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Karen's Cleanest Vocal Performance

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testerguy35

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I was listening to the '73 remake of Ticket to Ride today, and even though i've heard this track a million times, I was amazed at the clarity of Karen's voice in this performance. In my opinion, her vocal instrument was nearly perfect on this track. I don't think she sounds this good before or after they recorded this. Granted, she sings rather robotically here...always on the beat, no deviation from the written melody, utter precision.
I think on the original Box Set Richard is quoted as saying that this is one of her best recorded vocal performances. I think the track epitomizes, for me, how much I love the 'sound' of her voice. I don't think any singer ever had or ever will have that kind of a perfectly pure sounding vocal instrument.

Listen to some of her later work (ie: the intro to 'Where do We Go from Here" or "I just Fall in Love Again":, and this bell-tone clarity is not quite there, at least not as consistently as on the Ticket To Ride track.

Steve
 

Harry

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That track still provides goosebumps here! And all versions!

Harry
NP: radio at work
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
I don't know if it is her cleanest, but "Solitaire" always made me think of her expertise. That is, until I heard "Ordinary Fool"- in my mind a perfect blend of phrasing and intimate reading.
Mark
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
I feel that Karen had a better mix of her head and chest voice prior to 1974 which I think Steve is referring to in Ticket, escecially in the chorus. I think her voice is more mature in What Do We Go From Here, but the chorus is higher than the voice, and the mixture of head and chest voice is not apparent leaving a thin sound that overdubbs try to fill. It may be due to a matter of strength and energy, since she was soaked in her illness during the latter recording. Her voice was always brilliant and clear, it just did not ring in the upper range, yet it bellowed in the lower tones that produced chills.

I agree, that Solitaire is her best vocal performance, as Horizon is the work that showcases Karen's vocal talent. Ordinary Fool is a great recording, and its delicate reading is impeccable. Combined with the blues sound that we rarely heard from the Carpenters, Ordinary Fool shows a side of the Carpenters that fans were yearing for in the mid 70's.

I loved the Carpenters in the early 70's for their 'hit' sound, yet in the mid 70's for their versitle talent that was displayed in the alternate styles of songs like I Can Dream, Can't I, Make Me Laugh, From this Moment On, etc. The hits I will always enjoy, but some of the latter songs can only be performed by people with true talent.

Craig
 

Bruno

Member
It's interesting to hear Karen's voice develop and change over the recording years.
In the early years, her voice sounded a bit to rough, especially on the OFFERING album.
About the time of A SONG FOR YOU, her voice became softer, and she sounded like Dusty Springfield.

Personally, I think her voice sounded the best in the early 80s, as one can hear on MADE IN AMERICA. My personal favorite, however, is NOW. As Richard wrote in FROM THE TOP, Karen's voice was never lovelier.
 

testerguy35

New Member
Thread Starter
I have to agree with both of you guys. I forgot about Solitiare. That song was sung so beautifully by Karen and with much more 'melancholy' than Ticket to Ride. She didn't even like the track, but it's an amazing performance. I think Karen also sings "You're the One" amazingly. Ticket to Ride is not my fav C's tune, but to me, this track is where her 'instrument' sounded perfect. You guys are right. It wasn't until 1976 and later that Karen developed a much more sophisticated and intimate music style. However, while her style improved, her tone quality became variable.
But anyhow, i'm still just amazed that nobody, NOBODY, can match the sound that Karen's voice had!
 

CraigGA

Well-Known Member
One thing that has always amazed is the ease at which she sang so perfectly. It is most noticable in the snip-its from Make Your Own Kind of Music, where she sings to Richard's accompanyment. The chest and head voice mix is at its best, and at any part of the vocal range her voice rang, as Steve heard in Ticket.

Craig
 

testerguy35

New Member
Thread Starter
Craig,
I do agree about the Make Your Own Kind of Music snippets. Her singing is so...natural, so straight forward. Some people want more spunk from a singer, but I still like her simple, beautiful, lush style.
I'm not sure what to think of her final sessions from 1982. "Now" is sung flawlessly, and Karen's style, at this point, had blossomed into something a very professional and respectable. However, for some reason, I have a hard time enjoying her later work. Her 'head' voice is strained, as you mentioned, in the higher notes. Her chest voice is still deep and rich, just not crystaline or milky pure like her 73-75 voice. I think the arrangements in the later work were too...how do I say this...muzak-ish and sterile. Richard put her voice behind too many effects and echoes, or he didn't bring the voice out front. Leave Yesterday Behind is great because it's Karen singing right out in the front, no effects, no doubling the vocal track....and all this in 1978!

Talk about being a picky fan! Yes, I am! LOL
Steve
 

Bruno

Member
Well, ofcourse you're right, Steve. NOW is overproduced, as is MAKE BELIEVE IT'S YOUR FIRST TIME. I prefer the solo album version of this beautiful song, because it's so simple arranged and orchestrated. Richard's arrangements got sweeter and sweeter every year, or as we say in Germany, they are a little kitschig.

