• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are now available. The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy 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 available for ordering here.

⭐ Official Review [Album] "KAREN CARPENTER" (SP-4804/CD-0588)

HOW WOULD YOU RATE THIS ALBUM?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 9 17.3%
  • ****

    Votes: 13 25.0%
  • ***

    Votes: 19 36.5%
  • **

    Votes: 9 17.3%
  • *

    Votes: 2 3.8%

  • Total voters
    52
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Came across this independent analysis of the solo album:
An abridged synopsis , with apologies to the original author--
details here: http://juliethejarhead.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/karen-carpenter-her-solo-album/

Karen Carpenter (Her solo album)

Posted on April 11, 2013
“I hope you don’t mind if I curse. I still love our #[email protected]#ing record.”
In the autumn of 1979, Karen Carpenter stood at a crossroads. Her brother Richard had just checked himself into a rehab center to get un-hooked from sleeping pills. Their music career was, to put it kindly, on the descent – their records weren’t the hits they used to be.....
Whether one believes the A&M Records execs, or whether one believes Karen herself, someone made the decision to get the “LA lady” to the east coast, and into the capable hands of legendary record producer Phil Ramone.
Phil Ramone was one of the biggest and most respected names in the recording industry. He’s produced gobs of major artists, chief among them Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel and Paul Simon. (The musicians on KAREN CARPENTER are mostly from Billy Joel’s band.)
Ramone surrounded Karen with a stellar group of musicians. On guitar were David Brown, Russell Javors, Eric Johns-Rasmussen, and David Williams. Doug Stegmeyer and Louis Johnson provided the bass, while Bob James, Greg Phillinganes, Rob Mounsey, and Richard Tee played keyboards.
The percussionists included Liberty DeVitto, John Robinson, Steve Gadd.
Ramone didn’t depart entirely from the Carpenters signature sound. On a couple of songs, he incorporates the smooth overdubbing that Richard himself had borrowed from Les Paul and Mary Ford.
Ramone also knew that, for most Carpenter fans, Karen was a low alto. He used this strength effectively, and her melancholy low tones can be heard on such notables as the cover of the Paul Simon hit “Still Crazy After All These Years” and the big band-ish “If We Try.”
Two notable differences between KAREN CARPENTER and the Carpenters’ other works. For one, the song selection is much more eclectic. The pieces even include the (heaven forbid!) disco rhythms of “Lovelines” and “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind.” But not for nothing, these songs differ not only in the mechanics – range, rhythm – but, more importantly, in subject matter. Gone are the squeaky clean inferences – here we hear a mature woman who knows what she wants.
Richard Tee’s keyboards are more subtle than those of Richard Carpenter. Understandably, Richard Carpenter wanted to put his own signature on the Carpenters’ sound. In KAREN CARPENTER, the keyboards are simply another instrument.
“MAKE BELIEVE IT’S YOUR FIRST TIME”
While Richard Carpenter felt the song selection to be poor, that didn’t stop him from covering a couple of tracks. Both “Lovelines” and “Make Believe It’s Your First Time,” were released after Karen’s death, though the latter was recorded on their last album, VOICE OF THE HEART.
Fortunately, “Make Believe It’s Your First Time” gives the listener the opportunity to hear the differences in the two styles. While the Carpenters’ arrangement is all stringy and chorus-y, the Ramone version is more intimate. Let’s face it, if you’re going to “make believe it’s your first time,” you don’t want a full orchestra and choir in the room!
ALL BECAUSE OF YOU
The gem of this album is a bluesy country ballad written for Karen by Russell Javors. It’s as bare-bones as they come, and takes full advantage of Karen’s range. Just when you think she’s going to hold a note, she goes on to the next one. Just when you think she’s going to stay in one range, she nails it an octave higher. And just when you think the song may become too light-hearted, Karen digs deep into her tortured soul for that note no one but she can sing.
A tone-deaf public relations wonk (in the A&M press release) labeled “All Because of You” a “failure,” Jean Rosenbluth.
The implication that this album was Karen’s quest for independence is probably why this album drives such a wedge between two “factions” of Carpenters fans.
This album, more than anything Karen’s recorded before or since, stands as a testament to her personal struggles, her immense talent, and her attempt to validate her own life and career. “All Because of You” … demonstrate(s) the singer’s underutilized versatility.”
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
Thanks for the post, Gary. Interesting. Allow me to wax effluvial about it... :wink:

