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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)

    38 vote(s)
    79.2%
  2. ****

    9 vote(s)
    18.8%
  3. ***

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. **

    1 vote(s)
    2.1%
  5. *

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    FL
    I was listening to my white label promo lp of Christmas Portrait in my car today and "First Snowfall" starting playing and it really hit me that for the first minute into the song it's basically Karen singing accapela, we hear the backing choir providing these oohs and aahs but really this is Karen without any instruments. I don't know why but this stood out for me today.
     
  2. Chris Mills

    Chris Mills Well-Known Member

    BBC are promoting a programme called 'Home Comforts at Christmas' and playing in the background is the Carpenters version of 'Carol Of The Bells'
     
  3. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    I love that track. Such a positive lyric married to such a sad treatment. . .just like Charlie getting that "branch" that needs a little love.
     
  4. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    First listen of the Christmas season today- and I am in love with this album all over again. The arrangements by Richard are top notch. Karen sounds INCREDIBLE.
     
  5. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Deciphering the credits for the arrangements on LP Christmas Portrait ,
    it appears (if I read it correctly--and, correct me if I err)
    that only
    Merry Christmas Darling and O Come,O Come Immanuel were arranged
    soley by Richard Carpenter--Billy May and Peter Knight, otherwise.
    I play this album throughout the year as Karen's vocals are simply out of this world.
     
  6. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    FL
  7. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    FL
    It's hard to believe this album is 37 yrs old....does anyone own the original A&M press kit from Oct 1978?

    [​IMG]
     
    1979lee, theninjarabbit and goodjeans like this.
  8. theninjarabbit

    theninjarabbit Well-Known Member

    Oohhhh! If it's not too much trouble Rick, do you think you can post what that Biography text says? Would love to read. Thank you -- you've got a nice piece there. :)
     
  9. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    FL
    Sorry that is just a photo I saved, I wish I owned this, it's cool huh?
     
    1979lee likes this.
  10. theninjarabbit

    theninjarabbit Well-Known Member

    Oh, haha -- sorry for the confusion. Yeah, it is pretty cool. :D

    Let me see if I can try reading it myself:

    October 1978
    Twenty-two years ago, a young man received a Christmas present that (lifted??) his imagination. It was an album called A Christmas Spectacular by Spike Jones, his orchestra and choral group, and for once the ... Mr. Jones set his ... genius aside and created a lovely array of some (25)/(35) Christmas songs that for years helped canoe in the Christmas season.
    By 1970, that same young man and his sister--which by then had achieved international stardom as Karen and Richard Carpenter--began thinking about creating their own collection of Christmas songs ("The album I had in mind", Richard recalls, "would have that same warm choral sound, those tight harmonies, and would be different than the sound we were known for"). By then, however, the Carpenters were swept up in the cyclonic pace of their own success -- with 17 gold records, three Grammy awards, and worldwide sales of some 30 million records. With regular concert appearances, recording sessions and TV spectaculars, the project, of necessity, had to be postponed.

    But their determination carried through, and for Christmas 1978, Karen and Richard Carpenter have created Christmas Portrait, a stunning collection of songs recorded with a 50 piece orchestra and 48 singer chorus, which may well become a Christmas classic in years to come.
    The album opens with Richard's acapella chant, "Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel" which segues into the overture. The album includes a Julie Styne/Gus Kahn song, "Christmas Waltz", Victor Young's "It's Christmas Time", "Sleep Well Little Children", and the annual Carpenters classic, "Merry Christmas Darling". Richard's choral instructor at Cal State in Long Beach, Frank Pooler, wrote the words in 1946. Richard added the music in 1966, long before the world knew of the Carpenters.

    Christmas Portrait includes the surely performed Bach/Gounod "Ave Maria", as well as the more traditional "Sleigh Ride", "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "Carol of the Bells", "I'll Be Home For Christmas", "Silver Bells", and "Silent Night", sung with a chorus of 96 singers. The arrangements and orchestrations are by Peter Knight, Billy May, and Richard Carpenter.

    Christmas Portrait reminds us that the season of fragrance of evergreens and sparkling lights, of joyful reunions and ecstatic kids is upon us again.

    ....
     
  11. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    I was just listening to Michael Bolton's A Swinging Christmas last night and I couldn't help but feel that there are two types of Christmas albums, and the vast majority of Christmas albums out there, like Michael Bolton's above mentioned album (and his 1996 album This Is The Time: The Christmas Album, the 10 or 12 track album where the artist just chooses a selection of Christmas songs, and sings them, but none of the songs segue into one another. It's just perform song, silence, then the next song.

