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Official Review [Album]: "A SONG FOR YOU" (SP-3511)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Apr 12, 2013.


  1. ***** (BEST)

    38 vote(s)
  2. ****

    12 vote(s)
  3. ***

    3 vote(s)
  4. **

    1 vote(s)
  5. *

    0 vote(s)
  1. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    And, here it is straight from Rolling Stone--as if this review even deserves to be read, but, here it is anyway :
    A Song For You

    A&M 3511
    Released: June 1972
    Chart Peak: #4
    Weeks Charted: 41
    Certified Gold: 7/10/72
    While the Carpenters' music is not particularly compelling, its lack of pretension lends it a bland integrity that is uncommon for middle-of-the-road pop music. The basis of this integrity is Karen's singing, which grows more assured with each album. She is especially strong in her lower register, and she shows the potential of developing into an interesting stylist. The musical value of Richard's contribution to the Carpenters phenomenon, however, is another matter. The best that can be said for most of his arrangements is that they provide adequate support for Karen's voice and have a recognizable stamp. What they lack is a sense of dramatic structure or interpretive style.
    The formula that Richard applies to his own songs, he applies to everyone else's as well. This is a shame, since many of the Carpenters' records begin strikingly but then fail to gather momentum. The most obvious way in which this happens is that, time and again, the clarity of Karen's vocal line is interrupted or joined by multi-tracked "choral filler," which tends to drain a song of its personality. It is the same fault that weakened countless pop records in the Forties and Fifties.
    Five songs are authored or co-authored by Richard. They vary in emotional range from cotton candy to ice milk, the best of them being the current single, "Goodbye To Love." Richard sings solo on two cuts -- "Piano Picker" and "Crystal Lullaby." His voice is pleasant enough, but he seems to be afflicted with a very noticeable lisp. One cut, "Flat Baroque," features Richard on the piano playing in a style that can only be described as Peter Neromanque.
    The title cut, Leon Russell's "A Song For You" is far and away the album's finest moment. It is a great song that is rapidly achieving the classic status it deserves, and Karen communicates its poignancy with effortless serenity. The Carpenters have done well by Leon in the past, their version of "Superstar" standing as perhaps their finest record to date. Unfortunately, the album doesn't contain any other very strong material. "Hurting Each Other," which preceded "Goodbye to Love" as a hit single, does not approach the level of the Carpenters' first hits. Karen's interpretation of Carole King and Toni Stern's "It's Going To Take Some Time" shows only that the song requires Carole's personal touch in order to work. "Bless the Beasts and Children," title song of the movie, has lavish production values going for it, and nothing else. Mention should be made of Bob Messenger's pleasant flute and tenor sax breaks on "Road Ode" and "A Song For You," respectively.
    If the Carpenters are to grow with their audience, they will need more of this sort of instrumentation. But above all, they will need to be more discriminating in their selection of material. Karen is capable of giving us considerably more than tiny sugar valentines.

    - Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 10/12/72.
  2. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    And, then there is:

    Here's a super LP which will be another top seller for the Carpenters. Superb Jack Daugherty production and musicianship showcase the fine talent on such tunes as "I Won't Last a Day Without You" (by Paul Williams) and "Crystal Lullaby" (both by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis). Includes "Hurting Each Other" and "It's Going to Take Some Time." Also dynamite readings of the title tune and of "Goodbye to Love" (also by Carpenter and Bettis).
    - Billboard, 1972.


    The Carpenters hit such creative form with A Song For You that it ended up being mined for more singles than any other of the brother/sister duo's studio recordings.
    By the time of its release in June 1972 the combination of Richard and Karen's wholesome image and their unthreatening yet popular melodies had turned them into major stars, but here the inconsistencies of their earlier albums are replaced by one quality cut after another. One vital contributor to the formula is lyricist John Bettis, who co-wrote with Richard two of the album's most famous tracks, the US Top 10 hit "Goodbye To Love" and "Top Of The World," which Richard only deemed worthy as an album cut but it went on to head the Hot 100 nearly a year and half after the album's release.
    Richard's knack of picking the right material for him and Karen to cover is evident on "Hurting Each Other," originally recorded by Ruby & The Romantics, becoming a Number Two US hit and a then new Carole King song, "It's Going To Take Some Time," reaching the Top 20.
    "I Won't Last A Day Without You," penned by regular Carpenters' contributors Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, completes the album's quota of hits. The album peaked at Number Four in the US in July 1972, and at Number 13 in the UK.
    As of 2004, A Song For You was the #86 best-selling album of the 70s.
    - Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
  3. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    :rolleyes: Good Grief!!
    ..in their selection of material? This album had one of the best materials ever and sugar valentines? :rolleyes: This must be why Richard didn't like the album cover, he read Stephen's review. :laugh:

