lot in 1981, but it doesn't have the staying power of 'Horizon', 'Close to You' or 'A Song For You'.
     
    GaryAlan, BarryT60 and aaflyer98 like this.
  10. byline

    byline Active Member

    While I agree with both you and Ed on your opinions about Made In America, I am not convinced that Karen's album would have been a success. In hindsight, we can all appreciate it, but I really have to wonder what the critics would have done to it. It wouldn't have been pretty; of that I am almost certain. The general public did not know that Karen had an eating disorder, and of course she was terribly thin around this period. Around the same time, the public was completely enamored with Olivia Newton John, who had a figure more typical of female stars back then. I'm trying to recall a female singer from around this time who was as emaciated as Karen was, but aiming to convey a sexy image. There may have been one or more, but right now I just can't think of anyone (though it's a sad testament to pop culture's sexist double-standard that a male performer, Michael Jackson, would be given a free pass on this). I would guess that given the Carpenters' image, plus Karen's emaciated frame, the critics would have had a field day with that. Could Karen have handled it, or would that kind of rejection been as hurtful to her as Richard's/the A&M execs' was? I can't answer that. But I don't think it was a slam-dunk for a sincere critical re-appraisal of her abilities, either. There were too many singers from around this time who were getting raked over the coals for attempting the same kind of shift in style/image that she was.

    As for Made In America, I never did like this album, and still don't care for it ... though I do like a few of the songs. It and A Kind of Hush (and also the Christmas albums) are the only studio albums I no longer have in my collection ... though of course I had them all back in the day. It was just too bland and tame, especially after the nice experimentation we got on Passage. I realize that Richard and Karen claimed people said they wanted "the old sound" back, so that's what they were going for. But did they forget that the old sound included groundbreakers like "Another Song"? Richard even managed some contemporary updating of their sound (not the saccharine chorus, but other things like Bob James-influenced keyboard arrangements), which might have been inspired by Karen's work with Phil Ramone (though I almost think Richard had an "anything you can do, I can do better" attitude about the whole thing). Anyway, this album just felt old and tired to me, somehow. Despite everyone's best intentions, I believe it subliminally reflected the state of mind that Karen was in at the time.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2013
  11. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    I completely agree Byline. As much as my opinion about this isn't a popular one amongst Carpenters fans, I completely agree that Karen's album would probably *not* have been a success. We like the tracks because it's Karen, and whereas there is a ton of artistic and creative license on the part of Phil Ramone, Karen, AND the band, I just don't hear anything that says "YEAH, play me over and over again on the radio". Again, the arrangements are fun and relevant for the time period, Karen's harmonies are incredibly superb, and a few of the songs are catchy. Are they HITS?! Probably not. And I completely agree with Richard's comments about Karen's vocal range in terms of sweet spot and marketability - Her lower register is what we are all most fond of and remember of Karen. The solo album featured very little of this. Did she still sound like she knew what she was doing?! ABSOLUTELY. But none of the points that I mention mean that you have a hit album.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2013
    Rudy, Must Hear This Album and byline like this.
  12. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    I think Karen's album would have been a much more successful release than Made in America. Especially in 1979, maybe not so much in 81.
    Like Passage, folks would have had to hear her "fresh". New styles, new arrangements. On MIA, Beechwood and BWAIL only reinforce they were stuck in a rut. And in my opinion, Karen was always way more marketable -and prettier- than Richard! :wink:
     
    goodjeans likes this.
  13. djn

    djn Well-Known Member

    I was so excited for a new CarpenterS record that I didn't care what was on it. I thought the production was slick. I agree Karen is lost in the mixes. Some of the harmonies warm my heart and are like none before. In hindsight I recall being disappointed at the inclusion of I Believe You. Particularly after learning of the mass recording sessions associated with MIA. OMG then The Wedding Song. To this day I TRY to enjoy it looking for a lil something here or there. Not a fitting close to the lp. Why the superior Kiss Me the Way You Did Last Night wasn't included baffles me. Those Good Old Dreams caught my ear instantly. I could hear a maturity in Karen's voice especially (and I've mentioned this before)at "like an old love song....and it carries you away. The girl still had the remarkable ease of slipping into the dynamics of her instrument effortlessly. I actually prefer this to Passage. All in all I'm not ultra critical of anything anymore. Just happy for scraps and remnants whatever they be.
     
    Must Hear This Album likes this.
  14. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    I agree with you djn. I absolutely love Kiss Me! One of my Top Ten Carps songs.
     
  15. BarryT60

    BarryT60 Well-Known Member

    wow.... I imagine I agree with allot of what has been said here already. The project lacks the depth of so many other Carpenters efforts. Particularly, when compared to the effort in Passage - of trying some new things and branching out in more of a progressive vein. We revert right back to a sort of moderate version of 'A Kind of Hush'.

