• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are in the pipeline! The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy will be available on November 16, 2021 and can be ordered here. A big thanks to the authors and Richard Carpenter for their tremendous effort in compiling this book! Also, the new solo piano album Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook is being released January 14, 2022, and is available for ordering here.

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

How Would You Rate This Album?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 14 13.3%
  • ****

    Votes: 24 22.9%
  • ***

    Votes: 40 38.1%
  • **

    Votes: 22 21.0%
  • *

    Votes: 5 4.8%

  • Total voters
    105

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
I remember reading somewhere that Richard said she always wanted to re-record SOMEDAY and then she finally got the chance for one of their specials
I’m in somewhat of a minority of fans who really loves her original Someday even if her voice was still not polished like it would be two years later. I can hear her cold but she brings such passion to those words that it doesn’t stick out for me. I think this is a good example of a contrast between the ‘82 tracks; on the former 1969 tracks she’s not fully mature but wholly committed (except maybe Eve which sounds more developed), but in 1982 there’s the seasoned technical polish but she’s just singing them to sing them. Of course we probably wouldn’t be analyzing these as such if she lived and these were just another albums deep cuts. I think too what bothers me about the 82 songs is how representative they are of Richard’s (musical) mindset which was staunchly of another (commercial) era that would’ve had them dwindle further.
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
This is an excerpt from an interview with Randy Schmidt that goes along with this discussion I think:

JM: There was a certain wild power in her vocals on those first few albums, and I personally prefer that early, unfettered sound.

RS: A Song for You was really the last album when she used that big voice, and really tore through stuff with an intensity and power of emotion that she didn’t often use in later years. I can’t think of anything quite that powerful on Now and Then or Horizon. And then she definitely went through a softer period with A Kind of Hush and Passage.

I wonder how much of Karen’s vocal change had to do with those expectations to be more feminine. In later years, she said that she used to “oversing,” and now she likes to “feel the song.” I think she always felt the song, but I don’t think, in those later years, that she really let herself go in the same way as in the earlier songs. It was such an impactful sound on those earlier albums, and that was during the time when she was still the drummer, still the Karen that she was before people said, no, you’re not gonna be the drummer anymore, and you need to dress this way, and act this way. I think her voice changed with that too. It got softer, and maybe a little less her as the years went on. She held back. But in the early days, there were no inhibitions whatsoever
.”

I would include up until Horizon where she did sometimes use that previous power such as on Solitaire and Desperado, but generally she did mellow in the later 70s and the 80s was continuing the trend of holding herself back even more.
 

3Favorites

New Member
Thanks for that! I had not seen that before. I was tempted to say that her voice kind of mellowed over the years, but I didn't want it to be a negative connotation. But I see them describe it that way, so so will I. I do like the older stuff, but I also like mellow sound she developed. So it all works for me.

I do love all those lush harmonies they start doing on songs like Somebody's Been Lyin' and Any Day Now. Not sure how that one never got released. It's superb!
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
Thanks for that! I had not seen that before. I was tempted to say that her voice kind of mellowed over the years, but I didn't want it to be a negative connotation. But I see them describe it that way, so so will I. I do like the older stuff, but I also like mellow sound she developed. So it all works for me.

I do love all those lush harmonies they start doing on songs like Somebody's Been Lyin' and Any Day Now. Not sure how that one never got released. It's superb!
Say whatever like, you’re not personally attacking anyone by saying that you might prefer her older sound. It can’t be denied that her vocal style changed by 1976 and there’s no harm in voicing that it could’ve been lacking her prior characteristic edge.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
Not to mention, she clearly lacked the ability to project by this stage, which was likely more noticeable given the fact that Karen didn't sing loudly to begin with. Certainly some of the warmth was missing by this stage as well, and at one point in the France performance, she's actually singing flat in one or two places.
You’re totally right, Chris. I happened to watch the ‘live’ performance from 1981 in France just this week. It’s one of the only times where you can see AND hear Karen’s struggle and it’s truly heartbreaking.