    The Carpenters really set the bar high with Christmas Portrait & An Old-Fashioned Christmas and even Christmas Portrait: Special Edition, since all three albums really make it feel like you are at a symphony.
     
    goodjeans likes this.
  12. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Upon listening to the Special Edition Christmas Portrait,
    it occurs to me how much I enjoy
    track#13&14, O Holy Night with its segue to Home For The Holidays......,
    (Of course, the same two appear together on LP An Old Fashioned Christmas).
    What is interesting (to my ears) is that both songs above are Peter Knight arrangements, again.
    As only two songs (on LP An Old Fashioned Christmas ) were arranged by Richard Carpenter :
    It Came Upon A Midnight Clear and Santa Claus is Coming To Town---
    thus, in 1984 (and carried into the Special Edition cd)
    Richard added the choir to Ave Maria and Sax Solo change on Santa.
    On the 1984 LP sleeve :
    credits say Piano Richard Carpenter;
    keyboards Richard Carpenter and Pete Jolly.
    (names in reverse order on the 1978 Portrait LP,with no piano credit specified,--if that signifies anything whatsoever.)
    Three Chorales,respectively, make their appearances heard:
    1978 LP Portrait: (1) Tom Bahler Chorale
    1984 LP Old Fashioned: (2) O.K. Corale conducted by Dick Bolks and (3) English Chorale conducted by Robert Howes.

    In any event, nice to see Carpenters Christmas Offerings held in high regard for 2015.
    Is there anyone of us, who in 1978 upon grabbing a copy of Christmas Portrait off of the store shelves,
    did not presume that such would remain the case forever---i.e., Timeless Classic ?
     
  13. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    With the "Old-Fashioned Christmas" arrangements, especially the instrumentals, I wonder if parts of those were recorded in the 1976-1978 timeframe for the two Christmas specials, and then Richard just did a remix on the tracks in 1984, thus using the arrangements by Peter Knight and Billy ? (I forget his last name)? On my copy of the "Christmas Portrait" TV Special, Richard plays, as his "gift", 'The Nutcracker Suite', but the piano sounds different compared to the OFC version, while the rest sounds pretty much the same,albeit in mono rather than stereo?
     
  14. still have my 8track! of christmas portrait.. warm and lovley as ever i must admit.
    no remixes needed with perfection allready done!
    [​IMG]
     
    GaryAlan likes this.
  15. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    Next to the LP and West German CD, that's probably the next best quality above the average 1/4-inch cassette version.
     
  16. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    That's a good question. I'm sure there are some instrumental tracks that were cut for Christmas Portrait and revisited as filler material in 1984. Not sure which ones though as none of the tracks have a date listed on the credits as to when they were originally produced. I'd love to know!
     
  17. mr J.

    mr J. Active Member

    Yes, "O Holy Night" and "Nutcracker" were recorded in 1977 and 1978, respectively,for the Christmas Portrait sessions-and updated in 1984 for inclusion on An Old Fashioned Christmas.
     
  18. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    With the Nutcracker Suite, was anything cut for the Special Edition, since I know that my CD copy doesn't mention "Trepak", however when I listen to the different albums I don't notice anything missing. Or maybe I just get lost in the music and I completely miss the cut.
     
  19. goodjeans

    goodjeans Active Member

    ...on this week's Billboard Top 200, "Christmas Portrait" charts at #99.
     
    GaryAlan likes this.
  20. I always thought of this as Richard's concept album masterwork, but on his website, he suggests that he had little to do with it and it should be considered a Karen solo album. Is this false modesty on his part, or did he really have far less to do with this album than I always thought? It seems like a strange comment to make because his vocals are all over the album compared to many of the other Carpenters albums!
     
  21. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Richard acted as producer, along with Karen as associate producer. As for vocals, Richard only sang on about 5 songs of the 17 featured, and (with the exception of O Come, O Come Immanuel), it was usually backing vocal support or a one-liner here or there. He was in pretty bad shape at the time, and the songs that had any heavier playing in them (Carol Of The Bells, It's Christmas Time) were tracked prior to '78, as his playing had taken a back seat to his struggle.

    Overall, the album was a concept album that they pretty much had figured out years before they did it - as it modeled much of the Spike Jones and The City Slickers stuff they'd grown up with. Here you had Karen singing much of the traditional torch stuff, which was right up her alley. I believe that's the reason Richard feels all-in-all that it was Karen's album.
     
  22. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Chris May,
    for the elaboration upon this issue.
    I would only add---and, perhaps more can be said, or I can be corrected---
    that according to the Album Sleeve,
    Richard Carpenter contributed only
    Two
    arrangements....
    O Come, O Come Immanuel
    and
    Merry Christmas Darling.
    (And, this 1978 arrangement is still the 1970 arrangement---unless I am mistaken.)
     
  23. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Yes! Thank you @GaryAlan - I did fail to mention that as well. :)
     
  24. So the second Christmas album is more of a Richard album?

    I think it was normal by this time for Karen to sing nearly all the leads. It wasn't like Richard was singing far less here than their other recent efforts. I guess he thought of it more as "Karen solo" because he took such a back seat in the arranging and producing. This blows my mind because I had always assumed that this album was his baby through and through!
     

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