    Don't get me entirely wrong... Like AA Flyer, I was so happy to get some new music - I overlooked some of the weaker aspects and over produced segments.

    Some specifics that I think now and maybe was too complacent to acknowledge back in the day:

    Those Good Old Dreams: I really like the "pretty" nature of the song - but I think it has it's awkward moments melodically... To me there's a lot of stretching melodically before you get to that chorus... and I particularly never liked the end of the first chorus... "lovin' you" da da da... awkward is the best way for me to describe it...

    Strength: I LOVE Karen's reading here of the verses, particularly, the first one. She really travels the melody line so intricately and she sounds so vocally savvy...A more prominent vocal lead in the mix might have been neat... That said - I hate the lyrics of the chorus. Hated them then - hate them now. Somehow Tammy Wynette got away with that theme in her 70's ballad proclaiming to Stand By Her Man... By 1981, I think we were way passed that thought process. Just seemed like a weird song - and never could have been sung with the same conviction as was "Love Me For What I Am" just a few years back...

    Back In My Life - I thought seemed current at the time - but man - it did not wear well, as most other carpenters songs did.

    Got What It Takes - Again - a very pretty song... Uplifting, and "pretty". Karen's parts particularly.. HOWEVER - I never cared for the MOR arrangement. Sounded like another Geritol commercial again. The woodwinds at the beginning and in the interludes... Really "old" sounding. Elevator-ish... There, I said it!

    Lyin'... Pretty - but draggy. I usually FF's the tape back in the day...

    I Believe You - She had me til they were gonna have a "freckled little girl". Never cared for that line. Killed the song for me.

    Touch: YES - Happy we had another hit! But - not happy it stalled and there was not a good "current" follow-up to choose from on this record. Out of all the singles, this one to me - sounds the most dated when you listen to it now.

    When It's Gone: They should have released this as a country follow up to Sweet, Sweet Smile.

    Beach - Fun, acceptable album cut - but choppy melody and not as fluid as Postman. Glad we have it - but not a fav....

    Because You Are In Love: That first part is a snoozer for me. And lyrically, in light of what we think we know now, an ironic bust, but apart from all that... I think the melody wanders on this song... the bridge, the chorus, this one maybe should have been saved for the wedding - and maybe as a bonus track for Target shoppers - but not on the main album.

    Well, well, I griped about almost every song here, didn't I?

    Maybe I don't love this effort. BUT I shall say - as a whole - I was happy as a clam when it was released, and now - in retrospect, having these songs to rifle through when I am in a particularly "Carpenters" kind of mood, I am glad we have it to turn to. Sort of - a new day for those good old dreams....
     
    Jamesj75, toeknee4bz and A&M Retro like this.
  16. My comments from 2006:

    This is an album that I warmed up to over the years. I recall not being all that thrilled by it when I first got it. By then, somehow the "magic" had gone out of the Carpenters albums for me. Sure, I listened, and loved the sound of Karen's voice, but I found nothing that grabbed me the way the old CLOSE TO YOU or A SONG FOR YOU did. It was as if things were too perfect here and it all sounded a bit sterile to me.
    As I said, I've warmed up to it over the years and now find it to be quite good. Thus, it's hard for me to give it a star rating because on the one hand, I recall the way I felt originally and the fondness I've acquired for it today.

    I've come to like the single tracks a great deal over the years. Perhaps it's the repetition of hearing them included in the many compilations that have come out since then. Songs like "I Believe You" that didn't grab me the first time around are now like old friends. Even the once-tacky "BEechwood 4-5789" is now more fun than it once was.

    I recall our radio station jumping on the "Touch Me When We're Dancin'" bandwagon and playing it. It was refreshing to hear something new from the Carpenters playing on the radio. It had been a long, dry spell. But once again, I felt that the backing vocals didn't need help from anyone. Karen & Rich did the overdubs perfectly by themselves before, and this Carolyn Dennis felt like an intruder to me, even though she was just a small part of the "Carpettes". She must've had a powerful voice to punch through all of that.

    My least favorite here has to be the "Wedding Song". That's one I just never warmed up to at all, and still skip on compilations to this day.

    Harry
    ...remembering his original MADE IN AMERICA observations, online...
     
    BarryT60, 70sFan and byline like this.
  17. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Two (and more!) can play this game! :)
    The review on my blog:

    Carpenters' Made in America: Can't Go on Living A Memory

    [​IMG]Many times over the last month or so, I have wanted to finish writing this post on the Carpenters' first release of the 1980's: Made in America. Funny thing is, my favorite music discussion board at A&M Corner, has been constantly abuzz with threads concerning the album and particularly it's third single, (Want You) Back in My Life Again.

