• The new Carpenters recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is now available. Use this link to order, and help us out at the same time. Thank you!

⭐ Official Review Carpenters Royal Philharmonic Review and Comments Thread

How would you rate Carpenters with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra?

  • ⁕⁕⁕⁕⁕ (Best)

    Votes: 32 35.2%
  • ⁕⁕⁕⁕

    Votes: 42 46.2%
  • ⁕⁕⁕ (Average)

    Votes: 14 15.4%
  • ⁕⁕

    Votes: 1 1.1%
  • ⁕ (Worst)

    Votes: 1 1.1%
  • Did not listen to this album yet

    Votes: 1 1.1%

  • Total voters
    91

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
One of the best songs of the entire project was Please Mr. Postman....absolutely inspired, and more people should hear it.

I don’t think I’ve ever really posted about this track specifically but I just listened to it again and I’d agree it’s an inspired arrangement, so it’s ironic that it didn’t make the final tracklist outside of Japan. That second verse was so unexpected the first time I heard it but much more akin to what has been done on other RPO albums. Top marks for this one!
 

JohnFB

Well-Known Member
My opinions regarding this album are already here in the thread. I'll instead postulate that if it's accurate that a significant number of the buying public actually feel this album wasn't "changed" enough from the original songs - "hardly perceptible" additions and such - then we'll not see another RPO album, in my view. I can't see Richard ever doing that; at the risk of speaking for Richard (hah!), and also agreeing with him, the songs are too close to perfect as-is, and while major alterations would check the "adventurous" and "different" boxes, the songs would ultimately be lesser for it.

One "new" thought on this, does occur; I'm not sure how the focus could possibly remain on Karen's vocals and their harmonies, if there was a big, bombastic orchestral alteration to the songs. I'll add the caveat that maybe it can be done; I'm not a musician. But it seems fundamentally contradictory to me. If I'm right, I think you'd read a lot more negative reviews that you do with this album, now.
But, there is one thing that could and should have been done on this album that would have made a big difference in how it's perceived, interpreted and appreciated, very especially in relation to Karen's vocals and their quality - which is, after all, the most important factor in any evaluation of Carpenter music. I've mentioned this before ad nasuem to the chagrin of some - I believe in this 100% and will continue to enthusiastically promote it: REMOVE ALL DOUBLE-TRACKING BY KAREN ON LEAD VOCALS - it's that simple yet that critical. All other changes and enhancements are just gravy, mere window dressing...Karen's voice is the heart and soul of their music.

However, it's too damn late now - Richard really screwed this up by clinging to an artificial and unprofessional 70 year old recording technique invented by a pretty good guitarist so his wife, who had a decent voice and didn't really need it, could sound like a one woman quartet...
 

GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
I would bet he already recorded more songs when he went back to England to do more work, and publicity there. Just waiting to maybe release them in some kind of collection eventually. It would be a welcome treat if so. 🤞
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
I've mentioned this before ad nasuem to the chagrin of some - I believe in this 100% and will continue to enthusiastically promote it: REMOVE ALL DOUBLE-TRACKING BY KAREN ON LEAD VOCALS - it's that simple yet that critical. All other changes and enhancements are just gravy, mere window dressing...Karen's voice is the heart and soul of their music.

However, it's too damn late now - Richard really screwed this up by clinging to an artificial and unprofessional 70 year old recording technique invented by a pretty good guitarist so his wife, who had a decent voice and didn't really need it, could sound like a one woman quartet...

Yes John, we've heard. We know your feeling. There are those of us who love and appreciate that sound, believe it or not.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
I stand corrected in my earlier comment that I hadn’t posted before about Postman (pardon the pun). I did in December 2018:

To remove the rhythm section in verse two and replace it with strings only was a genius move. For some reason though, I still don’t think it would have fit anywhere on the album. It’s almost like an outtake. Nice to have as a bonus track though. I wonder if Those Good Old Dreams will ever see the light of day?

Speaking of which...

