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Holidays! THE OFFICIAL REVIEW: [Album] "CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT" SP-4726

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Dec 1, 2014.

How Would You Rate This Album?

  1. ***** (BEST)

    42 vote(s)
    77.8%
  2. ****

    11 vote(s)
    20.4%
  3. ***

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. **

    1 vote(s)
    1.9%
  5. *

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. That's funny. When I listen to that line, I don't hear Richard, per se, but rather a different high male voice, stacked for sure in the way his vocals *would have been*. But, I'll accept that it's Richard and go about my life...

    Harry
     
  2. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Some Trivia from Billboard Magazine......
    December 1982 : Christmas Portrait ( MSRP $8.98)
    December 1983 : Christmas Portrait #5 on Holiday Chart (Merry Christmas Darling #10).
    December 1984 : Christmas Portrait #2 on Holiday Chart. (MSRP $5.98)

    And, now (this particular review is "Whig-History" exemplified):
    ITunes, 2015 Christmas Portrait Special Edition CD (UMG/RP $11.98)
    This is the Official Itunes Album Review/Description (author journalist-critic Bruce Eder, source AllMusic):
    "The Carpenters were just about the last adult pop outfit of their era with anything resembling rock credibility (they did have a little of the latter in the early days, and weren't a kid act like the Osmonds) who could have pulled off a straight Christmas album. And they did it in superb style here, illuminated throughout by the delightful, complex, often playful arrangements, courtesy of Peter Knight, Richard Carpenter, and Billy May. Actually, for a change on a Carpenters album, Richard is the dominant personality on display across this record, as both co-arranger and producer, as well as the mastermind behind the project; Karen Carpenter's voice is also prominent, to be sure, most notably on "Merry Christmas, Darling" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and she threw herself into this next-to-last completed project (and their final release before a two-year hiatus), but it's Richard who comes to the fore everywhere here, in ways that are impossible to ignore. And the results are mightily impressive, as the mood never slackens in what amounts to a wall-to-wall celebration of the Christmas holiday. After a suitably festive introductory section, Karen Carpenter's solo voice comes up on the "Christmas Waltz" and the proceedings really take off, carrying us into the most engaging rendition of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" that has come down in many a year, and it only gets better from there, through a brace of holiday staples that end up sounding fresh in her voice and his arrangements.
    There's not a slack moment on this album..."
     
  3. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    If you listen carefully throughout the entire phrase - adjusting the pan in the mix will help - you'll hear nuances of Richard's blend. It's subtle but I think the thing that throws people off is that the line comes immediately following the chorale, as I believe that there are a couple of male vocals from the group slightly blended in with Richard to keep it in a similar vein if that makes sense. I definitely hear Richard.
     
  4. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    My understanding is the track was cut along with some partial orchestration and Karen's work lead (which may not have been a complete take if memory serves). They preferred the Bach/Gounod version (as do I personally) and rushed to get it finished, albeit without the chorale arrangement that was intended. As we know, the parts were subsequently added in '84 at Abbey Road when Richard was working on An Old Fashioned Christmas for the remix of the song, which can be found on every subsequent compilation and repackaging of the Christmas stuff.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2015
  5. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Interestingly enough, I don't mind the Chorale parts in most of the Christmas offerings.
    However, my sole exception resides with Ave Maria.
    And, even then, I almost do not mind the chorale....except, at the very end of the song,
    when Karen sings that final "...Amen...",
    to have the choir spoil that final ending simply boggles
    my mind--and, my ears.
    (I, Preferring the 1978 Vinyl version, obviously.)
     
  6. Iv never been fan of the song"santa clause is coming to town"until i saw the carpenters perform it on the perry como special,it is a superb and unique version.i also love "little altar boy"mainly because of karens magnificent vocal on it.although i much prefer their pop singles and albums these two jems are a joy at christmas time.
     