I know I keep pounding this but Karen's record doesn't "incorporate the smooth overdubbing that Richard himself had borrowed from Les Paul and Mary Ford". Nowhere is that the case. Rod Temperton simply did what Rod Temperton has always done. He was doing it before Karen's album and he continued to do it on a variety of other albums by other artists he either worked with or produced. His vocal arranging style...you know where I'm going so I'll spare you. Rod's vocal arranging is in Rod's style. It isn't in Les Paul's and it isn't in Richard's either. That Karen overdubbed all the parts is a function of Karen, not of Richard.

Also, I disagree that the keyboards on Karen's album are the least bit subdued. They didn't have to be. Karen's voice is a force unto itself and the musicians didn't have to get out of the way of it. On Karen's album, the songs are king. The songs weren't treated as platforms for grand arrangements and production a la Richard. Phil and the arrangers always did whatever was best for the songs. Richard didn't always do that. He seemed to make sure he shined through. There are moments when the music takes over on Karen's albums (Greg Phillinganes amazing Rhodes solo on "Lovelines" and similar moments). There are moments when it stays out of the way so that Karen can sell the lyric ("Make Believe..."). In my opinion, the music is actually every bit as busy on much of Karen's solo record as it is on Carpenters' stuff. It's just busy differently. We got strings only when they were needed. We got no oboe at all. The arrangements and execution on Karen's album was incredibly tasteful throughout.

My only beef is with some of the tunes - namely those of Russell Javors. Neither tune is worthy of Karen. The music is interesting but the lyrics ground both. Karen's vocal choices (or Phil's - I wasn't there) on "Still In Love With You" are just bizarre. I hear she was simply mimicking the sound of the vocals on the demo but why? Her approach there was just wretched. I agree with Richard in that her attempts at sounding tough come off as fake. I shouldn't bust out laughing when listening to it...but I do...every time.

Ed
 

Jeff

Well-Known Member
Curiosity bore this: How many vocal notes appeared on MADE IN AMERICA vs KAREN CARPENTER? Both albums were long in the making of. But, technically and the oft quoted 'vocal acrobatics' seem m.i.a. on MIA. In a relatively same studio time....enter long...I can't help but note alot more went into KC. ALSO no filler from '78 and it's I BELIEVE YOU, WEDDING SONG and B45789. I get the 'fuc##ng great album' thing as compared here
in my ever humble analysis.

Jeff
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Oddly enough, I did an album vs. album (MIA vs. KC) listen just this morning, Jeff!
Truly amazing how much stronger Karen's solo album compares to Made In America.
And, really, Richard Carpenter not only had 1979 off, but, with respect to Carpenters' Album participation, he was almost
missing in action for 1978 and part of 1977. I am astounded that he chose such languid choices in songs.
Almost the antithesis of Karen's solo work. Purposeful, on his part?

Here is a question for 'those in the know' :
Coleman states that "...Jerry Moss asked Derek Greene to fly in from London for initial Playback in the studio".
Given Karen Carpenter's standing at A&M Records, why didn't an A or an M fly in for initial playbacks?
(As of 1979, I do believe Carpenters' were still the top-selling A&M Act.)
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Simply for the sake of rumination:
Here is the-
January 1980 Fan Club Newsletter#66:
....Karen in NY, tentative release date in March for solo album.
....December 1979, Karen and Richard guested on 20/20 for Herb Alpert.
....Plans in the making for Carpenters' Special in Spring.
.....Richard plans to return to studio with Karen when she returns from NYC.

