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Official Review [Album]: "A KIND OF HUSH" (SP-4581)

HOW WOULD YOU RATE THIS ALBUM?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 5 7.0%
  • ****

    Votes: 17 23.9%
  • ***

    Votes: 40 56.3%
  • **

    Votes: 8 11.3%
  • *

    Votes: 1 1.4%

  • Total voters
    71

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
"I Can't Smile Without You"
I had to re-listen to Manilow's version. I must say, I find his version most unimpressive.
In fact, perusing Billboard Magazine I was surprised to find how popular his song was !
I won't deny Carpenters' original LP version is not as impressive as their 'improved' version,
but, for all the 'talk' about how Richard Carpenter (apparently) failed to find 'hit material'
in the later part of their career--well, this song shows that Richard was still able to discern
an excellent song.
Richard may have been able to discern quality material but he proved that he didn't know what to do with it once he found it. Whether we like Barry's version of "Can't Smile..." or not, it got to #3 on the U.S. "Hot 100" so it was a huge hit and Carpenters' version did absolutely nothing as it wasn't released as a single. IMHO, the remix does nothing to help matters as the mix was never the issue; it was the arrangement. It's just dreary and sad. Manilow's treatment of the tune is completely different and it worked extremely well as many people bought the single. Carpenters'...didn't. It's very soft like everything else on that album. This kinda speaks to the issues with the album as a whole. It's all far too pleasant and, as @Rumbahbah said, too same-y. It's all very nice but nothing sticks out as anything that could have hit.

I like "You" but that's really almost in spite of what Richard does with it. Karen's vocal is top-notch here and I do love what he does with the background vocals (when don't I? LOL!!). "I Need to Be In Love" as a song is excellent with a perfect Karen vocal but Richard sent it straight into the elevators with the arrangement and the choir we'd rather do without. I'm not surprised by it's chart placement myself. It hit in the U.S. but only mildly. It should have done far better and likely would have had it been arranged differently.

The next record found him eschewing the elevator, by and large, but he went running back to it on "Made in America".

Ed
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
There really is nothing wrong with "being nice."
Even if Barry Manilow's version of Can't Smile did well on the charts, that proves nothing to me--
the version of his is still not as good as Carpenters' version (in fact, I can't stand it !).
Once again, I am not looking at the Kind of Hush LP from the perspective of
"how many hit singles came off of it."
Do I enjoy listening to the ALBUM ? Yes !
Is each individual song a "hit" ? No !
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Feb 1976 Cash Box Singles review:
THE CARPENTERS (A&M 1800), There's A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World) (2:53) (Glenwood - BMI)
(Les Reed, Geoff Stephens)
"The Carpenters are just that, craftsmen using their tools to build solid pop hits. This record is no exception, complete
with slick production and a hook -filled chorus. Nice guitar and horn work."

June 26,1976 Cash Box Mag:
"KIND OF HUSH — Carpenters — A&M SP 4581
— Producer: Richard Carpenter, List: $6.98--
"The dynamic duo of the MOR/easy listening idiom have come up with another winner. “A Kind Of Hush"
is a clean collection of tunes that is truly representative of the kind of music that the Carpenters
are famous for — smooth, ingratiating melodies that bear their contemporary trademark.
This LP is bound to be an instant success with both the pop and MOR audiences, with the title tune and their
cover of the Neil Sedaka hit, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” standing out as prime shots for the AM market."

Cash Box , AUGUST 14, 1976, International Best Sellers, LP
There's A Kind of Hush:
JAPAN #5
UK #8
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
This LP is bound to be an instant success with both the pop and MOR audiences, with the title tune and their
cover of the Neil Sedaka hit, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” standing out as prime shots for the AM market”
How any reviewer could single out that Sedaka cover as a prime choice for radio is beyond me. It’s trite, corny and instantly forgettable.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
What does it mean to say "prime choice for radio" ? Please Mr. Postman, I would say is a great 'radio-friendly' song.
So is: All You Get From Love Is A Love Song....the former "hits" #1 and the later hits, like what, #38 (?).
And, still, Postman gets maligned---so, go figure.
(RC: "We wouldn't have been recording that stuff had I known how little time Karen had left....").