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  7. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    I think the dislike for the Chorale (obviously outside of it not being R/K blended) is actually more to do with the OK Chorale, rather than a Choral, per se. The Tom Bahler Chorale handled Portrait. . .and much of An Old Fashioned Xmas was taken with the English Chorale. Similarly The MOR Chorale handled INTBIL, and the Gregg Smith Singers PASSAGE.

    The more I think about it, the more I think The OK Chorale were just a slightly inferior sounding troup. I can't find anything about them. Maybe they were just a bunch of studio singers given that name for copyright reasons. Either way, whoever comprised the group in mid- 83 weren't terribly impressive, nor the collective during MMM either, for that matter.
     
    GaryAlan likes this.
  8. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    With "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", I've wondered if the short version was put on "Christmas Portrait" because that short version was in the Christmas Portrait TV Special, so people who saw the show and liked that number, butwho hadn't yet bought the album, would not be confused. Since, really, who wouldn't, when putting out a Christmas record, not include all their Christmas releases on the album. And aside from possible not having enough space, I don't see why the 74 version was not included.

    But tonight, I had "Carol Of The Bells" on my mind, and I was wondering if Bells had been recorded and mixed in 72 or 74 as a possible B-side to "Santa Claus", as aside from the vocals, the mix in the Como TV series seems to be the Album mix
     
  9. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    Richard's always stated that had Karen lived they'd have made at least one further xmas album. Perhaps he was holding that one back (with their trademark sound) for the second album.
     
  10. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    What is the editing error in the lead vocal that needed fixing on the song Ave Maria ?
    Richard Carpenter:
    " The song---Ave Maria-- was later remixed, and an editing error in the lead vocal fixed, in 1990."
    (source: Official Carpenter Website)
     
  11. Short answer: don't know.

    Long answer: back in 1985 or so when the SPECIAL EDITION came out, I remember finding it in-store on CD and buying it. While there, I browsed through some stereo/hi-fi magazines - the kind that had reviews of latest releases of albums. Since CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT on CD was a semi-big deal - the format was new and burgeoning - the CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT on LP was already semi-legendary - and the idea of filling up more time on a CD was appealing - I found a detailed review. Since there wasn't much in the way of remixing taking place here, the addition of the choir was noted - and it was said that the choir now covered up one of the flaws in the lead vocal track. I believe the reviewer even referred to the flaw as occurring around the 2-minute mark where the big crescendo is.

    I've listened long and hard to the West German CD and the LP, and I never pinpointed a "flaw".

    I also realize that the quote mentions 1990, and I always read it as "The song---Ave Maria-- was later remixed, and an editing error in the lead vocal fixed, in 1990, and an editing error in the lead vocal {had been} fixed {prior}."

    Perhaps I'm mistaken about that quote, but it's the way I've always read it.

    Harry
     
  12. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Reading this brought another thread to mind that holds good memories from years gone by and I quote..."FROM THE TOP has inexplicably speeded the song up".

    Back in the days when we were just beginning to discover all the nuances :whistle:

    http://www.amcorner.com/forum/threads/ave-maria.3425/
     
  13. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Technically the reason for this was due to an error during mastering. However, I think Richard initially requested this, as the preceding track Little Altar Boy was keyed in F#minor, which puts it in a relative key to "A major". Ave Maria, which was originally recorded in A-flat major was sped up in order to bring the key up one full half-step to "A-major". This made a seamless transition from one track into the next. I think upon hearing the result however, the idea was thrown out but the altered track was inadvertently included in the 12x12 set, only to be corrected for the book form re-release. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
  14. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Thanks for elaborating upon this point, regarding Ave Maria.
    (Now, I am interested in obtaining the 'book-form' pressing of From The Top !).
    I seem to recall that The Singles 1969-1973 Medley
    Superstar/Rainy Days/Goodbye To Love suffered from the same speeding up-process.
    Richard Carpenter, the Q/A of the Official Carpenter Website:
    “One of them years ago, I think ‘Rainy Days And Mondays’ or ‘Goodbye To Love’,
    at my request, was vso’d (a machine called a ‘variable speed oscillator’).
    For the single, rather than slowing the one back to original speed,
    we sped up the other two to match, much to my regret in later years.
    The original LP version was too slow, in my mind, for a single.
    They aren’t pitched to a degree that would make a different key.
    Compared to the same songs on the original LPs, one
    (‘Rainy Days And Mondays’ or ‘Goodbye To Love’) was speeded up.
    In later days for remix I returned all that had been vso’d to their original speeds.”
     