Then,
May 1980 Fan Club Newsletter#67:
....Karen decided not to release solo album.
....Finishing album would delay Carpenters' new album and special, both of which the duo is delighted to be working on.

Liner Notes (Solo album, Richard Carpenter) state: On May 5, 1980 ,Karen decided to shelve solo album.

Derek Greene: "...solo album idea straight business scenario" (Coleman, page 263) "Karen loved the record" (p.271)
Richard Carpenter: "indeed livid about the idea at first." (ibid.)
Werner Wolfen: "....He (RC) thought it treachery of sorts." (p.264)
Phobe Snow: "...She was excited about her solo project." (p.269)
Phil Ramone: "...Mom was ruling across the wires." (p.270)
Karen Carpenter: "... Richard is not taking this well at all." (p.273)
 

Jeff

Well-Known Member
So we have a host of naysayers. Someone in the beginning was pro solo lp. Herb hooked into Ramone. Over the arduous process of bringing this immense body of work to fruition was it known behind closed doors the reception and subsequent release was set in stone? Who, aside from my F/C info and my teen-hopefulness encouraged this girl to fire up and stay lit? In the face of such adversity industry-wide it seems Karen nailed it. Signed sealed n delivered boyz now go **** yourselves. I like that. I did it! It's done! Now onto that thing with my brother ooooh what was it? Missing In Action? Karen made her creative statement. Now delivered to A&M and then gratefully to the fan base we celebrate in its triumph and miraculous inception/completion. Back to my query: Perhaps our resident music producer Sir Chris can attest to some of the aspects involved in "creating" an album of 11 complete songs and the study of the what could've beens (outtakes)? Like approximately how many (guessing I know) singing hours might be involved in leads, odubs, orchestrations, mixing. That sorta thing. There is little or nothing I've yet to hear about the production elements that obviously are within. Against the unsurmountable odds we see success. It's said Karen was a duck outta water in NY cuz Rich had been here- to- for sole producer. But folks...whudda duck she were huh?

Quackin for KAREN CARPENTER,

Jeff
 

aaflyer98

Well-Known Member
Spot On Jeff. As always my friend. Hit a nerve with "ownership"...I think that's what Richard and A&M thought, that they "owned" Karen and the overdubbed sound. Sadly, I feel Karen may have thought that too.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Unabashedly, I love this album so much ---that I keep finding (thus, searching)
'new' information pertaining to it.
Here is Richard Carpenter, November 1991, Orange Coast Magazine:
"..But, still after that (sic. rehab) I took 1979 off.
That year, Karen recorded her first and only solo album.
It was nearly completed by 1980, but the record company was not satisfied.
Studio executives wanted her and Producer Phil Ramone to return to New York to record additional tracks, but she refused.
The album was never released
."


Complete Article here:
books.google.com/books?id=YBEEAAAAMBAJ
Google Books, Orange Coast Magazine, November 1991
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Unabashedly, I love this album so much ---that I keep finding (thus, searching)
'new' information pertaining to it.
Here is Richard Carpenter, November 1991, Orange Coast Magazine:
"..But, still after that (sic. rehab) I took 1979 off.
That year, Karen recorded her first and only solo album.
It was nearly completed by 1980, but the record company was not satisfied.
Studio executives wanted her and Producer Phil Ramone to return to New York to record additional tracks, but she refused.
The album was never released
."

Great article, thanks for posting! Pages 150-155 for anyone looking for it :)
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Certainly this has been read by many members, although it is 'new' to me:
Billboard Magazine, July 4,1981 (Paul Grein)-
Carpenters Get Second Wind
'America' LP Scooting Up Charts
:

Karen...."So, in May 1979, I went to New York and cut a solo album with Phil Ramone. That took a year
and by the time it was almost done, Richard said he wanted to go back to work. So, I made the decision to shelve the album.
It had dragged on so long that it seemed to be getting in the way of us going back to work again. If Richard had not decided
to take time off, I never would have done the solo album. It was just something to keep me busy."