It didn’t help that ‘TMWWD’ is sung and it’s pitched so high, as well. I wish they’d have chosen something that would have showcased her lower range instead. She STILL sounded better than anybody else when those basement notes were being hit.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
For what it's worth, Made In America should have jettisoned I Believe You for another (stronger) song.
It was the wrong choice for a single in 1978 and it was the wrong choice for an album cut in 1981.
My comment segues back to the new book, where (apparently) Richard is (still ?) unhappy with Harold Childs
for saying that I Believe You is a "work" song....well, history proved Harold was right and Richard was wrong.

Here is a 1977 article in Billboard, where we read:
"The responsibility for identifying an artist's image belongs to the public, while the label's responsibility
is to figure out what and where that artist has been identified. That's what A&M executives explained...."
Source:
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
For what it's worth, Made In America should have jettisoned I Believe You for another (stronger) song.
It was the wrong choice for a single in 1978 and it was the wrong choice for an album cut in 1981.
My comment segues back to the new book, where (apparently) Richard is (still ?) unhappy with Harold Childs
for saying that I Believe You is a "work" song....well, history proved Harold was right and Richard was wrong.

Here is a 1977 article in Billboard, where we read:
"The responsibility for identifying an artist's image belongs to the public, while the label's responsibility
is to figure out what and where that artist has been identified. That's what A&M executives explained...."
Source:
It would’ve been interesting to have seen what impact Dancing In The Street might’ve had in 78. That would’ve fit more in with the disco sound of the time.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
For what it's worth, Made In America should have jettisoned I Believe You for another (stronger) song.
It was the wrong choice for a single in 1978 and it was the wrong choice for an album cut in 1981.
My comment segues back to the new book, where (apparently) Richard is (still ?) unhappy with Harold Childs
for saying that I Believe You is a "work" song....well, history proved Harold was right and Richard was wrong.

Here is a 1977 article in Billboard, where we read:
"The responsibility for identifying an artist's image belongs to the public, while the label's responsibility
is to figure out what and where that artist has been identified. That's what A&M executives explained...."
Source:
I agree 100%. After waiting nearly FOUR years for a non-seasonal new LP from Carpenters, we finally got one with 10 songs included. And, horror of horrors, one of them was a song we already had on a 45. Obviously, both Karen and Richard felt very strongly about 'I Believe You', but I wasn't very happy to see it taking up space on the new LP. It's a good song, but it wasn't fresh like the rest of the album.
 

Chris May

Resident ‘Carpenterologist’
Staff member
Moderator
Thread Starter
I agree 100%. After waiting nearly FOUR years for a non-seasonal new LP from Carpenters, we finally got one with 10 songs included. And, horror of horrors, one of them was a song we already had on a 45. Obviously, both Karen and Richard felt very strongly about 'I Believe You', but I wasn't very happy to see it taking up space on the new LP. It's a good song, but it wasn't fresh like the rest of the album.
Probably my least favorite Carpenters song of their entire catalog and could never fully understand why they did it. I know Richard thinks it was a great vehicle for Karen vocally... but... meh!
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
I don't think we should try to have things both ways. Either prior singles go on the next album, or they don't.

Every one of us - and yes, I'd estimate a number near 100% of us, were really ticked off that "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" didn't find its way to CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT. It was a long tradition with Carpenters to release a single and then have it placed on the next album, so I would have expected "I Believe You" to be on MADE IN AMERICA when it came out.

I don't like to pick "least favorites", but I'll listen to "I Believe You" any day, but "The Wedding Song" - that one I'll skip.
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
I’m with Gary, I really enjoy Because We Are In Love. A song of hope and of new beginnings.

My personal opinion is that Beechwood and Strength of a Woman are the 2 weak points on the album and while I’m glad they were recorded I don’t think they should have been included on this comeback album. After being gone so long these 2 songs are the best the duo could have recorded in 1981?

