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Solo Album and Single Success

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by newvillefan, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    I love the Rod Temperton vocal arrangements on Karen's solo album.
    I agree with most everyone that perhaps nothing released at that juncture in time would have sold.....
    (otherwise, the powers-that-be would have rushed to a "standards songs"-type album. After all,
    Music Music Music was a bomb in the ratings, and look how beautiful that song material was !).
    As for hurting her "image".....how do you go down from zero ?
    The Carpenters already were suffering due to "image," so (as with Phil Ramone's sentiments)
    I do not see where the solo album would have affected "the image" one way or the other.
     
    Brian likes this.
  2. The other day I listened to Melissa Manchester's 1979 self-titled album on my turntable. It was interesting how she had begun to change her image (musically and physically) around this time but no one "bought it" until several more attempts. Maureen McGovern also attempted the same in '79, and I'm sure there were others. Olivia (Newton-John), was one of the few to break out of the pigeonhole by cleverly taking advantage of her character change in Grease.
     
    Brian likes this.
  3. Very good point.
     
  4. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Active Member

    Doesn't Ray Coleman's book (and thus Richard by proxy) put all of the blame for the supposed poor quality of the solo album on to Phil?

    Your comment implies that there's blame to be placed, which I'd say is subjective, but it does raise the point of exactly what A&M were expecting from the album. As I'm sure we've discussed before on various threads, A&M seem to have adopted a very 'hands off' approach in terms of keeping track with what was being recorded and yet, as came to light in one of the Billboard articles that GaryAlan posted recently, Phil Ramone was quoted in May 1979 as saying that 'we're going in a totally different direction with Karen, more into rock and funky stuff', which is a reasonable approximation of what ended up on the album.

    So in a sense A&M really couldn't argue that they hadn't been warned. But then if that wasn't what they wanted, how should this knockout album that they had in their minds have sounded? I really don't have any sense at all of what they envisaged this album being like.
     
  5. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    I don't think he did that much wrong. Karen and he decided to "play" - try a bunch of things outside of the scope of Carpenters. To that end, Phil completely and utterly succeeded. He got the right songwriters, the players are great, the arrangements are stellar, and the album's sonics are excellent. Were all the song choices good ones? Gosh no. Those Javors tunes were awful and the Cetera tune was a waste of time too (those lyrics are the WORST). I can't really argue with the others, though, and she was vocally game for them. Still, I don't think the record would have done anything had it come out then.

    Ed
     
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  6. Richard once made a comment that Christmas Portrait should have been a Karen Carpenter album. If he and A&M had done that for her, it might have paved the way for solo material better suited to her. Instead of trying to compete with the likes of Donna Summer, she might have claimed the success Linda Ronstadt did (with the very same Nelson Riddle Orchestra).
     
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  7. David A

    David A Active Member

    In my view, several of the songs of Karen's solo album - "My Body Keeps Changin' my Mind", If I had You" (this song sounds so much like a song Debbie Gibson would have written/sang), and "Make Believe it's Your First Time" - had the potential to be top 40 songs, in spite of the fact that Karen was singing outside her most expressive range vocally. I base this on the songs I see in the top 40 in the 1979/1980 time frame.

    The salient question, as brought up here by others, is whether a combination of Karen's health/image at the time, along with the general resistance to all things Carpenters by then, would have sunk the songs before they got a chance to really be heard. Another element, too, is how serious A&M would have been about promoting it; would they have gone all-out to push it? The answer to that seems to be no.

    I'm reminded that ONG managed a transition from the 1970's "sweet girl" to a sexy pop singer ("Let's Get Physical", et al) with some success, but she wasn't part of a brother-sister duo and also had her full health and looks. Karen, unfortunately, did not, by this time.
     
    Brian likes this.
  8. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    If anyone outside of the Ramone camp--or, inside A&M records-- had cared,
    we would have--and, should have gotten more Billy May-
    arranged material for a 'standards' album.
    Be that as it may, many of the solo songs
    (released and unreleased) have outstanding arrangements.
    It helps to get Carpenters' hits (Close To You/ We've Only Just Begun)
    out of your head,
    and perceive--and listen to--the solo material in a fresh light.....

    How can I trust the "powers-that-be,"
    when songs such as
    Ordinary Fool
    and
    Trying To Get The Feeling Again
    stayed "on the shelf "
    during Karen's time on Earth ?
     