NOW ist ofcourse only a lead vocal, so it's not the best Karen could give. It's still one of my favorites, because Karen doesn't do any vocal acrobatics, like Mariah Carey :rolleyes: or so, but she just sings the song.

Forget Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and all those ladies - Karen had the finest voice of all female singers who ever lived! :)

Second for me is Barbra Streisand, I think.
 
I agree with you Bruno, Karen's voice was the finest of all female singers who have ever lived. I don't think there will ever be anyone to equal Karen's amazing vocals.

I think Karen's voice is at it's best on 'Horizon' That album is absolutely flawless. It blows me away how wonderful her vocals are on that album.

My second and third fav female vocalists would be Olivia Newton-John and Barbra Streisand.

Laura
:)
 

PJ

Member
Karen's best vocal performances ....tough one to decide as throughout her Career , Karen's vocals are sublime , precise, warm and clear.

Having heard early performances from the BoxSet and ATGB Album , the voice is captivating even if the songs or later mature style had still to fully develop ...Nowhere Man And California Dreaming are marvels , given Karen was only just 17 at the time...... :)

Karen's Studio , Television and Radio recordings are of the highest quality and Carpenters Live performances show her wonderful voice with hints of the variation Karen could use to emphasie a lyric or key word :)

Possibly the only difference between Carpenters recordings is the material recorded and released during certain periods and Richard's Arrangements & Production that changed noticably at times.
Richard has commented that certain songs were not strong enough or the Arrangement / Production should have been stronger / better , 1969 , 1976 & 1977 Tracks are noted in interviews.
Also very noticeable , compared to other Albums "Made In America " has different Production techniques that over emphiase certain weaker songs like "Beechwood" etc , compared to 1980/1981 outtakes released later with more varied arrangements.

In no order (too difficult!) , I adore the recordings from ASFY (72) , N&tT(73), Horizon (75) , both Christmas Sets , VOTH (83) , Lovelines(89) and ATGB(2001) plus Live sets :)

Probably my all time favourite "I Need To Be In Love" is taken from a weaker Album , wonder whether Richard has a ballad only demo version of "Breaking Up" in the Archives ....that would be an outtake to have released :D , there are weaker sets , however Karen shines through all the recordings :) :)

Most interesting for future releases , would be Richard completely reworking his original Arrangements / Production on various songs that he is less than happy with , retaining Karen's vocals or an alternate take if available and releasing the Catalog with the original Album on one CD and the new recordings on the second CD ....for the same price.This would offer a chance to improve some tracks and continue additional recordings :D

Peter ....anticipating more Carpenters Interpretations
 

testerguy35

New Member
Thread Starter
It's funny how we fans think alike. I also think Barbra Streisand's voice was incredible...especially from the late 60s to the early 80s. Her style was SO different than Karens: Babs sang off the beat while Karen sang right on the beat. Babs improvised everywhere while Karen pretty much sang it straight forwardly. Babs and Karen both had great ranges and loved ballads. Sometimes Babs can be 'over the top' with her interpretation of tunes, while sometimes I wished Karen would have let loose a little without it sounding contrived.

I think the reason we are all Karen fans is not because of the Carpenters sound, per say, but Karen's one in a billion voice. It's not the syrupy codependent love song lyrics or all the fluffy arrangements that get me, it's just that voice cuts right through to my soul. Even when Karen sings a jingle I'm in awe, or acapella or just with a piano (note the MYOKM snippets from 1971). Richard didn't need to over produce her to make her sound good; she was a natural talent without all that.

Steve
 

OceanKing

New Member
Like Peter, I've wondered if Richard has a recording of Karen singing the ballad version of "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do." After all, he wrote that slower arrangement for Neil Sedaka (a fact not widely known). It's hard to believe that he and Karen wouldn't have cut their own version, for possible inclusion on a future TV special or album.

I saw Sedaka in concert last summer, and he closed the show with that song. I wondered if he'd give credit to Richard, but he didn't. I guess there's still "bad blood" (no song jokes, please) there.

******

When it comes to rating Carpenters albums/arrangements, I think it's difficult to include the outtake albums (VOTH, Lovelines, ATGB) for consideration. They are made up of songs recorded in different periods, so it's hard to compare them to albums like ASFY and CTY, that were finished and released during Karen's lifetime.

You have to consider how much re-recording and re-mixing Richard may have done on the outtakes. The song versions we hear on those releases may sound VERY different from the versions as originally recorded. Consider "Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again." The '95 release has a wonderful 90s 'edge' to it that I don't believe would have been there if it had been included on "Horizon." In '75, it probably would have had a softer, mellower sound.

Nobody's ever heard the outtakes before, so Richard has the option of re-arranging them any way he wants to make them sound more contemporary. I always thought the saxophone on "Ordinary Fool" was done in '83. It sounds too clear to have been recorded in the 70s.