    Not only did the intelligent and insightful responses there make me listen to the album several times, they also challenged me to write a better article! But I had to let some time lapse to get a better grasp on the disc. All said, go there and join the boards- you'll be amazed at what you'll learn from the industry insiders and hard core A&M Recordsfans that post there. So, let's dig into it...

    The house that Herb Alpert built alongside businessmanJerry Moss was a house divided: on one hand, Karen and Richard Carpenter were much appreciated for their "cash cow" status. On the other, it was well known inside the music industry that although Alpert loved them, it was somewhat of a disgrace to have them on the label. After all, the Carpenters weren't rock and weren't cool, but as the old adage goes, "Money Talks". In the early to mid 70's no one made the label more money. Or perhaps anyone on any label. Worldwide.
    Their greatest hits collection, The Singles 1969 - 1973established the duo for the ages, but subsequent albums ran the gamut from being definitive works ("Horizon" and "Christmas Portrait") to relative filler ("A Kind of Hush") to clearly out of touch ("Passage"). The last single from Karen and Richard was the beautiful but unsuccessful "I Believe You" in 1978. They sounded great here, but times and taste had changed.

    [​IMG]

    Leaving their 70's success and entering into the 80's, things were tough for our favorite duo from Downey, California. Karen's later revealed struggle with anorexia nervosa, her abandoned solo album with Phil Ramone, and Richard's eventually successful battle with prescription drugs, meant that the career had to take second place to their personal lives. By the time work had finished on their comeback album in 1981, two and a half years had passed. This would be alright for superstar caliber artists a decade later, but it was much too long for their season of popularity.

    The album arrived to much industry fanfare, but with a slowly breaking Top Twenty single, "Touch Me When We're Dancing", it was going to be an uphill battle to get the Carpenters a Top Ten album. Ah, but the single!Just hearing Karen's voice after so much time was a treat! As a young twenty something madly in love with my soon to be wife, I couldn't get enough of the song, but it remained hard to find on the radio. When the full album was released in June, I was right there at the local Licorice Pizza store in to buy it.
    [​IMG]What was it with the cover? Had the A&M promotion folks gone mad? Why an illustration, even if it was fairly well done? After the previous two album covers had displayed artwork versus a photograph of the duo, you would think the record company would desire something different. (The recent photo sessions created a fairly up-to-date image for them, and these shots have been used for compilations years later.)No matter- the album was mine, and home I went to plug in the earphones for my traditional first listen.

    [​IMG]From the opening bars of "Those Good Old Dreams", the Carpenters I had known and loved were back. The artistry was there; the warm familiarity was there; and most importantly, the Voice of the generation was back.

    In hindsight, that is much of the problem with this collection. Karen and Richard were stuck here in a time warp of their own making. The album relies on an old formula, almost as if Richard looked at their largest hits and then found songs that sounded similar: "Those Good Old Dreams" equals "Top of the World"; "Strength of a Woman" begins eerily familiar to "Superstar"; and the most obvious comparison is covering "Beechwood-45789" a la "Please Mr. Postman". Yet, these newer recordings have much less emotional and sonic impact than the ones that came before them. I really like the first two of the three songs mentioned, but then again, I can find good in most things.

    Made in America was certainly a pretty enough album, but much like Hush, it was far too soft for contemporary popular radio. The sound of it lacked "bite"; everything seemed to be softer, sweeter, and almost airbrushed. The drums, the horns, almost all of it. Even Tony Peluso's great guitar work had sadly lost its rock edge. Karen and Richard were no longer relative to the times.

    The album's lyrics were cautiously optimistic at times, betraying the overall sunshine feel of the music. When viewed as a whole, there's a good amount of trouble brewing beneath the surface. Even Karen's wedding song to Tom Burris, Because We Are in Love, hints at uncertainty and fear. (Wish Karen would have listened to herself and ditched the guy!And ditched the song. It is one of my least favorites of all their recordings.) The same could be said in hindsight for the buoyant looking portrait on the cover. Something just didn't feel right- and no one but family and industry insiders knew the truth.

    [​IMG]

    Single number one eventually creepedup to number 16, with each additional release doing much worse than the one before it. For the hardcore fan, it was so much in the same vein of earlier recordings that the disc was enjoyable but ultimately added nothing to their body of work. The one different sounding cut was the Doobie Brothers - ish (Want You) Back in My Life Again, and it ends up sounding more like a plea to radio programmers and fans of old, in spite of some impressive work by Daryl Dragon of Captain and Tennille and Ian Underwood of the Mothers of Invention.

    [​IMG]

    That said, there was some maturing to be found in the lyrics but without the sexual explicitness many artists thought was necessary to survive the times. (That is one aspect of Richard's production and song choice I have always appreciated, and one that has made me really dislike some of Karen's solo work. Not the voice, but the lyrics.)