I would bet he already recorded more songs when he went back to England to do more work, and publicity there. Just waiting to maybe release them in some kind of collection eventually. It would be a welcome treat if so. 🤞

...Those Good Old Dreams was recorded as part of the sessions but left off the album.
 

ars nova

Well-Known Member
i don't know what richard's position was for completing this project. was it to improve the impeccable? was it to reach a wider audience?

i have to take other's opinion that there were technical flaws in the recordings; i do not possess an educated ear. i couldn't discern an air conditioner or feedback in karen's headphone; i can't really distinguish four violins as opposed to eight, but, i had always thought the ending of MERRY CHRISTMAS DARLING sounded muddy.

i have experienced those songs since my teenage years, although i didn't like the use of choirs; my feeling is if it isn't richard and karen, it's not a true CARPENTERS recording, but time schedules and the inevitable created a need. with the original recordings, there was nothing to improve. however, if you want to create more interest, instrumentally, they could be altered. i have always felt ONE LOVE could be scored to accompany a pas de deux, the perfect piano solo in THIS MASQUERADE could be updated, the overly sweet mixing could be toned down in BEACHWOOD 4-5789. making it more aggressive, like DA DOO RON RON. most of all, use the RPO!! have an inspired overture, expand the transitions between the tracks, really highlight the added flourishes!!

i'm not buying anymore repackaged anthologies. the RPO production was not a letdown, but, it could have been much more.
 
Last edited:

JohnFB

Well-Known Member
Yes John, we've heard. We know your feeling. There are those of us who love and appreciate that sound, believe it or not.
Well, Harry, I accept you and others at your word about this and, of course, fully support your right to your opinion(s), but...

I do find it really hard to believe that that "sound" is loved and appreciated, very especially by some who know as much about music in general and Carpenter's music in particular as any group anywhere, and who otherwise knock themselves out raving about Karen's incomparably beautiful voice...it's a "puzzlement"...
 
Last edited:

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
@JohnFB, I hope you get a chance to listen to the sample that Chris May posted in another thread with Karen's lead "un-doubled".

 

JohnFB

Well-Known Member
@JohnFB, I hope you get a chance to listen to the sample that Chris May posted in another thread with Karen's lead "un-doubled".

Thanks for the "heads up" - I just did and posted my usual pithy comments...
 

JohnFB

Well-Known Member
There are times when the doubling of Karen's vocals triggers the goosebump effect for me.
That doubling only triggers the "cringe factor" in me - I want very much to love & enjoy certain of their songs ("I Won't Last a Day Without You", as one of a small set of examples) but I can barely listen all the way thru and have to force myself to do so...I keep imagining what might have been...
 

LondonRobert

Well-Known Member
There are times when the doubling of Karen's vocals triggers the goosebump effect for me.
Not sure if Karen's vocal is doubled, but i love it when Karen AND richard sing together ' sing, sing a song' after the instrumental build up quite a way into the track - that addition of Richard's voice for that line - gives me goosebumps
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
I guess there are those who don't like doubled vocals, and others who don't like "electric" guitar, others who don't like the drums mixed too loud, and still others who long for even more orchestration than we've heard. If anything, these recent threads prove that you can't ever please everyone.

I mean, is there a Carpenters record that EVERYBODY likes without reservation? I've been around these parts long enough, I think we've seen random beefs about just about every song or album at one time or another.

I mean, I love the song "Saturday." Some hate it. I wish there were more Richard lead vocals on the later albums (because I like the variety and sense of fun in the earlier albums that was missing from the more "serious" later ones). As much as I love Karen's voice, I liked it better when she WASN'T the 'star.' It made for more interesting LPs.

But, like I said, different strokes.
 

David A

Well-Known Member
I guess there are those who don't like doubled vocals, and others who don't like "electric" guitar, others who don't like the drums mixed too loud, and still others who long for even more orchestration than we've heard. If anything, these recent threads prove that you can't ever please everyone.

I mean, is there a Carpenters record that EVERYBODY likes without reservation? I've been around these parts long enough, I think we've seen random beefs about just about every song or album at one time or another.

I mean, I love the song "Saturday." Some hate it. I wish there were more Richard lead vocals on the later albums (because I like the variety and sense of fun in the earlier albums that was missing from the more "serious" later ones). As much as I love Karen's voice, I liked it better when she WASN'T the 'star.' It made for more interesting LPs.

