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

How Would You Rate This Album?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 14 14.1%
  • ****

    Votes: 22 22.2%
  • ***

    Votes: 37 37.4%
  • **

    Votes: 22 22.2%
  • *

    Votes: 4 4.0%

  • Total voters
    99

Another Son

Well-Known Member
I always was puzzled because a lot of the songs on this album had Karen's lead vocals recorded in a higher register? Richard's one complaint about Karen's solo LP was she was recorded into a too high register! Loved the album but the hated the cover. The inner sleeve photo was way better. BTW knowing what we do now BWAIL should have been left off of this album.

Some of the songs where Karen is straining to hit the higher notes on 'Made in America' aren't actually set that high - it's just that the illusion is created because she is straining. For instance, I was listening to 'Touch Me When We're Dancing' yesterday. Karen sounds strained in the chorus - when she sings the title line and the 'know' of 'You know you've got that loving touch', yet the main melody line is not particularly high and she reaches notes like that comfortably on other albums. She also sounds strained on the higher parts of 'Those Good Old Dreams', 'When You've Got What it Takes', (when she sings, "When you've got it..."), and 'Strength of a Woman'.

Some of the songs have quite a bit of range. 'Because We Are In Love', I think, has around the lowest note that Karen ever reached on a recording - somewhere around 'D' below 'Middle C', I think - although the lowest note in her range is sometimes stated as 'E' below 'Middle C' - yet it also has a high note - not sure what it is - haven't listened in a while - in the 'Because' after the chorale sings - and the 'love' of "Where love abides, there is a place we'll keep....." - which she reaches beautifully, by the way.

There are other songs with brilliant low notes, beautifully sung - 'Those Good Old Dreams', 'Somebody's Been Lying', 'When You've Got What it Takes', 'When It's Gone (It's just Gone)', the aforesaid 'Because We Are in Love' and 'Touch Me When We're Dancing' has a reasonably low note.

There's just a little straining going on in a few places on this album, but, generally, in my opinion, the songs on 'Made in America' are much better suited to Karen's voice than most of the songs on the 'Karen Carpenter' album. Many of the harmony vocals on 'Karen Carpenter' I like and they sound good but, for some reason, the lead vocals are disappointing, on the whole. I think it's the way that Karen is choosing to sing on the solo album, or having to sing because of health factors, (I'm assuming) - just doesn't sit right, to my ear.

I've always thought that 'Because We Are in Love' is the most beautiful recording on 'Made In America'.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
^^Hard as it is to believe, my two favorites on Made In America are
Because We Are In Love
and Strength of A Woman. Those Good Old Dreams is a contender.
Because We Are In Love is such an interesting departure. Karen sings it beautifully, of course.
She did say it was her favorite off this album.
 

ullalume

Well-Known Member
I wonder if it was still her favourite by late 1982...
A hard one to judge. Would she have hated to hear it?.... or would the romantic in her listen to it in her quiet moments and sweetly yearn for what could have been.
With karen being the mass of contradictions she was, probably both.
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
^^Hard as it is to believe, my two favorites on Made In America are
Because We Are In Love
and Strength of A Woman. Those Good Old Dreams is a contender.
Because We Are In Love is such an interesting departure. Karen sings it beautifully, of course.
She did say it was her favorite off this album.

I don't find that hard to believe. My favourites, down through the years, have remained 'Because We Are in Love', 'Those Good Old Dreams', 'When You've Got What It Takes', 'Somebody's Been Lying', 'I Believe You' and 'When It's Gone (It's Just Gone)'. As you can see, I quite like the album.
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
UK Article Jun 22, 1981

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TimeWarp

Member
The first thing that crosses my mind when I listen to this album is it sounds like an overnight transition from the 70s to the 80s (not that the Carpenters sounded quintessentially 70s). I gave it three stars. I would choose to listen to Made In America over A Kind Of Hush.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Regards the UK promotion for Made In America,
did anyone see, or remember seeing, those television ads (15 sec ads)?

I must say, another listen to the album reinforces my affinity for these four songs:
Those Good Old Dreams, Strength of A Woman, When It's Gone, Because We Are In Love.
I sorta enjoy Touch Me, I Believe You, Beechwood (as I enjoy the arrangement).
I sorta like Want You Back In My Life Again. I like Somebody's Been Lying.
I'm not sold much with When You've Got What it Takes, but it's okay.
My opinion of the album has improved as the years go by.

