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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)

    13 vote(s)
  2. ****

    18 vote(s)
  3. ***

    30 vote(s)
  4. **

    22 vote(s)
  5. *

    3 vote(s)

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    I'm not sure what the timeline was for recording MIA.
    After Music Music Music, Karen's marriage... then close to a year of production.

    They already had "I believe you (78)" and "Because we are in love (80)" recorded.
    "Make believe its your first time" was already demo-ed before...

    I think the fact that they were overworked was weighing on them.
    They had so much work behind them at this point it makes sense why they were choosing these songs.
    In a weird way, MIA is like a compilation album.

    When an artist does that, they stand a chance to get the "bland" remark.
    By the time the album comes out, the material isn't in step with what listeners want to hear.
    Focusing so much on the past, and to a degree there's some heart missing in this collection.
    However, the "sound" is totally there, and that's what I love about it!
    They're present on this album, but perhaps a bit standoffish.
    As if to say: "we kept our promise, here's the album for the label and it's Made in America."

    Not as extreme as Marvin Gaye's reasoning for his "Here, My Dear" album, but The Carpenters have to pay their bills too. Lol
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
  2. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    By Richard's own admission, he had little to do--outside of production (whatever that entails)--
    with Christmas Portrait LP. That is early 1978 (Portrait finished by mid 1978).
    Then, Richard took all of 1979 off.
    So, I disagree that "they were overworked."
    I do believe Karen was overworked.
    Richard had time aplenty to create a great comeback album--choosing better material, or writing songs.
    Karen, in contrast, was very nearly always working. She did not take 1979 off.
    Her solo vocalizations show that--imho--she was still in top form vocally.
    (Even the "live" singing evidenced on the Herb Alpert ABC profile shows vocal strength).
    That strength in vocals, or energy, is lacking on Made In America.
    Karen is tired, and you can "hear" it on Made In America.

    By the way, I thought one of the attractions to the Carpenters was that they
    were always "out-of-step" with the times, with the 'flavor-of-the-day.'
    They were never trendy--as Richard states.
    That is one thing I do admire about the duo.
  3. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    To me the song choices make no sense at all. In 1980 and 1981, Richard wasn’t overworked. He’d had a full year off from the duo and spent that time recuperating. I would have expected them to come back with a much stronger album than they did. I don’t know where his head was at that time but the material he chose was way below the standard they’d been known for in their heyday. Had they made one or two more albums in the same vein as MIA, they would have continued the drift into oblivion in the 80s.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
  4. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    Who I feel for was Karen. She shelved her heart and soul on her solo treat and became again an instrument for Richard without drums and without background vocals as excerised in the solo project, yet she gave it her all. And without a successful treatment for Anneroxia she decided to go home focused on family love, back into the center of issues and without a successful marriage u Dee her belt. With a double edged sword of struggles she continued with determination to overvome and work on success. And also, I feel, all those who loved her tried too. They just ran out of time. I still think her solo album without the dance singles, should have surfaced in a release. It had the stronger set of offerings.
    no1kandrfan likes this.
  5. Listening to the DBX-LP release of MIA, which was sourced from 2-track/master tapes rather than LP-cutting tapes, what *should* have been the cleanest/highest quality source for the 'album'/'synthy @3:36' version of 'Those Good Old Dreams' is actually sourced from the remix used for all single/digital releases without the extra synth. From its mention in Autumn 1981 Billboard articles detailing MIA as one of A&M's new DBX-LP's, this means that Richard had already completed this remix way ahead of November's 7" single release - and maybe that Richard had made his mind up that he wanted to release this single mix only, and would avoid letting the original/synthier get out if he could help it.

    Playing Those Good Old Dreams by Carpenters - picosong

    An interesting anomaly to add to the song's page in carpenters.amcorner.com

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    You're right. I do like that about them. I've said that many times on here too.
    What I'm trying to say is how The Carpenters were trying to play catchup.

    To this very day Richard is like a curator. That's a fantastic job, btw.
    Thing is by using "I believe you" and the personal "Because we are in love" (that had only been heard at Karen's wedding pre-album release) it shows a careful scrambling to find materials. It was probably both of their beliefs, "we have to use these since we already did them and it'll make life easier on us."
    8 new tracks for an album isn't a bad number... it's similar to Horizon's length plus about 5 mins.
    Makes sense why fans felt disappointment because it was cobbled.
    Even for easy listening fans it didn't speak to them in the now.

    Yes, I agree it was Karen who was overworked.
    In fact, I watched some of their tonight show appearances recently.
    Since 1973, Karen was telling audiences that she was tired and working a lot.
    It's crazy to hear it now. She repeated it a lot.
    I can see why it was said that Karen "might" have complained circa '82 that she didn't want to sing anymore.
    Of course, that's not what she meant. It was about control and feeling exhausted.

    I'll even throw in how there's parts of their story vaguely similar to Judy Garland. In that, they were typical show business people being over worked and gracefully giving a smile for the camera.

    Really The Carpenters hadn't done a Carpenters album since '77... not a more traditional one since '76.
    The Christmas album was Karen's. Richard agrees with that. She had every right to venture out as a solo act by that point. Especially after their planned 10th anniversary album didn't pan out.

