• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are now available. The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy can be ordered here. A big thanks to the authors and Richard Carpenter for their tremendous effort in compiling this book! Also, the new solo piano album Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook is available for ordering here.

Karen, Michael, and Barbra

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Today during my day off, I listened to three of my favorite albums one right after the other: Karen Carpenter, Off the Wall by Michael Jackson, and Guilty by Barbra Streisand.

I was surprised how great they sounded together and how they seemed to "flow".

This led me to look at comparisons:

Michael Jackson, Off the Wall- Released February 1980
Producer- Quincy Jones
Ballad- She’s Out of My Life
MidTempo- It’s the Falling in Love
Upbeat- Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

Karen Carpenter: Tentative release Spring 1980
Producer- Phil Ramone
Ballad- Make Believe It’s Your First Time
MidTempo- If I Had You
Upbeat- My Body Keeps Changing My Mind

Barbra Streisand, Guilty- Released September 1980
Producer- Barry Gibb
Ballad- Woman in Love
MidTempo- Life Story
Upbeat- Guilty

(Sure- You could add Olivia's Xanadu soundtrack to this as well for some additional comparisons and similarities.)

Of course, Rod Temperton has ties to two of these discs. Where Barry Gibb contributes vocals on one, Peter Cetera does on one, and Paul McCartney wrote a song for another. So, some star power in each.

What similarities and comparisons do you see?

All said, I think Karen's album could have creatively held its own, even if it probably wouldn't have sold as many copies as the other two.
Thoughts? (And please without getting into yours as to why the project was killed.)
 
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Sabar

Well-Known Member
I'm not familiar with the other two albums, so I can't respond to your interesting question. I will say that Karen's solo record had a good mix of tempos and styles. As a vocalist, I think she sounded convincing on every song, except for "Still in Love with You." For me, the project demonstrated that her stylistic range was underestimated by some people. However, the weakness of SILWY--the one rocker on the album--leaves me wondering whether she could ever convincingly handle the rock genre. I wish she had more opportunities to try.
 

John Adam

"A House Is Not A Home"
I also like these 3 albums Mark! They are good comparables. I think they all sound like music of the early 80's, before new wave and country (somewhat) took the dominance in popular music. Barbra's album and Michaels hold up pretty well, but like Karen's solo album, they sound of that era. Both Michaels and Karen's have some disco/dance elements from the late 70's. If Karen's album would of had the same chance to be heard as the other two albums, I think it would of held up (like the other two.) Definitely not timeless like much of the Carpenters catalogue, but a good first effort. :)

Whether fans or radio would of embraced it is another question. I also think Karen should of worked with Barry Gibb. That would of been an interesting mix of styles, and he is such a great song-crafter. Even Karen doing a Michael Jackson ballad would of been kind-of cool. I can imagine a second solo album having been recorded if things would of turned out differently. Not to compete with Carpenters, just to sit alongside and compliment their legacy.
 

motownboy

Well-Known Member
Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" is almost as classic as "Thriller." That album set a new standard of what popular and influential could be. Anything released around that same time would be in the shadow of it. "Guilty" was a lot later in the year and had the star power combination of Barbra and Barry. "Woman In Love" is a classic.

Regarding Karen's album, stylistically, it was a year too late to the game. The "disco" elements in "Lovelines" and "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" were out of favor in 1980. The more adult contemporary songs like "If We Try" and "If I Had You" might have fared well in 1980 on the Adult Contemporary charts. Ironically, "Last One Singing The Blues", though was not intended for the album, but had it been released, I think it might have gotten Karen a Grammy nomination.
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
I fully agree about IF WE TRY and IF I HAD YOU - best on the album by far - LAST ONE SINGING THE BLUES is very appealing as it is stripped down to an acoustic arrangent with no distractions to Karen's voice, which - along with MAKE BELIEVE... - illustrates where her actual voice was at at that time, which was not the best place...BLUES is really a pleasant listen, but I'd like to hear it in a slightly lower key, where I suspect it might be even more attractive - not sure whether it's Grammy caliber or not...
 

