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

How Would You Rate This Album?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 14 14.7%
  • ****

    Votes: 21 22.1%
  • ***

    Votes: 34 35.8%
  • **

    Votes: 22 23.2%
  • *

    Votes: 4 4.2%

  • Total voters
    95

Another Son

Well-Known Member
Here's Chris version of "Back in My Life Again".


In respectful disagreement, I have to say I think Chris' is better, though it's not good. It's not really a case of Richard either unearthing a diamond in the rough or Richard hearing something that was perfectly good already and blowing it. Carpenters' version is pretty terrible and over-produced. His inability to sound current hurt the tune and his insistence on orchestration cheeses things out completely. Karen sounds fine on it but it's hardly a vehicle for her; she's just part of the production and not a very big part of it either. When one has a vocalist of Karen's caliber at their disposal, that approach is bordering on criminal, IMHO. I think there is a decent song here but neither Chris nor Richard got there, though Chris got closer.

It is somewhat interesting to note that Richard added lyrics in the first verse and the way he went about elongating the tune. To prove that even the worst of Richard's arrangements offer something, I do like the way the tune ends. Very unusual and it works well.

Ed
Thanks for posting Chris Christian's version, Ed. I like the predominant vocal line in the chorus in his version, which is different from what Carpenters used - or that line is buried in the harmonies or mix, on their version. I do agree that the song has SOMETHING, but that it is not a great song, by any means.

To me, Karen sounds fairly expressionless on Carpenters' version of 'Back In My Life Again'. It could be over-production or her performance. Compare that vocal to her earlier, iconic vocals on their huge hits. They're worlds apart.

'Worlds Apart' isn't true of personal connections, though. There are three degrees of separation between everybody. Chris Christian used to be in Cotton, Lloyd and Christian with Darryl Cotton, who went out with my cousin a few times in the mid / late 60s when they were in their late teens. (I never met him. I'm quite a bit younger than my cousin). Darryl Cotton also used to be in Zoot with Beeb Birtles, of Little River Band, and Rick Springfield, whom a lot of Americans from that era will know.

Back to Darryl Cotton - He had a number of hits in Australia around the time that 'Back In My Life Again' came out. These included 'Little Red Book', (the old Manfred Mann song), 'Same Old Girl', 'I Don't Want to Lose You' and 'Don't Let it Get to You' - all of which used the harmony-laden approach that Chris Christian used on 'Back in My Life Again' and which, of course, Carpenters almost always used.

Just a bit of trivia.
 
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I thought I would give it another shot....listening to the two versions side-to-side, Want You Back In My Life Again.
It really is difficult for me to get through Chris Christian's version--I still think it is terrible.
But, more than that, I wonder why Richard bothered with the song. Had he heard Christian's version ? (seems like it).
In any event, here is an interview:
"He recounted meeting the Carpenters after a performance in Abilene, and then years later sharing the pop charts with them.
His song "I Want You, I Need You" was at No. 18 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts while the Carpenters were at
No. 14 with "Back in My Life Again," another of his songs. "
Here:
Abilene's own Chris Christian tells stories behind his many hit songs
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the article about Chris Christian, GaryAlan, (which I haven't read yet).

Continuing my story about three degrees of separation, Cotton, Lloyd and Christian were put together by Mike Curb, Karen's one-time boyfriend, who would have been producing them around the time Karen was seeing him, so it's possible that Karen knew Chris Christian a little bit better than thought. I wonder whether this connection might have later helped to get the song through to Carpenters.

By the way, on the Chris Christian version of 'Back In My Life Again', the keyboard riff with those three chords repeated is very obviously similar to Christopher Cross' keyboard riff on 'Ride Like the Wind', which was a big hit just the year before - right down to the rhythm of those piano chords, (there are just two chords in Christopher Cross' riff). However, the similarity is not as obvious on Carpenters' version. I had never noticed it before hearing Chris Christian's version.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
By the way, on the Chris Christian version of 'Back In My Life Again', the keyboard riff with those three chords repeated is very obviously similar to Christopher Cross' keyboard riff on 'Ride Like the Wind', which was a big hit just the year before - right down to the rhythm of those piano chords, (there are just two chords in Christopher Cross' riff). However, the similarity is not as obvious on Carpenters' version. I had never noticed it before hearing Chris Christian's version.
Great observation and very true!
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
And "What A Fool Believes" and "Steal Away",...
Yes, true. It was a very popular and much-used chord progression and rhythm at that time, such that you used to recognise it on first hear on the songs that used it. ('There's ANOTHER song using that pattern'.) It's funny that I didn't recognise it in 'Back In My Life', (unless I did but have forgotten).
 

