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Official Review [Album]: "MADE IN AMERICA" (SP-3723)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Sep 1, 2013.

How Would You Rate This Album?

  1. ***** (BEST)

    10 vote(s)
  2. ****

    14 vote(s)
  3. ***

    27 vote(s)
  4. **

    20 vote(s)
  5. *

    2 vote(s)
  1. It was Richard's auteurial voice, not Karen's, that he felt needed re-establishing. He was the "author" of the sound and arrangements and all that and after being bruised from the solo album he asserted his artistic place through the vehicle of Made in America. I get it and it doesn't make him a bad person, but his intentions were selfish. Karen's friends even said she never fully trusted him the same way ever again. These personal experiences color the making of this album and help us understand why the album got the outcome it did.

    "Made in America" is almost less of an album title then a resigned, melancholic statement or elegy. They sprouted from and became assimilated into the American public that once loved and embraced the change they represented, like seeds become beautiful, bright flowers with water and sunshine. (The title's acronym, MIA - missing in action - subtly comments on their self-awareness of the three year public absence of any records released). By 1981 they were simultaneously rejected by and trapped within that American populace mindset and image (their longevity and unwavering love from Japan and the like contrasts this constriction - they see and understand something beyond image.)
  2. Chris Mills

    Chris Mills Well-Known Member

    The best way to get the most out of this album is to listen to it with a good set of headphones, there is so much going on, it makes previous albums sound sonically a bit flat. There are subtle musical additions which updated their sound without destroying it. Richard and Karen were just coasting during this period, they recorded enough material to fill a vault and throw away the key!
    Daniel Perales likes this.
  3. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Great summation of this album!
  4. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Here's a question: if the Carpenters had put together the final tracklist for this in 1981 and decided they wanted to switch record labels, would another label have taken them based on this album?
  5. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Perusal of the June 11,1981 Billboard magazine,
    an issue which has the Made In America LP advertised on its front cover,
    reveals a disturbing reality,
    The Carpenters are not even mentioned in the headline article:
    Hot Spell of Big Acts, Labels Pledging big LP flow through October.
    Even the part of that article which includes A&M records fails to mention Carpenters.

  6. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Let's face it, the Carpenters were just not classed as a big act by 1981.
  7. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Perhaps being newly married, Karen was less interested and involved in the project as it was being worked on.
  8. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    The recording for the album started around the time Karen got engaged, so with a marriage to arrange and then a honeymoon period to enjoy, I think that's probably right as well.
  9. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    When Karen got married, she was interviewed for People Magazine at the wedding. They'd mentioned that they were working on a new album. Karen said, 'For the first time in 11 years, I wasn't really concentrating'. So, that tells us where her head was at the time. Makes perfect
    sense. She was in love. Too bad it was with the evil incarnate, but she had no way of knowing.
    goodjeans likes this.
  10. I think that if this wasn't the last album of her lifetime we would be examining it much differently, as someone else has pointed out. It would just be one of the lesser albums in a longer line of releases in the future. I think what makes this one upsetting is that its the final album Karen was apart of and many don't feel it was a showcase for her the way that say Horizon was. We wish, at least on record, she went out with a bang.
    BarryT60 and Harry like this.
  11. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    If Karen was here, I don't think she'd look back on it as her best work. Not at all. Richard claims that this was their favourite album, but I wonder where that sentiment came from.
    Mary Beth likes this.
  12. That sentiment always struck me as disingenuous. I think on Richard's part at least it it goes back to MIA being a showcase for his arranging gifts and that making it a favorite. But even with that, how could it honestly be his favorite? Over A Song For You? The variety and adventure of Close To You? I don't buy it. Those are much better and richer demonstrations of his talents and he must know it. As far as Karen, I don't think it was her favorite either. It could have been a marketing thing, to say it's their favorite work because it's their latest work.
  13. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    I just wish they'd not toured as much and had two years between albums. They may have rested a bit, pacing themselves and having a more balanced life. But hindsight is 20/20.
  14. I, actually, really like this album and consider it in my "top 5." I know I am in the minority here, but I tend not to "overthink" a lot of things. It was 1981. Regan was president. America was hopeful again. No one knew what was going to transpire over the next couple years; nor did anyone know of Richard's recent struggle or Karen's on-going problems. I just bought the album, listened to it, and liked it. Personally, I thought it was "fresh" with an almost "California" sound to it. Except for "Because We are In Love" and "Somebody's Been Lyin'," which I thought "boring" due to my age at the time, I liked the album very much. As I aged (and matured), I now appreciate those two songs a lot more. The only song that still doesn't resonate with me is "Those Good Ol' Dreams." I never really "got" the appeal of that song; but, it was a great opening statement for this "comeback" album.