No one can "pick" a "hit". I would never have thought Close To You would have hit #1.
But, that is really beside the point: it is the album in its entirety that matters most to me,
and, in that sense, nothing on the Hush album is particularly bad.
The album is very well produced. Karen sounds beautiful.
Lots of "nice" listening to be had on this album.
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
What does it mean to say "prime choice for radio" ? Please Mr. Postman, I would say is a great 'radio-friendly' song.
So is: All You Get From Love Is A Love Song....the former "hits" #1 and the later hits, like what, #38 (?).
And, still, Postman gets maligned---so, go figure.
(RC: "We wouldn't have been recording that stuff had I known how little time Karen had left....").

No one can "pick" a "hit". I would never have thought Close To You would have hit #1.
But, that is really beside the point: it is the album in its entirety that matters most to me,
and, in that sense, nothing on the Hush album is particularly bad.
The album is very well produced. Karen sounds beautiful.
Lots of "nice" listening to be had on this album.
It's true that there's no surefire way to pick a hit, but the problem with A Kind of Hush is that there's nothing on there that sounds like a potential big hit. 'There's a Kind of Hush' is about the best there is in this respect, and it pales in comparison to 'Please Mr Postman' in terms of its commercial appeal.

Contrast this with Horizon, where several album tracks ('Happy' , 'Desperado', 'Love Me for What I Am') were strong enough to be potential choices for singles in addition to the three singles that were released (even if I wouldn't have chosen 'Solitaire' as a single). The tracklisting on A Kind of Hush offers very slim pickings in this respect and was their first album to suffer from this problem, which should have made A&M take more notice and step in.

It's good that some people can enjoy the album and I appreciate our likes and dislikes are all subjective. For me though, it's not an album I'd want to listen to all the way through really. It's certainly quite a cohesive piece of work, but in a bad way. Aside from 'Boat to Sail' and 'One More Time' (and occasionally 'You'), I don't really listen to it at all now.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
As I recounted a while back, the MOR/EL radio station here (FL) in 1976 refused to play
I Need To Be In Love. They would not spin that 45 ! I also recall the single Hush doing relatively well in Rockford, Illinois in 1976.
And, all these years later, I still contend--
it would not have mattered at that point in time what the duo released as a single--
there was not going to be another "Close To You."
But, returning to the album: in this week alone (while revisiting this forum),
I have re-listened to the album FIVE complete times.
It is a soothing piece of "work," with beautiful vocals.
Not perfect by any means, but also not as bad as all that.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
GaryAlan, you have it exactly right. The album A KIND OF HUSH, for all of its perceived faults, is still a Carpenters album. Karen's there, singing lead, in the way that only she can. Richard's piano and production are there as always, and those facts alone give it a leg up on many other recorded works.

Yeah, the songs tend to be a bit on the bland side, but then where are all the people constantly screaming that they would want to hear Karen sing the phone book? Any scrap of unheard tape is good enough for them, but are they the ones also being so picky about how this album was put together? That it's not good enough for them?

I readily admit that there are things about A KIND OF HUSH that I find fault in. First off, it's not engineered or mastered well. I don't know who's to blame here, and I'm not looking to place blame. It is what it is. And I never really cared for "I Need To Be In Love" as a single. But it was, it was played on the radio, and I've made my peace with it.

