🎧 Podcast CARPENTERS: Q&A, Ep. 5: "Christmas Portrait" (Special Edition)

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Hi Chris, thank you for your videos and book. As an OG Carpenters fan (14 when I bought CTY in 1970) I appreciate all you have done. I wrote two posts on your YouTube channel. One in this Christmas topic and one where you demonstrated the harmonies of We’ve Only. I won’t repeat them here as I can go long, sorry. I do wish you take a look at them as I linked and asked questions. I think you will enjoy what I linked, I do. I’ve never been so moved. We’re talking goosebumps and chills, moved. They are recent posts so they should be at or very near the top.
Thank You and an early Merry Christmas,
Joe
 
Just caught up with this video, Chris. Thanks for your insight - always so fascinating to hear the background to how tracks were recorded, and what was going on in Richard & Karen's world as they were producing these records.
Both Christmas albums have always held a special place in my affections - certainly for the recordings themselves, but also because I had always found Karen's singing to be so remarkable and Richard's production to be such perfection that I was always intrigued by some little slip-ups on these albums which don't appear elsewhere in their recorded output. I know people are going to roll their eyes over these small 'mistakes', and I hasten to add that they in no way spoil the recordings for me, but hearing more about what was happening with Richard at the time, and how much of the work was farmed out to others, it makes more sense.
You discuss two of the little slips - Karen singing "Christiandom" rather than "Christendom", and Richard singing "SHALL ransom captive Israel" rather than "AND ransom captive Israel", but there's a third which has always niggled at me. Karen's breath control was absolutely remarkable (you never hear ANY cover artists sing "Time and time again the chance for love has passed me by and all I know of love is how to live without it" in one breath!!!), so it's all the more unusual to hear her actually breathe in the middle of a word on Christmas Portrait. At the end of "Ave Maria", she sings "Nunc et in hora, in ho-(breath)-ora mortis nostrae". Know, I know - people are going to argue that it's in Latin, and no-one's going to notice, and what does it matter even if they do; but at the end of the day, Richard & Karen were both such perfectionists, it saddens me just a little that no-one caught it. Richard would NEVER have let her breathe in the middle of an English word; and I'm sure if someone had pointed it out to her, Karen would have corrected her phrasing and found a way to do it correctly. It is difficult to find a good place to breathe in that final section, but most have found a way to manage it. It proves to me that both of them were human - although pretty much all of their other output was so perfect, it sometimes makes you wonder!
At some point, you might ask Richard if he's ever noticed it!
"Have Yourself..." is not only my favorite from this album, but my favorite lead vocal of any song, by anyone, ever.
 
Just caught up with this video, Chris. Thanks for your insight - always so fascinating to hear the background to how tracks were recorded, and what was going on in Richard & Karen's world as they were producing these records.
Both Christmas albums have always held a special place in my affections - certainly for the recordings themselves, but also because I had always found Karen's singing to be so remarkable and Richard's production to be such perfection that I was always intrigued by some little slip-ups on these albums which don't appear elsewhere in their recorded output. I know people are going to roll their eyes over these small 'mistakes', and I hasten to add that they in no way spoil the recordings for me, but hearing more about what was happening with Richard at the time, and how much of the work was farmed out to others, it makes more sense.
You discuss two of the little slips - Karen singing "Christiandom" rather than "Christendom", and Richard singing "SHALL ransom captive Israel" rather than "AND ransom captive Israel", but there's a third which has always niggled at me. Karen's breath control was absolutely remarkable (you never hear ANY cover artists sing "Time and time again the chance for love has passed me by and all I know of love is how to live without it" in one breath!!!), so it's all the more unusual to hear her actually breathe in the middle of a word on Christmas Portrait. At the end of "Ave Maria", she sings "Nunc et in hora, in ho-(breath)-ora mortis nostrae". Know, I know - people are going to argue that it's in Latin, and no-one's going to notice, and what does it matter even if they do; but at the end of the day, Richard & Karen were both such perfectionists, it saddens me just a little that no-one caught it. Richard would NEVER have let her breathe in the middle of an English word; and I'm sure if someone had pointed it out to her, Karen would have corrected her phrasing and found a way to do it correctly. It is difficult to find a good place to breathe in that final section, but most have found a way to manage it. It proves to me that both of them were human - although pretty much all of their other output was so perfect, it sometimes makes you wonder!
At some point, you might ask Richard if he's ever noticed it!
I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast. Thank you for sharing.
 


As a longtime Carpenters historian and coauthor of “Carpenters: The Musical Legacy” (with Mike Cidoni Lennox and Richard Carpenter, © 2021), I answer a number of questions submitted to me directly by Carpenters fans related to the duo’s Christmas catalog, while laying out a comprehensive breakdown of how the “Christmas Portrait” album was conceived—including its overall lack of promotion by A&M Records in 1978.

I also get into the Carpenters’ relationship to ABC with regard to the television specials, Mom & Dad Carpenter’s involvement in the second Christmas special in ’78 (which includes audio from a 2021 interview with Richard Carpenter), and Karen’s solo appearance on “Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night” in the UK in December that same year—a trip in which she was led to believe was set up to promote the “Christmas Portrait” album, only to find out otherwise after she arrived.

