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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

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Here is Paul Grein, Billboard, July 4th 1981:
"Made In America," is the highest- debuting LP on the Billboard chart at number 99.
It bows as the Carpenters' 25th consecutive chart single, "Touch Me When We're Dancing" continues streaking
up the Hot 100."
Richard: "acknowledges that he likes the new album a lot more. "The tunes lend themselves more to my type of arrangement."
Karen: "The songs are right in the commercial vein: they scream for vocals."
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Regarding the cover, what I don't get is that Richard battled against the early album covers and 8x10 glossies which showed them both smiling and cheek to cheek. Yet here they are, both in their 30s, presenting their new album in 1981...with a cover that shows them smiling and cheek to cheek. If anything, it should have been the last type of cover he'd want for the album.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
We've certainly been around and around on this album, haven't we? I was just giving a look at the first couple of pages of this thread - which were happening around SIX years ago. And at least my early post was rescued from seven years prior to that.
 

John Adam

Well-Known Member
We've certainly been around and around on this album, haven't we? I was just giving a look at the first couple of pages of this thread - which were happening around SIX years ago. And at least my early post was rescued from seven years prior to that.
Is MIA that good, that bad? Are we talking about this album still in 2019 because it missed our expectations, or exceeded them? Is it only because it was the last album that Karen and Richard were fully involved in together? Were you underwhelmed or overwhelmed? How do the forum members who were teens/adults in 1981 feel about MIA now? Appreciate it more, or less? I can only give an opinion as an adult as I was a toddler when this came out in 1981. I have to say though this was one of the last albums by the Carpenters I heard..........
 

Geographer

Well-Known Member
I was a teenager when this came out (14). I was nowhere near considered "trendy" at the time; however, I LOVED this album then AND, now as a middle-aged adult, appreciate it even more. To me, compared to the prior 70's releases, MIA sounded very "fresh" and contemporary for the early 80's. It sounded very "California" to me, too. It remains in my "Top 5" of all their albums. And, contrary to popular opinion here, I like it WAY more than VOTH that came out just two years later. To me, MIA was upbeat and positive while VOTH was the "draggy" album and somewhat depressing given the circumstances. At the time (Christmas Portrait not withstanding), Horizon was the last "great" album. And (OFC not withstanding) only Lovelines would be the last great album since MIA.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I return to 1981, I was 20 ! Time does fly !
In any event, I was ecstatic when I heard Touch Me When We're Dancing over the radio....I rushed out to purchase the album.
If memory serves, I found ONE copy in the retail outlet, and the cover art did give me pause for concern (Odd cover, I thought at the time).
I rushed home to play the album (vinyl). In my sphere of say, a hundred relatives and friends--I was the ONLY fan,
so no one really cared. And, as I have said before--NO ONE in my high-school circle of peers cared for them (1976-1980).
So, I had NO illusions that the album would suddenly catapult them back into the limelight (early 70's style).
Now, I had remembered (because I have the newspaper clippings, still) that Richard had wrote a song for Karen's wedding--
that was the first song I wanted to hear ! Those Good Old Dreams, being a Carpenter/Bettis tune, that was next.
Then, I gave the entire album a sequential spin. As time has passed, and I have aged--one thing stands out:
where Passage has energy and almost-a-youthfulness about it, Made In America is almost "world-weary"...
Strength of A Woman, Somebody's Been Lyin, When It's Gone....
Even Beechwood 4-5789, which should have been as captivating as the earlier Please Mr.Postman, lacks the former's creativity.
With time, I have grown to appreciate the album. In fact, I like MIA more now than I did then
(because I really pay attention to Because We Are In Love---those vocal nuances),
but, the charge I got from Passage (on first hear) does not translate into the same energetics (upon first-hear) for MIA.
I did not care for I Believe You in 1978 (felt it was too far off base), but, I like it now.
1981: I looked for the duo on TV, in concert, promos, and the like. NOTHING. So, I knew something was not quite right.
 

