• 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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MissK

Active Member
Karen's voice didn't popularize Richard's efforts-Richard's efforts popularized Karen's voice.It's a well-accepted fact in the music industry that Karen wouldn't have been famous or successful in any sense without Richard's producing,arranging & songwriting skills. The greatest voices in the world still need the right producer & arranger to make them sound good.

And Richard's producing, arranging, and songwriting skills would not have made a dent if Karen wasn't presenting them. It was a classic symbiotic relationship which in the end did not serve Karen well.

The saddest thing about Karen's "solo" effort being shelved is that the message was sent that not only this album wasn't going to be released, but perhaps dashed any hope of her EVER having a "solo" album. Heady stuff for the greatest singer of a generation who would not live to see her name on an album.

While it takes many talents to produce a great record, a great voice sounds good in its own right. Let's give Karen at least that much.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Mr. J.,
With all due respect,
Perhaps, as of this date,
(1) No one has asked--or thought to ask-- Mr.Quincy Jones what transpired at his home.
Why, I wonder, I ponder--and ask--have so few of the principals involved
with the making of the album not offered their stories of these events ?
(Of course, the same could be asked of traditional Carpenters' session players--where are all of
their stories?, stories of being in the studio making these fine recordings with the Carpenters.)

(2) We've all been chastised for pure speculation,before-- therefore:
Your declaration is not only unsubstantiated ,it is undocumented;primary source material is requested for the claim:
Names of those who represent "the music industry" and can substantiate your claim ?
" It is a well-accepted fact in the music industry that Karen wouldn't have been famous or successful in any sense...."
Why is it never 50/50 ? And, if not a 50/50 proposition, as a "Duo", as "a musical entity" (quoting the A&M Press Bio's),
then, Why Not ?


(3) Here are the (Historical) published facts (to 1987);
Regardless of how great we know the Carpenters are:
Album A Kind of Hush Hush was certified Gold July 14,1976, sales of 500,000copies.
Before December 31,1975 Gold was certified for selling One Million Dollars worth of wholesale units.
(Thus, the metric being applied is variable-- depending on an album released before or after December 1975)
Hush is One of Nine Gold Album's for all of A&M's Year of 1976 .
For 1976 they have no Platinum Album listing in the "A&M Records First 25 Years" (c.1987,A&M Records).
In fact the only other entry (1962-1987 Gold or Platinum) is January 16,1981 for Christmas Portrait.
(No one has any idea what retailers 'returned' as unsold--regardless of how many were Shipped on Release Date).

(4) Carpenters Fab Club Newsletter January 1980:
"...plans in the making for Carpenters TV Special, Taping is scheduled to begin next month.."
Just because the Television Show was videotaped --three days 7,8,9-- March 1980, does not imply it was not being "worked on" previous to those three days.
It is a huge undertaking to get all parties involved producing a television special, they do not just materialize on the (three) days of taping.
(Note: No Newsletters February, March or April of 1980.)
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
I'd say Richard and Karen together made each other great- but in the later years, it was clear Karen's voice remained a national treasure of sorts even in the years when Richard's arrangements became less striking and popular.
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
I believe you have the correct formula for a team, but it also works the other way around for a team approach. And, it was an excellent team, but that does not rule out the option for others. But, the voice is what is heard before anything else. Without the voice, there is little to be heard.
 

Chris Mills

That was funny....like the dark vomited up
Playing safe with MIA did not work, if the solo project had been released as hoped for, this would have been a game changer, and if by some negative quirk of fate that solo project failed when offered to the punters, what is the worse thing that could have happened?

Well, the worst thing imaginable did happen, regardless of what decisions were made regarding the solo project.

The solo project was not created to destroy Carpenters, Karen's intentions were musically professional and honourable.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
[This thread devolved into a long discussion of arrangers and singers with little to do with the solo album. I've moved those posts to a new thread here.]

Harry
 

ullalume

Well-Known Member
Her own brother telling her that it's "$#!^"? Seriously? Who says that to their sister who pratically worships the ground he walks on? There's no excuse whatsoever for that.

