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

How Would You Rate This Album?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 14 15.7%
  • ****

    Votes: 20 22.5%
  • ***

    Votes: 30 33.7%
  • **

    Votes: 22 24.7%
  • *

    Votes: 3 3.4%

  • Total voters
    89

Brian

Well-Known Member
Because We Are In Love has those highs and lows of Karen's vocals weaving throughout.
I believe had the choir had been toned down a bit I would like the song even more than I do.
Of course, my opinion of these songs is based primarily on Karen's vocal nuances,
she is simply exhibiting fine vocal prowess on these two songs (imho).
I, too, think that ‘Because We Are in Love’ has a wonderful, warm vocal. Karen manages the highs and lows marvellously. This song demonstrates the extent of her vocal ability. The choir has never bothered me on this arrangement.

I haven’t listened to ‘Strength of a Woman’ for many a year but my perception of it is that it doesn’t have a particularly great vocal from Karen. I’ve always thought her voice sounds a bit thin on this one. The song, and her performance, doesn’t really illustrate the strength of a woman.

‘When You’ve Got What It Takes’, however, is another great, warm performance by Karen. While I recognise that the lyrics aren’t the most imaginative ever written, (in that the song is a love song and love songs almost always use oft-recycled phrases and rhymes), I really like them and enjoy the ‘story’ of the song. I’ve never minded the length of this recording.

As well as the two songs mentioned, the other favourites from the album for me are ‘Those Good Old Dreams’, ‘Somebody’s Been Lying’, ‘I Believe You’ and ‘When You’ve Got What it Takes’...and ‘Touch Me When We’re Dancing’ is OK.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
“When It’s Gone” I first heard on ‘Interpretations’ and I thought it was a weak song then! I have to wonder why “Beechwood 4-5789” or “Touch Me When We’re Dancing” or “Back sin My Life Again” weren’t included?
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
“When It’s Gone” I first heard on ‘Interpretations’ and I thought it was a weak song then! I have to wonder why “Beechwood 4-5789” or “Touch Me When We’re Dancing” or “Back sin My Life Again” weren’t included?
What about it doesn’t appeal to you? Because I’m in that boat too, sort of.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
When It’s Gone is one of my favourite tracks on MIA. I find it very haunting, mainly because of Richard’s incredible arrangement. The track is so busy but listening with headphones is pure heaven because you can hear all the little intricate acoustic guitar parts being played during the verses. Karen’s vocal is restrained yet sounds rich and full - one of the only tracks on the album where I hear the old Karen. The last, lingering note she holds is sublime, similar to the ending of Two Sides.
 

ullalume

Well-Known Member
When It’s Gone is one of my favourite tracks on MIA. I find it very haunting, mainly because of Richard’s incredible arrangement. The track is so busy but listening with headphones is pure heaven because you can hear all the little intricate acoustic guitar parts being played during the verses. Karen’s vocal is restrained yet sounds rich and full - one of the only tracks on the album where I hear the old Karen. The last, lingering note she holds is sublime, similar to the ending of Two Sides.
Ahhh that last note. The way it echos out into the ether and then the strings come in and take over her melody line. Gorgeous.
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
'When It's Gone' is sort of OK, but it just meanders along (part of its problem is it's probably too long). The lyrics in the verses ('poetry in the pain', 'colour in the stain', etc) sound a bit clumsy to me as well - it always reminds me of the clunky rhyming in Vanessa Williams' 'Save the Best for Last'. It's not the worst song on the album by any means, but it's not a track that draws me in.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Ahhh that last note. The way it echos out into the ether and then the strings come in and take over her melody line. Gorgeous.
This track is a really great example of Richard’s ability to envelop Karen’s voice in a sumptuous arrangement but without ever compromising the lead vocal. She shines throughout and her vocal is beautifully pained.