Jack A.

Active Member
Pretty sure that Barbra was who Michael originally wanted to sing with on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" before it ended up being Siedah Garrett. Personally, I think it would have been a better duet if it had been with Karen instead, but she had already died at that point.
 

Greg

Well-Known Member
I always felt the Bee Gees would have written the perfect solo album for Karen - they always knew how to work with with an artists strengths. Guilty is a pop masterpiece and Streisand is probably at her full vocal peak on that record.
 

Jack A.

Active Member
Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" is almost as classic as "Thriller." That album set a new standard of what popular and influential could be. Anything released around that same time would be in the shadow of it. "Guilty" was a lot later in the year and had the star power combination of Barbra and Barry. "Woman In Love" is a classic.

Regarding Karen's album, stylistically, it was a year too late to the game. The "disco" elements in "Lovelines" and "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" were out of favor in 1980. The more adult contemporary songs like "If We Try" and "If I Had You" might have fared well in 1980 on the Adult Contemporary charts. Ironically, "Last One Singing The Blues", though was not intended for the album, but had it been released, I think it might have gotten Karen a Grammy nomination.
I think The Bee Gees were largely the reason why everyone got sick of disco. I Pretty sure that’s why they sort of went undercover beginning in the 80s and did things with other artists, such as “Guilty.” Dionne Warwick’s song “Heartbreaker” was written by The Bee Gees and has Barry singing backing vocals, and I think it’s one of their best-written songs.
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
Today during my day off, I listened to three of my favorite albums one right after the other: Karen Carpenter, Off the Wall by Michael Jackson, and Guilty by Barbra Streisand.

I was surprised how great they sounded together and how they seemed to "flow".

This led me to look at comparisons:

Michael Jackson, Off the Wall- Released February 1980
Producer- Quincy Jones
Ballad- She’s Out of My Life
MidTempo- It’s the Falling in Love
Upbeat- Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

Karen Carpenter: Tentative release Spring 1980
Producer- Phil Ramone
Ballad- Make Believe It’s Your First Time
MidTempo- If I Had You
Upbeat- My Body Keeps Changing My Mind

Barbra Streisand, Guilty- Released September 1980
Producer- Barry Gibb
Ballad- Woman in Love
MidTempo- Life Story
Upbeat- Guilty

(Sure- You could add Olivia's Xanadu soundtrack to this as well for some additional comparisons and similarities.)

Of course, Rod Temperton has ties to two of these discs. Where Barry Gibb contributes vocals on one, Peter Cetera does on one, and Paul McCartney wrote a song for another. So, some star power in each.

What similarities and comparisons do you see?

All said, I think Karen's album could have creatively held its own, even if it probably wouldn't have sold as many copies as the other two.
Thoughts? (And please without getting into yours as to why the project was killed.)
Mark-T, I think it's a good move to prompt discussion by bringing in the mention of other artists.

Michael's LP, 'Off the Wall', was part of a natural progression. Previously, with The Jacksons, he had released such joy-filled treasures as the albums 'The Jacksons', 'Goin' Places' and 'Destiny', each with a balance of dazzling uptempo dance cuts and gentle, introspective ballads. These offerings pointed at what was going to come at the very end of the 70s and the early 80s. The Jacksons, as a group, had even taken things up a few notches with the shimmering 'Destiny', the year before 'Off the Wall'. 'Off the Wall' even surpassed that offering - and then came the mammoth 'Triumph', (with the Jacksons), which lived up to its name, before the incomparable 'Thriller'.

Barbra had already successfully dabbled in hardcore disco with tracks like 'No More Tears' and 'The Main Event' and had come out the other side. With 'Guilty', she was now trying another genre, (on the title track); something funkier than her earlier recordings; which also turned out to be successful for her. Later, and also with a couple of the other singles from the album, she came around full-circle to release recordings probably closer in style to her 1970s output.

The move from MOR, (if you want to use that term - I don't know that it truly fits Carpenters), to the range of genres on her solo offering, including disco, didn't end up being a smooth transition, for Karen.

