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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

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
It is true that 30 years old is not "old"....but, you can hardly deny that they had "matured" !
Richard at 30 is not Richard at 23 (Offering). And, I for one feel that much of this album is "mature."
Horizon is awesome....lightning does not strike twice in exactly the same way,
so they were never going to be able to replicate Horizon, so I do NOT make that comparison.
Same with The Singles 1974-1978....no way could it meet the standard set by The Singles 1969-1973.
I too, will always be truthful in my opinion: this is hardly a failed album.
Karen is singinging beautifully, the arrangements are tasteful and "mature"
the background harmonies are fantastic, artwork is fine.
Perhaps, as one reviewer wrote (see Schmidt, Carpenters' Reader):
"it is an overdose of pretty"......
Hey, guess what, I like that !


P.S.: By the way, the fan base was shrinking by the time Horizon came out.
LP Hush did not usher that era in. I detailed the evidence for that a while back.
The 1976 People Mag article also substantiates that viewpoint.
 
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Jarred

Well-Known Member
I’m glad we have more of her voice on record, but I just wish this was something else, you know? Even though I have a sentimental view of her art to some degree I’m still left unsatisfied as a general listener who knows what he finds as a solid, satisfying product and what he doesn’t.

I understand the circumstances that lead to this and I hate it. Passage isn’t perfect but it’s much more vibrant and Karen sounds passionate again.
 

GDB2LV

Active Member
By 1976 they were just exhausted and Karen not well. They had canceled part of their tour and left Las Vegas commitments early because of that too. There was a new type of music being played on many stations called disco, giving rise to a new genre and new singing stars. A&M was also giving major support to their new duo Captain & Tennille who were really hot at the time. They released The Way I want to touch you 3 times with no success. Then America fell in love with them when they released Love Will Keep Us Together, and it was the song of the year. They followed it up with TWIWTTY again and finally had a hit with it. I don’t think it would have charted as well without the success of LWKUT being such a smash. Anyway the Carpenters sound was just not what the radio music programmers wanted anymore, and it was weak in the hit department. Goofus was released as a single on fan club voting. It is perhaps the worst single they released, further alienating them from Top 40 radio. Only MOR or adult radio stations would barely play it. Then came Passage. A brave concept album with cool songs in many genres. Unfortunately the damage was already done, and if AYGFLIALS couldn’t regain their popularity then this album was doomed to fail as well, and it did.
The buying public is fickle and the Carpenters reputation was that of mostly music for the over 30, or adults only. That’s why most music stores moved them from the rock or pop sections, to easy listening section. Banished to were most would look for Barbra Streisand or Johnny Mathis.
The only bright spot after that was Christmas Portrait. We sold a ton of those during Christmas season and the Singles 1969-73 still sold well. The rest of their catalogue was dead here.
Made in America was another disappointment, especially after they shelved Karen’s solo album. It was full of adult radio songs and Touch Me got a bit of Top 40 play where I live. It was the last song to achieve that. I love most everything they ever recorded despite the lack of chart success after 1975. I concede that A Kind of Hush was a for Carpenters fans only collection. Most everything after is as well. The U. S. market is very brutal, I’m in awe of the British and Japanese fans to keep their music still thriving in their respective countries anyway. I have about as many imports, vinyl and cd from those two countries as I do from the USA.
 

Brian

Well-Known Member
Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" was a great radio song and so much fun. 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.
When I was growing up in the 70s, there wasn't much choice for radio. After I moved closer to the city in my mid-teens, there was more choice. You could probably receive six stations. In the daytime, you could get a classical station, a jazz station, two top-forty stations for the hip teens, one local country station and one that played the real light, easy listening stuff, like Nana Mouskouri, Vera Lynn, Andy Williams, Des O'Connor, etc. Why I have such a clear memory of this, I don't know, but one morning when I was up early preparing for a camping trip, a DJ on this easy-listening station played Carpenters' 'Breaking Up is Hard to Do' and said after it, "The Carpenters, having a party at 5a.m. in the morning". This memory probably isn't of interest to anyone except it plays into what some people are saying. The latest tracks for Carpenters were being played on the easy listening station that was probably aimed at sixty-year-olds and up, that no teen in their right mind would listen to. (I think I just maligned myself, there).
For myself, I loved the album, "A Kind of Hush" in its day. I would have played it thousands of times. Now, I rarely listen to it - maybe once every few years - but that's probably because I heard it so much in my youth. I do recognise that it's a much quieter, lighter offering than the other Carpenters albums. However, from 1977 onwards, when I used to listen to it, it obviously had exactly what I was looking for. Not that I was a complete easy listening freak. Other favourites at the time were by Santana, The Sparks, Kate Bush, (78), Heart, Cold Chisel, The Raspberries - (Not that they're exactly hard rock, either! Well, Cold Chisel and the Heart album had more grunt.)
 