    Jeff likes this.
  9. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    John Bettis said in an interview something like, 'It's not surprising that the solo album was kind of disappointing because it was Karen's first solo'. I can see that she tried to push the envelope and that's a good thing, but I don't think it worked, in a lot of ways.

    I agree that the recordings on the album wouldn't have caused the explosion needed at that time to re-ignite Karen's career. I can see radio of 1979 / 1980 avoiding the project.
     
  10. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    Sorry. I'm just calling it from my knowledge of the US charts from that period and the acts and songs making waves on them - and my observations of Carpenters' decline at the time. Also my perception of what might be needed to completely turn a career around, (from a Top 40 charts point of view), and thoughts of struggles against health, image, record company resistance, and perceptions of the public, etc.

    But, as I said, four, five or six of the songs could have made very pleasant singles on the side. Just not earth-shattering ones. And there's not an album there, out of the twenty or so songs recorded, in my opinion. These are just opinions, nearly forty years in hindsight. :)
     
  11. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    She would have done that beautifully. Maybe the focus upon trying to get an attention-grabbing hit single at that stage was unnecessary. Karen could have had never ending artistic and / or commercial success if she'd found the right area/s. Time has shown that her success hasn't come to an end even now, in many countries.
     
    David A likes this.
  12. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    And, yet, I am still asking:
    In what sense is a completion of the outstanding
    Something's Missing
    not probable as a fantastic, hit single ?
    The song is everything....
    vocals, arrangement, lyrics....
     
    Brian likes this.
  13. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    It could have been wonderful. Marcia Hines' version was a Top 10 hit in a couple of countries in 1979, so that's proof that the actual song had hit potential. Marcia was on a roll in those particular countries at the time, bouncing off other recent big hits. That version had a completely different arrangement and the beginning section was entirely missed out. I actually like Karen's arrangement a lot better. Marcia Hines' was probably a more hit-orientated arrangement for the times, though. I don't mind her version. I like Paul Jabara's version least of the three I know.

    So, in keeping with the theme of this thread, my personal choices:-

    A Side - 'Something's Missing (In My Life)'.
    B:- 'It's Really You', (which I love).

    A:- 'Midnight'.
    B:- 'I Do It For Your Love'.

    All of these songs would need re-recorded vocals, or partially re-recorded vocals.

    I can't see them being big hits in 1979 for all the reasons I've mentioned, but who knows? Who can really say? They would have made really nice singles, anyway, (in my opinion).
     
  14. Interesting to think about the top songs of the moment that would have provided context for KC’s solo songs:

    May 1980
    Single #1: If I Had You
    Other hits: “Please Don’t Go,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Escape (Pina Colada),” “Do That To Me One More Time."

    August 1980
    Single #2: My Body Keeps Changing My Mind
    Other hits: “Call Me,” “Funkytown,” “Magic,” “Sailing,” Upside Down."

    November 1980
    Single #3: Make Believe It's Your First Time
    Other songs: “Woman In Love,” “Lady,” “Just Like Starting Over"
     
  15. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    ^^Great idea....framing Karen's potentialities against the 'hits' of the period !
    Which only reinforces my opinion--
    their were "hits" on that solo project......
     
    Jeff likes this.
  16. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    I tend to agree up to the marketing angle. I think it was meant as a start to give the Carpenters a second look. Just a few more choices and re-recording would have fixed the issues. I think a lot of error is in the mixing. It certainly has a New York type of sound and is missing the warmth of a California mix. It is a shame that Rod Temperton’s team work with Karen was not marketed. I think it is among her best. With Quincy Jones and Phil Ramones’s marketing machines combined with her management team it could have had moderate success and in turn more appreciation would have come in Richard’s direction. If Richard had decided during recovery that he had enough (as probably some feared) more effort would have been brought to Karen’s solo effort for A&M did not want to loose that talent. When Richard was ready for work her respect and love for him possibly changed her perspective and with A&M the Carpenters catalog was most important. In reality, all these years later the catalog is still selling product. But back to the topic, I don’t like the Javor’s tunes either, and I feel they weaken the project. But Karen and Rod made a great team. I also feel a second solo album could have been the ticket had Karen not been caught in the middle of anorexia, a virtually unknown disease with little therapeutic knowledge in the 70’s. Made In America showed that people were yearing for the Carpenters but they wanted their sound moving in a new direction. Eventually, had there been an actual recovery, their talent would have created it. Eventually, musicians want their craft heard over their expected product sound and a new perspective would have been delivered. What Rod Temperton brought to the table was a positive new temperament to Karen’s vocal ability. I am happy those songs are now in our listening library. For a little example of craft over product, we can listen to Tryin To Get The Feeling Again for it has a alternative 90’s rock influence in the arrangement that would have never been a part of the song had it been arranged during the Horizon project. And Karen had naturally instinctive inborn super talents!
     