I have had all three albums, 'Off the Wall', 'Guilty' and 'Karen Carpenter' for many years. 'Off the Wall' is the only one I listen to (occasionally) now. (I also listen to the other Jacksons and Michael Jackson LPS mentioned above). I'm not a fan of Barbra's voice, nor of the way that Karen sounds on most of her solo tracks, (although I enjoy her background vocals, the fender rhodes and some of the other elements of the album). 'If We Try' is probably the only track on Karen's album that I fully enjoy, although I'll sometimes listen to 'Make Believe It's Your First Time', appreciating the beautiful piano arrangement and the 'piano and vocal' concept. 'Still in Love With You' and 'All Because of You' had potential, but aren't fully satisfying, for me.

Michael's 'Off the Wall', on the other hand, is exuberant, celebratory, bursting with vitality and exciting to this day.

All just my personal opinions, of course.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Karen: I have an obvious interest in her work with Carpenters. Her vocals are unsurpassed in my opinion.

Michael: I didn't care for any of his Jackson Five-era stuff, or even much in the way of his solo stuff until THRILLER. That album was such a cultural landmark that it's nearly impossible not to like. It's the only album of his I ever bought.

Barbra: I'm not really a fan of hers at all with just one or two exceptions. I liked her Laura Nyro-filled album STONEY END, and a song or two along her career. "Guilty" was everywhere and is an earworm song. "Woman In Love" is almost as pervasive. I haven't seen many of her movies, but I thought she did a good job in YENTL.
 

Proudofyou

Well-Known Member
Don't mind if I jump in. (taking a break from work). I only like Barbra's "Somewhere". Probably also because it was arranged by Sid Ramen who worked on the original WWS. Sigh, Karen would have been beautiful on that song too.
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
Don't mind if I jump in. (taking a break from work). I only like Barbra's "Somewhere". Probably also because it was arranged by Sid Ramen who worked on the original WWS. Sigh, Karen would have been beautiful on that song too.

If I may, Barbra's version of "Somewhere" was arranged by David Foster. He won a Grammy for it. Karen didn't have the power for that kind of arrangement. It would have completely overwhelmed her. Barbra is one of the very few who could rise above the huge sound of that production. That was all Barbra could handle.

Ed
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
Barbra: I'm not really a fan of hers at all with just one or two exceptions. I liked her Laura Nyro-filled album STONEY END, and a song or two along her career. "Guilty" was everywhere and is an earworm song. "Woman In Love" is almost as pervasive. I haven't seen many of her movies, but I thought she did a good job in YENTL.
Funny you should say that, Harry. Having said that I’m not a fan of Barbra, I knew her song ‘Stony End’ as a young child and bought the album at about 17. I must say, I do like the songs on the album, particularly the title track.

Also, when I was about 14, I just made a casual comment to my Mum about Barbra Streisand and later that day, she came home with the ‘Songbird’ album and gave it to me. I do like a few songs on that album, maybe partly for sentimental reasons.

I especially like the feel-good dance songs of The Jacksons and like both Michael’s uptempo songs and ballads.
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
.....yes you're right. I'm quite sure he worked on it. Perhaps orchestrations.

He didn't work on that song. I looked it up just out of curiosity. Ramin worked only on "Adelaide's Lament" from the record. That's the one he provided orchestrations for.

Ed
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
I subsequently just listened to Barbra's "Somewhere" again. I forgot how incredible that arrangement is. I'm not a Barbra fan in the least bit but I am a David Foster fan (prior to the radio tripe he gave us in the 90's). I absolutely love the intro prior to Barbra coming in. Genius stuff. Barbra sells this beautifully too. Excellent production and arrangement all around.

After having heard this again after some time, I'm even more convinced that Karen, as much as I love her voice, couldn't have done this one. She was never a power singer and she would have been miles out of her depth on this one.