Portlander

Well-Known Member
My sentiments exactly Gary. I was 21 and stationed in Orlando, FL as a drill instructor and remember going to the Fashion Square Mall with my wife and purchasing the album to play on my new TEAC turntable and BOSE speakers! We both enjoyed the new LP and were so happy to hear the Carpenters on the radio again after such a long hiatus. Never envisioned that it was the beginning of the end with Karen's passing two years later. I refuse to nitpick each album and single release along with Richard's need rearrange and tweak their catalog. Of course like everyone else I have my favorites and try to find something special with all of their recordings with the exception of maybe Goofus and Somebody's Been Lyin!
 

Brian

Well-Known Member
I was a mid-teen when the album was released. My only clue that it was out was that a DJ pen-friend wrote to me to tell me it had just been released. I caught the bus to the city on the weekend, especially to buy it.
I clearly remember some of my reactions upon first listen. I thought that 'Those Good Old Dreams' sounded very obviously like an attempt to recreate the Number One, 'Top of the World' and betted it would be a single. I thought 'Beechwood' was an obvious copy of 'Please Mr. Postman' and betted that would be a single, too. I don't know if I thought, 'That seems a bit desperate!' but I did think the attempt to recreate former glories, even down to structure of arrangement, was very obvious and that everybody would pick that up. I couldn't see those two songs being the hits that their earlier templates were.
I thought that Karen's vocals sounded weak and strained in places throughout the record, especially in the higher ranges in 'Those Good Old Dreams', 'Strength of a Woman', 'When You've Got What It Takes' and 'Touch Me When We're Dancing' - and on most of 'Want You Back In My Life Again'. Actually, weak and thin on quite a bit of 'Touch Me' - not just in the higher reaches. However, I loved the harmonies and arrangements throughout the album and was very pleased with the sound of Karen's voice on the slower, lower songs, such as 'Because We Are in Love', 'When It's Gone It's Just Gone', 'Somebody's Been Lying' and the bulk of 'Those Good Old Dreams'. I was really glad to finally get 'I Believe You' on record as the 45 had been totally elusive when it was out - if it actually had been 'out'. I thought that song was perfect in every way.
I remember mentioning to a cousin that 'Want You Back in my Life Again' was a great song, as I played the album. He said, "It is NOT!" That's one opinion that I have changed over the years. I really don't think it's a very good song and Karen sounds expressionless on it.
I liked the cover art and the inner sleeve photo when I first bought the album and remember thinking how thin Karen looked beside Richard. I attributed the change in her vocal sound, from rich and full upon earlier recordings to this new, thin, strained sound, to her health. An older sister had explained anorexia nervosa a few years before in terms of, 'She's a bit screwy - nuts!', (sorry - a bit blunt), so I was aware that Karen wasn't well.
I liked the pencil-art theme of the art work with the cover illustration and the 'Carpenters' logo.
Nowadays, I rarely listen to Carpenters albums. Very rarely, I will listen to a compilation. Having said that, recently, I listened to almost the whole of 'Made in America' and enjoyed it, and all of 'Karen Carpenter'.
I think we got much more of the thin, strained vocal sound from Karen when the solo album was released in 1996. I think this release was damaging to her legacy - more damaging than 'Made in America' was - and would definitely have been if released in 1980. Maybe, subconsciously, 'Karen Carpenter' has an affect upon my perception of Carpenters - 'Maybe she wasn't such a great vocalist, after all, if she could sound as unpleasing as she does on all of the tracks of Karen Carpenter'. (I tried to find just one performance on the solo album that I liked right through when I listened to it the other week - and couldn't find one.) I think it's more likely, though, that times change, you change as you get older and, after many years of listening to one artist, you're looking for something different.
However, I can still enjoy 'Made in America' for what it is, as I did the other week.
 

Simon KC1950

Well-Known Member
I just cleaned up a US copy I found a few weeks ago in a town market here in England (how it got here and why?). Of course it's not their best album but still a very pleasant listening experience, sounds brilliant thanks to Richard's production.

A little assessment on each:

-Those Good Old Dreams - hearing this again after a while is a reminder of how great they were. This is true Carpenters - the feeling, sound, vocals and arrangements. People who say the Carpenters classic formula died in the mid/late 70's need pointing to this song

Strength Of A Woman - probably my least favorite on the album, but still a pleasant album track, just nothing to write home about

-(Want You) Back In My Life Again - perfectly shows how the duo could adapt to modern times whilst not surrendering their own sound. Very 80's and summery ! Makes me wish they had done more upbeat songs like this.