I could also never understand an album titled Made in America (launched as their comeback album) yet they never took it on tour for the US instead they went on tour outside the US. :hmmm:
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
I could also never understand an album titled Made in America (launched as their comeback album) yet they never took it on tour for the US instead they went on tour outside the US.
Likely just because they were so enormously unpopular in 1981 in the states. In 1971 everyone is clamoring for them at a new peak of their powers, then in ‘81 they couldn’t have cared less. They were wildly off the mark with the music and marketing of MIA but had enough sense to know a US tour would be a failure.
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
I don't think we should try to have things both ways. Either prior singles go on the next album, or they don't.

Every one of us - and yes, I'd estimate a number near 100% of us, were really ticked off that "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" didn't find its way to CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT. It was a long tradition with Carpenters to release a single and then have it placed on the next album, so I would have expected "I Believe You" to be on MADE IN AMERICA when it came out.

I don't like to pick "least favorites", but I'll listen to "I Believe You" any day, but "The Wedding Song" - that one I'll skip.

Agreed completely. The tune itself belonged in her wedding and in her wedding alone. It certainly didn't belong on a "comeback" album by a chart-conscious musical act. It was nothing they could afford at this stage.

For me, the entire album was one long bad move. The fact that the first single of a "comeback" album only got to #16 and nothing else charted in the top 40 speaks very loudly. I don't know how A&M didn't realize the dud they had. Richard had always displayed a pretty shaky grasp of current musical trends but by MIA, he'd lost it entirely. When he tried to sound current, he sounded even more square than when he wasn't trying. Still, Richard's vocal arranging chops never left him and he could salvage tunes with them. "Want You Back..." fails miserably on all fronts - even Karen sounds uninvolved and that "doubling"...like...why?. The only thing that works for me is Richard's vocal arrangement. It's total ear candy and that final "I need you back in my life"!!! Incredibly difficult to pull off! "Those Good Old Dreams" nearly gets over with me because of the vocal arrangement but even that can't save it. It's another one that just doesn't fit on an album intended to sell records.

I said it pages ago but this is easily their very worst album for me and "elevator" moves like this one put it there.

Even the album cover is dreadful. It plays totally into the image they hated being saddled with.

Ed
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
As I have mentioned previously, similarities between the songs
Because We Are In Love and the much earlier Someday
are uncanny.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I have said it before, and I will say it again....no matter if this album had been the greatest album they ever recorded,
it was going to go NOWHERE in 1981:
Look at the June 1981 issue of Billboard magazine, the one with the Carpenters full-page ad.
On page 18 you see the
BREAKOUTS-National column:
Carpenters with Touch Me When We're Dancing,
Juice Newton with Queen of Hearts (reached #2)
Kenny Rogers with I Don't Need You (reaching #3).

Of those songs, Carpenters song ultimately performed the worst in Top 100 chart performance (reaching only #16).

Billboard June 20.1981:
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
I’m with Gary, I really enjoy Because We Are In Love. A song of hope and of new beginnings.

My personal opinion is that Beechwood and Strength of a Woman are the 2 weak points on the album and while I’m glad they were recorded I don’t think they should have been included on this comeback album. After being gone so long these 2 songs are the best the duo could have recorded in 1981?

I could also never understand an album titled Made in America (launched as their comeback album) yet they never took it on tour for the US instead they went on tour outside the US. :hmmm:
Rick, I also like ‘Because We Are In Love’ (and ‘I Believe You’) enormously.