Hey Brandon.

I haven't got the book in front of me right now, but from what I recall it was either Itchi or Frenda venting at Richard's less than supportive stance on the project. I may be wrong, but I doubt he'd sit across a table from his sister, see her emotional and financial state, and use that specific word in reference to the last 9 months of her professional life. I may be wrong, but I think her best friends were spinning his negative attitude toward the album to an ultimate essence of that one word.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Harry, what were your thoughts on this album material/song-wise? You mentioned that you didn't think it was a good thing to release but if you talked specifically about the music I could have missed it.

I'm sure I've relayed my story and feelings over the years, but perhaps not very recently.

I was there, in the parking lot of Sam Goody's, waiting for them to open on release day so I could get my copy of the KAREN CARPENTER album. I don't recall how I knew it was "release day". Perhaps I saw an ad in Billboard at the radio station. Perhaps I saw a list in the record store as "coming next week". Don't recall. But I knew on that Tuesday I'd be there to pick up the new CD.

This was the mid-'90s, my car at the time was a 1989 Nissan Maxima with a CD player built-in. So I knew I could play it right there in the parking lot. And that's exactly what I did. I started it out while sitting right in front of the store.

"Lovelines" started it off, and I was familiar with the track from LOVELINES. I'm pretty sure I didn't notice the difference between this version and Richard's remix. That would be true of all six of the solo tracks that had come out earlier. I just assumed that all were identical to the prior releases. And that was one of the things I noticed - and regretted - first. I'd already heard fully half of these tracks before, and one song "Make Believe..." was also familiar, though a different version.

So, since I'd done this purchase on the way to work, I rationed that I'd better get moving so I wouldn't be too awfully late. (While my official hours were 9-5, the radio business is always taking place in a flux. I usually didn't start until around 10 and nearly always worked 'til around 6.) Since I had a CD and a player, I could listen to the remaining unfamiliar tracks on the 20 minute ride to my office.

So, that day, while driving to work, I listened to:

"All Because of You"
"Making Love In The Afternoon"
"Still In Love With You"
"Guess I Just Lost My Head"
"Last One Singin' The Blues"

Thus, because of the earlier track releases, this was all that was really new to me. And it's not exactly a stellar collection of tracks. I wanted to like the duet with Peter Cetera, but it all fell kind of flat and didn't grab me at all. Of this bunch, "Guess I Just Lost My Head" sounded the best, but it wasn't an immediate sell to me. The verse was awkward-sounding, but I liked the backing vocals on the chorus.

That day, while working, I plopped the CD into my work computer and played it while working, trying to really like it. But it never really grabbed me the way an early Carpenters album used to. I'm sure that evening I would have done my detailed listening at home on the good stereo, while reading the credits and lyrics. Again, it all just kind of laid there.

Make no mistake, I was thrilled to have more music with Karen Carpenter singing, but this album felt like it belonged with the latter-day albums of MADE IN AMERICA and VOICE OF THE HEART. Those two albums, and now this one, got relegated to my category of lesser-played Carpenters albums. Part of playing these less often was a strategy on my part to sort-of "save" these tracks and not burn them out the way the early albums are burned in my brain.

The track order of these albums isn't an "automatic" in my head. When one of these songs finishes on any of these albums, I don't automatically hear the next one in sequence. So I guess my strategy has worked - I still own some reasonably fresh Carpenters tracks to enjoy.

Back to KAREN CARPENTER solo. At some point in my early run-throughs of the album, "Make Believe It's Your First Time" came on and the goosebumps just wouldn't quit. This was a song that never did much for me, even when it got a little airplay, as a Carpenters track. But oh my, this solo version was just a knockout. Karen's reading was so much better, but even moreso, that piano accompaniment really grabbed me.

Like all the other tracks on the album, I rarely play it, but when I do (like right now), it really moves me. I'm glad I "saved" it.