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newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
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 ?
You make it sound like turning 30 means he should have turned them into a Pat Boone-type act :laugh:

None of the above stopped them from pulling off probably the most unexpected turn of their career a year later with the ambitious Occupants and much of the rest of its eclectic parent album. And by that time they were a year deeper into their personal problems, having had no let up in between.
 

Toolman

Simple Man, Simple Dream
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.
^^ Yes, this. There's a lot about the album I like, but I have very vivid memories, as a kid of 17, running out to buy this album on its release date, bringing it home, putting it on the turntable and waiting to be knocked out...and waiting....and waiting. Previous Carpenters albums had ALL had several amazing songs (often more) that jumped out as instant classics. I wasn't hearing anything like that here. No "Superstar", no "This Masquerade", no "Only Yesterday", etc. I actually jumped up and danced a bit when "Breaking Up" played because after all the other slow tunes, I expected it to be a cover of the ballad version. And contrary to expectations, it was the most uptempo track on there. Over time I've come to love a lot of the songs, but I don't listen to the album much as a whole, beginning to end. I'm not saying it's a bad LP, but IMHO it does suffer a bit from lack of variety and lack of the sort of superstrong material they were finding for previous albums. For those who love it -- good! Glad it makes you happy. You're obviously nowhere near alone.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Remember Jerry Weintraub--at that point in time--
was reinforcing the view that the duo were the "Perry Como's of the day"....
The interesting thing about all of this is my recollection of 1976:
The first album I ever listened to in its entirety was Horizon, the second album in its entirety was Hush
the third in its entirety was Passage, after which I started collecting the previous albums (previous to Horizon).
By then (1978) the albums were getting very difficult to locate at record store outlets.
Never did I consider Hush LP to be a bad recording, simply a different recording.
I was 15 years old, as I recall, I enjoyed it....certainly it (Hush) did not compel me to stop buying their product,
I never ever thought about that--I simply wanted more !
 

GDB2LV

Active Member
That makes a lot of sense. Lots of younger fans started with the Horizon album/tape and love Only Yesterday as a favorite in not the favorite song. I’ve met others that are ten years younger than I am that really like the later albums best, like Gary. They didn’t get to buy or hear the early music like myself and older fans here. I felt I started late getting the Carpenters lp first, at 14yrs old , then Close To You a year later. I really don’t remember CTY and WOJB being played on the radio that much. For All We Know and RDAM, got me hooked. I had to buy my own records with money I made, they would never spring for a Carpenters lp. They even bought me Jimi Hendrix and Blood Sweat and Tears for my 14th birthday that fall, I played them very little. My parents were into jazz and Bossa nova style music at that time and thought my music choices were awful. They still are.........
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
I grew to love this album more than I did as I was preparing for my interview with Randy Schmidt. It's strengths are deeper than I thought, but its weaknesses become more apparent as well. Still, I play it all the time.
 

John Adam

Well-Known Member
She really sang this better live in 1978, no question. Her desperation only deepened in two years and you hear it.
My two cents.
Quote above referring to "I Need To Be in Love." I really like Karen's singing in 1978, the Christmas and pop sides.
But you guys are tough on A Kind Of Hush as an album! However I don't listen to it much either, it is a rather mellow collection.........
 
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?
I’d still skip over the songs I don’t enjoy. I’d listen to them all about once, then on the re-listen skip Goofus, Sandy, Boat to Sail and I Can Dream Can’t I. I appreciate the work and believe me I know every word and note to every song verbatim. But like most others here, I like what I like and don’t begrudge anyone else their favorites even if different from mine.
 
I’d still skip over the songs I don’t enjoy. I’d listen to them all about once, then on the re-listen skip Goofus, Sandy, Boat to Sail and I Can Dream Can’t I. I appreciate the work and believe me I know every word and note to every song verbatim. But like most others here, I like what I like and don’t begrudge anyone else their favorites even if different from mine.
However...I’m pretty sure my original LP copy has almost worn through on the track “You.” I listened the heck out of that song and the whole album os worth owning if only for that one song.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
A few years back there was that poll that asked what you preferred, this or Made In America, which are both usually thought of as two of their least effective albums. Neither are wholly satisfying, but one has Karen’s warmth and vocal presence out in front more (Hush) and the other has better material and with fresher production/arranging (America).

