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

How Would You Rate This Album?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 9 10.6%
  • ****

    Votes: 43 50.6%
  • ***

    Votes: 28 32.9%
  • **

    Votes: 5 5.9%
  • *

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    85

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
Yeah, “Passage” doesn’t sound that good on either CD. Really, “Passage” reminds me of “Christmas Portrait”: for its digital versions (and the 2017 LP release) it’s masters are in the worst shape. And like CP “Passage” really needs a new master made from the original or Digital multi-track tapes.
 

Brian

Well-Known Member
I have had a pleasant Sunday afternoon listening to music, which I rarely have time to do. It's cold outside, and even raining, for once. I've listened to albums by Dobie Gray, Brook Benton, Bobby Flynn, Toni Childs, Pseudo Echo and Lobo. And I just happened to listen to a trio of Robert Palmer albums - 'Clues', 'Secrets' and, finally, 'Some People Can Do What They Like'. All three, in my opinion, are strong albums for their time.

As many would be aware, Robert Palmer's version of 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter' appears on 'Some People Can Do What They Like'. As I was listening to his version, I was thinking that, although Richard used a very similar arrangement to his, the Palmer version has a little more in the piano part and chords that sort of makes his version appear not so monotonous. Palmer's version also employs steel drums, which suit the Calypso style of the song. (I don't remember steel drums on Carpenters' version). Also, the funky bass and drum parts seem to work better on Palmer's version than the bass and drums on Carpenters' recording do. People, in the past, have referred to the muddiness of the mix on 'Passage', particularly on the CDs, so maybe that is why Palmer's bass and drums seem to be more prominent, to my ears.

Furthermore, Robert Palmer was able to bring more grunt and grit to the vocal than Karen was. Although having Karen sing the song may have been a clever move to have her as a voice for the strength of women, I feel that the song works better for a male voice than Karen's style of singing.

Of course, these are only my opinions. I believe that some people like Carpenters' version.

Robert Palmer's version sits well amongst the other tracks on his 'Some People Can Do What They Like' album, which all have a more funky feel. Reggae-flavoured tracks and others tinged with Calypso feature on the album, later on. In fact, 'Off the Bone' returns to a very similar chord structure to 'Man Smart, Women Smarter', almost like a reprise, and, once again, features the Calypso steel drums. 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter' seems a bit more out of place on 'Passage' than it does on 'Some People Can Do What They Like'.

I must say, though, I do give Richard and Karen marks for trying something different - in the case of 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter', 'On the Balcony' and 'B'Wana She No Home' - and, especially, for 'Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft' - at least, the single version.

I had forgotten about some of the history of 'Man Smart (Woman Smarter)' as a song, until I looked it up on Wikipedia. It was first recorded by King Radio, (Norman Span), in 1936. Harry Belafonte's version was on his US Number One album in 1956. Other artists who have recorded the song, apart from Carpenters and Robert Palmer, are Joan Baez, Rosanne Cash, Chubby Checker, Dr. Victor and Ratdog. The Grateful Dead used to frequently perform it live. And, apparently, it was sung by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, with others, in a 1957 episode of 'I Love Lucy'.

The fact that Karen and Richard chose to record the track has always puzzled me, (although I recognise their wish to change direction), but the choice makes sense when you realise that the song seems to be firmly fixed in the history of American popular music, popping up again and again. With Richard's prodigious talent and interest in music, even before he started school, it is possible that he was aware in his young years of Harry Belafonte's version, as Belafonte's Number One album would still have been receiving major attention as Richard was growing up. The fact that one of Karen's comedy favourites, Lucille Ball, sang 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter' provides another strong clue as to why Karen and Richard might have chosen it. Both Richard and Karen may have had a connection with the song going way back.

For those of you who may be a bit annoyed with my appraisal of Robert Palmer's version of 'Man Smart, Woman Smarter' in comparison to Carpenters', I even gave the song a plug as a possible single follow-up to "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" on the official review thread for that song, as MSWS would have emphasised Karen's and Richard's change of style.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I like Robert Palmer's Man Smart, Woman Smarter.
And, I almost like Carpenters' version:
but, I feel Carpenters' version warrants a new (stripped-down and clarified) MIX.
It is not such a bad song, but the version on Passage almost has too much happening in the song,
and there is the issue of the un-musical sounding instrument (at 5-6 seconds in).
There are ten instruments throughout the song, including Conga--
but, I can barely distinguish it in the mix, and I love congas !
 

Brian

Well-Known Member
Carpenters' version warrants a new (stripped-down and clarified) MIX. The version on Passage almost has too much happening in the song. There are ten instruments throughout the song, including Conga-- but, I can barely distinguish it in the mix, and I love congas !
Exactly. A clearer mix might improve the sound of the song a lot.
 
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