If you grew up in the fifties and sixties, you knew of Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do". It was a great radio song and so much fun for the musically inclined to sing along and harmonize with Neil's overdubbed vocals. Well, Karen and Richard grew up then too. And I'm sure they had just as much fun singing along with the radio on that song. So, the fact that the Carpenters finally released it - pretty much as Neil had first done it - makes a good deal of sense to me. And Karen's double-tracked lead is great fun. The ending is a bit corny with the party atmosphere, but the early part makes it all worth it in my book. And hey - this song has a bit of life to it on an album full of many slow ballads. After the success of "Postman", I can't blame them a bit for trying to milk some oldies, especially at a time when "oldies radio" was really taking off.
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
GaryAlan, you have it exactly right. The album A KIND OF HUSH, for all of its perceived faults, is still a Carpenters album. Karen's there, singing lead, in the way that only she can. Richard's piano and production are there as always, and those facts alone give it a leg up on many other recorded works.

Yeah, the songs tend to be a bit on the bland side, but then where are all the people constantly screaming that they would want to hear Karen sing the phone book? Any scrap of unheard tape is good enough for them, but are they the ones also being so picky about how this album was put together? That it's not good enough for them?

I readily admit that there are things about A KIND OF HUSH that I find fault in. First off, it's not engineered or mastered well. I don't know who's to blame here, and I'm not looking to place blame. It is what it is. And I never really cared for "I Need To Be In Love" as a single. But it was, it was played on the radio, and I've made my peace with it.

If you grew up in the fifties and sixties, you knew of Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do". It was a great radio song and so much fun for the musically inclined to sing along and harmonize with Neil's overdubbed vocals. Well, Karen and Richard grew up then too. And I'm sure they had just as much fun singing along with the radio on that song. So, the fact that the Carpenters finally released it - pretty much as Neil had first done it - makes a good deal of sense to me. And Karen's double-tracked lead is great fun. The ending is a bit corny with the party atmosphere, but the early part makes it all worth it in my book. And hey - this song has a bit of life to it on an album full of many slow ballads. After the success of "Postman", I can't blame them a bit for trying to milk some oldies, especially at a time when "oldies radio" was really taking off.
Of course it's all relative - a relatively underwhelming Carpenters album is still going to be better than many other albums by other artists. That said, I don't feel the need to treat all their work as a 'sacred cow' and as untouchable simply because Karen and Richard made it. In the canon of their recorded work, and particularly in relation to the albums they'd released up to that point, it's a big step down in terms of quality, variety and commercial appeal.

That's not just viewing it in hindsight knowing that it and its singles would falter commercially - a number of reviews when the album was released in 1976 picked up on its listless sound. Even Richard doesn't have great things to say about the album, and nor did Ray Coleman in his book. I don't feel that in order to be a fan, I have to like every album or song an artist recorded - I can't think of a single artist of band I really like where that would be the case - but that doesn't stop me being a fan of them in general. Perhaps others disagree in that respect?

In response to your point about 'Breaking Up is Hard to Do', I'm sure you're right about the reason why it was recorded. I don't much like it myself, but I can see why some might find it fun. The bigger issue I have with it is its inclusion on the album alongside two other pretty lightweight 'oldies' covers, 'There's a Kind of Hush' and 'Goofus' - it's too much of the same thing. Horizon may have been too ballad-heavy, but at least most of those ballads were fairly substantial tracks. The contrast with the soft and lightweight content on A Kind of Hush, both in terms of the ballads and the oldies on there, is quite jarring. The album desperately needed some more variety and a bit more substance. There was very little of that in the song selection.

And yet they did track 'Ordinary Fool' at the same time, which offered both more variety and more substance and was better than anything that did make it on to the album. That's why I wonder whether someone from the record company should perhaps have looked more closely at what was going on and given an outsider's perspective - the artists themselves aren't always the best judges in this respect, particularly if they're getting tired and burned out and are starting to run on autopilot.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
^^ By the way, I do enjoy the analysis of this album !

I think I contemplated, at some point, certain changes (without altering the song-selection):
(1) Altering There's A Kind of Hush to more closely pattern the Palladium (slow boil) version,
(2) offering up the remixed (jazzed-up) version of Can't Smile Without You,
(3) then, including a Bruce Forsyth type-version of INTBIL.

