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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. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Active Member

    I think the fact that a lot of fans feel dissatisfaction with Made in America (while a minority conversely hold it in high regard) is precisely why there's so much discussion on it. I'd agree that it's one of their two worst albums along with A Kind of Hush, but whereas that album's problems I can justify by fatigue and a lack of focus, the plan behind Made in America seems to have been much more deliberate, making its weakness that much more baffling.

    Plus you've got its status as the 'reaction' album following Karen's solo album, the disappointing chart performance of the LP and most of its singles when it should have been a strong 'comeback', along with the fact that some of the outtakes from the recording sessions seem much stronger than many songs that ended up on the album. Plus Richard's positive comments on the album seem at odds with what many of the fans think about it. So there's a lot to talk about!
    jaredjohnfisher likes this.
  2. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Active Member

    I think there are a few songs that appeared on posthumous albums where Karen still sounds good, but I'd agree that 'I Believe You' is certainly the last song released during her lifetime that really shows her off this well. I can see why some might find the lyrics a bit mawkish, but I have no problem with them.
    ThaFunkyFakeTation likes this.
  3. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Good observation Neil. I think a lot of the discussion comes from the theory that this wasn't really an album born of normal circumstances. A lot of water had passed under the bridge since their last studio album: Richard's episode with quaaludes, Karen's aborted solo effort and failing marriage. All of which seems to spill over into the music: we had a wedding song on the tracklist, a return to their more formulaic sound (especially after Passage) strongly marked by Richard's production values, material recorded in a higher key than we were used to hearing from Karen and also the treatment of her vocals in the mix.

    So all in all, there's probably a lot more to debate with this album than, say, A Song For You, which was consistently brilliant, released at the peak of their game and chock full of hits. Made In America was more patchy stylistically and musically, which creates more debate from its fans and non-fans.
    David A and ThaFunkyFakeTation like this.
  4. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Made In America is a good album to dissect.
    As has been noted by my esteemed predecessors,
    there are many reasons it is both "hated" and/or "loved."
    I do so have a love/hate relationship with the Album !
    I must say:
    I Believe You,
    Strength of A Woman,
    When It's Gone,
    Somebody's Been Lyin,'
    Those Good Old Dreams,
    Touch Me When We're Dancing
    and (yes !) Because We Are In Love
    as some of my favorite Karen vocal performances.
    However, for reasons I've extolled previously,
    most of the songs are seriously wanting in their arrangement,
    and the manner in which the songs are mixed cries out for explanation.
    Brian likes this.
  5. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    I agree that there are many enjoyable songs on 'Made In America'. Not perfect, but enjoyable for what they are. Karen's voice sounds gorgeous in sections and out of its comfort zone in others. While she handles the higher registers of 'Because We Are In Love' and 'Somebody's Been Lying' beautifully, her voice sounds thin, feeble, strained and strangled, at times, on the higher notes of 'Those Good Old Dreams', 'Strength of a Woman' and 'Touch Me When We're Dancing'. However, where the solo album seemed to suffer overall, as a whole, from songs being set too high and from weak or over-saccharine vocal performances, (there are two or three exceptions), 'Made in America' only faces this problem now and then. At other times on the album, we hear those lovely deep, rich tones that we love so much. These warm tones are largely missing from the solo project. The lyrics on 'Made in America' are sometimes corny or mawkish, but that's the type of song that was being recorded back then. I will concede that some songs on 'Passage' and 'Karen Carpenter' were more adventurous. As I said earlier, 'Those Good Old Dreams' sounds a bit like an attempt to recreate 'Top of the World', but I still love it. 'Want You Back In My Life Again' and 'Beechwood' are so insignificant that you wonder why they were ever considered for recording. 'Touch Me When We're Dancing' sounds quite old fashioned, and this feeling is highlighted by the ballroom-dancing couple in the promo video. I agree that parts of the album sound over-produced. 'Touch Me When We're Dancing', for example, sounds a bit mechanical. But I think there are quite a few nice tracks on the album, too, or even nice things going on in the weaker tracks, (except for in the afore-mentioned 'Want You Back In My Life Again' and 'Beechwood'!) I think, in some of our criticisms, we are probably listening with 2017 ears, rather than 1981 ears. I used to listen to the American Top 40 radio show weekly from, say, 1976 up until 1982 and kept tabs on the American, UK and local charts. In 1981, American top 40 radio was nowhere near as adventurous as UK or Australian radio. It was a lot softer and easy-listening based. Where, in the UK and Australia, you had a lot of inventive stuff - blends of hard rock and echoes of punk mixed with reggae and new wave and stuff like you'd never heard before, as well as artists pushing the boundaries with subject matter and lyrical content of songs and personal image - in America you had a lot of music very similar to 'Touch Me When We're Dancing'. The songs on 'Made In America' were no stronger or weaker than a lot of songs reaching the Top 40 in America at the time. I think that the album is aptly named. It is very much a product of the time and place that it was recorded.