As for my feelings on how the album would have fared in 1980 - I fear it would have been a terrible disappointment to all parties. Critics would have hated it. There was nothing that Karen or Richard could have done at that time to counter their image. It was at its all-time low at that moment in time. Popular radio stations were ditching anything Carpenters from their playlist. They were the VERY FIRST ACT mentioned when a radio station was trying to improve ITS image and ratings. "You've got to get rid of the Carpenters" was a phrase that salespeople uttered to programmers throughout the halls of the stations. Sometimes they'd add Bread, but ALWAYS Carpenters - they're the ones whose absence would make the radio station more hip, better, younger.

In that kind of climate, nothing that the duo could release, singly or together, could have countered that tidal wave of negativism. And the solo album wasn't the answer for sure. Neither was MADE IN AMERICA, even though the strength of "Touch Me When We're Dancing" managed to eek its way up the charts to #16. That's a testament to that record that it could have countered such negative forces and propelled Carpenters up the charts. But I can also tell you that the moment that that record started to fall in the rankings, OFF it went, never to be heard again as the "dump Carpenters" movement continued.

It was a really hard time to be a Carpenters fan. If you wanted any credibility at all, you just didn't mention them at all. I'm sure that if KAREN CARPENTER, the solo album, had been released in that climate, there would have been such backlash from the cruel comedians and DJs of the era, that it might have crushed poor Karen in her weakened state - moreso than the shelving of her album had already done. The decision to shelve it was the right one, and I'm happy that it ultimately saw release.

Rather than ponder the solo album's fate in 1980, I tend to wonder how it would have fared in 1996 if more than half of the album hadn't already been a known quantity. Certainly all of the best tracks were already familiar, and most of the ones that WERE new in 1996, were the lesser album-filler tracks.

I tend not to discuss the album much as I don't listen to it much. And it frustrates me when I read things like, "It's all Richard's fault." "It's all Herb Alpert's fault." "It's all Jerry Moss' fault." And it especially irritates me when I read your line above, BrandonBarry, "The reason I most wish the album was released is that it could have saved her life." Gosh - that's placing an awful burden on such a so-so album. I could maybe buy a phrase like that if:

- the solo album was a knockout success and critically acclaimed
- that Richard really was a nasty, mustache-twirling evil figure instead of a loving brother
- that A&M was a cold-hearted organization instead of an artist-nurturing place

No-one ever seems to place much blame on Phil Ramone that the album turned out so lukewarm, yet he produced it. Did he give Karen too much power in selecting tracks? Was she not up to the task? Could Phil have done a better job if he had retained more control over song selection?

The latter-day Karen Carpenter story was truly a tragedy in many respects, and I understand the need for fans to try to make sense of it all. I tend to be more grounded in reality.

Harry
 
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Mark-T

Well-Known Member
That's all fair stuff, Harry. I can see how the Carpenters were dead sales wise. So, if that's the case, A&M had nothing to lose by releasing Karen's solo album. If it failed, one more in a line of less than successful releases by them. But if it hit even moderately well, listeners would have been forced to open their minds a bit about the greatest female vocalist of that century.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
So, if that's the case, A&M had nothing to lose by releasing Karen's solo album.

Ah, but they DID have something to lose, looking toward the future, and based on past successes. Carpenters pretty much kept A&M in the black through most of the '70s. The label was hurting when they came along, and it was hurting once again by the end of the decade. Carpenters had had a long drought - one that label execs probably thought could be corrected with hopefully Richard and Karen both healthy and ready to get back to work.

Richard got his act together, but Karen didn't. Still, through all of that negativism and image problems, they DID manage to crack the top 20 again as a duo, so it wasn't like it was a bad plan. Instead of looking at the solo album as some kind of savior, I sometimes see it as the thing that led to her downfall. Had she spent that year getting herself healthy instead of wasting it on that solo album, who knows where things might have ultimately gone? The way I see it is, *she* made the bad decision. A&M backed her by setting her up with Ramone and getting the project going, but it was ultimately her decision to go through with the album.

