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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.


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    38 vote(s)
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  1. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Here, then, is my dilemma:
    The 45-Single
    Superstar, with B-Side
    Bless The Beasts and the Children

    was released August 1971.
    The Soundtrack Album was released September 1971.
    The Album, A Song For You was released June 1972, with the latter song included.
    Is it my understanding that the song is a One- Take Lead Vocal ?
    Multiple takes of this song never existed ?(Bless the Beasts and Children).
    It has been 'drilled' into me that Carpenters recorded multiple takes for many of their songs,
    so that presumption--that multiple takes were recorded--is simply unfounded ?
    What did they 'hear' upon playback---on the Studio Speakers/Monitors ? How did that 'sound' escape notice?
  2. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    The lead vocal was a final "master lead" on this song. The way they accomplished the process was like this:

    An initial work-lead was usually recorded during or around the time the rhythm section (piano, bass and drums) was recorded. This was a one-take, rough lead to familiarize the musicians with the form of the song. Once Karen was ready to sing her final, or "master" lead, the work-lead was almost always recorded over, due to the limitation in the number of tracks available. Karen always liked to hear the strings when she sang the master lead, so it was not uncommon for strings to have been recorded in a separate session before she would go in to track that. Then what would happen is they would record a composite vocal. What this means is she would sing it down. Then the process of punching in a phrase here and there, or a word or whatever would take place, so you have one full, complete linear lead vocal track with a compilation of her best performance, phrase-by-phrase. Because Karen often "doubled" her lead in the choruses and sometimes a bridge or what have you, often times she would record an entire vocal take on that second track, or simply keep the original work-lead vocal take in addition to the final master lead. This is how Richard was able to include a phrase or complete vocal take years later that was an alternate to the master lead we all became familiar with on the early mixes.

    The reason they couldn't tell that the squeaking noise was there was because she never heard it when she actually recorded it. Meaning, someone pushed the door open, realized she was tracking and backed out of the room. She most likely had her eyes closed, and the door was probably to the side or behind her. In addition, the monitoring system back then was not near what it is today in terms of EQ and such, so it's not uncommon that the frequency in which the "squeak" sits got overlooked. It was far too late by the time everyone involved caught it, while playing it back in a different environment (could be home, the car, etc). They also had many occasions where they were not hands-on with the mixing process with certain albums and songs because they were on the road. There were other occasions that Richard has sited where he was unhappy with certain mixes (i.e. the Quad stuff) because he wasn't there to supervise the mix-down. Not saying this was the case with Bless The Beasts, but certainly could have been a potential contributing factor.

    Hope all of this helps :)
    Last edited: May 21, 2015
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  3. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Thanks so much for the elaboration, Chris !
    I recall that three "test pressings" for Made In America were turned down before Richard settled on
    a satisfactory pressing, thus delaying its release.
    I am simply astounded that no test pressing of A Song For You, at the time, previous to release,
    uncovered this unwanted noise.
    Or, that with (future) technological progress it was not thereby removed from the 'track'.
    Interesting, never-the-less !
  4. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Actually, it was! Most of it was notched out by '85, and by the time Al Schmitt got ahold of it at Capitol for the SACD release, it was virtually gone.
  5. The squeaking door is just one "noise' in the opening of "Bless The Beasts And Children". There's also a "tape-burble" sound just as Karen starts the "Bless" in the opening of the song that repeat s in the same sentence when she gets to "...and the children." This is a defect that for years I thought was a slight imperfection in the vinyl. I was amazed when it turned up the original A&M CD of A SONG FOR YOU. In fact, a similar set of tape burbles occur in the start of THAT song too ("A Song For You"). Both being at the start of a side was another false clue to me that it was a minor defect in the vinyl.

    Interestingly, the noises are not present in the soundtrack mix - and I have no answer for that. It remains one of life's mysteries.

    Don Malcolm and Joeyesterday like this.
  6. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Yeah, usually that stuff is an editing glitch either on the multi or on the original 2-channel master. The HUSH album is full of this stuff.
  7. Thanks for that. I thought it was just me hearing this on the CD. Could it be caused from a wrinkle in the tape?
  8. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Well *usually* what causes this is when a tape that has aged is used as the source for transfer, and because of oxidation and a failure to bake the tape, you literally start to lose pieces of the top layer, causing little dropouts and such. The original 2-channel from the '73 mix of Top Of The World is a great example. This started to become audible in the late 80s and 90s when the master was accessed for transfer, until it simply could no longer be used. When Richard and Bernie Grundman worked on the 30th Anniversary box set and Remastered Classics series in '98-'99, Richard had to go to an alternate copy for inclusion of that mix in the set.
    Don Malcolm and Joeyesterday like this.
  9. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Perhaps, given the degradation of Source Tape, and such, throughout the intervening years,
    the 'Big Fire' was not as much a psychological thorn to Richard as I first believed....as
    the real damage to the Master Tapes had already occurred ?
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  10. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Well the tape I was referring to was the 2-channel master - which means the tape that contained the mix. The tapes that were destroyed were the original source multi-track tapes. That's an entirely different story. SOME of those were transferred over digitally throughout the years but I've since been told that not everything that was ever recorded got transferred unfortunately.
  11. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    And just a side note - it is very common for tape degradation thru oxidation to occur on analog tape. When that happens, those tapes typically are put thru a "baking" process to ensure everything stays in tact before running the tape across the tape machine heads.
  12. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Thanks so much for this detailed, and technical , information !
    Obviously, I am quite ignorant of the technical aspects regarding recordings, and such.
    It has been an informative day !
    Chris May likes this.
  13. Interesting. Thanks Chris.
  14. Don Malcolm