    Is the album right on target? No. But I seen it as a step in the right direction for them; contemporary yet true to their sound. I expected them to release more albums building on this classic, yet fresh and updated sound. It was entirely possible that those technical criticisms expressed here would have been "fixed" on future releases. And, in time, commercial radio would have rediscovered the magic...albeit not to the extend of the first half of the 1970's...but in the same vein that other 70's acts continued to make comebacks into the 1980's (Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John, etc.). Had Karen conquered her problems, and had both refocused on their talents, they would have "hit the target" eventually. "Touch Me When We're Dancing" was testament that the "spark" was still there.

    I enjoy MIA a lot more than both "Passage" and "Voice of the Heart." I didn't have the same feeling as I did for MIA again until I heard "Lovelines" which, oddly enough, had a lot of MIA outtakes.

    So yes, with hindsight being 20/20, and now knowing all the struggles and the tragic history that ensued, of course MIA doesn't hit the bulls-eye. But in the context of the time, the hostility toward them from Top 40 radio, Karen's challenges, and Richard's renewed confidence, MIA is about as I would have expected it to sound...And I liked it. Still do.
  15. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Nice to read your assessment, Geographer !
    Not much of meaning I can add, except your analysis did spark a memory in me:
    I recall buying the LP in 1981, and, after first listen--forgive me--I felt something was amiss.
    Keeping in mind I knew absolutely nothing (1981) of their health issues, let alone the solo-LP debacle,
    I immediately compared the LP to Passage (one of my all-time favorites) and felt Made In America
    was a step backwards....
    Now, fast-forward....Knowing (now) of the health issues, the radio-resistance, the image problems,
    and, all that.....I greatly appreciate the effort on this album.
    It is a mature album, for sure (Aside from an "oldie" Beechwood):
    The "Struggle" songs:
    Strength of A Woman
    When It's Gone
    Somebody's Been Lying
    Want You Back In My Life Again

    The "Optimistic" songs:
    Those Good Old Dreams
    I Believe You
    Touch Me When We're Dancing
    When You've Got What It Takes
    Because We Are In Love

    Not a bad album by any stretch.
    My favorites--today !--
    Those Good Old Dreams
    Because We Are In Love
  16. I agree with the fresh California sound and a general sense that it was updated yet classic, I just feel that it didn't push it ahead enough. I think had Karen lived, gotten healthy, and slowly resolved the torment/turmoil inside her (if she ever could) than we would have had an album that featured a continuation of this sound but one that was more solid, with better material and stronger vocals. I feel that new freshness in doses but it's not totally there yet, it's buried under samey songs without much variety. I just have contradictory feelings on the whole thing.
  17. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Great summarization and I totally agree.

    My personal feeling is, if Karen had lived and they stayed contemporary in their sound - that is, staying in line with current trend etc., I personally don't feel they would have created the same timelessness with songs that might have become hits for them in the 80s nearly as much as they did in the 70s. This has a lot to do with their own personal influence(s), and the obvious change in direction with music creation in the 80s - and especially 90s, that really went against the grain of their personal fabric.