-When You've Got What It Takes - another one that I don't think did the album any favours but again it's pleasant and I love the overdubs on it.

-Somebody's Been Lyin' - a nice album track, nothing much else to say other than Karen has a good emotional delivery

-I Believe You - starting by saying I am in the camp of those who like this song ! Very pleasant, has a magical Carpenters feel, but doesn't blend too well with the rest of the album, being from 1978. I get why they put it on here, they were a very tidy artist. By that I mean, every single had a home. You get artists who have non-album singles which make it harder for fans to hear (or back then - know about)

- Touch Me When We're Dancing - the clear standout hit single here. Another one which I think sticks very well with the classic Carpenters formula, love all the overdubs particularly the part before the sax where KC & RC repeat "feel you when I'm fallin' in looooo-haaa-ooove"

- When It's Gone (It's Just Gone) - one of their better album tracks IMO. Karen's emotional delivery shines through against Richard's melancholic arrangement.

- Beechwood 4-5789 - should they or shouldn't have they? It doesn't matter ! Karen wanted to do it and she did. It did reach Top 10 status in New Zealand. It's a fun song which I think is actually needed to brighten up the album and give it a bit of a balance.

- Because We Are In Love (The Wedding Song) - very lush and sophisticated but not one of my favorites, it's the best song to close the album.

A lot of the outtakes which surfaced years later I feel are stronger but I wouldn't wish that they didn't record any of the songs on this album, I'm grateful for everything they released. This album gets too much hate, it's nice give it another spin - especially now because I feel it is best enjoyed in summer.
 

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
I listened back to back to MIA and "Karen Carpenter" this morning. The wrong album definitely got shelved. With a few exceptions - and they are marginal (When It's Gone, Those Good Old Dreams & maybe Touch Me When Were Dancing), the rest is utter pablum. The Wedding Song is the worst one of the lot...Thank God Karen didn't even attempt to sing this live at her wedding! To think that Karen was rushed through her honeymoon and back into the studio for this? And regarding the wretched album cover, It's as bland as the music it contains. Really a "why bother" moment.
 

John Adam

Well-Known Member
A lot of the outtakes which surfaced years later I feel are stronger but I wouldn't wish that they didn't record any of the songs on this album, I'm grateful for everything they released.
Of course like everyone else I have my favorites and try to find something special with all of their recordings.........
Everything they did happened for a reason, even if it's just here for us to debate. All the songs we've heard have a purpose. This thread and others proves that we all hear special things in everything Karen or Richard or the Carpenters did. So I remain mindful to other perspectives even when I don't share that mindset.
 

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
"Every thing that happens for a reason" What exactly does that mean? By God or fate or what? It is one of the most overused cliches in the universe and I hate it.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
"Every thing that happens for a reason" What exactly does that mean? By God or fate or what? It is one of the most overused cliches in the universe and I hate it.
This made me think of something similar.

The day Karen passed, I was in college and my sister called me later that night. She said, ‘It was just her time’. I was so mortified that day, sad and (selfishly) really angry.

Anyway, I think I said, ‘Nope, I’m not buying it’. She was just trying to say something meaningful, and I suppose it was her time indeed. But I didn’t need to be preached to on that day.
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Today is a day of bittersweet news for me. Very good and extremely painful. Too personal to share. But this I know- I still believe God is always loving and always good. He sees time all at once and views our lives from an eternal perspective instead of just a temporal one. We often do not know why He allows what He does, but I know our world is falling apart. It's all intertwined somehow- the great mystery of the universe, love and life, joy and sorrow. End of sermon. :wink:
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
Sorry for the tough day, Mark. And I agree with you! God does work in mysterious ways indeed, but I know He's always there. Your post came at just the right time for me this morning, so thank you!