Can we re- imagine the Hush album, then ? Would be nice to give it a try.

I realize I am beating this one to death, but,
I fail to see (or hear) the disaster that others find with this album.

Also, up until LP Now & Then, much of the earlier albums included material that Richard Carpenter
was culling from their college and spectrum years.
Also, their albums always had covers and "oldies," so that choice is not specific to the Hush LP.
That this album is not Horizon....even that comparison poses issues: many call Horizon "draggy" or too ballad-heavy.
Then, the duo goes completely opposite with Passage, and even that LP gets harpooned !

Now, the 1971 Tan LP that everyone adores, that is the album I play the least !
So, we all have varying degrees of taste, and that is a good thing !
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
Here's a thought-piece for you.

Given: HORIZON and A KIND OF HUSH were two separate albums. Both have their share of detractors and praisers.
Your task: Combine all of the tracks from both HORIZON and A KIND OF HUSH into a two-disc set. Forget the dates of recording, just combine the two albums into one double-album set. Don't add anything not already there, nor subtract anything that IS there.

Can combining the two make for a better listening experience? Or is it just making it all the much more worse?
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
^^ By the way, I do enjoy the analysis of this album !

I think I contemplated, at some point, certain changes (without altering the song-selection):
(1) Altering There's A Kind of Hush to more closely pattern the Palladium (slow boil) version,
(2) offering up the remixed (jazzed-up) version of Can't Smile Without You,
(3) then, including a Bruce Forsyth type-version of INTBIL.

Can we re- imagine the Hush album, then ? Would be nice to give it a try.

I realize I am beating this one to death, but,
I fail to see (or hear) the disaster that others find with this album.

Also, up until LP Now & Then, much of the earlier albums included material that Richard Carpenter
was culling from their college and spectrum years.
Also, their albums always had covers and "oldies," so that choice is not specific to the Hush LP.
That this album is not Horizon....even that comparison poses issues: many call Horizon "draggy" or too ballad-heavy.
Then, the duo goes completely opposite with Passage, and even that LP gets harpooned !

Now, the 1971 Tan LP that everyone adores, that is the album I play the least !
So, we all have varying degrees of taste, and that is a good thing !
Absolutely - it's quite fun having some back and forth with someone who holds a different view. I suppose my point is that it can't really be held up on the same level with those earlier LPs, as commercially it didn't really do the business and in my personal opinion I don't think it's as strong muscially.

You're right about Horizon - that had issues of its own being too ballad heavy. I wonder how things would have sounded had a couple of the ballads from Horizon been swapped with a couple of the tracks on A Kind of Hush - at the very least it would broken up the prevailing mood of both albums a bit.

I agree too that tweaks could have been made to the tracks on A Kind of Hush to improve things - I much prefer the Live at the Palladium version of 'There's a Kind of Hush' as it's more lively than the album version, and the same is true of the live version of 'I Need to Be in Love' and the remix of 'Can't Smile Without You'. I'm not sure it would have completely solved the problem, but it would have been better for sure.
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
A Kind Of Hush was just for devout fans. Most people I know who bought it were so disappointed they never bought another. I still feel that if Passage came out in 1976 it would have sold better.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
A Kind Of Hush was just for devout fans. Most people I know who bought it were so disappointed they never bought another. I still feel that if Passage came out in 1976 it would have sold better.
Had they rebooted in 1976 instead of 1977, it might have stalled their decline. Horizon was mellow but sublime. Hush was tired and listless. If the above is true - that some fans never bought another record after Hush - it means the change in direction came too late for them as they’d already lost some of their record buying fan base, which is borne out by the slump in record sales for Passage.
 
