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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. This thread veered off-topic and those posts are now in the Their Ultimate Fate thread.

    Please continue posting in THIS thread about MADE IN AMERICA
  2. It's interesting to compare the album to something like Olivia's "Physical", which has held up quite well itself. Both have a mix of uptempo and ballads, but Richard would never want to make an album that sounds like Physical. Despite not going over the edge and totally embracing the dated, cheap sound of early 80s pop/AC, Physical sounds like it couldn't be from any year but 1981 for the most part. MIA (apart from say Back in My Life Again, which sounds like a cut off Olivia's record) sounds as if it could have been made in the 70s or today. The material may have been beneath them for the most part it has a much more timeless sound and Richard thought so. I'm sure he enjoyed and appreciated Physical but he knew that he wanted to craft something again that wasn't trendy.
  3. Graeme

    Graeme Active Member

    That was an interesting listen. She does sound stronger here. The standout track for me on the album. Almost something a bit Bee Geeish about it.
    BarryT60 likes this.
  4. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    It's all down to the way her vocal was treated during the final mix down. This is a good example of how her vocals weren't always pushed right up front and centre on the album, the way Richard previously claimed he liked her to sound.
    WYBIMLA, LondonRobert and Mary Beth like this.
  5. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    "Strength of a Woman" came on my earphones yesterday while I was typing. I was surprised by how contemporary it sounded.
    newvillefan and GaryAlan like this.
  6. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    I've thought that a few times about the song when listening to it for the first time in a while. Another song that's rarely anthologised. I'm surprised though that it was ever a contender as a potential single.

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    An inclusion and remix or remaster of "Strength" for the 50th would be nice, eh?

    That could probably be re-recorded by a current artist and released as a single now... with the lyrics as they are and change of pace from poplar club beats it could see some success with a video too!
  8. And didn't Karen say it was her favorite track on here? The lyrics are pretty pathetic overall and aside from some sensual phrasing she sounds so weak. It does sound "fresh" still but the backing vocals really ruin the tune.
  9. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    No, she said The Wedding Song was her favourite - probably for sentimental reasons.
  10. Are you sure? I could have sworn a newsletter said that Strength was.
  11. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    I'm sure Neil is right. The newsletters asked Richard which song was most likely to be next single and he said possibly Strength Of A Woman.
  12. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    Karen and Richard were definitely big fans of 'Strength Of A Woman', and it was included on the hype sticker that was affixed to the DBX version of MIA.
    Richard also spotlights it as a highlight of the album in their in-store recorded promo for 'Record Town'.
    goodjeans likes this.
  13. Maybe whoever I read it by was wrong then. It could be she just said it was one of her favorites. It honestly sounds like a reflection of Karen's marriage - I have to find strength and put up with my man's bull$hit, or his "weakness". Like, I have to tolerate it simply because I'm a woman and he's my husband. Pretty nasty stuff especially in this context.
  14. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    35+ years later, "Strength of a Woman" is really the only song on side one of MIA that I listen to very often. I can definitely see the problem with the lyric. Still, there was a freshness to the arrangement that was completely absent from most of the album -- the throbbing bass line, especially. Stuck between overproduced and cliche-ridden tracks like TGOD and WYGWIT, it stuck out like a jewel. Not going to make any guesses about how it might have done as a single, but it was one of the very few MIA songs that (to me) didn't feel like they were just repeating themselves, with lesser-quality selections, after not having released an album in several years.
    GaryAlan, goodjeans and Jamesj75 like this.
  15. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    My only issue with Strength Of A Woman is that the choruses are overblown and Karen is completely drowned out by the backing singers, presumably to make that really high note sound more powerful ("weakness of her ma-a-a-a-a-aan"). If people had caught the song on the radio back in 1981 and heard the chorus, I don't think they'd even have identified the song as being by Carpenters.
    Mary Beth likes this.
  16. I like the dark shades in the opening and that's where Karen's vocal (though reedy) sounds very sensual and enticing. But it doesn't hold up for long, as Newvillefan points out it becomes too much, you can't indentify the lead singer , and for me, the lyric is putrid. With some tweaking of all of the above it could have been a real gem.
  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    As I was reading Reader's Digest Liner Notes, I was struck by the characterization of the song
    I Believe You, as having the same "four part harmony" as Close To You.
    R: "We sing it and then triple each one."
    I've listened to those two songs hundreds of times, I can honestly say that
    I never thought the background harmony, four-part, was at all the same between the two songs.
    I still do not understand why the harmony in
    I Believe You sounds askew to my ears !
  18. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    They may not have tripled on that one. Others have said that they hear Richard on it but I honestly don't. I was just listening to it again and tried to hear him but I didn't. He's credited with singing backgrounds so he must be very low in the mix. On almost all Carpenters' songs, we're used to hearing him in near-equal measure with Karen and that's not the case here. Perhaps that's why they sound "askew" to you.
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  19. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    ^^Yes, there is simply no way--as my ears hear it--that the background harmony on
    I Believe You,
    "four-part, tripled" (per Richard Carpenter's comment),
    is close to that of
    Close To You !
    I re-listened to each song today,
    the background harmonies are different-sounding between each song.
    Obviously, they were recorded almost eight years apart (1970 v 1978),
    but, still, the structure of the harmonies is entirely different.
    Does any one else hear what I am attempting to describe ?

