Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by no1kandrfan, Jun 9, 2018.
I came across this, and found it quite interesting. He has some good points.
His undercurrent theme is much the same as what I've often pointed out - Phil Ramone does not get enough of the blame for the way the Karen solo project turned out. A&M picked him - but that was a mistake IMHO. This fellow John Florez has a ton of great points - all with 20/20 hindsight - so even his ideas must be taken with a grain of salt.
We actually talked about this video here
it starts at post #57
I missed that thread - obviously. Thanks for pointing it out.
Yeah, if he had, I’d hate it. “Mocha mix”. Is he kidding me? LOLOL!!!
I could see a "Mocha Mix" for a 12-inch Dance Club single of My Body Keeps Changing My Mind.
I can’t, honestly. I’d much rather just have Karen’s backgrounds. They’re the best part of the whole album.
I tend to agree with him on the background vocals. I think even some "mocha ladies" might have been a nice substitution for Karen's own backgrounds on some of the tracks (My Body Keeps..., Still Crazy..., etc.).
I disagree. Karen sounded sublime on those tracks and held her own completely.
I'm not sure how I feel about the "mocha" backing singers, but I find the idea a bit intriguing. I've always preferred the Carpenters to do their own backing - it was their signature sound, as far as I'm concerned. And it might be my preference to attempt the same on a Karen solo album - depending on the song, of course. Adding a bit of soul to the proceedings by way of background singers might have flown back in 79-80.
I've always felt that most of the song choices that she and Phil came up with were sub-par for the most part. For example, I love Paul Simon songs, but I don't necessarily crave to hear anyone else do them. The solo take on "Make Believe It's Your First Time" was sublime and is my favorite on the album as it exists. The idea of a Peter Cetera duet was great, but the song choice was wrong.
Most of the other choices I think were either totally wrong or just OK. This Florez guy had some great points about doing the album in L.A., keeping the costs down, and picking better songs are what intrigued me.
What always amazes me about the solo album is the cost . . $400,000.00 in 1979. . .and that was the price months before putting the thing to bed.
I was interested to see how much a typical album cost to produce at this time and found out that Fleetwood Mac's 1979 Tusk cost $1 million and was deemed the most expensive rock album ever produced. . .so in effect 1/2 that price is still an incredibly highly priced album.
How come it cost so much. . .I mean Billy Joel's band played and wrote a lot of the songs. I know she had a hotel suite for a while, but not that long. How come poor Karen got out of pocket?
P.S. It'll be interesting to see how much MIA cost. . .since that was around a year in the making as well.
Many thanks for posting this interesting video. I concur with many of Florez’s observations. I know Karen was trying to “keep up" with the times (i.e., picking disco songs, chasing Olivia’s higher vocal register, etc.), but I think if she’d have doubled-down on her strengths and recorded an album similar to Norah Jones' debut (or Jones' more recent album, the exquisite, Day Breaks), she would have had a better chance at delivering a classic.
Great post! Very interesting.
Isn't this the whole reason KC wanted to go solo was to get away from conversations like this?
"What you should do is this/that!"
It's clear as day to see how easily she could be persuaded to go many different directions.
Karen made her own choices. That's what this was all about. For this project, there was a selection of well over 20 songs (including the outtakes and knowledge that she was offered "Off the wall" and "Rock with you").
I agree with some of Florez points. Especially about keeping her in her comfort zone while crafting her debut.
An exploding chorus or mocha mix sounds novel--thinking of it now.
But, you don't want to have too many cooks in the kitchen. I think Ramone let her make decisions (for better or worse) as she felt it appropriate at the time. Under analysis, that "it" factor of what makes a classic or... decisiveness about the project didn't seem to be there. However, like any average LP there's a few really good gems (which were present on "Lovelines" imo). I guess the issue is Karen wasn't average, so it's a puzzle how she ended up with a product that many didn't think measured up to the name.
She was exploring what womanhood meant to her. I suppose it would be easier to "get away from the Carpenters sound" /"sad girl" image if that wasn't already her authentic voice. Imagine if Richard started off playing in a higher key; then, going solo would have been received well had Phil Ramone discovered how "the money's in the basement."
But, I think she landed in a spot where she learned "don't fix it if it ain't broke."
She knew working in film is where she would flourish and begin to explore different parts of herself. Whether it was being featured on a soundtrack or doing a musical. It would have been brilliant.
That's it in a nutshell...
How about we do a thread entitled:
"if I had produced Made In America....?"
I listened to Beechwood 4-5789 this morning,
and, for the life of me, I believe it to be a waste of Karen's vocal talents....
so....we all have our opinions....
Great idea for a thread!
Very true re the production. It's all a matter of taste rather than fact.
Re 'Beechwood', you're quite right, it is a complete waste of a recording. It's not bad per se, but it's the very definition of creatively treading water. They'd already covered an upbeat Marvelettes song (if they had to cover another one, why didn't they go for something more interesting like 'When You're Young and in Love' rather than a track that sounds pretty similar to 'Postman'?) - there was no point in recording yet another soundalike.
What's even more baffling is that they did record a much more substantial oldie, 'Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore', at around the same time, yet that was left to languish as an outtake. I can only surmise that it was more important to include the frothy, upbeat 'Beechwood' on the album as a way of conveying the idea that everything was fine and all smiles, rather than including something with much more emotional depth, but that might have punctured the superficial positive sheen they were trying to project with Made in America.
I already made a thread a few months ago: Your MIA
If we had a nickel every time someone reconfigures MADE IN AMERICA, this site would be rich.
What is actually interesting regarding MIA,
and, it is authenticated through the Fan Club Newsletters,
is that there is definitely a problem with "the mixing."
That, my friends, is a verifiable fact.
Thus, regardless of my personal opinions
regarding any of the musical choices on MIA--
the fact stands: there was, and is, a problem with
the way the music was pressed to the vinyl.
And, thus, the lead vocals do suffer as a result.
No subjectivity there, an objective--verifiable--
The problem with the re-imagining of MIA is that he didn’t look backwards or even consider songs from 1978. He had the chance to do that in 1981 with any number of outtakes and chose not to.
Let us recall, as late as April 19th, 1980,
Phil Ramone is talking to Paul Grein as if Karen Carpenter's solo album
is still an "all systems go." Absolutely no hint of any issues for withholding release.
" The major project Ramone has been working on since completing Billy Joel's "Glass Houses"
(the singer's third consecutive LP to hit the top three on Billboard's pop album chart)
is Karen Carpenter's first solo project after nine studio LPs in the Carpenters."
"Ramone and Carpenter picked the tunes. The band on the album contains no carryovers from Carpenters sessions.
"It features Billy Joel's rhythm section, Louis Johnson, Bob James and Michael Brecker, among others."
Read: Page 89, Billboard Magazine, April 19th, 1980.
It was all systems go until the album was effectively torpedoed by Herb, Jerry and Richard. I can’t begin to imagine the shock Phil and Karen must have felt after that playback session. All that time, money and effort completely wasted.