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    I think part of why I hold it as one of my favourites is that it deviates from what you think you'd want them to do.
    The way Richard created this ambient atmosphere (it's still true to their sound and how they used overdubbing and not with the choir on some songs) is quite cool. You won't find that sound anywhere else.
    It is the source and part of that creative energy that inspired many artists that came later although they may not like to admit it.
    Imagine going against the grain by being decent, sugary and sentimental...
    It's because it is their last album together and it's not "perfect" by whatever you think should have replaced it but a fair addition to their catalogue.
    I respect it. There are these very mature parts of it that deal with broken relationships and then just pure old school fun of the mid-20th century.
    Polarizing indeed.
    Geographer likes this.
  7. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    As I listen to one of my favorite--if,not the favorite--compilation,
    Interpretations (the 21-song set).....
    I am astounded at how fantastic the song
    When It's Gone
    This really is a favorite of mine off of Made In America.
    Rick-An Ordinary Fool likes this.

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    ^ It's from a comment like that how I think fans do a disservice when writing-off this album.
    There are some fine performances on there. "When it's gone" is one I agree with too.
  9. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Oh my....the promo 45 of
    I Believe You (mono)
    is miles ahead of the album cut.
    So, here again, I face a quandary with this album,
    there are parts of this album which bring back the goosebumps,
    simply not enough of them !

    Oh well, if I were to listen to
    It's Going To Take Some Time...enough times...
    I'd probably find something I love about it, too !

    But, today, it's
    I Believe You.
  10. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    I've said it before and a I'll say it again. Try this line up on your smart phones.

    Those Good Old Dreams
    Uninvited Guest
    Kiss Me
    At the End of a Song
    Touch Me
    When it's Gone
    Rainbow Connection.

    It works beautifully. . . .and apologies to the fans of the 4 I omitted.
    Chris Mills and GaryAlan like this.
  11. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    ^^Interesting playlist ^^
    Amusing how everyone has their varied tastes....
    I rarely listen to When You've Got What It Takes (some excellent overdubs,though)
    or Rainbow Connection....
    (love the vocals, not so much either arrangement),
    And, today I played the 45-Single of Want You Back In My Life Again,
    and,again I failed to get much of anything from it....
    (In fact, I enjoy Beechwood-45789 much more so ! But, even it is a stretch for me !).
    The one that is almost a "hit" in my eyes is
    Strength of A Woman......
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  12. Jamesj75

    Jamesj75 Well-Known Member

    GaryAlan, I agree with you on "Strength of a Woman"; I believe it's the one thought that got away... (from Made in America).

    To quote myself from years ago, I have never been a fan of the "When..." songs.

    And going against the grain --- not a strange locale for me --- I always thought that "(Want You) Back in My Life Again" was catchy and should have been a hit. It was reminiscent of the massive 1979 hit, "What a Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers and the regional 1980 hit, "Here in the Light" by Amy Holland. And, while researching this post, I learned that:
    1. Michael McDonald produced Amy's 1980 debut album and cowrote "Here in the Light."
    2. Michael McDonald and Amy Holland have been married since 1983 and have 2 children.

    Finally, to this day, I am thrilled that Carpenters had that hit with "Touch Me When We're Dancing." I remember being so excited when I first heard it on the radio back in 1981 and learning of the new single and album.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
    GaryAlan likes this.
  13. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Touch Me When We're Dancing....
    Well, I am listening to the Gold Cd, and this song pops up.
    I'm listening to how fantastic this song sounds.
    But, then realizing it only made #16 on the Hot 100 Charts,
    and did not make it into the Top 100 of Billboard's Top Songs for 1981.
    And, I am seeing that year-end chart of quite a few forgettable songs,
    wondering--again--Why TMWWD did not do much better ??
    So, I am afraid--no matter what was put out at that time, the odds were against them.
    This really leaves me scratching my head--look at that year-end list of songs for 1981,
    Touch Me When We're Dancing
    is far too good to be denied entry on that list !
    Excellent arrangement,production and vocals.
    Great Pop Song--radio friendly.
    What Happened ?
  14. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    One thing to remember about 'Touch Me When We're Dancing'....
    It moved very quickly up the Top 100 when first released. Once it reached #16, it STAYED at #16 for four straight weeks. That in itself is pretty impressive, as well as frustrating, because it deserved to go higher. I think it was just a battle between radio programmers who were adding it like crazy to playlists....and other programmers that flat-out refused to play it. But it did make it to #1 A/C, which also played in its favor. I personally heard it a lot on AM Top 40 (still a popular format at the time) and A/C FM stations. But I never heard it on the 'hip' FM stations unless it was during Casey Kasem's American Top 40.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2017
    GaryAlan and newvillefan like this.
  15. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    I love Karen's voice on Carpenters' version and some of Richard's choices but to my ears, it's overproduced. The strings didn't need to be there and there's really never a dull moment in the recording. Karen make this work, though, and I always love Richard's vocal arrangements.

