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Christmas Portrait: Special Edition (1984)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by tomswift2002, Dec 14, 2015.

How Would You Rate This Album

  1. 5 stars

  2. 4 stars

  3. 3 stars

  4. 2 stars

  5. 1 star

  6. Doesn't Rate

    0 vote(s)
  1. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member Thread Starter

    Couldn't help but notice that we have reviews for all the other Christmas albums and collections (although Christmas Collection doesn't count since it's just a repackaging and rebranding of the original albums together), so why not the Christmas Portrait:Special Edition) from 1984.

    For those of us who grew up in the late-80's and 1990's, this is the album that we remember seeing on store shelves in the CD section. The CD was big back then, and vinyl was being touted as having died, and in the early-90's, while you could still purchase record players with big component systems, the CD player was the place to find the best music, and of course at Christmas that would mean the Carpenters Christmas Portrait: Special Edition playing almost non-stop through out Christmas!

    Hey, 74 minutes of music, arranged to sound like you were at a symphony and every song flowed into one another, was very impressive.
  2. theninjarabbit

    theninjarabbit Well-Known Member

    I have never actually seen the special edition. I was only able to get Christmas Collection, and I don't own it -- it was lent to me by a relative. Either way, I agree with you: the way the music flows is wonderful.
  3. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member Thread Starter

    My parent's got their copy of the Special Edition in 93 from Columbia House (we still have the CD, and copyright noticed has been altered to mention Columbia House's distribution). And then I got my copy of Christmas Collection for my birthday in 1998. So for me, the Special Edition was the first Carpenters Christmas collection that I heard.
  4. The Special Edition certainly has its fans and has sold a gazillion copies and continues to do so every year. But for longtime fans, it was always neither fish nor fowl and the reason for that was the perfection that the original CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT represented. From the moment CDs were available, fans wanted CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT - the original unaltered album, just as it appeared on LP.

    But then the AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRITMAS album happened - a miracle in and of itself. No-one really expected it, yet there it was. Patterned quite closely after its predecessor, AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS had an intro by Richard, an orchestral overture, and magical segues to tie the tracks together.

    Then it was time for the CD and the two albums got merged into one long 70-minute disc with pieces of PORTRAIT and bits of OLD-FASHIONED. Plop it into the CD player and the first things that hit you are elements from AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS, not CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT, so right off the bat, it felt somehow "wrong".

    But what it got right was the inclusion of most of CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT thereafter, interspersed with bits of OLD-FASHIONED here and there. And most of the CD features closer-to-original mixes rather than the drowned-in-reverb CHRISTMAS COLLECTION remixed version.

  5. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    It's always come across to me as a 2 for 1 deal...bang for your buck....it's just too much music to sit and listen to at one sitting and for me creates listening fatigue when there should be enjoyment. The marketing end of it was a hit, bet it sold so many due to the 2 for 1 get it all in 1 CD. For me, the 2 LP's should never have been joined into 1, I've never been a fan of that Special Edition and to be honest I just don't play it same goes for the Christmas Collection. The Christmas Collection has too much echo. I prefer to keep the albums separate and listen to them separate in their entirety that is where I get the most enjoyment.

    3 Stars for Special Edition
    2 Stars for Christmas Collection and the photo used for Christmas Collection gets 1 star (terrible pixelated photo)
    Murray likes this.
  6. Eyewire

    Eyewire Well-Known Member

    I had some free time tonight so I thought I'd see how Christmas Portrait: The Special Edition was configured to see if there was a pattern. Below are the results. To make it easier to see the pattern, I put the album from which each song came from on the left. Some of the songs were remixed or edited for The Special Edition, but the general idea is to see which album each song came from.

    Christmas Portrait: The Special Edition

    (An Old-Fashioned Christmas): It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
    (An Old-Fashioned Christmas): Overture
    (An Old-Fashioned Christmas): An Old-Fashioned Christmas
    (Christmas Portrait): Christmas Waltz
    (Christmas Portrait): Sleigh Ride
    (Christmas Portrait): It's Christmas Time/Sleep Well, Little Children
    (Christmas Portrait): Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
    (Christmas Portrait): Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (short interlude)
    (Christmas Portrait): The Christmas Song
    (Christmas Portrait): Carol Of The Bells
    (Christmas Portrait): Merry Christmas Darling
    (Christmas Portrait): Christ Is Born
    (An Old-Fashioned Christmas): O Holy Night
    (An Old-Fashioned Christmas): (There's No Place Like) Home For The Holidays
    (An Old-Fashioned Christmas): Medley (Instrumental)
    (Christmas Portrait): Winter Wonderland/Silver Bells/White Christmas
    (Christmas Portrait): Ave Maria (1984 remix with choir)
    (An Old-Fashioned Christmas): Selections from "The Nutcracker" (shortened)
    (An Old-Fashioned Christmas): Little Altar Boy
    (Christmas Portrait): I'll Be Home For Christmas
    (Christmas Portrait): Silent Night, Holy Night

    Statistically, 62% of the songs on this album are from Christmas Portrait and 38% are from An Old-Fashioned Christmas.