    "Somebody's Been Lyin'" in particular, is a poignant look at the end of a relationship. There's not too many songs in the Carpenters' catalogue where Karen takes some responsibility for the end, although "This Masquerade" from the Now & Then disc hints the breakup is near for those very reasons. Again, the newer song has some depth, but it is not as sophisticated as their earlier recording.

    It was clear that A&M didn't know what to do with the album or the artists at this point, as the album headed down the charts as quickly as it rose. Karen and Richard headed off to Europe and South America for promotion, maybe even stops in Japan (a place of strong fan devotion); I'm not sure. The videos for the singles went from average to plain out awful, but at least they were in the public eye once again.

    [​IMG]

    Sadly, this was Karen's last released recording while she was alive. Made in America is probably the weakest album in their collection, the one most desperate, the one that got away. It should have been more, it should have been better. Many of the unreleased songs recorded for the album were stronger than the ones that made the cut. The disc made for a nice addition to my collection, and I played it regularly. Of course, my own wedding was coming soon, so it didn't have as much turntable time as earlier albums.

    A little over a year and a half later, the girl with the golden voice would be gone. Too bad she couldn't have passed with a blockbuster hit as her latest release. Guess you really "can't hold on, living a memory".

    Even though this would be the end of the duo, Richard continued on, as will the reviews of Carpenters' discs both as a duo, with solo works, and other artist productions on tap as well. Stay tuned. (By the way, the entire Carpenters series begins here. )
     
  18. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Karen's vocals absolutely do sound airbrushed. Great adjective!

    Ed
     
    Mark-T and BarryT60 like this.
  19. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    What, is this Throwback Thursday?!?! LOL - LOVE it!!!
     
  20. byline

    byline Active Member

    So true. This is something that has long baffled me.
     
    BarryT60 likes this.
  21. Great comments, all. Agreed on most observations and only one piece to add regarding Karen’s vocals on MIA. Those vocals, while tentative and weaker, as some have aptly noted, were also at their most sensual/sexy on this album. Consistently so, and more than on any other “Carpenters” album before it. Clearly, Karen had learned a few tricks from her sessions with Phil Ramone, and she brought some of her new moves into the MIA sessions. The “sexy” comes through on the subtleties of her phrasing, “...sometimes I wonder has the cat got your tongue,” and on the more obvious lines, like, “So let your looove flow through me, oh, baby...” Her vocals purred on this album. Me-ow! I also suspect she may have been influenced by the breathy, sex-kitten singing style of her “I love you - I hate you” BFF, Olivia, and by the sensual vocal stylings of Toni Tennille, who stole Karen’s "queen of pop" crown in the later half of the 1970’s and even started the new decade with a #1 single (which must have been tough to watch from the sidelines for our spiraling heroine...).
     
    BarryT60 likes this.
  22. BarryT60

    BarryT60 Well-Known Member

    So - played several of these songs over the weekend and I recalled some of the subtleties that are to be celebrated on the album as well... I already mentioned the vocal treatment on the versus of SOAW - but I also wanted to mention a goosebump moment toward the end of Those Good Old Dreams... "All my life I dreamed of you" - <K and R: I dreamed of you> with the chimes and the wrap around to the repeat of the title. Though the album is as airbrushed as the cover artwork, there are some pretty good moments - for sure...
     
    Must Hear This Album likes this.
  23. And we should mention that "Those Good Old Dreams" appeared in a semi-unique mix on the original LP, with a little more synthesizer that Richard pared back for the single - and all subsequent CD releases.

    That original album mix is rarely found anywhere else, but it CAN be found on the rare YESTERDAY ONCE MORE CD in the UK (it's on the easy-to-find LP), and the synth part can be heard in a slightly altered mix on the YESTERDAY ONCE MORE video program (now called GOLD). That one has the intro repeated twice and fades a little early because of a segue on the video.

    Harry
     
  24. BarryT60

    BarryT60 Well-Known Member

    Harry: For the life of me, I can't find the thread where we talked about the Readers Digest CDs. I finally got mine, and realized I already had gotten it years ago - but had given them to my son! Anyway, I have re-listened to a couple discs so far... and that's the 'Those Good Old Dreams' I heard.... I really wish I knew the nuances of these re-mixes... The obvious ones like Can't Smile Without You are pretty clear - but I love when you guys point out stuff like the synthesizer softening etc...

    BTW - On the RD version of Cant Smile, Karen's first lines sound sped up to me... almost helium sounding. Am I alone on that? Not until she starts in with "You came along - just like a song" does she sound normal again...

    Talk soon!
     
  25. djn

    djn Well-Known Member

    Here I am curious once again. Mr J. you often seem to have had a wealth of info re: the many tracks recorded for and or completed for MIA. I'm wondering about specifics that haven't yet seen the light of day. Also, how do you come by your facts and statistics that are sometimes puzzling and other times quite enlightening. Just me awonderin'.
     

Share This Page

Users Viewing Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 0)