Then, of course, many of the songs just have Karen's work leads, along with only piano, bass, and drums. So Richard is free to do whatever he wants to build on the arrangement, and he probably has ideas today that may never have occurred to him in the 70s and 80s.
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
Re: a slow version of "Breaking Up", I did hear at some point in time that the live duet from '75 between Karen and Sedaka was recorded during a Las Vegas concert. I also had read that Richard had all their concerts recorded, so that could be interesting.
Mark
 

OceanKing

New Member
Mark, I've never heard about this live Karen/Sedaka duet. Was it just the ballad version of "Breaking Up," or was it a medley? Details, please. :D

If it exists, I wonder if it would ever be released. I get the feeling the animosity between Richard and Sedaka persists to this day. :|
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
I think it was mentioned in that Rolling Stone article.
I believe it is an upbeat version done during the Carpenters set and the oldies medley specifically. I think the article says it was a showstopper.
Mark
 

Bruno

Member
I know that Neil Sedaka opened the show for Richard and Karen in Las Vegas, and that his engagement was cut short because of an animosity between him and the duo.

Does somebody know the reason for this animosity? I would be interested to know.

Thanks!
 

OceanKing

New Member
As the opening act, Sedaka was expected to warm up the audience for the headliner, in this case, the Carpenters. However, Sedaka behaved as though he was the star of the show, and was not properly deferential to Karen and Richard. He had the musical chops to make that claim. He was (and is) an amazing live performer, and audiences loved him. K&R found him to be a difficult act to follow night after night.

However, the last straw came when Sedaka overstepped his bounds one night. The unwritten rule of concerts is that if there is a celebrity in the audience, it is left to the headliner, not the opening act, to point him out and introduce him to the audience. Richard was outraged to hear Sedaka announcing the names of a couple of celebrities in attendance. Richard overreacted and fired Sedaka. Sedaka told the press that the Carpenters were jealous of him because he was stealing the show from them.

I don't know if they ever made up. K&R did record one of Sedaka's songs, "Breaking Up," on "A Kind of Hush" the following year (possibly as an olive branch?). Sedaka has never mentioned the Carpenters publicly again, as far as I know (maybe he doesn't talk about the incident because of Karen's death).

Still, it would be nice if he and Richard would make up, so the rest of us could hear that Sedaka/Karen duet, possibly on a future live album.
 

PJ

Member
Would be fascinating to listen / have released Carpenters Live concerts , perhaps a special Vegas Live set could be mixed and mastered for future release...... :)

Saw Sedaka in concert 1999 , Karen and Elvis were name checked as the two finest vocalists to have covered Sedaka's songs and that he wished both were still here..... :sad:

The whole 1975 debacle was really down to Carpenters health issues , double dealing by some Carpenters managers seeking to and later joining Sedaka and Sedaka taking advantage for a time from the fallout...however while Sedaka became a headliner at Vegas and elsewhere ...in terms of chart success, sales , popularity and long term career Carpnters have easily outshone Sedaka. :D

Suspect there is an uneasy truce between Richard and Sedaka in terms of not referring to 1975 and the resultant outcome....Some see 1976 " Breaking Up " as a double edged compliment as Karen sings the added "Sedaka's Back....." :o

Wonder whether Richard consider "Love Will Keep Us Together " , Lonely Night Angel Face " , Our Last Song Together " as tracks to cover before other Acts had big hits with these songs .....?

Peter...attempting diplomacy.......
 

OceanKing

New Member
Actually, Karen doesn't sing "Sedaka is back" at the end of "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do." That was Captain & Tennille, who sang those words in the fade of "Love Will Keep Us Together" (written by Sedaka).

On A KIND OF HUSH, Karen does credit another songwriter: in the fade of "Boat to Sail," she sings, "DeShannon is back" as a tribute to Jackie DeShannon.

Yes, it's a shame we don't have Karen's versions of other Sedaka songs besides "Breaking Up" and "Solitaire." She did sing a quick clip of "Laughter in the Rain" in a radio interview, but it would be nice to have a complete version.

Another Sedaka song that would have been perfect for her is the melancholy ballad, "The Hungry Years" (lesser-known than his other songs, but it has received some radio play on American 'lite' radio stations).
 

PJ

Member
Well spotted ! Mixed up songs while typing and not proof reading :o

Should have written "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do " is seen as a double egded compliment as the title / lyric and choice of song were seen by some Reviewers and Music Industry Staffers as a comment on Sedaka's sacking and Carpenters relief at his departure :confused:

If I recall in Sedaka 's autobiography , the only references were to Karen's vocals and sad death , no mention of Carpenters covers or Richard's contribution to Sedaka's Jazzy Ballad version of the song :sad:

Peter
 

OceanKing

New Member
Another Sedaka song that would have been perfect for her is the melancholy ballad, "The Hungry Years"
Re-reading my post, I can't believe I wrote that -- without realizing how inappropriate it would have been for Karen, of all people, to record a song called "The Hungry Years." :|

It is a beautiful song, but for obvious reasons, it's better that Karen did not record it. :sad:
 

Jeff

Well-Known Member
Give another listen to "You're The One" and you'll hear the most pristine and eloquent delivery of Karen's work.
 

OceanKing

New Member
Yes, "You're the One" is great. Even Richard calls it one of her finest performances in the liner notes for LOVELINES.
 
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