    So, I get the criticisms about this period and why they were interviewed harshly by '81.
    Was it fair? No. Did everyone do the best they could do considering the complications? Yes they tried.

    The good thing is how the technology could polish their sound even more and in a way it's the only 80s Carpenters album we have. Karen was so that good that indeed some of her finest is on this album.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2018
    no1kandrfan likes this.
  7. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    Done! Thanks.
  8. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    I think we're tougher on this album because it's their last. 3 great songs and an album (tgod, tmwwd; wig,) can we really say anything better about any of their records except for close to you and a song for you.

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    ^ fair point.

    I always thought they were just getting started in the 80s with MIA.
    This was like "Ticket to Ride" all over again, but the next one would have been a smash.

    In my opinion, their debut was not ashtray material! Same with MIA. It's a matter of personal taste.
    ullalume likes this.
  10. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    I always thought IN LOVE ALONE had top 10 potential.....with Karen's lead of course.
    WYBIMLA likes this.
  11. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    Yeah me too. Sad to think we never got a Karen lead on this song.

    I’m still confused to this day why the single with Dusty didn’t contain her name on the sleeve. Why would you record a duet with a high profile guest lead vocalist and then only have your own name advertising it? Bizarre. I don’t know if that was Richard’s choice, the label’s or hers. I remember reading she was shocked it was pulled as a single and given that she was virtually in retirement at that time, maybe she insisted on the omission in case the single went nuts.
  12. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator



    Dusty's name was on the picture sleeves - it just didn't make it to the label. Possibly a label-printing error, or a clerical error in sending the label text to the printer.
  13. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    Consider yourself told, Stephen
    newvillefan likes this.
  14. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    If you're able to transport yourself back to 1981, you can sense that 'Made In America' wasn't that out of step with some of the music that was at the top of the charts at the time. There was country pop, very slow ballads, interpretations of traditional folk songs, corny 'comedy' records, odes to Grandmas sung by children and some other very daggy, tacky stuff around. (Not suggesting that Carpenters' output was daggy or tacky or that their slow ballads or country pop songs were at all bad).

    Certainly, 'Made in America' was out of step with the TRENDY stuff, but, then, Karen and Richard, at that time, wouldn't have been able to convincingly do new wave or new romantic or some of the other styles that were trending. Besides, they were the wrong age or the wrong side of the globe or didn't fit the bill in other ways. Therefore, they tried to deliver more of a traditional Carpenters album with an updated sound, (as Karen more or less said on 'Good Morning, America').

    Their attempt to return to their good old heydays and traditional style resulted in some recordings that made them appear a bit desperate - 'Those Good Old Dreams', while I always loved it, always reminded me of a bit of a clone of 'Top Of the World', right from first hear. (I actually prefer 'Those Good Old Dreams' to 'Top Of the World', by the way). And 'Beechwood' is a definite twin of 'Please Mr. Postman', right down to the sound of the guitar solo and the era from which the song originated. The fact that these were two of the songs released to promote the project, I think, would have given the public the view that Carpenters were desperately trying to grasp their past and replicate their Number Ones, but not doing it as well as they did, so coming off as ailing ghosts of themselves. This, I think, was one of the main faults of the album, along with some of the tracks being overproduced and lacking warmth, with a bit of a sterile sound.

    I agree that Karen sounds tired and unwell on some recordings. She sounds quite weak at some points. Her voice is a bit feeble in places and her upper register isn't there on some sections, giving her a strained sound. You hear that strained sound in the upper reaches of 'Those Good Old Dreams', 'Touch Me When We're Dancing' and 'Strength of a Woman'. This detracts a bit from her image as a top vocalist.

    About the drums, I don't think Karen would have been well enough to drum well. Think of all the energy required to practice over a long period of time so you were on top form when it came around to recording. You also need to be in good form mentally to drum well. Your brain needs to be able to compute all those rhythms and get your arms and legs to follow suit. Karen was not only very malnourished but reportedly had all sorts of medications floating around her system, so may not have been able to hold a beat together. Not that drugs appear to have prevented a lot of other drummers from recording over the years!

    I don't hold with the thought that Richard was the bad guy stopping Karen from doing what she wanted to do. From all reports of those closest to Carpenters, Karen wasn't one to be controlled. It was sometimes suggested, (Herb, John Bettis, Tony Peluso, Maria the Hairdresser), that she was more likely to be the difficult and fiery one.

