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Official Review [Album]: "PASSAGE" (SP-4703)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Aug 6, 2013.

How Would You Rate This Album?

  1. ***** (BEST)

    7 vote(s)
  2. ****

    42 vote(s)
  3. ***

    25 vote(s)
  4. **

    5 vote(s)
  5. *

    0 vote(s)
  1. Tapdancer

    Tapdancer Active Member

    Different critics listen through a different set of filters. Yes - good music is good music - but we can't seriously expect a jazz afficionado to give a high standard critique of, say, an operatic performance. Especially when comparing one performance to another.

    Which is one reason Carpenters are often given the pariah treatment by rock'n'rollers. Quite often they just don't get it! For some, it might even be torture listening to Karen at Christmas. Who knows? Should we care? I say 'no', even though it's interesting to hear what they have to say.

    Ultimately, I believe the best critic is one who has both a generalist's ear for music and a specialist's ear for the genre. In relation to the Carpenters' music, it's quite possible the guys at Rolling Stone have neither.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014
    toeknee4bz and BarryT60 like this.
  2. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    scan0425.jpg Here is a review from a newspaper in Honolulu, note that the reviewer/paper never gets the name of the LP correct,
    This is another piece where the reviewer tries to be positive, but accomplishes the opposite:
    (Scroll down to bottom of page,third column,whence "Carpenters Out of This World" in bold)
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2014
  3. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Not because I'm a fan of Karen, but he got it completely wrong towards the end. The problems with the album centre around Karen's voice?! Was he listening to the same album as the rest of us??
  4. Tapdancer

    Tapdancer Active Member

    (i) "Karen and Richard Carpenter have spent most of their professional careers converting musical styro-foam into hit singles. Now, they've done their first recording that justifies itself artistically."

    Gulp! If you turn styro-foam into hits, that's the musical equivalent of turning lead into gold. The music would have to work at almost every level for this extraordinary transformation to occur. If such alchemy cannot be classified as artistic, then what is artistry?

    (ii) Ahh..now I know...Artistry must be all about fiddling around in the control booth.

    "...most of the success for the LP lies with Richard, who finally felt a need to demonstrate his real capabilities in the recording studio."

    Nothing wrong with that per se, but again demonstrating the musical limitations, to the point of ignorance, of those who were allowed the privilege of critiquing some of the great popular releases of that period.

    (iii) "...As in the past, [Karen] comes off sounding like a soda-pop commercial, bubbly and cute, but without any emotional tension or expression in her voice."

    The writer is certainly entitled to apply that observation to this album, but to preface it with 'As in the past' is to denigrate the general body of work - and that includes hits - Karen had hitherto released. It is a mistaken belief, and an unjustified put-down borne yet again out of ignorance.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2014
  5. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    Wow, what a clueless reviewer. Did I mention deaf? It must be really exhausting to spend all your time trying to come off 'hip', but instead you come off sounding mindless.
    Tapdancer likes this.
  6. goodjeans

    goodjeans Active Member

    ...what an a**hole. Carpenters were constantly being surrounded by this tripe. :sad:
    A&M Retro likes this.
  7. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Over at the musicradar site, musician/guitarist Steven Wilson, has this to say (as he lists Carpenters as one of his top five not-so-guilty pleasures):

    “I adore The Carpenters. You listen to them and you just think, ‘How beautiful.’ The writing and production are incredible,
    and then there’s Karen Carpenter’s voice – one of the greatest musical instruments we’ve ever, ever heard on this planet.
    “Richard Carpenter’s production and arrangements are extraordinary. The choice of songs – and some of the songs they wrote themselves,
    like Yesterday Once More – just great.
    “There’s a track I really like, which is a cover version of a song called Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft [by Klaatu].
    It wasn’t a hit in its original form, but Richard took it and turned it into a mini-pop symphony. Amazing! Just one of the best pop-rock productions ever.”
  8. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Interesting enough, in the published book-
    All Music Guide to Rock: The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop, and Soul (2002, 3rd ed'n.)
    Bruce Eder (again) reviews Carpenters albums, giving Passage 2 stars (which, again, he titles The Passage throughout)
    and Made in America 3 stars.