But, like I said, different strokes.

Anyone who has an issue with Superstar needs their head examined :laugh:

I'd point out that while I LOVE Superstar, it's not my top favorite - but only because another song carries more personal life experience and emotion attached. Regardless, Superstar is perfection incarnate.

Keeping this in line with the thread, I'd add that while the touches Richard adds in the RPO version of Superstar are very nice, in my view they weren't "needed"; the song was perfect already. The RPO version is a nice, and subtle, variation on that perfection.
 

JohnFB

Well-Known Member
Anyone who has an issue with Superstar needs their head examined :laugh:

I'd point out that while I LOVE Superstar, it's not my top favorite - but only because another song carries more personal life experience and emotion attached. Regardless, Superstar is perfection incarnate.

Keeping this in line with the thread, I'd add that while the touches Richard adds in the RPO version of Superstar are very nice, in my view they weren't "needed"; the song was perfect already. The RPO version is a nice, and subtle, variation on that perfection.
I've never been fully convinced that the French horn interludes in the beginning just before the first verse, and then again in the middle section just before the second verse were the best instruments to use at those points - maybe trumpets instead, especially since they also figure so prominently in the rousing choruses, or an oboe/flute duet...

And as far as Karen's vocal performance goes I far prefer her live rendition on the BBC concert in 1971 as opposed to the "official" studio version - for all the reasons I've elaborated on elsewhere and at length recently - she kills this there!

Having said that, can you point me in the direction of the shrink's couch?
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
I've never been fully convinced that the French horn interludes in the beginning just before the first verse, and then again in the middle section just before the second verse were the best instruments to use at those points - maybe trumpets instead, especially since they also figure so prominently in the rousing choruses, or an oboe/flute duet...

And as far as Karen's vocal performance goes I far prefer her live rendition on the BBC concert in 1971 as opposed to the "official" studio version - for all the reasons I've elaborated on elsewhere and at length recently - she kills this there!

Having said that, can you point me in the direction of the shrink's?
Come on man! I LOVE the French horns!! Really sets the tone for Karen's brilliant melancholy reading. "Paging Dr Freud! Paging Dr Freud!"
 

JohnFB

Well-Known Member
Come on man! I LOVE the French horns!! Really sets the tone for Karen's brilliant melancholy reading. "Paging Dr Freud! Paging Dr Freud!"
Little did I suspect that expressing an opinion about my lack of preference for - of all things - French horns would cause anyone consternation or frustration...

However, I stand by that opinion, but now that I think about it a "fuzz guitar" solo at these two points in the song by Tony P. would have been ideal since she makes reference to the sweet and sad guitar in the lyrics...

Besides, the "French horns" that we hear on the record are not actually real French horns being played by a small ensemble of live brass musicians - no credit is given for any such French horn players in the album details on Richard's website - I suspect that sound was produced by a "voice setting" on his Wurlitzer Electric piano - i can create the same sound on my Yamaha Digital piano.

The French horn sound is also used during the live BBC concert, but there are no players there in the band.

I'm not sure but I do think that real French horns were actually added for the RPO album since that orchestra has a full compliment of them.

French horns for you - a fuzz guitar for me - it's all good - Karen is going to start singing any second now...

Come on man! I LOVE the French horns!! Really sets the tone for Karen's brilliant melancholy reading. "Paging Dr Freud! Paging Dr Freud!"
 

JohnFB

Well-Known Member
The 1971 BBC concert included an orchestra playing wind and string instruments.
I can't recall having seen them on screen during the broadcast - were they behind a curtain or in an orchestra pit somewhere? Did this include brass instruments such as the French horns & trumpets we hear during the song? Or were these simulated by Richard at the keyboard synthesizer? The brass parts sound much better on the RPO album because obviously there are sections of both played by pros in the live orchestra.
 

