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Official Review [Box Set]: "FROM THE TOP" (AM75021/6875)

HOW WOULD YOU RATE THIS BOX SET?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 43 53.8%
  • ****

    Votes: 28 35.0%
  • ***

    Votes: 7 8.8%
  • **

    Votes: 1 1.3%
  • * (WORST)

    Votes: 1 1.3%

  • Total voters
    80

byline

Well-Known Member
Walter, I disagree. She's singing flat throughout much of the song ... which is odd, given her ear for precise pitch. I've never been able to fathom how that version was accepted by either Karen or Richard. As the consummate professionals (and perfectionists) they were, I can't figure out why they didn't do another take. Maybe there were constraints on their time in the studio. Dunno. But there's no question in my mind that Karen was singing flat on that song. A rarity, to be sure. But it's there.
 
It was accepted and they didn't do another take because, simply, is not under pitch. I have no explanations for this dissent other than what you read may affect what you hear.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
I'm going to throw something out there regarding "Ticket To Ride" and this 'being flat' business. While I won't deny that there's something amiss with the stereo album version on OFFERING, I think it may be attributable to that mix. If you listen to the single mix in mono, it doesn't sound as "off" as the album version does. Could it be that the single was mixed first, and then something happened in the stereo mix for the album?

There are all kinds of "punch-in" sounds as various elements enter in the opening of the stereo version. I wonder if Karen's vocal track was laid over-top of an accompaniment that was slightly off-key?

Harry
 

byline

Well-Known Member
Well, this is going to be a circular argument. I hear it because it's there. I never read about Karen singing off-key till many years later. I heard her voice as being under-pitch long before I read about it. So published material has nothing to do with it. Her rerecorded version for the Singles album is sublime and perfectly on pitch. I'll bet if the two vocals were overlaid, one on top of the other, the vibrations between the two – one on pitch, the other not – would be like nails on a chalkboard.

Harry, you offer up a good theory for why Karen's vocal on the original release sounds off-pitch. (The only version I've ever heard is the album track.) It's possible it wasn't her singing at all, but maybe instrumentals that were rerecorded later on? It's plausible ... but still makes me wonder how that final product was acceptable to Karen and Richard. Well, obviously it wasn't, as they felt compelled to rerecord it years later.
 
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Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
There is something different about the mono 45 compared to the original album version. I'm leaning that it might be something in the mix as Harry pointed out. To me, the mono 45 mix sounds softer/more pleasant to listen to, when you listen to them side by side you can tell immediately that the album version seems to enhance the "singing off key" more, a tad harsher sounding?

I have personally never liked the original album version because of this, it's amazing how Karen sounds on the re-record compared to the original album version (like a whole different singer)
 

Chris May

Resident 'Carpenterologist'
Thread Starter
Staff member
Moderator
She's not. Those references are wrong.
Not to throw my $.02 in here, but as a seasoned music director and arranger myself, along with Richard's personal citing, Karen's lead vocal performance was sub-par and most definitely pitchy. I won't even listen to it when choosing the track - I always start with the additional recording/remix (and subsequent remixes) from '73 which includes the updated vocal lead.
 

Rudy

ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ
Staff member
Site Admin
Not to throw my $.02 in here, but as a seasoned music director and arranger myself, along with Richard's personal citing, Karen's lead vocal performance was sub-par and most definitely pitchy. I won't even listen to it when choosing the track - I always start with the additional recording/remix (and subsequent remixes) from '73.
My painful affliction of having perfect pitch noticed right away her pitch was all over the map on that original cut.

It reminds me of mixing live sound for a band, where my singers couldn't hear themselves through the on-stage monitors. (For those who aren't familiar, the on-stage monitors help vocalists hear the music and themselves so they can adjust their vocal pitch on the fly. The sound onstage is literally too loud for vocalists to hear themselves.) Could have been a poor monitoring situation in this case.

Or, it could be a mistakenly used guide vocal on the multitrack where she sang a guide part with not much care as to how "on" the pitch was. That may explain why a mono and stereo mix might differ.
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
I was trying to think what compilations Richard decided to use the original mix on and realized Harry already posted it on the resource site.

