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Early Recordings

Little Girl Blue

Member
Thread Starter
I have recently become a fan of the Richard Carpenter Trio's mid-1960s recordings, there are some real gems in there - notably I'll Be Yours, California Dreamin', and Looking for Love. It's interesting to listen to these songs and compare them to the Carpenters' later work, seeing how their sound has developed and matured over time. I think Karen's higher singing voice sounds pretty and you can't go wrong with her on the drums! What have you thought about these recordings?

I'll Be Yours

California Dreamin'

Looking for Love
 

Carpe diem

Well-Known Member
Welcome to the forum Little Girl Blue! I love their early material also. Karen's drumming is outstanding on these recordings. I don't know if you have heard their version of "Caravan" which I believe was recorded in 1965 in the living room of the family home in Downey on Richard's tape recorder. She absolutely shreds it on drums;

 

John Adam

"Two Lives"
Love the early recordings! Karen's voice is still in progress, and kind-of untamed. You can tell already that she is just a natural singer, even though she labels herself as a drummer, which is her passion. I also like "You'll Love Me and Nowhere Man." The opening part of California Dreaming is a testament to Karen's vocal possibilities. The Magic Lamp single's songs are very 60's atypical. But it was good practice for Karen and Richard in the studio.
 

Little Girl Blue

Member
Thread Starter
Welcome to the forum Little Girl Blue! I love their early material also. Karen's drumming is outstanding on these recordings. I don't know if you have heard their version of "Caravan" which I believe was recorded in 1965 in the living room of the family home in Downey on Richard's tape recorder. She absolutely shreds it on drums;


Thank you for the welcome, Carpe diem! This is the first time I've listened to "Caravan," I love how upbeat it is. Plus Karen's killer drum solo at the end! I also like "Iced Tea" as well, it's fun to hear them play in a more jazzy territory.

Love the early recordings! Karen's voice is still in progress, and kind-of untamed. You can tell already that she is just a natural singer, even though she labels herself as a drummer, which is her passion. I also like "You'll Love Me and Nowhere Man." The opening part of California Dreaming is a testament to Karen's vocal possibilities. The Magic Lamp single's songs are very 60's atypical. But it was good practice for Karen and Richard in the studio.

I agree, these recordings gave them the space to experiment with their sound. I wish there was a release (other than the Essential Collection and As Time Goes By) that featured all of their early work, that would be awesome.
 
''The Parting Of Our Ways'', ''Looking For Love'', ''I'll Be Yours'' and ''You'll Love Me'' are interesting, great, pretty catchy, with ''Looking'' and ''You'll Love Me'' being my favorites, though the other two are almost as good.

''Looking For Love'' amazes me for Karen's drumming and 22-second vocal & harmony vocal sustain at the end (though the harmony ends a second or two earlier).

''You'll Love Me'' it's really catchy and its harmonies sound really good. Karen's vocal is wonderful and powerful, and she was 17! Amazing!
 

Little Girl Blue

Member
Thread Starter
''The Parting Of Our Ways'', ''Looking For Love'', ''I'll Be Yours'' and ''You'll Love Me'' are interesting, great, pretty catchy, with ''Looking'' and ''You'll Love Me'' being my favorites, though the other two are almost as good.

''Looking For Love'' amazes me for Karen's drumming and 22-second vocal & harmony vocal sustain at the end (though the harmony ends a second or two earlier).

''You'll Love Me'' it's really catchy and its harmonies sound really good. Karen's vocal is wonderful and powerful, and she was 17! Amazing!

I was also blown away by Karen's drumming and how long she held that end note in "Looking for Love." I love how her vocals sound in these early recordings; still being polished but also impressive!

I listened to "Iced Tea" again and realized how neat it would sound in a 1960s-1970s thriller, particularly in a chase scene! But that's just my imagination running wild. :laugh:
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
I like the early recordings a lot. I like the exuberance with which Karen sings. Her voice was already unique and impressive at that stage. I really like her tone. I like the arrangements and backgrounds, too. Lots of energy in these early songs.
 

JohnFB

Active Member
''The Parting Of Our Ways'', ''Looking For Love'', ''I'll Be Yours'' and ''You'll Love Me'' are interesting, great, pretty catchy, with ''Looking'' and ''You'll Love Me'' being my favorites, though the other two are almost as good.

''Looking For Love'' amazes me for Karen's drumming and 22-second vocal & harmony vocal sustain at the end (though the harmony ends a second or two earlier).