Alan71

Member
I suppose we should be grateful for MIA’s existence, being as it came four years after their last proper studio album, and turned out to be their final one (the posthumous ones hold together quite well but weren’t recorded as album projects, merely songs cobbled together from various sources).

The inclusion of I Believe You baffles me a bit though. The song was three years old, and although it hadn’t appeared on any other album, there aren’t many acts who would include a track that old on a new album. On the one hand, it gives it a home - had it not been on here it probably would have been the rarest Carpenters single ever - but on the other, it’s as though they were using it as filler to save having to record anything else (even though other songs were indeed recorded).

I’ve always liked Those Good Old Dreams though. Of later Carpenters singles, that’s one of my favourites.
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
I suppose we should be grateful for MIA’s existence, being as it came four years after their last proper studio album, and turned out to be their final one (the posthumous ones hold together quite well but weren’t recorded as album projects, merely songs cobbled together from various sources).

The inclusion of I Believe You baffles me a bit though. The song was three years old, and although it hadn’t appeared on any other album, there aren’t many acts who would include a track that old on a new album. On the one hand, it gives it a home - had it not been on here it probably would have been the rarest Carpenters single ever - but on the other, it’s as though they were using it as filler to save having to record anything else (even though other songs were indeed recorded).

I’ve always liked Those Good Old Dreams though. Of later Carpenters singles, that’s one of my favourites.
I agree that it likely should have just remained as a single on its own because of how long ago it had been recorded. They certainly had plenty of other tunes to choose from to include. "Kiss Me..." would have been a fun inclusion instead of an older tune that didn't really do anything.

Ed
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
The inclusion of I Believe You baffles me a bit though. The song was three years old, and although it hadn’t appeared on any other album, there aren’t many acts who would include a track that old on a new album. On the one hand, it gives it a home - had it not been on here it probably would have been the rarest Carpenters single ever - but on the other, it’s as though they were using it as filler to save having to record anything else (even though other songs were indeed recorded).

I’ve always liked Those Good Old Dreams though. Of later Carpenters singles, that’s one of my favourites.
I Believe You had already been put on a compilation in Asia called Carpenters Classics in 1978. So by 1981 it had already been a single and album track, and it should’ve stayed like that.

Those Good Old Dreams never should’ve been recorded in the first place! It’s trying to be Top of the World too hard, and sounds extremely dated. Beechwood 4-5789, even though its subject matter is dated (were they still using telephone exchanges in 1981?) sounded a lot fresher and more futuristic, and it’s beat was something that belonged in the 80’s, whereas TGOD felt like it belonged in the 60’s.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Beechwood 4-5789, even though its subject matter is dated (were they still using telephone exchanges in 1981?) sounded a lot fresher and more futuristic, and it’s beat was something that belonged in the 80’s, whereas TGOD felt like it belonged in the 60’s.
I always found this paragraph from Randy’s book to be revealing about the oldies that Richard and Karen kept going back to, in particular this track. Mike Curb’s reticence regarding the song as a single is telling.

“I’ve gotta play a song for you,” Karen told him. “You’ll get a kick of out it. It is really fun! It’ll bring back memories.” After playing the recording of “Beechwood 4-5789” down the phone line she asked, “So, what do you think of this as a single?”

Curb was encouraging and unable to bring himself to tell her it lacked Top 40 potential. “That was the last song she played for me,” he says. Whereas “Postman” was a case of the right song at the right time, “There’s a Kind of Hush” was overkill, and remaking the Marvelettes’ “Beechwood 4-5789” was a waste.
 

Alan71

Member
My fondness for Those Good Old Dreams might partly be because it was only the second unfamiliar Carpenters tracks I ever heard!

On the Yesterday Once More video program, that I saw from a TV showing in 1988, it was the second track. Looking at the 15 songs on that, I’m pretty sure I was previously only familiar with three of them (Top of the World, Please Mr Postman and There’s A Kind of Hush) so most of those I was hearing (and seeing) for the first time. Ticket to Ride I’d only heard via the Beatles version.