Harry
 

ullalume

Well-Known Member
Even if it wasn't that specific word it was still his general attitude about 1) making it in the first place and 2) how he reacted to it afterwards. The rejection was basically he and the rest of the label spitting in her face and carrying on like business as usual. He looked at her joy and happiness and he couldn't process it and feel happy for her.

O.K. Pro-Richard time.

Imagine, just for a moment, that in January of '79, after 4 years of her struggles with Anorexia, Karen finally agrees to check into a clinic for those suffering with her illness. It's the dead of winter, and the facility is miles from anywhere. . .Karen is all alone. Richard goes to see her. She's at her lowest ebb and tells Richard that the Carpenters are going to have to go on hold for the whole year - it'll take her that long to slowly begin to overcome her issues, but she's determined to get well, and tells him, "Why don't you check into a place for those dependent on drugs. You can get clean and together we'll hit the 80's like we hit the '70's."

Then imagine Richard shouting that he doesn't have a problem, and that he's going into the studio in a few weeks to produce an album with Barbra Streisand. Then he leaves her alone back in the winter and heads for the first recording session with Barbra.

THAT is what happened if you flip the siblings story. Karen looks bad if you look at the story from an alternate viewpoint. . . .but most people don't. . . they hate Richard because that's the easy route.

Look, I never met these guys, but I've adored them for 24 years( I'm 37). I've obsessed over their personal lives, interviews, videos. . . . everything, as I'm sure many of us here have. In my opinion, over-all, they seem like very nice people. . . .both of them. They both are clearly highly intelligent and nervous people, but nice people. No-one was horrible to anyone. They loved each other and 1979 happened and both tried to deal with it.

I mean no disrespect Brandon, and it breaks my heart what happened to Karen, but she died because it was in her genetic make-up. . . not because Richard felt betrayed one day in Feb. of '79.
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Harry, I agree with your second paragraph. In the spirit of finding the right balance of artist choice and good management, I can see the struggle they must have had. Could her year have been better spent getting healthy? Of course. Was the year wasted making an album? I don;t think so, but then I really like the end result.
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
In all fairness Brandon you did ask for Harry's thoughts about the solo album, he gave his opinion so you should have left it at that. I think you stated what you really wanted to say in your original post #861, now your posts are going on like a bashing crusade against Richard and I don't like it...take a break...turn on Karen's solo album and just enjoy the music. I personally enjoyed Harry's post as I don't remember ever reading what his thoughts were about her solo album. Do I agree with all of what Harry said, no but then that's my opinion but I still enjoy reading everyone's views however heading down that road of bashing Richard is not right and I hope you can stop as you have made your point very clear.

I'm listening right now to the SHM Japan release of Karen's solo album and while I take a different look at the album than most, I think it's a great album maybe not all the songs were strong but there were a few that would have made radio cuts. When I listen to her solo album I hear a personal side of Karen that we have never heard before, the material is all what she wanted to sing and interpret and for me that is so much more personal than any money it would have made or even not have made. I firmly believe that if it had been released in 1980 and flopped I still would have loved it because I liked it in 1996 and still like it today because of the personal side of what it provides to me. It's much like Olivia, solo artist cutting tracks and putting together her album, it's all such a personal experience....you just can't put a price tag on that in my opinion.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Then imagine Richard shouting that he doesn't have a problem, and that he's going into the studio in a few weeks to produce an album with Barbra Streisand. Then he leaves her alone back in the winter and heads for the first recording session with Barbra.

Do you know something, in all the years I've talked about the solo album on this forum and others, I've never considered it from the above perspective. I think had Karen had that done to her, it might well have hastened her demise.
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
Do you know something, in all the years I've talked about the solo album on this forum and others, I've never considered it from the above perspective. I think had Karen had that done to her, it might well have hastened her demise.