''You'll Love Me'' it's really catchy and its harmonies sound really good. Karen's vocal is wonderful and powerful, and she was 17! Amazing!
"Looking For Love"/"I'll Be Yours" were the songs on the only record that Karen ever recorded for Joe Osborn's ill-fated Magic Lamp Records label - it was released technically, but never distributed, with all 500 or so copies going to friends and family - she had been offered a solo contract because she had greatly impressed Joe during some demo recordings in his garage studio - this was around the time (or a little after) she had helped form an all-girl group called Two Plus Two with 3 other girls in her Downey High School (which soon broke up).

"You'll Love Me" is THE song that finally revealed (unleashed?) Karen's true, awesomely beautiful voice in all it's glory - the voice we know so well and love so much. Richard talked about this startling revelation in a documentary interview. He said he was working on this song and it was in the key of G and for some reason he decided to move the melody down an octave, which coincidentally put it right into the heart of Karen's gorgeous natural range - her "wheelhouse" so to speak - and he said he couldn't believe the sound that came out of her when she started to sing this song in that low register (this is way down there in the lower range of the male baritone voice!) - it seems that Karen talked about this moment too when she was discussing her voice later and said that she used to sing in a higher range and that she didn't like how she sounded, and then one day out popped this "natural" voice, the one that Frank Pooler, her college choir director and voice teacher said that he wouldn't touch (implying that it couldn't be trained or improved).
 

David A

Well-Known Member
I like the early recordings a lot. I like the exuberance with which Karen sings. Her voice was already unique and impressive at that stage. I really like her tone. I like the arrangements and backgrounds, too. Lots of energy in these early songs.

Late reply, and yes, that's what I like about the earlier stuff too. The energy, the raw, as yet polished voice of Karen. California Dreamin is a perfect example of this. Yes, her voice got technically "better" - more control and sophistication - later on, and I wouldn't argue that overall she did become a better singer (she did) - but there's real charm in that raw, youthful energy in some of their earlier stuff.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
Looking For Love.....gave Karen the opportunity to display her drumming skills !
1964-1965: "Richard told Wes Jacobs that his sister was predominantly a drummer, not a singer."
"Hearing her own voice on tape recorder for the first time was traumatic, she disliked her vocals..."
"...when Karen was urged to sing, she sang in an almost country and western style."
Source: Coleman, page 53.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
"You'll Love Me" is THE song that finally revealed (unleashed?) Karen's true, awesomely beautiful voice in all it's glory - the voice we know so well and love so much.

I’m so glad that track survived in the format it did, instead of being one of the earlier demos that burned up in Joe Osborne’s garage fire. It’s sublime and, as you say, the first time we really hear Karen in all her glory.

Richard’s liner notes:

By 1967 Wes had left the trio - and Los Angeles - to study in Juilliard. I was more interested now in writing songs and arranging multi-harmony vocals. One reason for this was the effect that singing in the California State University Choir at Long Beach Choir had on me. Frank Pooler, the choir’s director, had recently introduced me to new member, John Bettis, who I soon realised possessed a gift for lyric writing. A fast friendship developed and we decided to form a group. (Just what the world needed!). Consisting of fellow choir members (except Karen, who was still in high school), the group, which totalled five, was named “Summerchimes”. (Remember this was the sixties). Our manager, Ed Sulzer, got us a deal on some time at a new studio, “United Audio”, in Orange County. The nine songs recorded and vocally overdubbed were done in about as many hours. This version of “You’ll Love Me”, recorded in May 1967, is one of the nine.”

Have we ever had a definitive list of what the other eight songs were? And if they’re as good quality as this, why hasn’t Richard decided to release more?
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
"I'll Be Yours" is a fun little thing. You can really feel the energy coming off of it. I can imagine some girl group of the time taking a shot at this. The drums are really distorted but who cares? That's part of the fun of it. The two-part is a blast. Really fun song. Glad Richard shared it with us.

Ed
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
I’m so glad that track survived in the format it did, instead of being one of the earlier demos that burned up in Joe Osborne’s garage fire. It’s sublime and, as you say, the first time we really hear Karen in all her glory.

Richard’s liner notes:

By 1967 Wes had left the trio - and Los Angeles - to study in Juilliard. I was more interested now in writing songs and arranging multi-harmony vocals. One reason for this was the effect that singing in the California State University Choir at Long Beach Choir had on me. Frank Pooler, the choir’s director, had recently introduced me to new member, John Bettis, who I soon realised possessed a gift for lyric writing. A fast friendship developed and we decided to form a group. (Just what the world needed!). Consisting of fellow choir members (except Karen, who was still in high school), the group, which totalled five, was named “Summerchimes”. (Remember this was the sixties). Our manager, Ed Sulzer, got us a deal on some time at a new studio, “United Audio”, in Orange County. The nine songs recorded and vocally overdubbed were done in about as many hours. This version of “You’ll Love Me”, recorded in May 1967, is one of the nine.”