(There were a few others not on this video that I’d heard before - Yesterday Once More, Jambalaya, Sweet Sweet Smile, Sing, Make Believe It’s Your First Time - but surprisingly few. If I’d ever heard any of the other singles before, I didn’t remember).
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Stephen (Newvillefan),
glad you brought forth that quote from Mike Curb. I have always wondered about that line from Mike Curb.
How would Beechwood 4-5789 have sounded over those 1980s phone lines ? No song sounds good that way.
I always disagreed, with him, that "There's A Kind of Hush" was "overkill." It is a great Carpenters' remake.
Mike Curb should have been honest with Karen, Beechwood 4-5789 is a good album cut, not a good single choice.
But, his opinion would not have mattered at that point in time--
If Herb Alpert was willing to subtly hint to Richard that the Hush album was not "up to par,"
yet not say a word to him about the material on Made In America, then the die was already cast for the album.
Besides, Karen said it best, " it is really fun." She probably got a kick out of recording the song.
The single was released on Karen's birthday, 1982.
Richard's decision to release the song (as a single) came after January 1982 (Fan Club Newsletter April 1982).
More interesting is that Japan affiliates chose Beechwood 4-5789 as the single choice (Newsletter, June 1981)
and it was on Richard's radar for possible USA choice (June 1981, Fan Club Newsletter).
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
Stephen (Newvillefan),
glad you brought forth that quote from Mike Curb. I have always wondered about that line from Mike Curb.
How would Beechwood 4-5789 have sounded over those 1980s phone lines ? No song sounds good that way.
I always disagreed, with him, that "There's A Kind of Hush" was "overkill." It is a great Carpenters' remake.
Mike Curb should have been honest with Karen, Beechwood 4-5789 is a good album cut, not a good single choice.
But, his opinion would not have mattered at that point in time--
If Herb Alpert was willing to subtly hint to Richard that the Hush album was not "up to par,"
yet not say a word to him about the material on Made In America, then the die was already cast for the album.
Besides, Karen said it best, " it is really fun." She probably got a kick out of recording the song.
The single was released on Karen's birthday, 1982.
Richard's decision to release the song (as a single) came after January 1982 (Fan Club Newsletter April 1982).
More interesting is that Japan affiliates chose Beechwood 4-5789 as the single choice (Newsletter, June 1981)
and it was on Richard's radar for possible USA choice (June 1981, Fan Club Newsletter).
I agree. While I loved ‘Beachwood’ as an album track, I never thought it was single material. It’s upbeat and the arrangement is pretty excellent! But there’s no way it would have been a hit in the U.S. by 1982. Too much had changed in the music industry by that time.

Based on that, I can kinda see ‘Strength Of A Woman’ having a better shot at single success had they picked that instead.
 
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newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
But there’s no way it would have been a hit in the U.S. by 1982. Too much had changed in the music industry by that time.
I think this is precisely what Mike Curb, with his record industry ears, was thinking when Karen played him the song. I don’t know what possessed them to release it as a single at that point and why A&M allowed it.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
I think this is precisely what Mike Curb, with his record industry ears, was thinking when Karen played him the song. I don’t know what possessed them to release it as a single at that point and why A&M allowed it.
I was wondering the same thing. Plus it was the 4th single pulled from the album. The 5th if you count ‘I Believe You’.,
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I was curious, Made In America is still not certified Gold on the RIAA site (neither is Passage).
Sure would be nice to see these albums certified "officially."
The December 1991 GoldMine article about the duo (and their recordings) claims that
Made In America sold 75,000 copies (in the USA) at the time. So, that figure is "in print," but still not authenticated.
Is there more documentation regards MIA in the new Schmidt Discography book ? (as, I have yet to get it).
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
Beechwood 4-5789 was yet another cover version though. It was a 1962 Motown hit for the Marvelettes. Telephone exchanges would have been in use then, but not in 1981. Personally, I think it’s better left in the 60s. As an album track it’s passable, but not as an 80s single.
Agreed. It also lacks every bit of what made the song special. It's produced within an inch of its life with none of the energy. Leave it on the album if you have to but a single? Not to my ears.

Ed
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

I don't know if anyone has posted this version of touch me when we're dancing but here it is. I like it because they are actually singing live. Enjoy.
I've seen this before. She looks very ill and doesn't sound great either. She goes flat a few times and she never did that. Richard's live background is just odd. They'd do well to bury this one.

Ed
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
I like it because it’s ‘live’, but Karen was really sick at this point and she’s missing the ‘spark’ in her eyes. I think she sounds better on the recently unearthed ‘live’ version of TMWWD in the French program that was taped the same month.
 

goodjeans

Well-Known Member
Yes, true. It was a very popular and much-used chord progression and rhythm at that time, such that you used to recognise it on first hear on the songs that used it. ('There's ANOTHER song using that pattern'.) It's funny that I didn't recognise it in 'Back In My Life', (unless I did but have forgotten).
Billboard referred to this track as a "Doobie-esque rocker" in its review.
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
Actually, that reviewer was Paul Grein, so I think he did listen. Lol. If you listen to the opening keyboard-synth lines, it’s very reminiscent of ‘What A Fool Believes’ from The Doobie Brothers. But that’s about the only comparison anybody could make. :wink:
I just don't think there's just nothing remotely "rock" about it. They rarely got near rock and by this point, they weren't even in its solar system. The melody of "WYBIMLA" is pretty different from "WAFB" and the synth sound is different too - at least to my ears. If he did listen, he wasn't listening that closely to call it a "rocker".

Ed
 
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