Bob

Today is a day of bittersweet news for me. Very good and extremely painful. Too personal to share. But this I know- I still believe God is always loving and always good. He sees time all at once and views our lives from an eternal perspective instead of just a temporal one. We often do not know why He allows what He does, but I know our world is falling apart. It's all intertwined somehow- the great mystery of the universe, love and life, joy and sorrow. End of sermon. :wink:
Today is a day of bittersweet news for me. Very good and extremely painful. Too personal to share. But this I know- I still believe God is always loving and always good. He sees time all at once and views our lives from an eternal perspective instead of just a temporal one. We often do not know why He allows what He does, but I know our world is falling apart. It's all intertwined somehow- the great mystery of the universe, love and life, joy and sorrow. End of sermon. :wink:
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
Today is a day of bittersweet news for me. Very good and extremely painful. Too personal to share. But this I know- I still believe God is always loving and always good. He sees time all at once and views our lives from an eternal perspective instead of just a temporal one. We often do not know why He allows what He does, but I know our world is falling apart. It's all intertwined somehow- the great mystery of the universe, love and life, joy and sorrow. End of sermon. :wink:
It’s been the toughest year of my life. It’s very hard to even look back through time, but yet Karen’s voice does sooth my soul and it’s peace helps keep the tears away.
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
It got me through the death of my mom back in 1976, with either Horizon or Kind of Hush on my turntable day and night. Away from home at college for the first time in my life as well. Something soothing and familiar amongst the tears. Hang in there Craig. Time helps to heal as well.
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
This made me think of something similar.

The day Karen passed, I was in college and my sister called me later that night. She said, ‘It was just her time’. I was so mortified that day, sad and (selfishly) really angry.

Anyway, I think I said, ‘Nope, I’m not buying it’. She was just trying to say something meaningful, and I suppose it was her time indeed. But I didn’t need to be preached to on that day.
...and incorrectly at that. Ugh. That phrase...

Ed
 

Brian

Well-Known Member
....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.
I agree totally. Jared, some of your quotes that are spot-on, when you talk about Karen Carpenter's solo album, are, "Her lightweight vocal approach (unfortunately aided by Phil) in places just doesn’t have the resonance that makes her special", "it’s the quality of Karen’s voice on the solo tracks that doesn’t generally utilize her gifts", the solo album "generally is not a showcase for Karen’s voice, per se" and "The mixes aren’t done nearly as well as Richard’s". Of course, we all hear different things and different sounds please different people, but, for me, there is a far greater abundance of pleasing sounds on 'Made in America' than on 'Karen Carpenter'. I really don't like the solo album very much. You have honed in on some of the exact reasons, Jared.
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Let Go...Let God (ONJ)
I agree totally. Jared, some of your quotes that are spot-on, when you talk about Karen Carpenter's solo album, are, "Her lightweight vocal approach (unfortunately aided by Phil) in places just doesn’t have the resonance that makes her special", "it’s the quality of Karen’s voice on the solo tracks that doesn’t generally utilize her gifts", the solo album "generally is not a showcase for Karen’s voice, per se" and "The mixes aren’t done nearly as well as Richard’s". Of course, we all hear different things and different sounds please different people, but, for me, there is a far greater abundance of pleasing sounds on 'Made in America' than on 'Karen Carpenter'. I really don't like the solo album very much. You have honed in on some of the exact reasons, Jared.
Karen's voice is in the same high range on MIA as it is on her solo album. It's the material that is different and Karen's approach to the songs. I totally disagree that MIA sounds more pleasing than her solo album. To me her solo album is much more intimate vocally than any of the tracks on MIA. It will basically always come back to the same scenario that a lot of the fans could or would not accept Karen singing in a more mature adult oriented sound. Of course just my opinion. I think the record label had the same feeling back then that a lot of the fans still do today. They wouldn't allow Karen to grow and mature as an artist and allow her to sing lyrics that were outside the so called Carpenters catalog.
 

Brian

Well-Known Member
I actually don't like the sound of her voice on sections on most of the lead vocal tracks on the solo album. A lot of the lower-pitched background vocals sound OK. Just a personal preference about vocal sounds that I like.
 

John Adam

Well-Known Member
"Karen Carpenter" the solo album wasn't a Carpenters album and it has different textures, vocal styles, and a different producer.
On "Made in America" a Carpenters album, Karen does sound like Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters. But both are her voice, utilized in different ways by her and what the production called for.

Neither project contained Karen's best vocals, but she did the best she could with what resources her voice had to work with. I think MIA would of benefited from some (Karen Carpenter) solo cuts, and some of Karen's solo album would of benefited from Richard's production.
 
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