Have we ever had a definitive list of what the other eight songs were? And if they’re as good quality as this, why hasn’t Richard decided to release more?
I think Richard has copies of all the groups Magic Lamp recordings, but they are all on vinyl or audio cassette with the exception of “California Dreaming” being on pro tape. So he probably has the ML recording or home recording of “You’ll Love Me”, but the Orange County one was probably better sounding because it came from a pro master tape.
 

JohnFB

Active Member
...

Richard’s liner notes:

By 1967 Wes had left the trio - and Los Angeles - to study in Juilliard. I was more interested now in writing songs and arranging multi-harmony vocals. One reason for this was the effect that singing in the California State University Choir at Long Beach Choir had on me. Frank Pooler, the choir’s director, had recently introduced me to new member, John Bettis, who I soon realised possessed a gift for lyric writing. A fast friendship developed and we decided to form a group. (Just what the world needed!). Consisting of fellow choir members (except Karen, who was still in high school), the group, which totalled five, was named “Summerchimes”. (Remember this was the sixties). Our manager, Ed Sulzer, got us a deal on some time at a new studio, “United Audio”, in Orange County. The nine songs recorded and vocally overdubbed were done in about as many hours. This version of “You’ll Love Me”, recorded in May 1967, is one of the nine.”

Footnote
: Summerchimes then morphed into Spectrum and then added a sixth member, Leslie Johnston, a woman who had sung with Karen in the college choir and now sang harmony vocals with her with Spectrum - Spectrum played at several nightclubs in the area for a while and at one point was offered two separate recording contracts on the same night, with Richard turning down both because of bad terms therein. When Spectrum stalled and things didn't look too promising Johnston left to sing lead with another group. I'm not sure of this but I believe the Carpenters offered her job back to her when they hit it big at the time of "Close to You" but she declined because of other obligations. [As per Randy Schmidt in "Little Girl Blue"]
 

ThaFunkyFakeTation

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
"Looking For Love"/"I'll Be Yours" were the songs on the only record that Karen ever recorded for Joe Osborn's ill-fated Magic Lamp Records label - it was released technically, but never distributed, with all 500 or so copies going to friends and family - she had been offered a solo contract because she had greatly impressed Joe during some demo recordings in his garage studio - this was around the time (or a little after) she had helped form an all-girl group called Two Plus Two with 3 other girls in her Downey High School (which soon broke up).

"You'll Love Me" is THE song that finally revealed (unleashed?) Karen's true, awesomely beautiful voice in all it's glory - the voice we know so well and love so much. Richard talked about this startling revelation in a documentary interview. He said he was working on this song and it was in the key of G and for some reason he decided to move the melody down an octave, which coincidentally put it right into the heart of Karen's gorgeous natural range - her "wheelhouse" so to speak - and he said he couldn't believe the sound that came out of her when she started to sing this song in that low register (this is way down there in the lower range of the male baritone voice!)...

Not to contradict but Karen's voice was never in the "lower male baritone range" in anything I've heard from either Karen or Carpenters. She could definitely get low for a woman and it really brought out a richness in her voice ("Only Yesterday is a prime example of this - definitely more impressive in terms of vocal performance IMHO "You'll Love Me") but she never got down into male baritone.

Ed
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
I think Richard has copies of all the groups Magic Lamp recordings, but they are all on vinyl or audio cassette with the exception of “California Dreaming” being on pro tape. So he probably has the ML recording or home recording of “You’ll Love Me”, but the Orange County one was probably better sounding because it came from a pro master tape.

That’s what I meant - the original tapes made at United Audio must have survived intact because they’re proper studio quality, as opposed to the ripped vinyl audio of the two Magic Lamp tracks on the box set. And there are 8 more songs on those tapes in the same quality. I’m guessing Richard either has the original tapes himself or direct copies of them that were made when the deal fell through.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
That’s what I meant - the original tapes made at United Audio must have survived intact because they’re proper studio quality, as opposed to the ripped vinyl audio of the two Magic Lamp tracks on the box set. And there are 8 more songs on those tapes in the same quality. I’m guessing Richard either has the original tapes himself or direct copies of them that were made when the deal fell through.
With the Magic Lamp tapes, those tapes were in Joe Osborn’s home in Nashville, whereas California Dreaming, Your Wonderful Parade & All I Can Do & the United Audio tapes were half-way across the continent in California. Plus Richard had “Caravan” and others on Philips cassette (such as Nowhere Man). Now then other tracks like Ice Tea are also from vinyl, but those were recorded at RCA, and for FTP & TEC, were licensed from RCA, but Richard apparently couldn’t get the master tapes for those.
 