    I'll take sugar valentines from Karen any day!!!
  4. Guitarmutt

    Guitarmutt Active Member

    Well, really, Rolling Stone! They are partial at best and biased as usual! Really, nothing to see here, move along, really. It's not critics. It's your own ears in the end, really and truly. What do you feel as you hear?
  5. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Absolutely agree with this part of the review!
  6. MissK

    MissK Active Member

    "Superb Jack Daugherty production". Bye bye, Jack Daugherty.
  7. byline

    byline Active Member

    I love this highly complimentary review of A Song for You!
  8. Jeff

    Jeff Well-Known Member

    Just left my home away from home where I snatched up a very very nice ASFY mobile fidelity sound lab GOLD ULTRADISC 2. $50 initially, charmed Pacific NW hippi-boy to $40. I couldn't resist...the cd.

  9. mr J.

    mr J. Active Member

    This Rolling Stone review was fairly accurate in it's assessment of A Song For You.

    The title track is indeed the albums' finest moment-and the reviewer makes a clear distinction between the title track,an exquisite jazz piece,and the rest of the album-being mostly fluffy pop(or is it cotton candy?).

    I absolutely don't agree with the assessment of K&R's recorded output up to that point:"The Carpenters' music is not particularly compelling".Close To You is one of K&R's most compelling albums(with no "cotton candy"),and Carpenters has quite a few compelling moments.

    And,as the reviewer pointed out,Karen did develop into an interesting stylist.
  10. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Some statistics in reference to the single of :
    It's Going To Take Some Time
    Billboard Hot 100:
    #79 debut on April 29th, 1972
    May 13,#34
    May 20,#29
    May 27,#17
    June 3,#15 (six weeks on chart)
    Peak on June 17 at #12 (Source link below)
    Quite frankly, when I look at the competition, I am a bit surprised that the song did not chart higher!

    http://books.google.com/books?id=mk...illboard it's going to take some time&f=false
  11. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Miami News (from the New York Times), August 22, 1972:
    Carpenters Blend Styles Beautifully
    "LP Review of 'A Song For You":
    "...a real bag full of goodies, here. Carpenters manage to walk a delicate line between music
    that is too sweet and music that is too tough, and they do it with extraordinary style and grace. Karen Carpenter's voice is
    surely one of the finest interpretive instruments to emerge in the pop world in the last few years, and the musical teamwork between
    her and brother Richard is a wonder to hear. Listen, in particular, to their lovely version of Leon Russell's Song For You, the theme music
    from Bless the Beasts and the Children, and Carole King's rocking It's Going to Take Some Time. As an added ..check out Karen's snazzy
    drumming on the instrumental Flat Baroque."

  12. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    Hmmmm, "It's Going to Take Some Time" can be described in several ways but "rocking" is not one of them!

    You guys shouldn't be so critical of the Rolling Stone piece. Remember, the Carpenters were the epitome of "uncool" at the time that album came out -- so it's only natural that Rolling Stone would be critical. And he is right about a lot of things.
    - "Goodbye to Love" IS Richard's finest composition on the album. (I'm surpsied Tony Peluso's guitar work wasn't mentioned, though.)
    - "A Song For You" can definitely be seen as the best track on the album, since it's the one tune that steps outside the Carpenters "box" and explores completely new territory for them.
    - He correctly predicted that Karen was developing into a real "song stylist" ... almost as if he was forseeing Horizon.
    - Richard does sound like he has a bit of a lisp on his vocal turns, although I think that's more of a production thing with his voice being double-tracked.
    - Richard's style on "Piano Picker" really is kind of like some Peter Nero stuff I've heard.

    As for some of the material not being compelling, or him not liking Richard's arrangements....well, that could be the reviewer just not liking the material. Bottom line, it's just his opinion. He certainly recognizes Karen for the fine vocalist she is.

    Just think, if every review was glowing, it would be boring to read the reviews because they'd all be exactly alike.
    A&M Retro likes this.
  13. song4u

    song4u Well-Known Member

    I remember being shocked that Carpenters got a Rolling Stone cover! That meant you were really cool, not nerdy, and you'd think it would have increased their credibility with those who thought they were uncool. But it didn't seem to have that effect unfortunately. (Remember the Dr Hook and the Medicine Show song?)
  14. Jeff