Like you, I also think that ‘Strength of a Woman’ and ‘Beechwood’ are the weak tracks on the album and I’ll add ‘Back In My Life’ and ‘Touch Me’ to that list, mainly because of Karen’s performance on those four but also due to structure, lyrical content and melody. ‘Touch Me’ was never going to be the single to return Carpenters to the top of the charts, as seen outside the US where it peaked at the lower end of the Top 100 in some countries. Mind you, this is another opinion in hindsight, because I wasn’t as disappointed in three of these songs in 1981 as I am today. (I’ve always been disappointed in ‘Strength of a Woman’).
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
I have said it before, and I will say it again....no matter if this album had been the greatest album they ever recorded, it was going to go NOWHERE in 1981:
Look at the June 1981 issue of Billboard - BREAKOUTS-National column: Carpenters with Touch Me When We're Dancing,
Juice Newton with Queen of Hearts (reached #2)
Kenny Rogers with I Don't Need You (reaching #3).

Of those songs, Carpenters song ultimately performed the worst in Top 100 chart performance (reaching only #16).

Billboard June 20.1981:
Those songs by Kenny Rogers and Juice Newton were hardly exciting or ear catching. I actually think the Carpenters song was the more sparkling of the three but it just wasn’t right for 1981. Although New Wave and New Romantic probably wasn’t as popular in the US as in a lot of other countries, Carpenters were also up against all the attention-grabbing young-guns of those genres, who made ‘Touch Me When We’re Dancing’ seem even more old-fashioned.
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
Those songs by Kenny Rogers and Juice Newton were hardly exciting or ear catching. I actually think the Carpenters song was the more sparkling of the three but it just wasn’t right for 1981. Although New Wave and New Romantic probably wasn’t as popular in the US as in a lot of other countries, Carpenters were also up against all the attention-grabbing young-guns of those genres, who made ‘Touch Me When We’re Dancing’ seem even more old-fashioned.

The strings and Richard's "elevator" production killed a decent song. It's just incredibly overproduced; never a dull moment. It was as if he was the star instead of Karen and that was never the case. For my part, I listen to Carpenters because of Karen. Everything should always feature her. On "MIA," there's far too much focus on Richard. He asserts himself by overproducing at every turn. The songs aren't good enough to withstand it either, though I'm not sure any song could have. This album is pure "death by overproduction."

Ed
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I had not listened to the Kenny Rogers' song until today, same with Juice Newton's song from June 1981.
But, after a listen to I Don't Need You (KR), there is no way you can convince me that Touch Me When We're Dancing
is not the stand out song of the bunch. No matter how you slice and dice it, Richard's (over ?) production on the song
is hardly the reason it only got to #16, if you compare the song with I Don't Need You.
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
I had not listened to the Kenny Rogers' song until today, same with Juice Newton's song from June 1981.
But, after a listen to I Don't Need You (KR), there is no way you can convince me that Touch Me When We're Dancing
is not the stand out song of the bunch. No matter how you slice and dice it, Richard's (over ?) production on the song
is hardly the reason it only got to #16, if you compare the song with I Don't Need You.

Can't agree. Kenny's tune is far less produced - allowing his voice to do all the heavy lifting. Lionel Ritchie (the producer) knew to get out the way and let Kenny do what he does best. Richard just didn't. He threw in the kitchen sink and Karen is merely a part of the machinery instead of the centerpiece. Couple that with the "square Carpenters" stigma fed into by the entire album and it's a wonder it did even that well.

Ah well. The album is enjoyed by many and that's a wonderful thing. It also gives us more Karen and how bad can that really be? Enjoy!

Ed
 

AM Matt

Forum Undertaker
Kenny's "I Don't Need You" went to # 1 for 6 weeks on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart & at # 3 (2 weeks) on Hot 100.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
True, it was NOT being played on FM Top 40 stations, but it was played on AM Top 40 and AC stations plenty that summer. I thought 'Touch Me When We're Dancing' was the most 'hit sound' record on the album. #16 isn't exactly shameful. Plus, it got to #1 AC, which was very nice for a comeback single. That being said, the only time I heard it on Top 40 FM stations was during 'American Top 40' with Casey Kasem.

Interestingly, Carpenters cut 'I Don't Need You' during the MIA sessions and it was never released. So, they must have thought the song had hit potential at least initially, but it was ultimately shelved. Would love to hear that one!
 
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