Original album version:
OFFERING/TICKET TO RIDE and all CDs of these titles
CARPENTERS COLLECTED
JAPANESE SINGLE BOX
ULTIMATE COLLECTION (NL)

That is really only 2 compilations because we can't really count the Japan Single Box set as it's a given the original would be featured on that set. The 73 re-record has hit many many more compilations, this speaks volumes.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
While the earlier vocal on Ticket To Ride may rank as sub-par, even off-pitch,
I may be the only person on the Planet where that 1969 version is preferred to the later rerecorded vocal.
Those differences are apparent-- but, Karen Carpenter's vocal delivery had matured quite a bit by late 1973, and
I merely attributed the earlier vocal to a 'still-developing' style of vocal delivery.
But, the song --in 1969-- is quite a precursor to that which came later.
Brilliant accomplishment by the duo.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
If you haven't hear it, take a listen to the original single mono mix. It's on YouTube here:


To me this sounds less "off" than the album version in stereo.

Harry
 

Don Malcolm

Well-Known Member
There is something different about the mono 45 compared to the original album version. I'm leaning that it might be something in the mix as Harry pointed out. To me, the mono 45 mix sounds softer/more pleasant to listen to, when you listen to them side by side you can tell immediately that the album version seems to enhance the "singing off key" more, a tad harsher sounding?

I have personally never liked the original album version because of this, it's amazing how Karen sounds on the re-record compared to the original album version (like a whole different singer)
That's because, by 1973, she is a totally different singer. She'd refined and smoothed out her "vocal fry" and softened the edges of her delivery over the ensuing song selections. She'd perfected the qualities of "effortless" and "artless" and had made movement up and down her vocal range as seamless as any singer ever.

Of course, putting it this way overstates things, because she's still Karen Carpenter. But the early Karen, still raw and acquiring her polish, is a staggering talent brimming with intensity, power, and variable nuance. That's 60s energy coursing through these vocals; it shows up all over OFFERING/TICKET TO RIDE and recedes over time until that aspect of her singing has been assimilated into a smooth gestalt.

I think Harry raises an extremely important point, which is that vocals attain different qualities based on just how they are placed into the context of the arrangements in which they sit. (Listen to how Karen is mixed into the two versions of "Road Ode" for another example: both vocals and instrumentals remixed and reshaped.) I wouldn't presume to argue with our various musical experts about pitch issues, as it's clear that something is amiss in the vocal/instrumental blend on the original LP version of "Ticket." But that in and of itself does not detract from the power and longing in the original vocal, primed more as an "rock" offset to Richard's "torch song" arrangement--a tension in the blend that, if nothing else, reminds us that the C's began as a musical unit with wide-ranging (and, indeed, competing) influences, which broke across the surface of their early recordings in fascinating and thrilling ways. IMHO it is entirely possible to prefer the original performance for these reasons.

I think by 1973 that "earlier Karen" simply started to stick out like a sore thumb for them, and, given the original prominence of the song for them (its songwriting lineage, and the fact that it was their first single) they both felt compelled to bring the track more into line with what they'd become.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
Playing around in Audacity, I've determined that the LP version of "Ticket To Ride" runs 0.2% slower than the 45 single version. That might serve to accentuate any slight under-pitch that might be occurring on the track, and could account for the reason that the single, running slightly faster, sounds less "off".

Harry
 

Chris May

Resident 'Carpenterologist'
Thread Starter
Staff member
Moderator
That's because, by 1973, she is a totally different singer. She'd refined and smoothed out her "vocal fry" and softened the edges of her delivery over the ensuing song selections. She'd perfected the qualities of "effortless" and "artless" and had made movement up and down her vocal range as seamless as any singer ever.

Of course, putting it this way overstates things, because she's still Karen Carpenter. But the early Karen, still raw and acquiring her polish, is a staggering talent brimming with intensity, power, and variable nuance. That's 60s energy coursing through these vocals; it shows up all over OFFERING/TICKET TO RIDE and recedes over time until that aspect of her singing has been assimilated into a smooth gestalt.