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ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
And yet they did track 'Ordinary Fool' at the same time, which offered both more variety and more substance and was better than anything that did make it on to the album. That's why I wonder whether someone from the record company should perhaps have looked more closely at what was going on and given an outsider's perspective - the artists themselves aren't always the best judges in this respect, particularly if they're getting tired and burned out and are starting to run on autopilot.
It got left off because Karen didn't like the tune that much. That was a real shocker when I heard it as I think it's one of the best things ever to bear the "Carpenters" name. It's just gorgeous all the way around and I credit Richard's arrangement mostly for that. Odd to think that this existed in the same space as the bland "Kind of Hush" album. Karen sounded phenomenal on it, of course, but Richard's arrangement carries this for me - especially the ending. Chill-inducing.

Do we know if the version of this song we got on "Voice of the Heart" was the version as finished in 1976 or did Richard do further recording on it to finish it? The sax thing does feel somehow more current, though still very much of a piece.

Ed
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
People Magazine, August 2, 1976:
" it is their curse to be grooved in a middle-of-the-road musical bag and life-style at odds with much of their own generation."
---
"Lately they’ve made peace—putting Sedaka’s Breaking Up Is Hard to Do on their last LP."
---
"And, unfortunately, dirty is in these days."
----
Source:
Brother & Sister Act



There was no way to win, in 1976, for the duo.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
I just heard the entirety of this album in one sitting for the first time in a while, and aside from the fresh beauty of One More Time and Boat to Sail, this is as bland as albums get. I’m not expecting rock, but at the very least some inspiration in the arrangements and energy in the sense that a song moves. Karen sounds like she’d rather be doing anything else but singing these third rate tunes. Even her treasured INTBIL sounds like her phoning it in, honestly. She really sang this better live in 1978, no question. Her desperation only deepened in two years and you hear it.
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
^^Ordinary Fool: Essential Collection cd, RC "additional recording and mix done in 1983."
Good catch (as always), Gary. That's what I suspected. I do wonder what the original 1976 version sounded like. I'm assuming he added the strings and the sax solo and that it was more or less just a rhythm track with Karen doing a work lead.

Ed
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
I just heard the entirety of this album in one sitting for the first time in a while, and aside from the fresh beauty of One More Time and Boat to Sail, this is as bland as albums get. I’m not expecting rock, but at the very least some inspiration in the arrangements and energy in the sense that a song moves. Karen sounds like she’d rather be doing anything else but singing these third rate tunes. Even her treasured INTBIL sounds like her phoning it in, honestly. She really sang this better live in 1978, no question. Her desperation only deepened in two years and you hear it.
Harsh but well said. They were better than many of these tunes and you can hear their fatigue all over this record. It's interesting to hear because of it. "Goofus" is the only really "up" thing and while it's interesting, it was all wrong for inclusion on an album and an absolutely silly choice for a single.

Ed
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
So far, in all of these assessments regarding the album, I have avoided mentioning two relevant factors:
Richard was approaching 30 years of age--he was not exactly a youngster anymore,
and,
Karen's overall health was very poor, if not bad.
So, what is everyone expecting ?
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
So far, in all of these assessments regarding the album, I have avoided mentioning two relevant factors:
Richard was approaching 30 years of age--he was not exactly a youngster anymore,
and,
Karen's overall health was very poor, if not bad.
So, what is everyone expecting ?
They were also being toured to death. Can't forget that. It makes perfect sense that it sounds as it does. It just didn't do the chart-conscious duo any favors.

As for Richard's age, he was hardly old or even middle-aged.

Ed
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
Harsh but well said. They were better than many of these tunes and you can hear their fatigue all over this record. It's interesting to hear because of it. "Goofus" is the only really "up" thing and while it's interesting, it was all wrong for inclusion on an album and an absolutely silly choice for a single.

Ed
I’m very stark with my opinions, I will say. I always try and tell it like how I really feel it. I like Goofus for its silliness but it should have swept aside in a heartbeat for solid songs where Karen could show her stuff. It’s insane to me that they went from the towering, crisp Horizon with its higher rate material and amazing sound, to a year later sounding like oatmeal in the sun.
 
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