  15. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Yes, that was something that Richard hated after the fact. Superstar was VSOd to play a semitone faster, so the remaining tracks had to match because the musical interludes were all arranged to make the smooth transition from one track to the next. The "Remastered Classics" version of the disc had this error corrected on all parts and sounds fantastic.
     
  16. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    The error that he was referring to coincides with an "in" point at 1:10, and "out" at 1:15, where the lyric reads "Fructus ventris". If one listens carefully (to the original), you can hear where a very small snippet is cut off at the "in" point, creating a clicking noise with the muting of one take, un-muting of alternate take (to create a composite). This is followed by similar mix console noise when the alternate take is returned back to the original. This can be heard on the mix from '78.
     
  17. Fascinating. Thanks Chris.
     
  18. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Chris.
    If I understand correctly, Ave Maria was a combination--at the 1:10 to 1:15 mark--
    of different vocal takes, spliced together . (?)
    This is quite interesting, in any even (whether I understand it or not !).
     
  19. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    FL
    Interesting stuff...I've just tried to listen with headphones about a dozen times at the 1:10 and 1:15 mark but can't quite hear the clicking noise or console noise, would this be on the German Pressing CD?

    Rick
    (Chris Has Exited)
     
  20. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Exactly - that disc features the original mix from '78. :)
     
  21. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    Well if that error wasn't fixed till 1990, then it should still be present on the Special Edition CD that's ben out since 1984, and aside from the choir being added in, uses the same mix from 78.
     
  22. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    I was just on the Official website, and under the notes for Christmas Collection it is mentioned that the Carpenters considered and toyed with the idea of releasing a 2-LP set back in 78, due to the amount of material that was recorded (and apparently "Old-Fashioned Christmas" didn't use all the excess, only what Richard thought was good enough at the time, so there is still more unreleased Christmas songs in the vault).
     
  23. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    I need to get this straight in my mind, Chris May !
    As I have listened to the Vinyl 1978 Ave Maria countless times--this morn,included--
    I can in no sense pick up on (hear) noise that is being referenced !
    Thus,
    this ' editing error in the lead vocal ' can be heard on the German Pressed Compact Disc, but not on the Vinyl LP ?
     
  24. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    I just listened to both the West German and the Special Edition versions of the song, and it was present on both at 1:18 into the song. But on both it was very subtle---it almost sounded like Karen was maybe turning the song sheet and struck the music stand with a ring on her finger. Otherwise, if you aren't listening for it, it just flows right with the song. But I only heard the one sound.

    Edit: I just relistened again, and I was able to hear the click at 1:10, plus I heard a third click at 1:40.
     
  25. I too have been investigating this 1:10 phenomenon and I hear kind of a low thudding sound between 1:09 and 1:10, so I assume that's what we're talking about here. It's pretty low in the mix, but I guess Richard, the perfectionist, could hear it.

    What this doesn't quite jibe with is that stereo magazine review of the then-new SPECIAL EDITION. It indicated that the choir was used to cover up the "flaw", and yet at 1:10, the choir has yet to debut. Now it IS true that in the SPECIAL EDITION version of the disc, that thudding noise is no longer present, so it's quite possible that I read it wrong and that they were indicating a fixing of the flaw *and* an additional choir, not that the two had anything to do with each other.

    Harry
     

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