Interestingly, one of the players on the solo album said that Phil Ramone was able to do the same - capture Karen’s voice and have it sitting on top of the music. With some tracks like Lovelines, I’d say he failed in that endeavour because in parts Karen is barely audible in the mix. Only Richard’s remixes corrected this.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I find it inconceivable that Phil Ramone did not "mix" the Karen Carpenter tracks properly, initially.
It stretches credulity to believe that the "mixes" heard in playback were done improperly.
After all, no one came right out and said "remix those solo songs, because Karen's leads
are buried." Thus, I contend there is more going on in that direction.
And, let us not forget, Karen's leads on Made In America are very much "buried" in some of those 'mixes,'
likewise, it is difficult to believe that that is how those songs sounded in the recording studio.
Richard rejected, at least, three pressings of MIA.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
I find it inconceivable that Phil Ramone did not "mix" the Karen Carpenter tracks properly, initially. It stretches credulity to believe that the "mixes" heard in playback were done improperly.
I didn’t say that Phil mixed them improperly, what I meant is that he didn’t have Karen sitting “on top of the music” on occasions, as was claimed by a band member. For sure the mixes were approved, even by Karen, but I find it difficult to understand why the mix of Lovelines made it to the final master back in 1980.

After all, no one came right out and said "remix those solo songs, because Karen's leads are buried."
I’d bet any money that Richard did :laugh:.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
^^Gotcha ! I hope I did not misinterpret your post !
I always wondered how it is that the "playbacks" for Karen's album were (reportedly) met with derision,
while the "playbacks" for Made In America tracks were all in the affirmative ?
I have listened to all the solo tracks hundreds of times more than the MIA tracks,
and, to my ears, Karen sounds energetic and stronger in those vocals.
To my ears, from day one, the MIA tracks (generally) have sounded weak and/or muddied.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
Repetition breeds familiarity, which breeds comfort. Listen to any record many, many times, and it eventually becomes like an old friend, comfortable.

The playbacks for either of these two albums, constantly thrust into some competition with one another by the fan base, would have taken place once. At best a couple of times, but more than likely once.

What was your reaction after just one playing through of MADE IN AMERICA. It's really tough to gauge what any of our feelings were after one run through of KAREN CARPENTER, because we all were spoiled by hearing drips and drops of the tracks over the years on box sets and LOVELINES, and many already had Richard's imprint on them. We got familiar with Richard's alterations before we ever heard the original Ramone tracks.

Consider a playback of the solo album with everyone expecting to be blown away, and it coming out -- unimpressive, say a 6 out of 10. Then consider a playback of MADE IN AMERICA with again high expectations, but maybe coming up with a score of 7 out of 10. I'm just making this stuff up, but you can see where one might tilt the scale one way and the other would go the other. Personally, I don't really see the point of pitting the two albums against each other. They are what they are and no amount of Monday Morning Quarterbacking is going to change anything.

To my ears, from day one, the MIA tracks (generally) have sounded weak and/or muddied.
Muddied? If anything, the tracks on the solo album are somewhat muddied, while MADE IN AMERICA is bright and clean.

While some fans seem to love to somehow blame Richard for all of Karen's woes regarding the solo album, I've always seen Phil Ramone as the one on who to place blame for the fact that it wasn't quite right. I don't care for most of his mixes on this album. he got a few songs right, but others are just plain - meh. Other albums that he did over the years were great, so why in the world did this one turn out so -- not right?
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
While some fans seem to love to somehow blame Richard for all of Karen's woes regarding the solo album, I've always seen Phil Ramone as the one on who to place blame for the fact that it wasn't quite right. I don't care for most of his mixes on this album. he got a few songs right, but others are just plain - meh. Other albums that he did over the years were great, so why in the world did this one turn out so -- not right?
As much as I love the solo album, I have to say it: stylistically, it’s all over the place. He and Karen auditioned hundreds of songs to and from the studio but he should have exercised more editorial control over the material to make sure it was cohesive.
 