Ed
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
They are two very different singers. While Karen couldn't have pulled off Somewhere in that arrangement, there are songs like For All We Know and Let Me Be the One and One More Time that Streisand could not do. It takes the ability to communicate warmth and vulnerability. Out of Barbra's toolbox.
 

motownboy

Well-Known Member
Had circumstances been different and Karen was still with us, she probably would not have done "Somewhere" at least with the same arrangement that Barbra had. That arrangement, while spectacular, was all synthesizers. Karen would have wanted something acoustic or at least more acoustic. That said, I would have loved it if Karen had worked with Quincy Jones.
 

Jack A.

Active Member
Today during my day off, I listened to three of my favorite albums one right after the other: Karen Carpenter, Off the Wall by Michael Jackson, and Guilty by Barbra Streisand.

I was surprised how great they sounded together and how they seemed to "flow".

This led me to look at comparisons:

Michael Jackson, Off the Wall- Released February 1980
Producer- Quincy Jones
Ballad- She’s Out of My Life
MidTempo- It’s the Falling in Love
Upbeat- Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

Karen Carpenter: Tentative release Spring 1980
Producer- Phil Ramone
Ballad- Make Believe It’s Your First Time
MidTempo- If I Had You
Upbeat- My Body Keeps Changing My Mind

Barbra Streisand, Guilty- Released September 1980
Producer- Barry Gibb
Ballad- Woman in Love
MidTempo- Life Story
Upbeat- Guilty

(Sure- You could add Olivia's Xanadu soundtrack to this as well for some additional comparisons and similarities.)

Of course, Rod Temperton has ties to two of these discs. Where Barry Gibb contributes vocals on one, Peter Cetera does on one, and Paul McCartney wrote a song for another. So, some star power in each.

What similarities and comparisons do you see?

All said, I think Karen's album could have creatively held its own, even if it probably wouldn't have sold as many copies as the other two.
Thoughts? (And please without getting into yours as to why the project was killed.)
I read that "Off The Wall" and "Rock With You" were both originally written for Karen, but she turned them both down, and they were then given to Michael. It's funny to imagine how different they would have ended up sounding if she had done them instead.

Another connection that the first two albums had was that "She's Out of My Life" was rumored to have been written about Karen, because Tom Bahler, the composer, dated her for a time in the mid-late 70s. However, Balher had already written the song by that point, so it wasn't about her. I feel like it would have had that much more sentimental meaning if it had been, though (at least, to me, it would). It's without a doubt one of Michael's most emotionally charged songs, and you can even hear him break down in tears at the end.

I don't know if Michael ever actually met The Carpenters (with all these connections to each other, I would think they likely did at some point), but I know he was a fan of theirs, and when they won Duo of The Year, Michael was one of the announcers of the award, along with Donny Osmond. Interestingly enough, Michael never spoke of them in interviews, even though he tended to be one who frequently praised a lot of his musical peers.
 

Kacfan

Well-Known Member
I read that "Off The Wall" and "Rock With You" were both originally written for Karen, but she turned them both down, and they were then given to Michael. It's funny to imagine how different they would have ended up sounding if she had done them instead.

Another connection that the first two albums had was that "She's Out of My Life" was rumored to have been written about Karen, because Tom Bahler, the composer, dated her for a time in the mid-late 70s. However, Balher had already written the song by that point, so it wasn't about her. I feel like it would have had that much more sentimental meaning if it had been, though (at least, to me, it would). It's without a doubt one of Michael's most emotionally charged songs, and you can even hear him break down in tears at the end.

I don't know if Michael ever actually met The Carpenters (with all these connections to each other, I would think they likely did at some point), but I know he was a fan of theirs, and when they won Duo of The Year, Michael was one of the announcers of the award, along with Donny Osmond. Interestingly enough, Michael never spoke of them in interviews, even though he tended to be one who frequently praised a lot of his musical peers.
I watched two mj interviews on YouTube around the time he died. In one he listed the acts he listened to when at home and the first one he mentioned was the carpenters. In another one he talked about being the first person to call another person to let them know that Karen had died. I can’t find those clips any more .
 
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