    But, I do really enjoy Karen's lead vocal on
    I Believe You.
    Jamesj75 and ThaFunkyFakeTation like this.
  20. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    I just re listened to the single Touch Me When and compared it to the above center channel separation with background vocals. One thing I noticed right away is that if I had spent so much time on those stacked vocals I would not hide them in the final mix. This is a contrast to earlier years. And, in Karen's lead: the single is sweetened and hides the vocal frailties in Karen's voice in just the right places. The vocal stacked harmonies also add in the strength of the voice and when doubled or tripled add vibrato like texture to the sound. The voice is "thinner" in lack of a better term and the luster of 1974-75 is missing. Now I hear what my friends were saying at the time by claiming, it's nice, but it's not like in the days of A Song For You when all the magic was present.
    Up through 1978 all the effortless agility and freedom combined with the rich texture and lush perfect quality, tone, and timbre are present in Karen's voice. Sometimes it is still heard in 79-80. It's afterwards where it is noticeable that annorexia had its grip to my ears. It's heartbreaking.
  21. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    I still would like to hear Made In America with only Lead vocals.
    Otherwise, I am unable to ascertain (due to all else happening in those songs)
    precisely what Karen's raw vocals sound like.
    Is there a timeline for when the MIA songs were recorded ?
    Strangely, even though I Believe You was (presumably)
    lifted from early/mid 1978 period, the vocals on the song are in line with
    the general weakness/strengths of the later-recorded songs for MIA.
    At least, that is how it sounds to my ears.

  22. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Active Member

    I always thought 'I Believe You' had a noticeably richer vocal performance than most of the tracks on Made in America, although that's undoubtedly helped by the fact that it's arranged/produced quite differently from the vocials elsewhere on the album, so it's more prominent in the mix.
  23. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    ^^I can see where the 'mix' of I Believe You is superior (to other MIA songs),though !
    However, when I compare I Believe You lead vocal to the other recorded 1978 lead,
    Where Do I Go From Here (as non-Christmas song example), there seems to be quite a
    profound difference to my ears.
    (Outside the fact that they were not both mixed at same point in time).

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    ^"Where do I go from here" was an outtake though wasn't it?
    So, I don't know if that was intended for release like "I believe you".
    That's an interesting point because those were recorded in the same year.
    But, both mixed differently.
    I guess 1978 was sort of the last time we hear that big ol'1970s Karen voice as we knew it.

    Seems to me fans are more critical than RC or industry insiders in doubting Karen's singing ability at that time.
    They never used those terms like she sounded tired or airy. Not their words.
    Like to them she never lost any of that. They would know because they'd be the ones hearing her directly in studio.
    Yeah, there is a difference, but hard to pinpoint whether that was her stylistic approach, production choices in later career, what was going on emotionally with her or something physiological going on as a complication due to over-the-counter medication, etc.
    By comparing, for example, "Top of the World" in '73 to the live broadcast of the same song in '81 there's quite a difference in the voice.
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  25. I think, sometimes, we can be too close to something to see the obvious. Voices change and evolve as people age. The 1969 Karen sounds very different than the 1975 Karen, for example. It's not surprising, illness or not, that the 1980 Karen would sound different than the 1972 Karen. Add to that the material recorded, Richard's evolution in arranging, mixing, orchestrating, etc. and of course, she's not going to sound like she did in 1973 on "Top of the World." Did her illness and weight have something to do with it? Perhaps, but I think it has to do more with the way Karen was recorded than with Karen's ability.
    WYBIMLA likes this.

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