JohnFB

Active Member
Not to contradict but Karen's voice was never in the "lower male baritone range" in anything I've heard from either Karen or Carpenters. She could definitely get low for a woman and it really brought out a richness in her voice ("Only Yesterday is a prime example of this - definitely more impressive in terms of vocal performance IMHO "You'll Love Me") but she never got down into male baritone.

Ed
If Middle C on a piano keyboard is designated C4 (as it often is in music theory/chord structure/harmony discussions) then the typical vocal range of the female alto voice, according to a Music Theory book I use, is from the 1st A below Middle C (A4) to the 1st E above C5 (E5) - not quite a 2 octave range. The typical baritone range is indicated as being from the 2nd A below Middle C (A3) to the 1st E above Middle C (E4) - similarly, not quite 2 octaves.

Just given these typical standards, there is a 5 note overlap in the two ranges - from the bottom of the alto range (A4) to the top of the baritone range (E4). Now, Karen was not a typical alto - she was a contralto, and her voice thus extended even further down into the baritone range by at least several more notes.

Looking at the sheet music for "Where Do I Go From Here", a song in which she moves so beautifully within her lowest register, the notes she is singing in the verses are way down there in the basement at D3 and E3, well within the baritone range. I don't have the sheets for "You'll Love Me" but the notes are down there somewhere...graphically, this can all be shown simply like this:

Baritone = A3 B3 C3 D3 E3 F3 G3 A4 B4 C4 D4 E4

Alto = A4 B4 C4 D4 E4 F4 G4 A5 B5 C5 D5 E5

Notice the (typical) overlap from A4 to E4; then note that Karen is singing down below A4 all the way to D3! And the really incredible thing is that while the low part of a singer's range is usually the weakest part, she sang there with strength and remarkable clarity and resonance - not to mention awesome beauty! And I agree fully with how she sounds on "Only Yesterday" or at least the 1st minute of it when it's just mostly her - I could put this on a loop and listen to it for hours!
 
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JohnFB

Active Member
Just to add a fascinating -and somewhat stunning - detail to my post above, not only was Karen's range at the bottom about 3/4 of the way down into the typical baritone range (she could have sung in the baritone section of any mixed chorus or choir in the world!), but at the upper end her range was well within that of the typical soprano (or mezzo-soprano) and was recorded to reach up to B6 (and may have been a tad higher, although that was never recorded) - this is why she has been said to have a three octave range (she claimed this herself) - she had worked on this upper part of her vocal range with Frank Pooler, her college choir director and voice coach - 3 actual octaves would have been from D3 to D6 (so she only needed 2 more notes, C6 & D6, to get there), and I have no doubt she had this covered. And every one of those notes was pure aural gold. (There is a video on YouTube where every note in her range is illustrated by a brief excerpt from her recorded work).
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Karen's lowest recorded note is D below middle C. Her highest we established was B flat heard in the backing vocal overdubs on B'wana - which is 4 semitones higher than the highest note she reached on the background vocals on Occupants.

Harry did a neat mock up of her range on a piano a few months back.

 

JohnFB

Active Member
Karen's lowest recorded note is D below middle C. Her highest we established was B flat heard in the backing vocal overdubs on B'wana - which is 4 semitones higher than the highest note she reached on the background vocals on Occupants.

Harry did a neat mock up of her range on a piano a few months back.

Yes, exactly - the D below Middle C is the D3 I mentioned several times above (assuming Middle C = C4) - this is the note she sings twice in "Where Do I Go...", once in each verse (it's on the 4th line below the treble staff). The B flat you mention is the B6 at the top of her range I talked about above (I forgot that it was a flatted B...or 1/2 step lower, and so could be indicated as B6b, or the note a whole step just below C6, 2 octaves above Middle C).

On Karen's version of "The End of the World" on the very last word, "goodbye", she slides or glides down through several notes beautifully, finally ending on the E note just above D3, or E3 - she also hits this note in "Where..." several times in the verses.
 
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