    With Karen I often think of what Ronstadt did with Nelson Riddle shortly before his death. She recorded and released a number of standards that to this day still hold up and sound fantastic. Karen was a torch singer when it came to a lot of this kind of stuff, and even Richard has mentioned with hindsight the idea that Karen really should have been recording more of that genre of music anyway. Had they moved this direction with things, maybe even jumping into the 'duets' phenomenon that was happening with Sinatra with other artists, this may have been a good target for them - or at least Karen anyway.
    BarryT60 likes this.
  18. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Many interesting views on this album, Made In America !
    I feel Those Good Old Dreams is the most 'Carpenter-esque' song on the album ! Love it.....
    I had forgotten to include (above) one of my personal favorites: Strength of a Woman !
    That being said, I still feel (and, did so in 1981) that this Album was less
    sounding than Passage.
    If Karen's "voice" had then been held to the high esteem with which we fans hold it to ,
    Beechwood and Want You Back In My Life Again would never have made the 'cut.'
    The intro drums and sax and guitar solos on Beechwood, almost too close to Postman's arrangement.
    As much as I enjoy both of those songs (Beechwood and Back In My Life) they do little to enhance
    either Carpenters' legacy, or Karen's vocal prowess. Which explains my partiality to
    Because We Are In Love....strip out the chorus and listen to that voice, fantastic !
    If--as Richard Carpenter once stated--you are remembered by your "last three minutes,"
    then, 1982's single release of Beechwood 4-5789 was surely not the direction to proceed.
  19. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    To this day I still wonder why they even released this song as a single. It came in March 1982, nine months after its parent album was released to mediocre sales and after all but one of the preceding singles had bombed. Did they think this song would turn around their fortunes? I read somewhere that it was Richard who decided to release the song on Karen's birthday. Was it even up to him which songs to be releasing as singles and when? I thought that was down to the record label.

    Also, let's assume for a second the song had appeared with a bullet on Billboard and started on its way up the charts? They were in no position to actively promote it because Karen was in therapy in NYC by that point and their career was on hold, so why even release it at this juncture, unless it was done as a 'gift' to Karen to mark her birthday?

    For me it's a sad epitaph in their chart history - the last single to be released in Karen's lifetime and it charted at a forgettable and disappointing #74.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
  20. Bingo! You nailed it. That's exactly the direction in which they should have moved. I honestly believe they could've continued a very successful "second" career if you will at an early age. Not to mention, the possibility of taking up a residence show in Las Vegas, in the same vein as Celine Dion and others.
  21. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    And, my simplistic analysis contrasting/comparing
    Please Mr. Postman to Beechwood 4-5789
    includes my playing each 45-promo single
    against each other, side-by-side, today.
    If each be compared in like manner,45-to-45,
    the sobering reality of the situation hits one in the face.
    If Please Mr. Postman later sounds out-of-place on Horizon LP,
    surely enough, Beechwood 4-5789 replicates the same 'mistake' on Made In America LP.'
    Mary Beth likes this.
  22. I think it was a pathetic consolation for Karen. She had picked the song to record and then as a small gift it was put out as a single then. They had to have known that releasing it then, or hell, ever, was a bad choice. But then why did Karen play it for Mike Curb (was it?) and ask him what he thought of it as a single? Both she and Richard had lost their touch big time in regards to commercial product and the current market. Was it just a fun literal novelty that she wanted out there to see who would enjoy it, despite being a flop on the charts? In terms of a fun tune it comes nowhere near Postman.
  23. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    The Carpenters / A&M must have been planning to release "Beechwood" as a single ever since the album was completed. Otherwise, why would they have made a video for it?
  24. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member

    Plus, if you look later at the "Yesterday Once More" compilation, which was compiled as the Carpenters "Greatest Hits" package to top the Singles album, it was included on the 1984 TV LP set, but for some reason left off of the 1985 album, but included on the VHS/Betamax/Laserdisc video that contained videos for other songs that were all on the 1985 set.

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    I really like "Touch me". There was too much reverb in spots.
    There's more strength in KC's voice than what's presented.
    I think this video shows both of them were spot on, but the way it was mixed kinda lost some of that.
    Still a great record, imo.
    ThaFunkyFakeTation and Graeme like this.

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