Paul Grein's Top 10 list for 1981 is interesting as it reinforces how this album
was clearly at odds with other popular albums released that year.
A look into other top 10 album lists for 1981 reinforces my belief that
no matter what album they may have churned out,
1981 was going to be a very tough sell for the Carpenters.
 

Someday

Well-Known Member
That UK article also serves to reinforce that the general public were unaware that Christmas Portrait existed. Four years? ... no, not even three.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
That UK article also serves to reinforce that the general public were unaware that Christmas Portrait existed. Four years? ... no, not even three.

That article is referring to Passage, not Christmas Portrait, as there were four years between the two proper studio albums. All this really shows is that the Christmas album was a) not really considered a mainstream release in the UK and/or b) was pretty much ignored by most of the UK music press.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
As problematic as many find them, I think the three best songs, the ones that push their (and in particular Karen’s individual) artistry forward are BWAIL, SBL, and When it’s Gone. Another interchangeable phrase might be “pushing the envelope” but it would be so in the case for Karen and not Richard’s arrangements which don’t break much ground in the broader sphere, even how within their discography the arrangements are a new kind of complex. I’ve complained about When it’s Gone before on here but I’ve since really loved the nuance of the words, tone, and Karen’s haunting performance. She explores other new avenues of feeling also on the two songs I singled out before in ways that each feel distinct and fresh.
 

Someday

Well-Known Member
Regarding Karen's lighter tones, I wonder if she was channelling ONJ a little. It's also interesting that much of the time she seems to be singing in a higher key rather than using the 'basement'. I wonder if, following the solo project, she had asked to do this and RC agreed in order to make a definite change to their trademark sound. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear some of these songs performed in a lower key ...
 

ullalume

Well-Known Member
That article is referring to Passage, not Christmas Portrait, as there were four years between the two proper studio albums. All this really shows is that the Christmas album was a) not really considered a mainstream release in the UK and/or b) was pretty much ignored by most of the UK music press.
Yeah...the "4 years" thing was a handy sound bite for media interviews...the inference being "is there trouble in paradise?" The irony is there was only 13 months they weren't active together...from their Christmas concert in dec 78 to their studio sessions for MMM in Feb '80.
 

Rumbahbah

Well-Known Member
Regarding Karen's lighter tones, I wonder if she was channelling ONJ a little. It's also interesting that much of the time she seems to be singing in a higher key rather than using the 'basement'. I wonder if, following the solo project, she had asked to do this and RC agreed in order to make a definite change to their trademark sound. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear some of these songs performed in a lower key ...
It is odd that, given his antipathy towards the approach taken re Karen's 'higher' vocals on the solo tracks, Richard would go on to pick songs/arrangements for Made in America that did the same thing. Her vocals on 'Back in My Life Again', the chorus of 'Strength of a Woman' and parts of 'When You've Got What it Takes', for instance, are more problematically high than anything on the solo album.

I can't imagine for a second that Karen railroaded Richard into taking this approach though - we know that she was less involved in this album due to the distractions in her personal life at the time and was given no 'associate producer' credit for the album, which I think is telling.

For whatever reason, perhaps Richard thought he could make a success of the higher vocals where he believed Phil Ramone had failed. After all, he thought it worth his while to have a go at giving his own spin on 'Make Believe It's Your First Time' in these sessions, even if the result ended up falling short of the version on the solo album.
 

ullalume

Well-Known Member
It is odd that, given his antipathy towards the approach taken re Karen's 'higher' vocals on the solo tracks, Richard would go on to pick songs/arrangements for Made in America that did the same thing. Her vocals on 'Back in My Life Again', the chorus of 'Strength of a Woman' and parts of 'When You've Got What it Takes', for instance, are more problematically high than anything on the solo album.

I can't imagine for a second that Karen railroaded Richard into taking this approach though - we know that she was less involved in this album due to the distractions in her personal life at the time and was given no 'associate producer' credit for the album, which I think is telling.