If you’re a fan of the Carpenters’ Christmas oeuvre including the behind-the-scenes backstory and trivia, you’ll want to check this out!

Chris, thank you for this, and for everything you do. This is such a wonderful, in-depth exploration of Richard and Karen's work! I have always loved the original recording of "Merry Christmas, Darling" (I'm one of those who prefers the original to the re-recorded version). And, when I first heard "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" on the Perry Como special, I was so excited. I thought it heralded a new, energized Singers Unlimited jazz-style era in the Carpenters' music. Instead, they went a different direction. But I am happy to have what we got!
 
... I have always loved the original recording of "Merry Christmas, Darling" (I'm one of those who prefers the original to the re-recorded version).

You've just got to love Karen's exuberant voice of the late 60s/early 70s, but by the time of the re-recording her voice had become noticeably more resonant. It was richer and warmer - more mature. And her singing style - how she approached and handled a song - was much improved too. As with "Ticket to Ride" the only singer who could possibly have improved on the young Karen was the older Karen. And, I think the way she again re-recorded the song for the Bruce Forsyth show was masterful, and may be the best version of all...

And, when I first heard "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" on the Perry Como special, I was so excited...
Me too - love this - they were naturals for this style of music, this Jazzy, Blusey sound - to bad this didn't make it onto the CP album, as it deserved to be showcased there on the first and best Christmas album.
 
You've just got to love Karen's exuberant voice of the late 60s/early 70s, but by the time of the re-recording her voice had become noticeably more resonant. It was richer and warmer - more mature. And her singing style - how she approached and handled a song - was much improved too. As with "Ticket to Ride" the only singer who could possibly have improved on the young Karen was the older Karen. And, I think the way she again re-recorded the song for the Bruce Forsyth show was masterful, and may be the best version of all...


Me too - love this - they were naturals for this style of music, this Jazzy, Blusey sound - to bad this didn't make it onto the CP album, as it deserved to be showcased there on the first and best Christmas album.
He just forgot to include it on there given his being so out of touch with everything while in the throes of his addiction. If the original Portrait album could be modified to be made more ‘complete’ (unlike The Special Edition from ‘84), he would include the full-length version of “Santa Claus,” “Home For the Holidays,” and “Little Altar Boy.”
 
He just forgot to include it on there given his being so out of touch with everything while in the throes of his addiction. If the original Portrait album could be modified to be made more ‘complete’ (unlike The Special Edition from ‘84), he would include the full-length version of “Santa Claus,” “Home For the Holidays,” and “Little Altar Boy.”
Wouldn’t that have made it a 2 LP set? :wink:
 
Those three added would make the album around 59 minutes long, which in the LP format, is close to the limit for length. It would have made the grooves really small and close together which would make the album's dynamics suffer.

I suppose you could get rid of the short "Santa Claus Is Comin" interlude. Most "Karen fans" would easily lose "Carol Of The Bells". You might have to get rid of the Overture too.
 
Those three added would make the album around 59 minutes long, which in the LP format, is close to the limit for length. It would have made the grooves really small and close together which would make the album's dynamics suffer.

I suppose you could get rid of the short "Santa Claus Is Comin" interlude. Most "Karen fans" would easily lose "Carol Of The Bells". You might have to get rid of the Overture too.
Losing those 3 frees up about 11 minutes - Chris's 3 additions requires about 10 - switch them - quality and time gain for CP! Let's do it...wait, are we forgetting someone? :)
 
Losing those 3 frees up about 11 minutes - Chris's 3 additions requires about 10 - switch them - quality and time gain for CP! Let's do it...wait, are we forgetting someone? :)
Brutal!! :laugh:
 
Though I played the "minutes" game above, my personal opinion is to leave everything on the two LPs that we've gotten. They both flow perfectly.

The only changes I'd make would be to fix the mixes on the first CD to be more like the original LP with a lot less reverb than the remixed album. And I'd want the original single mix of "Santa Claus..." on the second album.
 
he would include the full-length version of “Santa Claus,” “Home For the Holidays,” and “Little Altar Boy.”
What would have been really cool back in 1978…

Richard suggested to A&M to add those three extra tracks above on a limited edition of Christmas Portrait pressing, sticker on front limited edition 2000 pressings includes a bonus LP mastered at 45RPM on red or green maybe even gold colored vinyl.

Can you imagine to this day fans would be looking for this limited run for their collections and prices would be through the Christmas chimney :laugh: (pun intended)
 
"what-if" Richard were to do a new release on EP (extended play)....he could put all the great ones together, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Sleigh Ride, I'll Be Home for Christmas, Merry Christmas Darling and the new mix for Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. That's just under 20 minutes. Kind of a Carpenters Greatest Christmas Hits!
 
Here's my "what-if." How about if Richard would mix the complete two albums together? He could do the RPO/remix treatment where necessary, put in any other fixes he wants, take out anything he's fallen out of love with, rearrange the running order to suit the mixture of material, maybe add a vocal or two of his own, and tie various things together with new orchestral passages. The whole thing could be released on digital formats in one playlist, and could be engineered with a break in the middle to make a 2-CD package. It could be called An Old Fashioned Christmas Portrait - The Definitive Carpenters Christmas Album.
 
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