    Here's the songwriters' take on "Touch Me When We're Dancing". I kinda like it!

    GaryAlan likes this.
  16. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    And, here is the immediate singles competition:
    August 1,1981
    TW LW Wks. Song-Artist
    1 3 19 JESSIE'S GIRL-Rick Springfield
    2 1 12 THE ONE THAT YOU LOVE-Air Supply
    4 6 8 I DON'T NEED YOU-Kenny Rogers
    5 5 12 ELVIRA-Oak Ridge Boys
    6 7 10 SLOW HAND-Pointer Sisters
    7 2 19 BETTE DAVIS EYES-Kim Carnes
    8 9 11 BOY FROM NEW YORK CITY-Manhattan Transfer
    9 10 11 HEARTS-Marty Balin
    10 14 10 QUEEN OF HEARTS-Juice Newton
    11 8 14 YOU MAKE MY DREAMS-Daryl Hall and John Oates
    12 13 9 GEMINI DREAM-Moody Blues
    13 16 6 (THERE'S) NO GETTIN' OVER ME-Ronnie Milsap
    14 24 4 ENDLESS LOVE-Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
    15 17 16 TIME-Alan Parsons Project
    16 19 7 TOUCH ME WHEN WE'RE DANCING-Carpenters
    17 25 7 LADY-Commodores
    18 20 12 THE STROKE-Billy Squier
    19 21 14 SWEET BABY-Stanley Clarke/George Duke
    20 23 10 IT'S NOW OR NEVER-John Schneider
  18. That is exactly how I heard of it for the first time. I also used to hear it play from WCBS-FM (and oldies station) from time to time.

  19. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    One of the troubling aspects of Made In America (imho)
    is the "almost" great syndrome:
    Case in point,
    Strength of a Woman
    is a great song (well, I love the song).
    But, the entire arrangement borders on being "almost" great.
    Especially the very beginning and the very end.
    As example of that aspect of the arrangement, the very last "drum fill"
    which literally ends the song, fades away so fast that you almost miss it !
    That "drum fill' should not fade away--in fact, it's volume should be at--or louder--
    than the song, to bring out the gravitas of the song's ending.
    (Notice-the reverse ,I contend ,holds true for Beechwood 4-5789.
    In that arrangement, the drums are at an almost deafening volume--
    which detracts substantially from the volume of Karen's vocals.)
    But, in Strength of A Woman, Karen's vocals are stunning.
    Thus, the arrangement should complement same.
    It almost does--but, imho falls a bit short.
  20. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    I'm honestly glad that you like it but I never have. I think the lyric is absolutely awful. If someone's cheating on me, she's gone. I'm certainly not waiting for her to get her head together. Given that she says "it's gonna be that time again" indicates that this has happened before. How desperate is she? I don't know a woman alive who would agree with the sentiment of this lyric. No woman should be this weak-minded. Ugh!

    Musically, it's elevator fare from beginning to end. The beginning you like is actually an homage to the beginning of the Stylistics' "Betcha by Golly Wow". It's done well but the tune itself is completely "uncool". It's also, as is the case with just about everything on "Made in America", overproduced. Richard threw in everything and the kitchen sink on it. He became a softer version of Jim Steinman. There's never a dull moment on this album. Richard was clearly flexing his muscles here and the tunes are just bogged down in "arrangement". None of them can even breathe as a result. Karen sounds like another arrangement tool throughout when she should be front and center. This tune is a perfect example of that.

    newvillefan and Murray like this.
  21. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    Mrs. Cosby?
  22. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Fascinating reading !
    Thanks for the added commentary on the song, Ed !
    Always enjoy your assessments !
    In many ways I agree with you regarding the lyrical content of Strength Of A Woman.
    Perhaps a relevant question to ask Richard Carpenter is
    Why ? he ever selected the song for Karen, anyway,
    especially, once one re-considers the lyrical content !
    How did he arrive at the conclusion that the song was appropriate for the duo ?
    I notice that many of the MIA sessions were of this ilk--
    Karen being, or singing about being--the victim of a failed relationship.
    Strength,Uninvited Guest,Want You Back,Somebody's Been Lying,Two Lives,Your Baby
    ......as but six examples of that trend !
    ThaFunkyFakeTation likes this.
  23. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Oh, that's funny....:laugh::laugh:

    Is it wrong that I forgot about her entirely?

  24. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Here's "Betcha By Golly Wow". Check out the beginning string arrangement. You'll hear what Richard was paying tribute to:

    song4u likes this.
  25. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    I wonder if Bill ever asked himself that question.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017

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