Few things on MIA (even Touch Me) come close to the magic of the 1970-1975 years, but it’s the kind of album that I could hear and enjoy more as a whole than Hush. It’s following the same “bread and butter” format as Hush did but with a more engaging edge. I will say that, regarding the oldie throwbacks, though I much prefer Goofus to Beechwood, which is not a terrible record but it’s video and and non-ironic sound will forever haunt my soul. Postman magic was never going to happen again when releasing an oldie as an A-side. I don’t think anything on MIA is better than Richard’s arranging and Karen’s gorgeous performance of “One More Time” on Hush, yet I hear more feeling in her performances in general on MIA (even with her voice mixed poorly).

I’m going to be crucified for this, but I think she gives a richer, more potent vocal on Because We Are In Love than INTBIL - two songs that are the most personally tragic mirror for Karen. She puts a richness of feeling to her BWAIL work that’s chilling, even though it’s chilling for the reasons it shouldn’t be. We know that she knew the truth prior to recording and that haunting realization is heard in her phrasings and nuances of tone. It reminds me of We’ve Only Just Begun - she starts off the 70s demonstrating her gift of conveying profound melancholy against a hopeful lyric, sharply undermining its naïveté with a cutting, painful truth and she begins a new decade doing the same. I’m moved by it because it’s more of a cry for help than we’ve likely ever heard from her. The studio version of INTBIL is tender as always, yet oddly for me her tone doesn’t convey the passion we know she’s capable of demonstrating. The natural rueful tone is there, but for me it’s kind of rote. And she was exhausted, I get it. But this was an instance where not much extra oomph was put into it, which is usually needed even when a singer has the saddest tone.
 

Murray

Well-Known Member
I’m going to be crucified for this, but I think she gives a richer, more potent vocal on Because We Are In Love than INTBIL - two songs that are the most personally tragic mirror for Karen. She puts a richness of feeling to her BWAIL work that’s chilling, even though it’s chilling for the reasons it shouldn’t be. We know that she knew the truth prior to recording and that haunting realization is heard in her phrasings and nuances of tone. It reminds me of We’ve Only Just Begun - she starts off the 70s demonstrating her gift of conveying profound melancholy against a hopeful lyric, sharply undermining its naïveté with a cutting, painful truth and she begins a new decade doing the same. I’m moved by it because it’s more of a cry for help than we’ve likely ever heard from her. The studio version of INTBIL is tender as always, yet oddly for me her tone doesn’t convey the passion we know she’s capable of demonstrating. The natural rueful tone is there, but for me it’s kind of rote. And she was exhausted, I get it. But this was an instance where not much extra oomph was put into it, which is usually needed even when a singer has the saddest tone.
Hammer... (check)
Nails... (check)
Lumber... (check)
Centurions... (check)
Alright then, let the crucifixion begin... :laugh:

I'm kidding of course... I can't really compare the quality of Karen's vocals on the two songs, because I haven't listened to "Because We Are In Love" in years. It was never a favorite to begin with - regardless of Karen's performance (which was good enough), I always thought the lyrics were schmaltzy, and the production overblown, so I would sometimes skip over the track. After the real story surrounding the lead-up to the wedding was revealed, I couldn't listen to the song anymore, without hearing...

Karen: "Mom, I'm afraid."
Mom: "Hun, come and sit by my side. Listen to me. Words come so hard, but what my heart says, I will give you...

...You've made your bed, now you must lie in it!"

So, I stopped listening to the song altogether.

I don't know how Karen managed to record the wedding song without choking on the words, knowing that it was all a lie... it really shows what a pro she was - the girl could've been an actress. Her performance of INTBIL may have been "rote", and lacking "oomph" (I personally don't feel that way), but at least it was honest.
 
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Jarred

Well-Known Member
Hammer... (check)
Nails... (check)
Lumber... (check)
Centurions... (check)
Alright then, let the crucifixion begin... :laugh:

I'm kidding of course... I can't really compare the quality of Karen's vocals on the two songs, because I haven't listened to "Because We Are In Love" in years. It was never a favorite to begin with - regardless of Karen's performance (which was good enough), I always thought the lyrics were schmaltzy, and the production overblown, so I would sometimes skip over the track. After the real story surrounding the lead-up to the wedding was revealed, I couldn't listen to the song anymore, without hearing...

Karen: "Mom, I'm afraid."
Mom: "Hun, come and sit by my side. Listen to me. Words come so hard, but what my heart says, I will give you...

...You've made your bed, now you must lie in it!"

So, I stopped listening to the song altogether.