    Jeff Well-Known Member

    y'know I love the Gonna Take Some Time remix. But listening to Maybe it's You and Baby it's You at remix I have to say I prefer the originals as these remixes leave the glorious harmonies entrenched in reverb or whatever ya call it. Just sounds messed up and I'm surprised. ASFY has very good remixes thru-out.
  15. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Listening, again, to this album , this morning--the Remastered Disc.
    As such, I compare the Rolling Stone review to my own take of the album:
    Of course, the use of a phrase such as "bland integrity" is absurd. (Already, an attempt at diminishing the superb content of this album.)
    Rightly so, the reviewer pinpoints Karen's growth as an assured singer, her prominent lower register, an interesting stylist.
    Next, another swipe: Richard's "adequate support" as arranger for Karen's voice.
    I find his arrangements on this album to be some of his finest, ever.
    Richard's utilization of strings (restrained), drums (superb), saxophone (superb), piano (superb) shine on nearly each recording.
    The reviewer implies that the overdubbed background vocals are merely "filler", lessening the dramatic impact and momentum, of the songs.
    The reviewer misses the entire point of the overdubs, and in the process downplays Richard Carpenter's musical background and contributions.
    A matter of opinion--that "Superstar" is their finest contribution as of that date--I would demur, and point to "We've Only Just Begun".
    Of course the ultimate side-swipe,"...Cotton candy to Ice milk, the best being, Goodbye To Love". Call it anything you want, but that song is
    simply one of the finest pop songs ever recorded. Vocals, arrangement, all completely render the reviewer's previous complaint of
    their "songs failing to gather momentum" wholly impotent. Credibility with the review is thereby completely lost.
    A Song For You (Wow!-factor), Top of the World, Hurting Each Other (a song which 'builds momentum'--contrary to the reviewer's words),
    Goodbye To Love (Wow!-factor), Intermission (brilliant interlude), Bless the Beasts and Children (yet, another 'momentum builder'), I Won't Last A Day Without You,
    Crystal Lullaby (no 'filler' overdubs here!), Road Ode (another 'momentum' song) and finally, the Reprise (rather brilliant ending).
    Obviously, it's not all great (three, for me):It's Going To Take Some Time, Flat Baroque and Piano Picker--I can live without these. But, they aren't terrible.
    Quantitatively, I give this album an 81% (24.23/29.82 time quotient). Closely approximated by song quotient (10/13, or 77%).
    Qualitatively, I give it close to 100%, because what is on this album is accomplished without peer.
  16. Don Malcolm

    Don Malcolm Well-Known Member

    Is it accurate to suggest that the Carpenters' popularity may have decreased in part because they actually were given a cover story in Rolling Stone??

    As for the review, Stephen Holden was (actually, is...he still with us) a well-connected guy who was a bit over-educated (Yale) to be writing for RS--it was his way-station to the New York Times, where his often-florid prose would fit well with the paper's desire to call everyone "Mr., Mrs., Miss/Ms." (something, in fact, they still do). East Coast snobbery incarnate from head to toe, and it manifests itself as loudly as an off-the-rack plaid jacket even though his approach to his "work" is tweedy to the max.

    I think that's a very solid assessment of ASFY, Gary. The album is a beautiful snapshot of a most imperceptible transition to a level of perfectionism that was itself a brilliantly poised high-wire act for R & K. They had helped to elevate AM radio in these years, but the winds of change kept blowing, making it harder to stay aloft. Without that validation to sustain them, R & K both became vulnerable to personal problems that only made things more complicated.
    A&M Retro likes this.
  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Thanks for responding to my post, Don.
    I appreciate your insight pertaining to Stephen Holden!
    That bit of information provides perspective for me!
    I would only add, upon a re-reading of the Rolling Stone Cover Story--and, as Song4U points out---
    the story may not have had the desired effect upon Carpenters' career as might have been expected.
    Between the July 1974 Cover Story (and,photo) in Rolling Stone and the August 1976 People Cover Story (and, photo),
    it seems an awful lot of damage had occurred in their career.
    By the way, Don, I definitely concur with you:
    "A beautiful snapshot of a most imperceptible transition to a level of perfectionism..."
  18. byline

    byline Active Member

    I don't think so. Deservedly or not, making the cover of Rolling Stone was a kind of holy grail for any popular musician. It should have signaled their arrival as contenders for serious consideration. Instead, the reverse seemed to happen, and I think that's largely because they were badly served by their management: first with the massive over-touring, and then with TV specials that bolstered the very "goody, goody" public image they personally wanted to deflect ... yet never really managed to. The Neil Sedaka firing seriously damaged their reputation. And, at about the same time, the quality of their album material took a nosedive, starting with A Kind of Hush. Had they followed up with an even stronger album after Horizon, then I think things might have turned around. It's a shame, because now we know a lot of what was going on behind the scenes to create the circumstances for much of what happened. But I think making the cover of Rolling Stone is about the last thing we can blame for their crashing popularity (at least in terms of U.S. sales and singles radio play). If we want to find a real culprit, I think the over-touring – which did indeed keep them in the public eye, but also sapped their creative energies – was what triggered the dominoes to start falling.
  19. Jeff