(Paul Grein: Karen won't come right out and say it, but it seems she got a case of cold feet about stepping out as a solo artist.)
Karen...."It doesn't frighten me at all, but it doesn't really appeal to me. It was fun cutting the album and seeing that I could do all that,
sing a different type of tune and work with different people. I was scared to death beforehand
.
"I'm used to being in a duo," she says. I'm used to blinking an eye and have the engineer know what I want. I basically know one
producer,one arranger, one studio,one record company, and that's it."

(Paul Grein: Karen also says the the tracks she cut with Ramone were a bit 'earthier' than the sleek pop hits she's known for.)

More here:
books.google.com/books?id=JiQEAAAAMBAJ
 

ullalume

Well-Known Member
Certainly this has been read by many members, although it is 'new' to me:
Billboard Magazine, July 4,1981 (Paul Grein)-
Carpenters Get Second Wind
'America' LP Scooting Up Charts
:

Karen...."So, in May 1979, I went to New York and cut a solo album with Phil Ramone. That took a year
and by the time it was almost done, Richard said he wanted to go back to work. So, I made the decision to shelve the album.
It had dragged on so long that it seemed to be getting in the way of us going back to work again. If Richard had not decided
to take time off, I never would have done the solo album. It was just something to keep me busy."

(Paul Grein: Karen won't come right out and say it, but it seems she got a case of cold feet about stepping out as a solo artist.)
Karen...."It doesn't frighten me at all, but it doesn't really appeal to me. It was fun cutting the album and seeing that I could do all that,
sing a different type of tune and work with different people. I was scared to death beforehand
.
"I'm used to being in a duo," she says. I'm used to blinking an eye and have the engineer know what I want. I basically know one
producer,one arranger, one studio,one record company, and that's it."

(Paul Grein: Karen also says the the tracks she cut with Ramone were a bit 'earthier' than the sleek pop hits she's known for.)

More here:
books.google.com/books?id=JiQEAAAAMBAJ

Very interesting. . .I'd never read that entire article before. Really enjoyed it. Sad. . .never got to make that next album or tour again. All obvious stuff, but it's only when you step back in time like that that it creeps up on you .

As always, thank you Gary
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Again, old news to some, but my first reading of this snippet from-
Billboard Magazine, May 5,1979:

MOR Artists go to Funkier Sound
(Paul Grein):
"....The Carpenters made a big departure with their 1977 album Passage....The album received the most favorable reviews of the
Carpenters' career, but was their first in seven years to miss Gold Certification.
Now, Karen Carpenter will cut a solo album for A&M with Phil Ramone producing.
Explains Ramone, "We're going to go a totally different direction with Karen, more into rock and funky stuff."
In recent radio interviews A&M vice chairman Herb Alpert stressed that Richard and Karen will still record as the Carpenters,
but Richard, who had produced the duos LP's for the past six years, wanted to take some time off, leading to Karen's match-up with Ramone.

Source:
books.google.com/books?id=iiQEAAAAMBAJ
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
According to Fan Club Newsletters:
As of March 1981, Carpenters sales were at 79 million units. (#71)
Now,this:
January 1980-
#66 Q: "Does Karen hope for better promotion for her solo LP than previous Carpenters releases of recent years?And, will she do a promo tour?
A: There is a possibility Karen might do a short promo tour. She feels A&M are still behind them.
April 1982
#73 Q: Will Karen ever release her solo album?
A: Probably Not.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Q: "Does Karen hope for better promotion for her solo LP than previous Carpenters releases of recent years?And, will she do a promo tour? A: There is a possibility Karen might do a short promo tour. She feels A&M are still behind them.

I would have thought it essential to do a promotional tour, not merely a possibility. It still feels to me as if things were up in the air and a bit tepid regarding the solo LP even as late as January 1980.
 
