• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are in the pipeline! The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy will be available on November 16, 2021 and can be ordered here. A big thanks to the authors and Richard Carpenter for their tremendous effort in compiling this book! Also, the new solo piano album Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook is being released January 14, 2022, and is available for ordering here.

⭐ Official Review [Album]: "HORIZON" (SP-4530)

HOW WOULD YOU RATE THIS ALBUM?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 49 50.0%
  • ****

    Votes: 34 34.7%
  • ***

    Votes: 11 11.2%
  • **

    Votes: 2 2.0%
  • *

    Votes: 2 2.0%

  • Total voters
    98

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
That awkward moment when I realize that, when I became a fan of the Carpenters, it was their 35th anniversary since signing with A&M, and now their sixth album is turning 46 years old.
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
In case it bears repeating… the AM+ disc from the 1980s is flawless. I consider it to be pretty much a perfect flat, neutral transfer from the source tapes. No noise reduction beyond what was used for the original LP (since I believe I’ve read that Carpenters used Dolby starting this album). No peak limiting either—that is a huge huge huge plus.

If you can find a copy of the AM+ disc from the 1980s, please treat yourself and buy yourself a copy. You will not regret it!
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Screen-Shot-2021-06-26-at-11-17-06-PM.png

Screen-Shot-2021-06-26-at-11-17-21-PM-copy.png

Top: Remastered Classics CD
Bottom: AM+ Series CD (w/IFPI, so this CD was likely pressed between 1994 and 1998)

Verdict: AM+ Series CD

There are a few red peaks during "Happy." If you want to listen to a fully dynamic version of the whole album without red peaks, swap out "Happy" with the version from "SWEET MEMORY all at once," which fixes the loudness issues. Or, if you don't have "SWEET MEMORY all at once," you can swap out the AM+ Series CD version with the Remastered Classics CD version. No more maxed-out peaks!
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Some reflections...

After Now & Then, an album that was mostly covers, with the exception of "Yesterday Once More," Horizon feels to me like Richard and Karen were inspired for this next great push in the studio. Not counting "Aurora" and "Eventide" (credited to Carpenter/Bettis), John Bettis co-wrote four out of the eight remaining tracks on this album: "Only Yesterday," "Happy," "(I'm Caught Between) Goodbye and I Love You," and "Love Me for What I Am." (Richard co-wrote "Only Yesterday" and "(I'm Caught Between) Goodbye and I Love You.")

On top of that, this was the first album to be recorded on shiny new 24-track, 2" tape at 30 ips. New equipment, new original material--to me, Horizon is a magnum opus for fans and audiophiles for that reason. The sound is bright, the drum tracks are wide, and Karen's voice is silky smooth throughout.
 
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Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
I've determined I think the whole Horizon album (on vinyl and on CD at least) is 1/4 of a semitone faster than it's supposed to be. The big giveaway, to me, was the fact that the quad disc goes slower/lower. At first, I thought... well, is the quad disc the one that goes at the correct speed, or is the regular disc the one that goes at the correct speed?

Then I listened to some songs that didn't sound quite right to me, tonally... "Love Me for What I Am," "(I'm Caught Between) Goodbye and I Love You..." I think I'm more sensitive to minor pitch changes for certain keys, and not all keys.

I did the math, using the formula 2^([1/8]/12), where 1/8 represents the number of tones (i.e. 1/4 of a semitone), and got the coefficient 1.00724641222... and multiplied that by the number of samples on my WAV file. "I Can Dream, Can't I" sounds much better. Karen's basement, by just that quarter of a semitone, sounds much more natural. I can finally enjoy this song. :tongue:
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Here is "I Can Dream, Can't I" slowed down 1/4 semitone from the AM+ disc. To me, when the whole disc is slowed down a quarter of a semitone, it sounds more pitch-perfect.


Listen to Karen scoop that basement. Pure gold.
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
The other option is that Horizon was sped up by 1/3 of a semitone. When I slow the tracks down by 1/3 of a semitone, they sound about right actually.

So, my verdict--the album sounds close to pitch-perfect when the AM+ CD is slowed down by anywhere from 1/4 of a semitone to 1/3 of a semitone. "(I'm Caught Between) Goodbye and I Love You" sounds particularly good at around 1/3 of a semitone.

 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Please take this in the humorous spirit I'm intending:

That's all HORIZON needs is to be slowed down even more. It goes from "draggy" to "catatonic".
:sleeping:
I mean... I don't mean to be callous, but I'm wondering if that's one reason why they sped up the album. Many people I've talked to who have criticism for the Carpenters say that all their songs are too slow. (For me, the really slow album is A Kind of Hush. Even though "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" is faster than Neil Sedaka's "fast version," it is soooo slow.) All of the songs fall into their place, pitch-wise, when it's slowed down a hair. But maybe someone thought, meh, too slow--so they sped it up. It looks like speeding it up by 1/3 of a semitone would decrease the play time by about 20 seconds. Karen's voice may be a tad faster than anyone would notice, but the beats would go faster.

If I'm not mistaken, that bit of shade is toward most of side two? :nyah:
 

David A

Well-Known Member
Cuyler, I have come to deeply respect your obvious knowledge, insight, and skill when it comes to the technical side of music.

So I ask this question with both respect and an awareness of my own limitation as regards technology and music, but would it be fair to say that your alteration of the song(s) in this way, to make them "pitch perfect", is a form of "auto-tuning"?
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Cuyler, I have come to deeply respect your obvious knowledge, insight, and skill when it comes to the technical side of music.