    Anyway, this little exercise was just to satisfy my own curiosity, but just thought I'd share.
    GaryAlan likes this.
  7. So, back when CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT, SPECIAL EDITIONt was the only configuration available on CD, we were missing:

    O Come O Come Emmanuel
    Overture (Christmas Portrait)
    The First Snowfall/Let It Snow

    ...from the first album, and:

    Do You Hear What I Hear?
    My Favorite Things
    He Came Here For Me
    Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town
    What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?
    Nutcracker (Trepak)
    I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

    ...from the second album.

    That's why, at the time, many of us considered the SPECIAL EDITION neither fish nor fowl. It was the totality of either album, but a mixture of some of both. In a broad-brushed sentence, it transposed the opening medleys and then omitted side two of the second album.

    Some of us spent many an hour using our CDs and LPs where we had to, to come up with an acceptable cassette-tape car version of the original CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT. The segues made it especially difficult.

  8. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Is the song, O Come,O Come Immanuel----this, as it is written on sleeve of Christmas Portrait---spelled incorrectly ?
    Or, are two spellings utilized? "Emmanuel" and "Immanuel" ?
    Just curious over this curiosity .....
  9. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    More "time" statistics:
    Christmas Portrait LP .....
    Side One: 23 minutes.
    Side Two: 23 minutes, 8 seconds.

    An Old-Fashioned Christmas
    Side One: 22 minutes, 31 seconds.
    Side Two: 23 minutes, 16 seconds.

    CD Special Edition Christmas Portrait ( "....70 continuous minutes..."):
    Amount of Time spent with
    Karen Carpenter Vocals....approx. 39 minutes 30 seconds.
    Christmas Portrait LP:
    Karen Carpenter Vocals...40 minutes, two seconds.
  10. "Immanuel" is an English translation of the original Hebrew meaning "God with us".
    "Emmanuel" is an English translation of a Greek translation of the original Hebrew.

    "Immanuel" is used on the CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT artwork, "Emmanuel" is used on the CHRISTMAS COLLECTION artwork.

    Both are correct, though one could say that "I" is slightly more correct as it is a direct translation.

    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
    GaryAlan likes this.
  11. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    To have omitted Do You Hear What I Hear?, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town and What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? from the collection in favour of instrumental medleys and an overture was just stupid to me. It would have been a much better collection had these three been included.
  12. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member Thread Starter

    For me, whenever I think of the original "Christmas Portrait", I always think of the Special Edition, and sort of find it odd to not hear "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" start off the album, since I grew up in the CD era when most people were junking their vinyl record collections, so for me the Special Edition was the Original Christmas Portrait, just with 11 new tracks, either added or interspersed throughout. And when I listen to the West German CD or vinyl record of Christmas Portrait I always miss hearing "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" before "Christmas Waltz".

    I agree that it would've been nice to have had "Do You Hear", "Santa Claus" (in a way this song was on the Special Edition already, just like the 1978 version of Christmas Portrait has "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" twice), New Year's Eve, and I Heard The Bells, but I just listened to the entire CD, and while "Do You Hear" definitely could've fit in, I don't think the others would've fit with the flow of the album.
  13. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member Thread Starter

    You forgot that "Jingle Bells" was also not included.
  14. AM Matt

    AM Matt Well-Known Member

    Not to mention "Jingle Bells" was repeated on the 8 track tape of "Christmas Portrait"!! Matt Clark Sanford, MI
  15. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Active Member

    I bought this on CD after randomly seeing it in 1990. Although I'm not a huge fan of Christmas albums, it all sounded very well done. However, years later I came across a copy of the original Christmas Portrait vinyl album and decided to give it a go. I have to say that the original tracklisting is far superior to the 'cut and shut' compilation of tracks on the special edition - the lead-up to 'Christmas Waltz' in particular is much better on the original album.

    What's even more baffling is that some of the strongest tracks from An Old Fashioned Christmas, particularly the single version of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town', were left off. I realise Richard was probably trying to mimic the flow of the original album on the special edition, which necessitated using a lot of the instrumentals from An Old Fashioned Christmas, but given that he's commented about the number of complaints he received from fans about 'Santa Claus...' being missed off the album in 1978, you'd have thought it would have made sense to use this opportunity to include it - there was plenty of scope to do so (and for dropping the superfluous 'fast' version of the song from Christmas Portrait that somehow retained its place on the special edition!).