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
For those (few?) who are of the (mis-) belief that the end of Disco is the reason that Karen Carpenter's solo album was
not released (shelved) in 1980 (given the nature of the songs on her solo album),
a student of the industry only has to peruse the August 16, 1980 issue of Billboard Magazine to see the fallacy of that argument.
I counted ,at least, 18 separate pages devoted to the Disco Genre in that one issue.
Certainly, the premise is logically incorrect---
that the type of music which would have surfaced on the solo album, was already out-of-date.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
December 18,1983:
"...the powers that be have yet to decide whether the image-threatening collection will ever leave A&M's vaults."
(From: 'Voice of the Heart' keeps familiar Carpenters' Beat)

Random Selection of Newspaper Headlines for Carpenters-related Articles:
Wholesome Image Irks Carpenters,November 13,1977
Carpenters Reject Milk-Fed Image, November 7, 1977
Carpenters-Forbidden Fruit, June 2,1975
Wholesome 'N' Roll, May 27,1973
Carpenters are Really Sincere,May 13,1973
Sugary Sweet, Inc.,April 19,1974
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
December 18,1983:
"...the powers that be have yet to decide whether the image-threatening collection will ever leave A&M's vaults."

It's absolutely pathetic that Karen's solo album was regarded in this light by Richard and the label. Make no mistake - Richard was pretty much 'the powers that be', because he had (and still has) ultimate control over what is/is not released. He hated it at the time because of the threat it represented to his career. Quotes like this make me wish so much it had been released and to see the 'furore' (sarcasm intended) that it would have produced.
 
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Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
It's absolutely pathetic that Karen's solo album was regarded in this light by Richard and the label. Make no mistake - Richard was pretty much 'the powers that be', because he had (and still has) ultimate control over what is/is not released. He hated it at the time because of the threat it represented to his career. Quotes like this make me wish so much it had been released and to see the 'furore' (sarcasm intended) that it would have produced.

Richard is a tremendous talent and deserves the success he rode on. He had the bittersweet distinction of having a kid sister who had one of the best voices in pop history. It's the kind of voice that makes you feel you know her, the kind of voice that's immediate, and the kind of voice that emotionally latches onto you from the first downbeat.

Richard's problem? He was doomed to remain in its shadow for the whole of his career. Never would he be "Richard Carpenter: amazing songwriter/arranger/orchestrator/producer". He was good enough to be known as such but Karen overshadowed all of his talents simply by opening her mouth to sing. It was so natural to her. Where he had to seriously put work in, she never warmed up, never had a singing lesson. She just opened her mouth and was instantly the only Carpenter anyone cares about.

Richard had every reason to fear that solo record. It very likely would have signaled the end of his career. When she died, his career died with her. He wasn't able to continue on his own merits because people only cared about Karen. His was not an enviable position and one I wouldn't want to be in.

Ed
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
^I agree with all of that Ed, very well said and it's ironic how at most all interviews it was Karen who built up Richard and how he was the key to all of the success, yet without Karen's voice there was no music. A good example is the Good Morning America interview how Karen says Richard should score a film, here she is building him up right on live tv saying he is this good and he would be great at something like that. This wasn't just a sister defending her brother, this was a partnership that she knew he was that talented to start something like that on his own without her. Then she slips in a kicker when he denies wanting to do that...ok then you can score my film. Ha love her quick wit.
 

Jeff

Well-Known Member
In a way RC couldn't win for losin' cuz either way his career was going to die. Somehow KAREN CARPENTER's fate and that of Karen Carpenter's marriage equaled a certain death. So someone shoulda put on the 'big boy pants' like we're all called to do from time to time and supported someone else's ego. Everyone knew as it turns out that Karen had a low self-esteem that played out in complexity at best. Knowing this, having this awareness, why drive the stake thru the heart. Maybe that shoulda been the name of '83s VOICE OF THE HEART. !Stake Thru The Heart! Abject cruelty running amok. I appreciate those who defend and love the unlovely. By god-n-golly-wow some of us need it. Me included. But I'll NEVER be convinced that Karen Carpenter's last ditch attempt at survival and self-preservation wasn't met with the consternation, rivalry, jealousy, self-righteous indignation, self-entitlement and scourge. Yes we empathize with loss. There...empathy. All the empathy for poor me left in the dust doesn't right a wrong featuring stand-out gross negligence. This 'shelving at Karen's behest' bologna is a lie that just might slam those pearly gates into someone's pearly whites.