I think Harry raises an extremely important point, which is that vocals attain different qualities based on just how they are placed into the context of the arrangements in which they sit. (Listen to how Karen is mixed into the two versions of "Road Ode" for another example: both vocals and instrumentals remixed and reshaped.) I wouldn't presume to argue with our various musical experts about pitch issues, as it's clear that something is amiss in the vocal/instrumental blend on the original LP version of "Ticket." But that in and of itself does not detract from the power and longing in the original vocal, primed more as an "rock" offset to Richard's "torch song" arrangement--a tension in the blend that, if nothing else, reminds us that the C's began as a musical unit with wide-ranging (and, indeed, competing) influences, which broke across the surface of their early recordings in fascinating and thrilling ways. IMHO it is entirely possible to prefer the original performance for these reasons.

I think by 1973 that "earlier Karen" simply started to stick out like a sore thumb for them, and, given the original prominence of the song for them (its songwriting lineage, and the fact that it was their first single) they both felt compelled to bring the track more into line with what they'd become.
All great points, Don! If I may add one more piece of insight. Remember, Offering was a rush job and was completed by the end of the summer of '69 according to Richard. In fact, even a few of the rhythm tracks were transferred from the 4-track 'demo' masters over to the 8-track machines at A&M for re-recording of sweetening and vocals for this album. If you listen to Karen's lead on Don't Be Afraid, she definitely (at least to my ears anyway) sounds much more like the mature Karen we got to know over subsequent years. However, the Ticket lead sounds much more raw and like a work-lead to me. I think time constraint mixed with the then, lack of experience explains the pitch concerns with the vocal. Just my $02. :D
 

Chris Mills

It's just the radio.
If your first listen to "Ticket To Ride" or "Top Of The World" came from the re-recorded versions, I think any listener would be amazed by the differing vocal styles used on the original recordings. Luckily for a lot of us we heard the recordings as they were released, so the impact of Karen's change of vocals was not as dramatic, but the change is undeniable. Same goes for "Merry Christmas Darling", another example of how Karen's voice changed.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
It was accepted and they didn't do another take because, simply, is not under pitch. I have no explanations for this dissent other than what you read may affect what you hear.
We can't all be wrong. I heard what I heard on that original album long before I read any references and all I can say is that I trust my own ears.

Do you hear what I hear? LOL!
:laugh:
 
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
And, along these same lines, the differences in vocal delivery in the 1972 Top of the World
versus the 1973 version heard on Album The Singles 1969-1973.
Obviously, they were intended to be different, one a bit more country, the later much more pop,
but, Karen Carpenter performs both flawlessly--quite the versatile songstress!
 

Rudy

ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ
Staff member
Site Admin
Of course, putting it this way overstates things, because she's still Karen Carpenter. But the early Karen, still raw and acquiring her polish, is a staggering talent brimming with intensity, power, and variable nuance. That's 60s energy coursing through these vocals; it shows up all over OFFERING/TICKET TO RIDE and recedes over time until that aspect of her singing has been assimilated into a smooth gestalt.
That may be why, despite the vocals being a bit raw and wavering pitch-wise, I prefer the original. To hear that original is like a time capsule of the group and its members, and its vocalist, at that exact point in time. I don't expect Offering to ever sound like Horizon, either in sound quality or the members' proficiency.

The re-record definitely has more polish and sounds nicer as a finished product, agreed, but to me it lost something in the translation. I don't mind cringing a bit if a few notes are slipped or a part is flubbed. Makes the recording more human. That is also why I do not like any of the tracks remixed and re-recorded. The problem is that if you are recording new parts in the mid 80s or mid 90s onto a master that originated in the 70s, you are not only tampering with one of those snapshots in time, the recorded sound quality is way off. Even hopping from 1969 to a few years later, we're comparing demo-quality tapes to something with more studio spit and polish.