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Quite frankly, per the Billboard reports (late 1979, early on)
it was always understood that the solo album would be all over the place, stylistically speaking.
So, I do not blame Ramone for that.
Likewise, I do not, nor have I ever, "blamed" Richard for whatever it is that plagues Made In America.
It is well-documented that he had to discard at least three "test pressings,"
so something was going on, and the quality of that vinyl suffered as a result.
Regardless of the actual choice of material for songs on either album (solo or MIA),
neither one of those albums has the sonic quality of the album.... TIME !
Have a listen to the cassette tapes, of all three, to understand what I am describing.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
The only song on MIA that I feel buried Karen to a distracting degree is Back in My Life, where she’s muffled and way in back. A clear mix of her voice could really make the song pop much more effectively.

I love a few tracks on the solo album, but generally it is not a showcase for Karen’s voice, per se. The mixes aren’t done nearly as well as Richard’s, but it’s the quality of Karen’s voice on the solo tracks that doesn’t generally utilize her gifts. You can see why Richard included a song like “If We Try” on Lovelines - it’s the closest thing to a Carpenters song with Karen in a low register bringing out her trademarked emotional ambivalence of a lyric, in a way undermining it so. Her lightweight vocal approach (unfortunately aided by Phil) in places just doesn’t have the resonance that makes her special. It’s why a song like Make Believe..sounds much better with Richard because he finds the best framing for her pathos and brings out the emotional and technical richness that Ramone didn’t yet.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
This is quite fascinating, the different perspectives....
Now, as much as I enjoy Back in My Life Again and Beechwood 4-5789,
those two songs (imho) have weak vocal leads , or leads that seem buried in the mix.
As for ...Make Believe It's Your First Time,
while the re-recorded version is nice, the solo version knocks it out of the ballpark.
Phil Ramone got that one correct with Karen.

But, we all have our preferences.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Some background (Making Records, Phil Ramone, starting page 96):
" Karen loved disco and asked me to find a song with a good dance beat to open the album ("Lovelines")."
"Karen insisted that whatever we did should express her love for all music..."
"Karen made a conscientious decision to experiment with songs and styles that differed from Carpenters' records."
"Presenting her in a new context became the focus of our pre-rerecording discussions."
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
I LOVE the solo album from start to finish. Bring on the experiments! Karen could do it all. It’s brave and daring and drastically better than MIA and a helluva lot more fun. She took us on a very different journey and it was well worth it!
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
In The Carpenters' vein, Passage was considered something of an "experimental album."
While it failed to achieve RIAA-gold status, I would never view it as a failure !
Made In America was considered to be anything but an experiment, staying to the "tried and true."
Yet, it was a commercial failure. Many would claim it to be a creative failure, also.
I do not view any of the albums that way: No failures.
Simply different avenues to pursue.
There are diamonds on each album.
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
This is quite fascinating, the different perspectives....
Now, as much as I enjoy Back in My Life Again and Beechwood 4-5789,
those two songs (imho) have weak vocal leads , or leads that seem buried in the mix.
As for ...Make Believe It's Your First Time,
while the re-recorded version is nice, the solo version knocks it out of the ballpark.
Phil Ramone got that one correct with Karen.

But, we all have our preferences.
It's important to note that "Make Believe..." was arranged by Bob James and his arrangement is what bests the re-record easily. He knew what to do with the tune and Richard kinda didn't. Odd since Bob's came first.

Ed
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
My main gripe with the solo MBIYFT is that Karen sounds so weak. Or rather she’s using her voice in a way that she’s trying to emulate ONJ, a far inferior vocalist. I understand that she wanted something new but it didn’t work. Her vocal on Richard’s version sounds wispy and not as robust like we know she can, but it still sounds much richer. Also, I prefer Richard’s arrangement even though the choir was all wrong but doesn’t bother me too much.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
If there's anything great on the solo album, it's "Make Believe It's Your First Time". The simple arrangement allows Karen to shine and it's so much more organic than Richard's more pretentious effort.
I think in theory, I like the solo version more, but elements of the redo stay with me more. The song does require more intimacy but, I don’t know, I wish it worked better for me.
 
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