Remember: these are my tried and true thoughts, observations and reckonings. Feel free to express your own folks...

Jeff
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Took the words right out of my mouth, Jeff.
And, if I might add---in my younger years, many of the thoughts which I have expressed via this forum, would have been
anathema to me, if not , downright blasphemy. When I (briefly) met and shook Richard Carpenter's hand back in mid-1985, my
thoughts were nothing short of supreme awe and sadness for him. My image of Carpenters, firmly entrenched in 1970's regalia,
was nothing short of blind adoration. I knew nothing of Carpenters, personally, and nothing of the Karen Carpenter solo album.
Here I am,late 2014.
Countless hours of combing over every documentary piece I can locate--Books, Magazines, Newspapers, Audio, Video,
the recordings, biopics,this forum--you name it--more material than I really should be taking the time to digest--but,
this 'Karen Carpenter Story', her life, has become so all-consuming, so fascinating, so tragic, that I take the time to try and understand it all.
One of the great things about listening to her solo album is knowing how much she loved making it, and singing it.
Quite frankly, many of the things I have discovered on this protracted journey-- regarding her life, her music--are disturbing to me.
And, if, after all this time, these things are merely disturbing to me, I can hardly fathom what it must have been like for Karen Carpenter.
One thing is certain: the last word about her life has yet to be written.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
And, yet, we have this--from page 73 Coleman:
Richard Carpenter:
(regarding Karen's auditioning for the First Edition ,circa 1968)
" ...I was more interested in Karen's future as an artist,than my own."
"...Because she was so damned good."
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Coleman, again (page 263, referencing, circa 1976 and onward, sales decline):
"..But, Karen's insecurity was surfacing."
Pardon me, but it appears to me that Richard Carpenters' insecurity surfaced long before Karen's insecurity.
(Simple explanation--perhaps wrong-- his insecurities preceded and simply compounded Karen's insecurities)
He simply manifested said insecurities via other avenues (to wit: fire Jack Daugherty, fire Neil Sedaka, fire Sherwin Bash, etc...).

Jerry Moss: "... Ramone could not be blamed, because he was trying to do something different." (ibid.,page 272)
Richard Carpenter:"... I strongly believe she was never meant to do disco." (ibid.,page 273)
Derek Green: "...The responsibility to the greatest extent..would rest with the producer...and, it was a mismatch"(ibid.,page 271)
Olivia Newton-John:"...she was very, very confused about that implied criticism of her solo work." (re. Richard: You've stolen Carpenters' sound) (ibid.,p.274)
Richard Carpenter:"...artist like us needs a top-5 sell-through hit single...I was convinced there wasn't a hit single, excepting 'If I Had You'...." (ibid.,page 276)
John Bettis: "...agrees there was no hit on the album..." (ibid.,page 276).


Pardon my ignorance:
Can anyone find a quote in that book, or any other, wherein the principals come right out and say " all of the songs stink" ?
Can anyone find a quote in that book, or any other, wherein the principals come right out and say "Karen's singing was bad" ?
Jerry Moss says Phil Ramone can't be blamed, Derek Green says the opposite. (Can't be blamed? For what? Presenting them with a different album?)

If you'll notice the commentary regarding album Passage,
no one comes out and says "responsibility rests with the producer" (produced by Richard Carpenter)--
the blame for its relative poor performance is directed to its being too 'avant garde' .

The Point: Double standard applied between a Carpenters product and a Phil Ramon/Karen Carpenter product.
It is all there in Black and White.
 
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