    Jeff Well-Known Member

    While the RStone cover was cute, I really think that Annie L's shot appearing on AS TIME GOES BY would've served the duo better. Know what I mean?
    BarryT60, A&M Retro and Jamesj75 like this.
  20. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Byline, I appreciate your input above,
    May I offer a concession to your viewpoint, though?
    I realize Richard Carpenter commented in the Coleman Biography about too much touring.
    To an extent, this may be true.
    However, 1974,1975 and 1976 had a distinctly different kind of touring schedule than those in years 1970-1973.
    From 1974 onward, they spent many more weeks in Las Vegas, and fewer days traveling around the USA.
    (approx. 45 US dates, plus a month in Europe, 2 weeks in Japan, 4 weeks in Vegas).
    They still produced Monster Selling albums in 1970,1971,1972,1973 despite the fact that they really were touring heavily,
    all over America, and the World.
    Still begs the question: Why no album in 1974, at their USA popularity-peak?
    There were nowhere near the number of tour-dates -around the USA, as previously.
    And, much time was spent on Horizon's production, and, though they were unimpeded by time constraints- it turned out to
    peak at #13, while only attaining USA Gold status at the time --and, with less touring across America (63 dates, plus 4 wks Vegas)
    On August 16, Horizon was at #15 after eight weeks on the charts, it had peaked on the Billboard charts the previous week)
    Horizon was#1 in Britain, August 9 and 16, 1975. (Although, they had to cancelled the fall -scheduled British tour).
    As the duo spent more time in other countries, touring--they saw rapid gains in album sales,there.
    As the duo spent less time touring across America--the returns on album sales started to show, to fall-off.
    Playing Las Vegas hardly created a spur in record sales, and in the end--e.g.,Sedaka Incident --it hurt them, terribly, in the States.

    My own assessment is this:
    So long as Karen and Richard toured the country, the audiences at the concerts--those purchasing the records--
    could care less about what the reviews or magazine articles were saying regarding their records,
    because they (the concertgoers) had "experienced" Carpenters "Live"--and,
    knew the truth of the spectacular talent and music. ( And,also, radio stations were playing them heavily in rotation..)
    Once Karen and Richard distanced themselves from public performances in the USA, and only "appeared" on magazine
    covers, or television shows, and, curtailed radio visits...they became much removed from the American public's consciousness.
    It seems a confluence of circumstances precipitated their fall from the purchasing-power of the American public.
    And, while their concert reviews pre-1976 were not altogether positive, I believe the concertgoers did not care about
    bad reviews--probably did not even bother reading about, since they had attended said concert!
    1975, itself, presents problems with analysis.
    Now, the post 1976 concerts, another issue entirely!
    But, that's another post!
    Just food for thought.
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  21. byline

    byline Active Member

    All good points, Gary. But none of them point to the Rolling Stone cover story as being the culprit in their declining popularity. I think by 1974, their grindingly relentless touring schedule had taken a significant toll on their creative energies, which is why we saw a slippage in their album output. I think they just got toured to the point of over-exhaustion ... and Richard has said as much. Less touring would have given them more time to focus on what they did best: work their artistic magic in the studio. Instead, they were turned into a touring commodity to keep the record sales going. I believe there should have been a better balance between touring and recording. Hindsight, and all.
    GaryAlan likes this.
  22. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    I don't think it was the touring in 1974 that prevented them from making an album...it was all the touring they'd done up to that point that wore them out. By '74 Richard wasn't even in the mood to think about doing another album.
    byline likes this.
  23. byline

    byline Active Member

    That's exactly what I think, newvillefan. It was the cumulative toll all that touring took on them, that really hammered both Richard and Karen and sapped their creative energy.
  24. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Both, Newvillefan and Byline, have presented me with an opportunity to do more thinking
    on this issue, and I appreciate the additional input !
    Both, excellent points !
  25. Don Malcolm

    Don Malcolm Well-Known Member

    Yes, I'm convinced by the arguments above that my attempt at a counter-intuitive explanation is very likely not on the mark. The irony, however, was that the RS cover didn't really help them in terms of sales and chart success. Much of that has to do with how the music scene changed--exploded and fractured, in fact--starting in 1975, with many new strains of music (first disco, then punk) creating even more "wars of ideology." I remember it as becoming an especially fraught time, and a time when the "mainstream" was, if anything, even more unacceptable to the "vanguard." The Carps were caught in this crossfire, and despite a valiant attempt to reconcile things with PASSAGE, they continued to drift toward commercial limbo.

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