TimeWarp

Member
The full article for those who don't have access to The Times site:

Richard Carpenter: ‘The cultural impact of the Carpenters would make a great doctoral thesis’
The musician Richard Carpenter talks about the death of his sister, Karen, at the age of 32 and keeping her legacy alive with a new recording

Ben Hoyle
December 6 2018, 12:01am, The Times

methode%2Ftimes%2Fprod%2Fweb%2Fbin%2Fcbd35a98-f89e-11e8-8f64-ec083420809b.jpg

Richard Carpenter and Karen Carpenter in 1978

The Carpenters were at the peak of their huge success and chafing against their clean-cut image when they received perhaps the least cool endorsement in the history of popular music. It came from President Nixon in the White House in May 1973, shortly after he withdrew US combat troops from Vietnam and just as the Watergate scandal was getting into full swing. Richard Carpenter smiles ruefully as he repeats, 45 years later, what the soon to be disgraced leader called him and his sister, Karen: “Young America at its very best.”

Nixon’s verdict for ever crystallised the way that the grinning duo from the Californian suburbs were seen: as a wholesome, unthreatening counterpoint to the social, cultural and political tremors shaking America at the time. “We became kind of the pole: the standard of us versus them,” Richard says. “And you know, we didn’t give a $#!^ about being an us-versus-them.” They were “not really political”, whatever people thought. “We just made our records, that’s all.”

For the first half of the 1970s they did it with phenomenal success. Karen Carpenter’s pure, heart-rending contralto vocals soared over Richard’s precision-tooled pop melodies and they reeled off hit singles around the world, played more than 800 gigs and put out records that have gone on to sell more than 100 million copies.

Then the hits ran out and personal problems crowded in. Richard spent time seeking treatment for addiction to Quaaludes, a sedative and hypnotic drug. Karen battled anorexia, which eventually weakened her to the point where, on February 4, 1983, she succumbed to heart failure at the age of 32, the first known celebrity casualty of an eating disorder.

For Richard, 72, half a lifetime has passed since he lost his sister. As he prepares to release a new album of reworked Carpenters songs, he still doesn’t think that her talents or their music have received the serious recognition they deserve. “I think it would make a great doctoral thesis,” he says, sitting in his living room outside Thousand Oaks, a historically conservative city north of Los Angeles. “Not just the impact on popular music that we had, because it was a whole new sound, but on the culture. On society. It was remarkable.

“You know, the subculture was becoming the culture. A number of writers — not pop writers, but rock writers — really thought that they’d seen the end of pop music as they knew it, and [then] along we come. We were pilloried,” he says, indignantly. “Unfairly. It wasn’t just the frenzied political climate. The “brother-sister thing” and the “squeaky clean” way the Carpenters were packaged (which they also hated) antagonised people with countercultural tastes. Parents approved of the Carpenters, which disgusted “the other side”, but of course "it was great for record sales".

methode%2Ftimes%2Fprod%2Fweb%2Fbin%2Fbf3a915c-f89e-11e8-8f64-ec083420809b.jpg

Richard Carpenter today

Richard’s comfortable, but hardly grandiose home is in a gated community with a golf course and plenty of fountains, set amid fire-scorched hills. There’s a statue of a boy waving an American flag on his front lawn. Inside the front door there’s a bar next to a jukebox. On the other side of the room two giant fluffy toy chickens from an old advertising campaign are sitting at a chessboard to the right of a pair of purple sofas, on which we sit.

Richard is almost unrecognisable from his 1970s heyday; he looks more like a retired US Marines sergeant than an ageing pop star. The infamous pageboy haircut has been replaced by a short grey crop at the top of his small head. A thin gold chain hangs round his sinewy neck. He wears a loose short-sleeved black shirt, dark trousers and wine-red loafers. His movements are occasionally jerky, but his handshake is vice-like, his rich voice is steady and his gaze is steely.

The new album is a collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded at Abbey Road Studios. It pairs the Carpenters’ vocals on some of their most beloved songs with new orchestral performances arranged and conducted by Richard.

The formula has been tried before to juice CD sales of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin and the Beach Boys. Richard was torn. “There’s certain people, purists, where if you change one thing they’re not going to be happy. On the other hand there are songs of ours that I’ve heard through the years [and] thought, ‘I’d love to have another crack at the arrangement.’ ” That, combined with the chance to rework the sound on several songs, and to make subtle tweaks that he had imagined over the years, convinced him to do it.