    So much for Definitive Guides.(!)
  9. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    This data from the amrecords website:

    Billboard Pop
    Initial orders in Japan for Passage were over 150,000 copies.
  10. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    For some reason my previous post did not translate very well, here are those stats for Passage:
    US #49
    UK #12
    Japan #7
    Initial Orders in Japan for Passage over 150,000 Copies.
  11. adam

    adam Active Member

    Passage is a great album and should have charted higher in the US than no 49.according to source Passage sold over 400,000 copies after release so should be on its way to Gold status.In Uk it received Gold record for sales of 100,000 copies.
  12. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    I remember hearing "Passage" for the first time and being delightfully weirded out by it. "B'wana She No Home???" Really??? The song choice was odd. The band grooved! The vocal arrangement was not by Richard...and I was in love. The least interesting part of the track is Karen's vocal. Anyone could have sung that tune. Michael Franks' tunes tend to have a range of about three notes and this one is no exception. Karen sounds somewhat droll and disconnected (the doubling does not help.) I didn't believe for two seconds that she wanted her housekeeper to "speak the English right" or "smile and be polite." The song was completely and utterly wrong for her...but that groove!!!. As a result of said groove, I don't even care about Karen's rare misstep here. Also helping me not care is Gene Puerling's background vocal tricks. No one did them better (not even Richard) so this is a rare treat.

    "All You Get From Love Is A Love Song" - now there's something she can really sing...and she does! As for the backgrounds, I dig Carpettes! Better still, we again get groove!!! Tom Scott's solo is fantastic (even Richard liked it - check out the video for proof.) "Calling Occupants..." is also much fun. Musically, you can't argue with it and Karen's vocal lulls you in as it always does. This was Carpenters...with guts! and I wish we'd gotten more of it. I would love to hear it without the strings and oboe as neither belong and the tune would groove harder without them.

    The rest? Well...there are sleepy, inconsequential ballads we've already heard that just sport other titles ("I Just Fall In Love Again, Two Lives," ) and chances best not taken (the fake-Country "Sweet, Sweet Smile" and the horrible Robert Palmer-ripping Karen misstep, "Man Smart...") The only thing going for the drippy "I Just Fall In Love..." and "Two Lives" are the simple Karen vocals. I'm guess those tunes are there just to give fans something familiar to hang onto while they go "buck wild" on the rest of the record.

    Still, the chances they take that work...really work!!!. I can almost totally forgive the dreck when the winners are as good as they are.


    P.S.: I can't stand Android Lloyd Rip-off so I won't even go there.
    Last edited: May 9, 2014
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  13. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    From Billboard October 8,1977 page 98, Review of Passage:
    "...Karen Carpenter textured vocals evoke new heights of expressiveness, and remain flexible and strong throughout.."
    And amusingly (I thought)- Billboard mentions as one of the best cuts "Man Smart, Woman Smarter".
  14. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    Yeah, there really is a great propulsive funk groove to this song that's spot on. . .it's become a favourite of mine. . .but you're right. . .it could have been anybody's lead on it. Perhaps better would have just been 5 minutes of instrumental but with more of those great Puerling splashes of vocal blasts which sound soooo good. Not sure but I think that's the only time anyone else ever did a vocal arrangement for their blended voices (actually, isn't there a little bit on First Snowfall "folks put runners etc. . ." that Peter Night arranged with a nice Andrews Sisters feel). Sometimes you forget just how well they blended. . .genetically. .. and it's refreshing to hear those melted tones in the hands of someone other than Richard.

    But yeah, you know a track's good when you don't mind the lead being inconsequential. . .especially when that lead's from your favourite singer.

    I'd come to the rescue of Two Sides, though. They had a real gift for lilting country/pop and I find most of my favourite cuts fall into that category (Reason To Believe, When It's Gone, Uninvited Guest etc.)

    Man Smart should have been bumped, however. . . replaced by "You're the One" and the almost recorded Rescuers track "Someone's Waiting". Having a single from the number one US film (as Rescuers was) would surely have shifted a few hundred thousand more albums, regardless of whether radio stations deemed them turn-table poison. Can you imagine. . .all the kids pestering their parents for "that song from the disney film" Xmas of '77. It may not have helped their street-cred (. . . by that point could anything!!??) but it would have put them back in the Top Ten.

    Great album, all in all.

    Jamesj75, A&M Retro and GaryAlan like this.
  15. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Some astute observations, Neil.
    I'd say that Two Sides, When It's Gone and Uninvited Guest certainly are very high up on my list of favorites.
    Karen's vocal interpretations on these country/pop songs define the term 'heavenly', even throw in 'divine'.
    Magical arrangements and vocals.
    That Carpenters genius.
    A&M Retro and Jamesj75 like this.
  16. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    It's amazing how we all hear different things. I'd forgotten about the fact that Richard didn't arrange the background vocals on 'B'Wana'. Makes sense because it's very different! So cool. I for one LOVE Karen's lead on 'B'Wana'. It's playful and fun and rather sexy, too. Anything to get her out of the regular routine was much appreciated for a change.

