• 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


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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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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.


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After all these years, I had forgotten that Patti Austin also shares vocals with Michael on one cut.


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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 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...
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