He spent eight months on the project, often listening to his sister’s extraordinary voice in isolation. The experience was “upsetting and it was pleasurable, all at the same time”.

“Karen’s voice was such a marvel,” he says. “She just didn’t miss anything.”

methode%2Ftimes%2Fprod%2Fweb%2Fbin%2Fd63e4542-f89e-11e8-8f64-ec083420809b.jpg

Karen and Richard Carpenter in 1981

The results, which foreground Karen’s singing more, are better than the original recordings in “every single” case, Richard claims. That said, there are Carpenters hits that he feels have aged badly, chief among them their breakthrough single, (They Long To Be) Close to You. “I wasn’t crazy about the lyric then,” he says (it was written by Hal David, to accompany music by Burt Bacharach). “I was never big into things falling out of the sky, moon dust and, you know, ‘birds suddenly appear’. That’s just not my cup of tea.”

Over the years he has grown bored with “most of” their songs, but still appreciates a few, “especially now that these changes have been made: it’s like listening to them brand new all over again”.

The Carpenters grew up “lower-middle class” in New Haven, Connecticut. They were both shy. Their father was a printer who “truly, truly loved music”. Their mother was loving, but “overly protective and a little bit smothering”. Richard was a piano prodigy and Karen, who was “kind of a tomboy”, was more interested in softball than music.

In 1963 the family relocated to Downey, a dull suburb of Los Angeles. “I was 16 and she was 13. And if you would have told any of our pals or the neighbours on Hall Street back there that in seven years this girl was going to be world-famous, you know, they would have laughed and laughed and laughed.”

Karen took up drums in high school and her voice began to develop quickly when she was 15. After some initial success in a light jazz instrumental trio, then in a larger vocal harmony group, the Carpenter siblings started recording as a duo with overdubbed vocal parts. They were signed by Herb Alpert’s A&M Records in 1969 when Richard was 22 and Karen was 19. Richard has no idea if they would have been signed even eight years later in the punk and disco era, let alone today, when the music industry is “so different”.

His best memories of the early years are late nights in the studio before they were famous, taking breaks to go to Pink’s on La Brea Avenue for hot dogs or heading out bowling, touring their early records at university gyms and being their own roadies. “We just had a hell of a great time,” he says. It didn’t stay that way because they became “massive so quickly” and the goalposts began to move.

Is the music overshadowed by what happened to Karen? Richard says nothing for ten seconds. People hear impending tragedy in her vocals on melancholy songs such as Rainy Days and Mondays, I suggest. Karen didn’t write those songs, he replies. “When Rainy Days and Mondays was recorded, Karen was anything but down. We were having a hoot and a holler. The thing is she sang beyond her years. She had just turned 21 and it sounds like it’s sung by someone who’s been around a much longer time and who actually experienced what it is that she’s singing, but she hadn’t experienced it.”

Richard flatly denies that their mother favoured him over Karen and thereby sowed the seeds for her eating disorder. The theory gained currency in a 1989 TV movie on which he was the executive producer and was developed further in an acclaimed 2010 biography of Karen. “One of the greatest mistakes — and that’s saying a lot because I made a lot of mistakes — was OK-ing the making of that goddam movie,” Richard says, screwing his face up. “It was a travesty. I should have just said no.”

His life has moved on, though. He has five children by his wife, Mary, all born after Karen’s death. None of them is particularly interested in music, and because their father “never pushed it on them” and hardly ever gets recognised, he doubts that any of them “realise just how big Karen and I were, like headlining Vegas year after year, selling out the Palladium in record time”. He does not say it out of bitterness. That’s just how it is.

His large vintage car collection keeps him busy, he reads a lot and he has written some new songs, most of which are Christmas tunes, “because you can get away with shopping a traditional song” at this time of year.

They are, he says, “some of the best things that I’ve come up with". But it has been hard to find a singer.

Carpenters With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is out on UMC.

Anyone know if that is a photo of Richard's library?
 
Top Bottom