I don't know how Karen managed to record the wedding song without choking on the words, knowing that it was all a lie... it really shows what a pro she was - the girl could've been an actress. Her performance of INTBIL may have been "rote", and lacking "oomph" (I personally don't feel that way), but at least it was honest.
But that’s the thing - Karen’s Wedding Song performance was honest, I don’t hear joy amid her usual melancholy, I just hear despair. Like I said before, she undermines the sugary surface with a dark desperation that grounds the song back to earth. I agree with you that it’s not a “great” song as a whole, as it is over the top at the end (though I do like how no part repeats itself), but it’s that emotional honesty and truth in her voice that draws me back to it. She reveals the poetic pain of her situation and finds it through her voice, when she had no control lyrically. I hate her wedding situation more than anything, I hate you-know-who for what he did to her, but what I ask for in an artist is honesty, artistry and an emotional connection of some kind, and Karen further demonstrates it here for me. She taps into the dominant cultural mindset of “respectability”, the underbelly of this reality, and turns the soil so we can see the worms underneath.

And she does this even on a song like Sing - the reason why that track works is because of Karen’s grounding, chilling lead vocal which smacks flat against the overbearing joy of the music; as if to say, “Yes, life can offer such joy, but don’t forget that once all that singing stops all your left with is the pain you try to forget about by singing.”
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Cash Box reviewed the album favorably, as did Billboard, July 4, 1976:
"CARPENTERS -A Kind Of Hush, A & M SP 4581. Exceptionally pretty album, with even more emphasis on Karen
Carpenter's versatile, excellent vocals than in past efforts. Soft, easy ballads filled with the lush production of
Richard Carpenter dominate the set, though the material alternates from the straight ballad form to easy rock to
almost vaudevillian material to supper club, piano bar styled music. Keyboards handled well by Richard, who
has always takes somewhat of a backseat when it comes to performing but does as good a job of production as
anyone in the business. Most impressive and noticeable change is the different arrangements and styles tackled
by Karen. Good sax throughout from Bob Messenger. Several good originals from Richard and John Bettis.
Best cuts: "There's A Kind Of Hush," "You," "Goofus," "I Need To Be In Love," "Boat To Sail," "I Have You."
Dealers: One of the true legitimate super acts."


Billboard, April 1976:
"The Carpenters continue as one of the major recording acts in the country as their
There's A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World) moves to a starred 17."
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
Cash Box reviewed the album favorably, as did Billboard, July 4, 1976:
"CARPENTERS -A Kind Of Hush, A & M SP 4581. Exceptionally pretty album, with even more emphasis on Karen
Carpenter's versatile, excellent vocals than in past efforts. Soft, easy ballads filled with the lush production of
Richard Carpenter dominate the set, though the material alternates from the straight ballad form to easy rock to
almost vaudevillian material to supper club, piano bar styled music. Keyboards handled well by Richard, who
has always takes somewhat of a backseat when it comes to performing but does as good a job of production as
anyone in the business. Most impressive and noticeable change is the different arrangements and styles tackled
by Karen. Good sax throughout from Bob Messenger. Several good originals from Richard and John Bettis.
Best cuts: "There's A Kind Of Hush," "You," "Goofus," "I Need To Be In Love," "Boat To Sail," "I Have You."
Dealers: One of the true legitimate super acts."


Billboard, April 1976:
"The Carpenters continue as one of the major recording acts in the country as their
There's A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World) moves to a starred 17."
In fairness, Billboard gave good reviews to most albums - a bad review was a rare occurrence indeed.

I recall having posted about the Cashbox review some time ago (it's on page 10 of this thread). Here's what I said at the time about that:

Maybe it's me reading it in hindsight, but although the Cashbox review of the album is phrased positively, it (probably unintentionally) hits on several of the album's problems - '[a] clean collection of tunes' and 'smooth, integrating melodies' (so nothing challenging) and 'truly representative of the kind of music that the Carpenters are famous for' (so breaking no new creative ground and just offering more of the same).
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
The use of the words highlighted in that Cashbox review...“pretty”, “soft”, “lush”...only really reinforces what many people have said here. The UK music press just came out and said it, one memorably with the headline: Cool Carpenters Only Coasting. In other words “come on, we know you’re good, but you can do better than this”.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
When I read those highlighted words in the review...pretty, soft, lush, different....
I do not conjure up negative reactions in those descriptions.
If that review was going to be inherently negative, those are then not the words to use !
Again, differences in perception, but, the highlighted words are not negative words !
Again, if we are looking for a
We've Only Just Begun or Goodbye To Love on this album, no, they are not there....but, how could they be ?
Try locating those types of songs, in that period of time, by established composers !
Solitaire did not explode, so, no matter how great Ordinary Fool sounds,
that was not going to bust out of the singles-charts had it been released as a single.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
That artwork is really the strongest part of the project as a whole.

But I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that Ordinary Fool is a more stunning track than probably any song that actually ended up on Hush (One More Time is damn near even with it for me).
 
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