    Don Malcolm Well-Known Member

    Chris May--always fascinating and educational when you hold forth on R &K in the studio. I'm curious about what details you may have gleaned about the remix of "Road Ode." How much alteration in the vocals (lead and backing) actually is there? The uptempo section that kicks in with the line "The endless crowds of faces" sure seems to have much fuller, in-your-face backing vocals, though it's also clear that Richard completely revamped the backing arrangement, so with both of those changes being made simultaneously in the remix it's hard to get a sense of just what changed with the vocals.

    But what you said about the recording technique and the spare vocal tracks that sometimes remained "on hand" seems as though it might also have been what allowed Richard to maximize this particular remake, which to my ears takes a very good song and pushes it into the "best non-A side" sweepstakes with a fighting chance to emerge victorious in that catefgory. What details about the "Road Ode" remake can you share with us? Thanks in advance for anything you can provide!
  15. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Actually, the only major difference I hear is where the backing vocals are placed in the mix. It makes a huge difference, and in this case, you really hear it.

    The original mix from '72 had many of backing vocal "parts" panned hard left, leaving a hole in the center of the mix. When Richard did the remix, he centered most of that stuff and pushed them up slightly. There's also more reverb added, a new stereo piano to replace the original "mono", and Joe re-recorded the electric bass lines. All of this brought the track up to a whole new level with a sort of pop and punchiness, and with an alternate take on the flute solo. The recording almost reinvented itself if you will, making it come alive. :)
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  16. So was the 1990 remix, also in the Mobile Fidelity CD as well or was that a different remix too?
  17. aaflyer98

    aaflyer98 Well-Known Member

    On the subject of errors, there's the one for the original pressing CD of Made in America during "When it's gone" "I'll put it back in my pocket..."tape warble.... finally fixed in time for the original re masters. This warble was NOT on he LP just the CD
  18. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Great utilization of the Flute on many Carpenters' songs,
    but, It's Going To Take Some Time could have gotten more
    punch/power from using a different instrument for the bridge.
    (Not being a musician, I hope I stated that clearly!)
  19. Joeyesterday likes this.
  20. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    And actually Richard has Bob Messenger utilizing both the alto as well as the bass flute on the overdubs, which is partly why the track is so "full". Those parts stacked on top of the acoustic piano and Wurlitzer 140b electric piano gives the song it's movement throughout.
    byline likes this.
  21. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    And, the learning process continues today !
    Thanks, again, Chris !
    As Richard Carpenter says: "...there's a lot going on in a Carpenters' record, it's anything but simple."
    ( A&M Compendium 1975)
  22. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Orange Coast Magazine, November 1991, Richard Carpenter on
    "It's Going To Take Some Time",
    "..Of course, hindsight is 20/20 vision, I liked that record a lot, but it's not a single. It never was a single.
    I think the only reason it made it to #12 was because it followed six Top 5 records in a row."

  23. Interesting Gary, I never knew Richard felt that way. I wonder how he feels about Jambalaya? Personally, I loved IGTTST as a single.
  24. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    One of my favorite Carpenters' recordings has become Bless The Beasts and Children
    (as originally delivered on Soundtrack).
    Turner Classic Movies has this comment:
    "In the early fall of 1971, the brother-sister pop duo The Carpenters released one of their biggest hits, "Superstar."
    The B side of that single, while not nearly as ubiquitous on the radio, was heard frequently enough to become a modest
    hit on its own, going to #67 on the Billboard Top 100 and #28 on the adult contemporary charts.
    Owing largely to the popularity of The Carpenters, the song, "Bless the Beasts & Children,"
    was far more successful than its namesake movie, released around the same time, which featured,
    throughout the picture, instrumental versions of the song as well as Karen Carpenter's vocals on the soundtrack."

    My question:
    Is the video of the song , on DVD Interpretations , presented in the manner in which the song aired ?
    (Television show: Make Your Own Kind Of Music).
    Or, was the song remixed and footage of the animals added especially for the DVD ?
  25. Regarding any of the old television videos, like MAKE YOUR OWN KIND OF MUSIC, that appear on modern compilation videos like GOLD or INTERPRETATIONS, original TV audio tracks have been modernized by Richard with whatever remixes were in the can at the time of the video's compiling.

    Since the duo often performed to their records, substituting a remix in stereo was easy enough to do. None of the old original TV audios would have even considered stereo as mono television lived into the mid 80s for some and the 90s for others.


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