    Strangely, 'Sweet Sweet Smile' has really grown on me. I've always liked it, but now it's the #1 Carpenters tune on my I-Tunes playlist. It's lively and melodic and Karen's vocals are just awesome. I also love 'Two Sides', which is Karen all the way. Her background vocals are more impressive than ever....especially at the very end. She gets really high and you can barely tell it's Karen.

    But my all-time favorite from the album and all-time favorite Carpenters single is "All You Get From Love Is A Love Song'. That song has everything. Perfect vocal, upbeat arrangement, great background vocals and a KILLER sax solo. Richard and Karen both went all out on that one, and you can tell. Should have gone to the Top 5 and it's a crime it didn't.
    Jamesj75, Mark-T and LondonRobert like this.
  17. LondonRobert

    LondonRobert Active Member

    I always remember my Grandmother when we were driving somewhere and I inevitably had Carpenters on - when AYGFLIALS came on - she always said, Oh i really like this one and she'd tap her feet - you'd maybe expect an old Granny to say that about close to you or weve only just begun, but no , she loved the 'beat' of it, as she said! I always think of my Nan, bless her, when i hear it!
    Charlie D, A&M Retro and Jamesj75 like this.
  18. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    I always liked this album. It showcased the musical expertise of their talent as musicians, not just a group who performed one type of music, but an extension of what was started in Horizon with songs from different decades and styles while showing their talent and versatility as accomplished musicians.
    I wish it had just two more songs because Karen's voice fit every style and I could never hear enough to satisfy my thirst to hear her sing.
    I also wish the words 'dirty old shame' were not in the song AYGFRLIALS, for criticism of those words over shadowed an otherwise perfect song.
    The passage key discovered with exposure to all types of music encouraged me to learn even more about music and the importance it plays in our lives, giving more weight than just 'something with a good beat and something to dance to'.
    Even in the middle of addictions that would cripple most anyone, the Carpenters continued to shine musically. I had always wanted 'Bwana She No Home' to be released as a single to help show the world, not just album buyers, the power of the Carpenters.
    My heart still breaks that tragedy eventually took over in later years, but thankfully the Passage LP felt like a gift with life changing inspiration to me when I needed it most. Both Richard and Karen reached out to the heart of their fans with this project. After all, there was enough of the receipe in past songs to welcome an exposure into other musical styles. (I would have also welcomed 'From This Moment On' to be included in this LP).
    A&M Retro, LondonRobert and Jamesj75 like this.
  19. song4u

    song4u Well-Known Member

    I never understood why 'dirty old shame' was even remotely offensive. If anyone can explain it, please do.
    ullalume likes this.
  20. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Not offensive- just dated sounding. Like something your grandmother would say.
  21. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Bwana is my favorite off the disc. AYGFLIALS is second.
  22. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    Re "Dirty Old Shame" I've never got the negative press toward it either. . .maybe it sounded dated in the US, but to me, over in the UK, it just sounded like a cute, sassy little lyric that worked great for the song. . . maybe it's because no-one in the UK has ever used that phrase, be it in 2014, 1977, or 1777. I've always associated it with quintessential film americana. . .particularly some of those classic James Cagney film-noirs (You Dirty Rat).

    And in a way the whole song has quite a "filmic" feel, "sailing ships", "seagulls" "ocean breezes" "drifting tides" "rising suns". . . .a voyage out into the horizon which Richard's calypso flavoured arrangement enhances. Maybe that's why they left off "Sailing on the Tide" since lyrically it was too similar.

    Finally, didn't comment on Sweet Sweet Smile earlier. . . love it, love it, love it. You can hear the smile in her voice. And a cracking production from Richard, as well as some different sounding background harmonies that work just swell.

  23. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    I was afraid of that line when I first heard it, too, but only because I was sure it spelled death with any Top 40 radio programmers. Played right into the image problem. Other acts could have sung it and it would have been accepted as playful or tongue in cheek...not Carpenters. Loved the song...it was a refreshing change after the last three singles. Big fan of the whole album...started buying Michael Franks records after "Bwana", and bought Klaatu's album to hear the original "Occupants". That to me is the mark of a great record by a favorite artist...when you like it so well, you also dig in to discover more by the writers and contributors. Easily my #3 favorite Carpenters album.
  24. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    Which ones are 1 and 2, toolman
  25. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    The 'dirty old shame' lyric never phased me in the States. In fact, I've never really thought about it. Sounds better than 'rotten old shame'. :wink:

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