That would be like digitally overdubbing new guitar and slap bass onto some 50s mono Elvis tracks, or sprucing up the Beatles' first US #1 hit, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," by wiping out Ringo's drums and having him re-record his parts. Things just don't match up.

The re-recorded parts also do not have the same feel as the originals; musicians have grown and changed over the course of 10 or 20 years, and of course they are going to play better and more precisely in newer takes. The re-recordings ruin that original feel; if anything, the newly recorded parts lack feeling and sound more robotic and sterile. Not something I like, in other words, unless I'm listening to electronica. (He says, as "Policy of Truth" is his earworm-of-the-day. :laugh: )

That's why it was nice to have the Remastered Classics series: I got to purchase the albums as they were intended and as originally released, in the format I grew up listening to. Yet the remixed and re-recorded tracks are still out there for everyone who enjoys them. So, the listeners could make their own choice on what they want to listen to. And, that's all good! The only bad side is that the Remastered Classics series is slowly disappearing...
 
We can't all be wrong. I heard what I heard on that original album long before I read any references
You can and you are. It's a group auditory illusion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory_illusion

An auditory illusion is an illusion of hearing, the aural equivalent of an optical illusion: the listener hears either sounds which are not present in the stimulus, or "impossible" sounds.[1]
and all I can say is that I trust my own ears.
Don't.
 

Don Malcolm

Well-Known Member
I understand where you're coming from, Rudy. And I, too, treasure the original records and the Remastered Classics CDs for the same reasons that you do.

That said, there are certainly cases where Richard has elevated the original intent and taken a song into a new realm. I think it would be a mistake to discount all of Richard's later tinkering on such a basis, even while maintaining a sound and healthy skepticism about these efforts and their impact on original intent/achievement.

I think it's fair to stipulate that Richard was working under a great deal of pressure during the early years--particularly in the first couple of years after they hit big and began spending so much time on the road. He took his best shot at arranging and mixing/mastering those songs, both in terms of time and technological constraints. While it's difficult to separate revisionist impluses into good/bad or acceptable/unacceptable, we should at least try to look for those cases where Richard's efforts in this area go beyond the somewhat suspect standards that often get applied in these cases. That was one reason I singled out "Road Ode" as an example of how that impulse (despite its inherent dangers...) can have a payoff that transcends the generic objections to the practice. In this example, at least, it certainly does for me...

--Chris May, thanks so much for that brief taste of the recording history behind OFFERING. It really whets my appetite for more details about those sessions. To your knowledge, are there still extant records of those work sessions detailing what was done when? Beach Boys fans have (arguably) taken such investigations to extremes, of course, due to the circumstances surrounding the legendary SMILE album, and I don't want to go too far down that road--but it would be interesting to see just how and when Richard and Karen put things together (particularly that first time out of Joe Osborn's garage!!).
:tiphat:
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Richard Carpenter (July 1975 A&M Compendium):
" That album ( Ticket to Ride/Offering ) I had in my mind finished years before we got the contract. That wasn't where I was
at the time we signed, and some of it could have been better, but you can hear that the ideas were there. Time-signature changes,
extended solos, and things that we don't do now. I should have just forgotten it and gotten down to where I was at the moment.
But it was like I had to do that album, I didn't care if we had gotten signed in 1980.That was what the first album was going to sound like.
And, that's what we did. And, that's why there is such a big difference between the Close To You album and the Ticket to Ride album."
 

arthowson

Active Member
Not to throw my $.02 in here, but as a seasoned music director and arranger myself, along with Richard's personal citing, Karen's lead vocal performance was sub-par and most definitely pitchy. I won't even listen to it when choosing the track - I always start with the additional recording/remix (and subsequent remixes) from '73 which includes the updated vocal lead.
The Ticket to Ride on Your Navy Presents in 1970 is much better than the 1969 album. Karen had a cold during the Ticket '69 performance and her inner ear may have suffered. Her performance on Ticket and Someday weren't up to snuff. Richard worked his magic and made All of my Life and Eve sound amazing on From the Top and the KC Story. Also prefer RC's version of Get Together, but I wish he'd remix and remove the doubling and distortion.
 
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