    But for all that, there are some beautiful, delectable sounds on 'Made in America' and certainly some performances from Karen that demonstrate that nobody could touch her vocally. Where she is in control, she well and truly makes up for any weaknesses in other sections. This album isn't half bad. It wasn't going to, and didn't, set the world alight, but was a steady stepping stone from their golden era to what could have been greater things.
  15. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    Think 'Seven Tears' by Goombay Dance Band, 'There's No-one Quite Like Grandma' by Winnifrid Atwell's School for Wayward Miniature Delinquents, or whoever they were, 'Elvira' by Oakridge Boys, 'Lady' by Kenny Rogers, 'Daytrip to Bangor' by Fiddler's Dram, 'Endless Love' by Diana and Lionel, 'Hello Again' by Neil Diamond, 'A Little In Love' by Cliff Richard, 'Since I Don't Have You' by Don McLean, 'Angel of the Morning' by Juice Newton, 'Mr. Sandman' by Emmy-Lou, Dolly & Linda, 'Save Your Love' by Renee and Renalto, 'Psalm 23' by Dianne and Bram Manusama, 'Japanese Boy' by Aneka, etc. (Some of these may be a year or so out from 'Made In America'). Not that these songs were necessarily bad. They just demonstrate the presence of very slow ballads, country pop, lighter material, corny lyrics, re-makes of very old songs, returns by artists from the 60s or early 70s, daggy music, etc. One thing though - most of these songs did have a more commercial sound than many of the tracks on 'Made in America'.
  16. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Wedding song should have stayed a B side exclusive of TMWWD and not placed on the album.
  17. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    I think that's one of the best songs on the album - the sound of a classic with a magnificent vocal. For me, 'Want You Back in my Life Again' and 'Beechwood' are much more disposable, unsubstantial and inconsequential and in no way measure up to Carpenters' best. The other weaker song and performance, for me, is 'Strength of a Woman'.
  18. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    At least (Want You) Back In My Life Again and Beechwood 4-5789 sound commercial. Because We Are In Love is five minutes of pure schmaltz elevator music, in the same vein as much of what ended up on VOTH.
    CarpentersToYou likes this.
  19. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    I love 'Voice of the Heart', too! (Except, perhaps, 'Sailing on the Tide', 'Prime Time Love' and the vocal towards the end of 'Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore' and 'Two Lives', which gets a bit whiney). 'Voice of the Heart' is probably one of my favourite Carpenters albums.
  20. ars nova

    ars nova Active Member

    I feel today, just as I felt upon first listen, that the album was " mixed " too sweetly. background vocals for TGOD seemed more like a cloud than the layering of vocals so familiar to me. BE 45789 and WYBIMLA were just too cute sounding; I still feel BW could be still be a hit if there were a remix to bring in a bit more grit, instrumentally it is strong. except for the off putting lyrics, SOAW was powerful, it contained colors and textures not heard since HORIZON. I agree, BWAIL should have remained the b-side of TMWWD, save perhaps for a future " from the vault "collection. I enjoyed most all the tracks, it great to have refresh after too long an absence, but the different approach was unsettling.
    Mark-T likes this.
  21. CarpentersToYou

    CarpentersToYou What I feel has come and gone before...

    It’s amazing how opinions vary so much. I think strength of a woman is a fantastic track. It has so much emotion and beautiful vocals from Karen. Someone above said it sounds like Karen’s voice wasn’t in the best shape due to her health but I totally disagree with that statement. I think she sounds fabulous on this album. Some fans are too into trying to work the illness into everything. I no longer read YouTube commentaries because nobody objectively talks about the music, they always like to talk about the tragedy
    Geographer and GaryAlan like this.
  22. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    I think she sounds great on that track too. Probably the one I play the most.
  23. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    ^^Count me "in", as I love
    Strength Of A Woman,
    I feel Karen does a great job !
    Jeff and Geographer like this.
  24. John Adam

    John Adam Well-Known Member

    Made In America. Gave it *** stars.

    This album left me a bit underwhelmed. It plays well, good track sequencing, not the best songs. It is produced, maybe produced too well. It is glossy and shimmery and quite frankly, kind of dull. The best song on this set is from 1978. I've grown to like it because of songs like "Those Good Old Dreams and When It's Gone," which are both great songs but maybe not so polished and shiny. The album cover art sucks, but frankly a picture of Karen in 1981 would of scared her fans. I hate saying that, but she looked frightening! Not their worst effort, but I would say it was just not enough to push them back on radio and sales. But maybe by 1981 they could of put out the best material and it would of gone unnoticed. Their last (US) top 20 single was culled from this set, Touch Me When We're Dancing, which sounded beautiful and was never heard from again.........

    WYBIMLA Active Member

    About the note of it being mixed "too sweetly."

    I guess after so many years of hearing it... maybe it's true the mixing on MIA is counterintuitive.

    Karen has darker tones in her voice naturally, yet this album has been sweetened to the utmost degree.

    A classic like Superstar reveals the dark colour in Karen's voice.
    That mix & master compliments her; instead of competing.

    Perhaps if MIA was crafted with less emphasis on the higher parts of her range that might have helped.

    Karen was a crooner. Simplicity like we hear on Ordinary Fool is more becoming (as far as the arrangement goes).
    Really just Bass, Piano or Guitar, Drums can do it... once you get crazy with the glockenspiel and strings and whatever else it starts to fight the lead.
    For a producer sometimes "knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing that anyone can learn."

    MIA is still 70s sounding, commercial and cute. But, yeah some of these could have be stripped honestly.
    It's all there in the mix... if some of it were remixed it would bring about a different feel (more natural).
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
    John Adam, newvillefan and Mark-T like this.

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