    In the end, I ended up getting hold of the West German CD and selling the special edition, which solved the problem. Just a shame that this CD is still out there in the marketplace, the Christmas Collection never having quite eclipsed it.
  16. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Active Member Thread Starter

    Even on "An Old-Fashioned Christmas", 'Santa Claus...' doesn't work as well as it should've. It was one of those one-off things. "Merry Christmas Darling" worked because it was already a faster song. But I think that had Karen lived the ballad version of "Santa Claus" would've appeared, most likely in a re-recorded form, on a 2nd or3rd Christmas album that was slower than "Christmas Portrait", and I think you would've seen "I Heard The Bells" on the same album.
  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    This longish review is worth re-reading (even if one disagrees with the author, Lucas Fagen):
    As I believe I have mentioned this review elsewhere,
    Special Edition Christmas Portrait :

    .....Excerpted Conclusion....
    December 2015, Author, Lucas Fagen
    "Christmas Portrait
    presents a vision of the holidays that’s simultaneously rosy and dystopic,
    in which pleasure (courtesy of Richard’s music) and pain (courtesy of Karen’s singing) coexist and neither wins out.
    Just because the fantasy lets us down hardly means we should condemn it outright — it can still be wonderful, and that’s why the
    Carpenters made a Christmas album in the first place. But ultimately it is deceptive, and the distance in her voice conveys that.
    Christmas Portrait is a major statement by artists who did more than anyone to plumb the depths of the American popular romantic heart,
    portraying a struggle with the seductive promises of kitsch far more universal than the content of the kitsch itself.
    It reveals the nightmare within the holiday and celebrates it anyway.
    So enjoy the holiday season, even if enjoying it is hard sometimes.
    Karen Carpenter would want you to."
    Chris Mills likes this.
  18. Chris Mills

    Chris Mills Well-Known Member

    Being a fan of the Special Edition, this review was a great read. Thanks for posting.
  19. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    First Snowfall was one of my favorites and I was very letdown it was not included in the Special Edition. An Old Fashioned Christmas could have easily been left off for my tastes to include First Snowfall. I enjoyed the Overture from the original album better than the one included in Special Edition, too.
    My rule of thumb: if there is a Karen sung tune available, it is be used in place of anything else, especially over syrupy instrumentals that most just skip over. There would not be Carpenters without Karen and choosing songs without her vocal presence is illogical to me since it is her voice that people crave.
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  20. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    I think the reason Christmas Portrait did so well commercially and has been a fan favorite is because of the placement of the tracks. While I agree more of Karen's vocals is what I crave, the placement of the interludes (instrumentals) sandwiched in between Karen's vocals on Christmas Portrait is what makes the album cohesive and just the perfect album as a whole. It's a masterpiece something the 2nd album didn't capture.

    If you take for instance the Time Life Christmas With The Carpenters set it's basically all Karen with no instrumentals or interludes and while I do love to listen to that collection (minus MCD) it doesn't flow as well for me as Christmas Portrait. It's like I am looking for those breaks where I can gear up with anticipation of Karen's next vocal performance and you don't get that with the Time Life set. It's like Christmas Portrait allows you to reflect on what you just heard or the emotion Karen expressed while you listen to the interlude with the anticipation of what's to come next.

    First Snowfall is a must for the season but for me I could never do without Richard's vocal on An Old Fashioned Christmas, I just adore that track, so sentimental and takes me back to my childhood Christmas memories when my family was all together and you didn't want to let go of that moment.
    Mary Beth and K.C. Jr like this.
  21. Exactly what you said!!! I really enjoy many of Richard's contributions to both albums; particularly, Carole of the Bells, O Holy Night, and Old Fashioned Christmas.
    K.C. Jr likes this.
  22. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    100% agree there, that song was one of my favourites from the very first time I heard it. It's so evocative of childhood Christmases for me, magical and yet melancholy at the same time. Just perfect and one of the few times I really liked the inclusion of the OK Chorale.
  23. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Interestingly enough, the Richard Carpenter composed
    An Old-Fashioned Christmas
    is credited (LP) as being Arranged by Peter Knight.
  24. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Itunes Price for the Special Edition stands at $11.99,
    Carpenters at #44 (as of 11/21/2106).
    UMG...or, whomever decides on these retail prices,
    needs to adjust the price accordingly,
    and perhaps sales will trend greatly upward....
    ....my two cents worth.....
  25. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    ^^That's 11/21/2016 !
    (Not 2106, as written above !)

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