For whatever reason, perhaps Richard thought he could make a success of the higher vocals where he believed Phil Ramone had failed. After all, he thought it worth his while to have a go at giving his own spin on 'Make Believe It's Your First Time' in these sessions, even if the result ended up falling short of the version on the solo album.
I always found the lack of a credit for karen puzzling. I mean the sessions went on for ages and I'm sure she contributed enough to warrant the title. Maybe it was a business move, something financial. Or maybe Richard needed an ego boost after the clinic and Karen's temporary "desertion" in 79.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
Regarding Karen's lighter tones, I wonder if she was channelling ONJ a little. It's also interesting that much of the time she seems to be singing in a higher key rather than using the 'basement'. I wonder if, following the solo project, she had asked to do this and RC agreed in order to make a definite change to their trademark sound. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear some of these songs performed in a lower key ...
I think for Karen sensual/sexy meant lighter, which we know is not always true. The solo stuff and some MIA songs are certainly trying to convey an overt sexual flavor moreso than she ever had before and on her solo Make Believe...in particular it sounds like she’s trying to emulate Olivia, but it doesn’t work because it doesn’t play to her strengths and she’s a superior vocalist.
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
I think for Karen sensual/sexy meant lighter, which we know is not always true. The solo stuff and some MIA songs are certainly trying to convey an overt sexual flavor moreso than she ever had before and on her solo Make Believe...in particular it sounds like she’s trying to emulate Olivia, but it doesn’t work because it doesn’t play to her strengths and she’s a superior vocalist.
I'm not sure I agree with your first line. If We Try and Lovelines have such classic basement vocals- and they're both pretty sensual IMHO.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
I'm not sure I agree with your first line. If We Try and Lovelines have such classic basement vocals- and they're both pretty sensual IMHO.

For basement vocals, they’re probably the best two examples on the solo album. Both stunning tracks, but If We Try is the better of the two because of the atmospheric arrangement and sultry vocals...plus it’s a ballad, so it naturally plays to Karen’s strengths.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
I'm not sure I agree with your first line. If We Try and Lovelines have such classic basement vocals- and they're both pretty sensual IMHO.

But the majority of that work isn’t the basement voice, those are the exceptions.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
For basement vocals, they’re probably the best two examples on the solo album. Both stunning tracks, but If We Try is the better of the two because of the atmospheric arrangement and sultry vocals...plus it’s a ballad, so it naturally plays to Karen’s strengths.

The warm tone of If We Try is really enveloping and Karen’s vocal is back in the money basement which gives the occasionally exuberant track her singularly elusive darkness, signifying that she/the narrator knows that although they may try she pretty much already knows the score. It’s part of her general, intrinsic gift to be able to convey both a broader sense of distance with an overall performance, and then find varied, conflicting nuances in the lyrics between the start and the end.
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
As problematic as many find them, I think the three best songs, the ones that push their (and in particular Karen’s individual) artistry forward are BWAIL, SBL, and When it’s Gone. Another interchangeable phrase might be “pushing the envelope” but it would be so in the case for Karen and not Richard’s arrangements which don’t break much ground in the broader sphere, even how within their discography the arrangements are a new kind of complex. I’ve complained about When it’s Gone before on here but I’ve since really loved the nuance of the words, tone, and Karen’s haunting performance. She explores other new avenues of feeling also on the two songs I singled out before in ways that each feel distinct and fresh.
The three tracks that you mention are magnificent - ‘Because We Are In Love’, ‘Somebody’s Been Lying’ and ‘When It’s Gone (It’s Just Gone)’, especially the first two. BWAIL and SBL have delicious arrangements by Richard and incredible vocals by Karen. On WIG, the words are lovely and Karen manages to sound both warm and desolate.
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
Regarding Karen's lighter tones, I wonder if she was channelling ONJ a little. It's also interesting that much of the time she seems to be singing in a higher key rather than using the 'basement'. I wonder if, following the solo project, she had asked to do this and RC agreed in order to make a definite change to their trademark sound. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear some of these songs performed in a lower key ...
Most of the songs on ‘Made in America’ certainly have low notes, or whole passages set in the lower register. Karen’s lowest note ever is often mentioned as ‘E’ below ‘Middle C’ but on ‘Because We Are in Love’, from memory, she brushes a ‘D’ below ‘Middle C’. Most of the other songs also have very low notes. Some of the songs on the album give the illusion of having high notes but that’s mainly because Karen seems to be singing more lightly than usual. For example, the main vocal line in the chorus of ‘Touch Me When We’re Dancing’ sounds high because of the way Karen is singing, but actually isn’t very high.
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
Yeah...the "4 years" thing was a handy sound bite for media interviews...the inference being "is there trouble in paradise?" The irony is there was only 13 months they weren't active together...from their Christmas concert in dec 78 to their studio sessions for MMM in Feb '80.
I remember, for one, Casey Kasem saying on AT40 that Carpenters had been on hiatus for four years - although he was, for convenience’ sake, referring to the amount of time between Top 40 singles - ‘Calling Occupants’ and ‘Touch Me WWD’.
 
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