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  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    ^^ I love Javor's compositions:
    All Because Of You,
    Still In Love With You,
    as well as Karen's interpretation of those songs !
     
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  18. Not sure if this is the right topic to post this in but somebody somewhere believed in Make believe it's your first time as a great single potential as it was released twice in the UK as a Carpenters 7".Firstly from Voice of the heart then to promote the Yesterday once more collection. I forgot this until going through my collection and finding the silver picture sleeve released in 1984 with the YOM collection on the rear of the sleeve.
    I like the song but it fascinates me it got released twice in the UK then in Japan as a Karen solo cd single.
     
  19. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Speaking of fascinating:
    Rod Temperton is responsible for
    Boogie Nights,
    which, as we know,
    was performed on the Carpenters' 1978 TV Special Space Encounters !
    Talk about three degrees of separation......
     
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  20. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    I think another issue was that even before Karen recorded the album, Richard was already against it and he possible influenced Alpert and Moss to have doubts that didn't manifest until she played the album back for them.
     
  21. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I don't recall the whole interview word for word, but he did say that all the speculation about why the album wasn't released is pointless because the reason it wasn't released was, it wasn't a good album (according to Richard, Herb Alpert, Jerry Moss and whoever else made the A&R decisions at A&M).
     
  22. ScottyB

    ScottyB Active Member

    I have to say that I think either "Lovelines" or "If We Try" would have made a great lead off single. At the time, Rod Temperton was having tremendous success with Michael Jackson, Heatwave & George Benson hit songs. There's no reason either one of these songs wouldn't have fit in nicely with the selections Temperton was writing at the time. (Michael Jackson's "Rock With You", Heatwave's "The Groove Line" & George Benson's "Give Me The Night").
    Other possible hits may have been "If I Had You", "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" & "Guess I Just Lost My Head".
    I also wish more of the "R & B Flavored" songs that were recorded had a proper mix to be included on her album instead of some of the ones that were eventually chosen. I think it would have made a more even and consistent record.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
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  23. Chris

    Chris Active Member

    It's such a testament to Karen's enormous and rare talent that we all continue to talk about this album with passion so many years later. I've said it before, but I really wish she would have gone back into the studio after the rejection and cut even more tracks so there would have been some stronger material to choose from for the final album. There's just too much excellence on it for the entire project to have been shelved. I'm not sure which ones would have had the best success as singles, but I would choose "If I Had You", "Make Believe It's Your First Time", and "If We Try". Another I feel that may have done well is "My Body Keeps Changing.." even though I'm not personally very fond of it.
    I think Harry makes a good point about blame and Phil Ramone. Not that anyone intentionally set out to make poor choices, but you'd think there would have been some better overall direction from him while still giving Karen her own creative choices.
    A while back I had some more fun with photoshop and put a couple of mock single covers together. "If I Had You" remains my favorite from the solo album, closely tied with "Make Believe..". The other mock single image for "Still In Love With You" is mainly because I think it's a great title and not that it would have necessarily been a good choice for a single. Fun song though and I think Karen makes the most of it.

    [​IMG]If.I.Had.You.Single.banner by ClearAtmosphere, on Flickr
    [​IMG]still.in.love.with.youPOST by ClearAtmosphere, on Flickr
     
  24. Carpe diem

    Carpe diem Well-Known Member

    The clear choice for me as a single would be, Making Love In The Afternoon. Nice beat and electric guitar accompaniment. Light and breezy melody sung beautifully by Karen. Would've been a solid choice for release in the summer of 1980. Two other picks that I am not as strong on but I think are the best of the lot; If We Try and Last One Singin' The Blues. Was not a fan of the album at first, but it has grown on me. As good as, if not better than MIA (IMHO). It was certainly worthy of release. And I agree with previous posts; Phil Ramone could've done a lot more to sell the record in that infamous meeting. From what I have read, he just sat on his ass and let Karen twist in the wind. Also, I like the outtake, Truly You. I think with a little refinement it could've/should've been on the album and a possibility as a single.
     
    Jeff likes this.
  25. Jeff

    Jeff Well-Known Member

    Now that's the review I've been waiting to hear around here. Good job. Way to see the glass.
     

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