So I ask this question with both respect and an awareness of my own limitation as regards technology and music, but would it be fair to say that your alteration of the song(s) in this way, to make them "pitch perfect", is a form of "auto-tuning"?
Hi David,

Great question! Long story short, no. What I did to adjust the pitch is the digital analogy of slowing down the tape or turntable motor to play the exact same material back at a slightly slower speed. (You may have noticed that some turntable motors run fast, so the record sounds sped up; what I did would be to digitally revert that physical phenomenon.)

Auto-tune is a software that forces sound that is not in-tune to be locked at a specific pitch. So, for example, the engineers working on Barbra Streisand's new album, Release Me 2, took Barbra's isolated vocal, and "applied auto-tune." Engineers can be subtle about auto-tune to allow wiggle room for some vibrato, or they can be overt and rigid about the auto-tune to lock in a singer's voice at an exact note. If Karen's voice were to be auto-tuned, I'd imagine it would have horrendous consequences--her vibrato would either be flattened, or the software would read her vibrato as being different notes, and Karen's voice would jump up and down aimlessly.

One of the most famous early uses of auto-tune is Cher's song "Believe." If you listen, you'll notice that Cher's voice has an almost-robotic tone (i.e. "can't break through"). Some artists use auto-tune for artistic reasons, and others I think are self-conscious about not being "pitch-perfect" on every note. My personal preference is to leave the artist's voice alone, and if the artist can't do a satisfactory performance without auto-tune (like I certainly could not), then the person maybe shouldn't be a singer. :tongue:
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Ooh, I should also add... unfortunately, some very talented musicians from the 1970s whose careers were built on natural musical talent have adopted auto-tune in recent years, probably because many of them who are still around and are making music don't have the same vocal range they once had. I was taken aback when I listened to Paul McCartney's live album, "Good Evening New York City" (2009). Virtually the whole performance was auto-tuned. Paul's voice sounded rather robotic, just to be able to have the recording sound like he can hit the high notes like he used to.

Elton John has used autotune in recent years too. In this performance of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" in 2012, you may be able to hear the sharp way Elton jumps from note to note, which is not typical of how Elton in the 1970s and 1980s sang. (It's worth noting that, because Elton's vocal range has shrunk in recent years, which is natural, the band has dropped the song a few keys so Elton can hit the high notes.)

 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
With all due respect, after listening to the files posted above,
I remain unconvinced that anything on original Horizon LP needs to be altered.
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
With all due respect, after listening to the files posted above,
I remain unconvinced that anything on original Horizon LP needs to be altered.
Well, I didn't alter any music. I didn't add or subtract instrumentation. The LP can be played at any number of infinite speeds. To correct the pitch, I slowed down the music by a teeny tiny fraction of a percent. It's analogous to having a 33 rpm motor instead of a 33.33333333333333333 rpm motor.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Cuyler, you wrote "I've determined I think the whole Horizon album (on vinyl and on CD at least) is 1/4 of a semitone faster than it's supposed to be."

What I am saying is that the whole album is not "faster than it is supposed to be."
1/3, by the way, is not a "tiny" fraction of a percent.
1/3 of a revolution per minute ( or 360/3=120 degrees per minute or, 2 degrees per second ) evidently is perceptible to the ears !
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Cuyler, you wrote "I've determined I think the whole Horizon album (on vinyl and on CD at least) is 1/4 of a semitone faster than it's supposed to be."

What I am saying is that the whole album is not "faster than it is supposed to be."
1/3, by the way, is not a "tiny" fraction of a percent.
1/3 of a revolution per minute ( or 360/3=120 degrees per minute or, 2 degrees per second ) evidently is perceptible to the ears !
1/3 of a semitone is 1/6 of a tone, which comes out to about 99.1% of full speed.

So yes, it is a "tiny fraction of a percent." 9/10 of a percent, to be precise. :)

Unless you're telling me that the Carpenters' studio equipment was out of tune by 1/4 or 1/3 of a semitone?

Edit: My point is that I believe that it's more likely that there was a minor, but noticeable, tape speed error than it is that the band and orchestra would play most of their songs sharp of natural. I definitely think it's an engineering issue rather than a musician issue. But we can agree to disagree--I'm totally cool with that. :)
 
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
^^I understand what you are describing, however, unless my hearing is faulty,
there is nothing wrong with the speed of the songs on the album as originally delivered.
The "minor, but noticeable tape speed error" which you believe to be on the original album,
does not exist (as far as my ears are concerned).

I am asking why you believe that to be so (noticeable tape speed error) ?
You wrote "I'm wondering if that's one reason why they sped up the album."
My ears have never perceived the album to be "sped up."

I'm perfectly alright with your belief, but is this not subjective ?
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
The "minor, but noticeable tape speed error" which you believe to be on the original album, does not exist (as far as my ears are concerned).

On this one I’m with GaryAlan. It’s fun to experiment and I’m enjoying hearing and reading about the results of that, but I don’t hear any tape speed error on the album and I don’t for a second believe Richard would have allowed an entire album master to slip through (even a fraction of a second) faster than it was supposed to be. The equipment that A&M used at the time was state of the art and that’s evident in the glowing reviews the album got at the time for its sound and production values. Richard has ears like nobody else - he’s had his car mechanics take apart an entire dashboard to find a rattle which even the dealership’s own mechanics couldn’t hear :laugh:
 
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