Given the dynamics in their relationship though, I'm not sure the reverse situation is directly comparable. Richard was always the 'senior member' in charge and in control of Karen's career path - presumably for most of the time with Karen's active support in that role. So undoubtedly and perhaps understandably, he had every right to feel somewhat aggrieved that she wanted to do something separate from him, particularly when he was at a low ebb (although that of course was the whole reason why it was happening at this specific time), but a bruised ego aside, it's unlikely that it would have shaken his belief in his own abilities.

For whatever reason, it seems fairly clear that Karen lacked self-esteem. From a strictly physical health point of view, she would have been better off getting treatment for her condition, but I'd say it's certainly feasible that the solo album was in a sense a form of 'treatment' (even if not on a fully conscious level) in gaining some sense of confidence in her own abilities. Having to ask for Richard's blessing to do the solo album suggests to me that a) she was well aware that it would be a problem for him but also b) that she almost needed him to give her the go-ahead, almost as if she didn't feel able to do this herself, which in itself is quite telling.

I would say that the rejection of the solo album seems crueller in hindsight than it would have done at the time. As fans it's easy to ask 'what if's about the album's release, if only because what did end up happening instead was so awful. BrandonBarry goes too far in saying it would have saved Karen's life - there's no way of knowing that. All we can conjecture is that if the solo album had been released, what would have followed might well have been 'different' - but this does raise the possibility, however remote, of a happier ending to the story.

As a side-point, Harry mentioned the idea of Phil Ramone's responsibility for the album's rejection, which itself raises interesting points. The Ray Coleman book claims that Ramone was essentially steering Karen in specific directions, so was in essence in the same role as producer as Richard would have been, in which case, depending on whether you like the results or not, then he clearly has a role to play here. And yet I think we've mentioned before that there's a sense that A&M didn't make much effort to find out what was going on in the solo sessions, even though one of the contemporary articles in Billboard that Gary Alan recently dug up from 1979 quotes Ramone outlining what direction he saw the album going in, which was pretty close to the finished product. From what I recall, this was Phil's one and only production to be rejected in his entire career, so you could argue that it was pretty insulting to him, given his track record and industry profile at the time.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
From what I recall, this was Phil's one and only production to be rejected in his entire career, so you could argue that it was pretty insulting to him, given his track record and industry profile at the time.

Ouch - that had to have hurt Phil given his track record and industry standing.

I know it's not likely to ever happen, but I wish a documentary could have been made before Phil's passing on the whole solo project, with an insight into the process from Karen's friends like Itchie and others like the musicians who were directly involved and how they really feel about its fate.
 

BarryT60

Well-Known Member
Ouch - that had to have hurt Phil given his track record and industry standing.

I know it's not likely to ever happen, but I wish a documentary could have been made before Phil's passing on the whole solo project, with an insight into the process from Karen's friends like Itchie and others like the musicians who were directly involved and how they really feel about its fate.
Itchie knows all.... :wink:

Meanwhile, I have said before, how nice it would have been to have Quincy work with Karen also... I always have appreciated his work with many an artist. With all due respect to Phil, I'd have canned more than a few of the songs recorded for the album... (I'm including a couple of the outtakes we've all heard by now)... Did he have any say on the material? This is the guy that produced Billy Joel's The Joker, right? I would have figured this girl should have had an album filled with A plus tunes. And in my opinion, it was good - and had sparks of brilliance, but wasn't as tremendous as I would have thought it could have been....

That said, as an innocent by-stander, I am curious why they couldn't or wouldn't have released - - minimally - - a single for Karen. That could have solved the entire issue.

My choice would have been My Body Keeps Changin' My Mind. Release it - see what happens - - then react accordingly. An easy choice... I'm in sales / so I would have certainly negotiated for that, had I been in Karen's shoes...

I've also said many times - & speaking as a guy that had more than his share of family dynamics, type A parental units, and a few years on the couch, every family has its own crap - & it is virtually impossible to make blanket statements on the ins and outs of the Carpenters or any family.

God Bless them. And God bless Karen. I hope somewhere out there - her energy can absorb the love that still exists for her and her alone...
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
And on that note, thread closed. This discussion has run its course.
 
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