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Karen's Solo album

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by goodjeans, Mar 26, 2008.

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  1. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    I meant to reply to this months ago when it came up but just checked again and I'm still baffled by this. Karen's album is not - and never has been - available in the UK on Spotify. All I get is this, the only track available is If We Try. It's bizarre.

  2. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    The solo album certainly was available on Spotify UK a couple of years ago (I had a few tracks from it in a playlist), but is not on there anymore. Some Carpenters compilations (Carpenters Perform Carpenter) have also gone missing.

    This is one of the chief problems with streaming services for me - there's no guarantee that what is on there will always stay there.
    newvillefan likes this.
  3. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    I was just listening to Karen's solo version of 'Make Believe It's Your First Time'. I really like the piano arrangement, the guitar and the orchestra. As a fan of Karen's voice on most Carpenters songs, it's strange that the one element I don't really go for on 'Make Believe' is her vocal.

    'Still Crazy After All These Years' could also have been really good, with the lyrics, the melody and the background vocals, which are done well. I also like the arrangement. However, Karen's lead vocals get into sounding thin, whiny, sort of 'prissy' and sanatised.

    The solo album seems like such a big wasted opportunity. I realise there are different opinions about it. Some people really like it.

    One of the main negatives for me throughout the album is the way Karen sounded. And it's not as if she was past it. She got back to sounding good again, with her rich, lower register, on a number of the 'Made in America' tracks.

    Other issues, in my opinion, were the choices of songs and the sound of Karen pitched out of her naturally impressive vocal zone.

    I do agree with the thought that some of the unreleased tracks could have been really good. I think a number of them would have been better choices than what went into the final selection.

    As for a double album, I don't know. I think that a re-imagined, re-worked and re-recorded project would have been a better idea. But Karen obviously wasn't up to it health-wise.
    Geographer likes this.
  4. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    Richard was best at capturing Karen's voice, but Phil did not want her to sound like Karen from the Carpenters. He wanted a different sound. At least that was my impression from what we have read. For me, I had to remove my thoughts from the sound created with the Carpenters to enjoy the solo project, as if I had never before heard Karen for I was accustomed and looked for her Carpenters sound. At first listen, I did not enjoy the Late Night Show type of orchestration that accompanied Karen, but then again, it was not a Carpenters recording. When I learned to appreciate the differences, I could easily place her tunes in my Carpenters canon collection. One last thought, I don't hear the particular attention to detail in the fidelity of those late 70's solo recordings as I do with Richard's 'Carpenters' product selections from the same period. Given today's advances in sound, if recorded today, we would hear a different production in sound. In my head, I have applied this summary: we heard 9 years of a duo and as fans, we yearned for their blend. It was a brave act that Karen followed in an effort to bring the Carpenters closer to the pop world of 1979 with an image realignment that she was encouraged to cover. I feel she is looking down from the heavens smiling knowing that history and nostalgia has created that very revival on the products that built their success. They alone, are a slice of heaven on earth for me. And, to know she had the very best of friends and that they treasure her to this day is a testament to life. It's those good positive nuggets that I reflect on in this latter period of my life.
  5. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    Yes, I can see that. You have made good points, CraigGA. I just wish the songs had been pitched lower, that some of them had been different choices and that Karen hadn't performed parts of them in such an affected style - that she had sung as she usually did.
  6. ars nova

    ars nova Active Member

    you wanted a different album, a Richard carpenter production of a Karen carpenter solo album.
  7. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    Maybe. But not really. It's just that the album is not to my taste. As I said, I think a number of the unreleased tracks are better than what was selected, in my opinion. If some of those tracks had been completed and included, and others taken off, I would have liked the album better. I just don't think Karen sounds very good on the actual album, on most songs. If she had sounded like that on everything she ever recorded, I probably wouldn't be a fan. Although a lot of her background harmonies are nice.
  8. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Dare I say it, I like her background vocals on the solo album more than I do some of her harmonies with Richard. Rod Temperton really knew what he was doing when he came up with the jazzy vocal arrangements.
  9. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    True. Some great harmonies. I also like Michael Jackson's harmonies on the 'Off The Wall' LP.
    Mark-T and goodjeans like this.
  10. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    The harmonies on the solo album tracks are lovely - perhaps made even more so because it left like so much of their post-1975 output was missing the use of Karen and Richard's harmonies in the background. Rod Temperton came up with some terrific and quite ambitious arrangements for them.

    I also have to disagree with the criticism, originally made by Richard but also noted by some others, that the songs on the album were pitched too high. There are only a few - 'Making Love in the Afternoon' and 'Still in Love with You' on the album and 'It's Really You' and 'Jimmy Mack' on the outtakes - where this is really an issue. A couple of others ('Last One Singin' the Blues' and 'Remember When Lovin' Took All Night') are pitched a bit higher than usual but Karen sounds great on them. There are also plenty of tracks - 'If We Try', 'If I Had You', 'Lovelines', 'Still Crazy After All These Years' - that feature a good amount of the lower register.

    What's more, comparing to their output directly before the solo album, a lot of their singles from this time - 'There's a Kind of Hush', 'I Need to Be in Love', 'All You Get From Love is a Love Song' and 'Sweet Sweet Smile' - don't feature much of Karen's 'basement' register either, so it wasn't as if she'd switched from singing really low to really high with the solo album in any case.
    CraigGA, GaryAlan and Jeff like this.
  11. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    ^^^ Agreed- I LOVE the solo tracks, even the ones with "problems". They show Karen in a new light, and I think many of them are outstanding.
  12. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    I listened to the entire solo album this weekend and it was upbeat and made me happy. I caught myself bobbing my head and shifting side to side getting into these songs. I believe this is what it's all about, the album just makes me feel good and it's fun music.

    It's not a Carpenters album, it's Karen the way she wanted to be heard and this work is all approved by Karen. This is a good thing.
    Jeff, CraigGA, Walkinat9 and 2 others like this.
  13. Graeme

    Graeme Active Member

    For the most part I usually feel the same, though if I'm in the right mood there's a lot to enjoy (though occasionally perhaps not for the right reasons - Still In Lurve With Yewwwwah). Personally, with the exception of Love Making Love To You and possibly Don't Try To Win Me Back Again, I'm not a fan of the leftover tracks, again they're usually too high and just rather meandery (though I do like the verses of It's Really You and Keep My Lovelight Burning - I think Karen pulls off the rock chick thing off okay until the chorus).

    Still, despite a number of reservations I'd buy the solo album again if it was released with all the leftover tracks.

    With regard to the affected style, I think Phil Ramone perhaps tried too hard to steer Karen Carpenter from what he perceived to be Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters. Interview footage where he suggests that as part of the Carpenters she sang songs as a girl who hadn't experienced life always rather baffled me as in many of the best Carpenters songs, you felt she was a woman who had lived and learned a lot. And for me, she had often demonstrated new things with her vocals. Although an outtake, she tackles Ordinary Fool slightly differently to normal, for example the 'and how many times...' line; on Horizon we get Desperado and Solitare where she was at her peak vocally demonstrating both the smooth and edgy sides of her vocals; I Can't Make Music is world weary and resigned Karen; On A Kind Of Hush she admittedly sounded a little bored a lot of the time but she seemed to be experimenting with a more sensual sound at times with Sandy (not a favourite) and Boat To Sail; pick any track off Passage and she tackles most of them completely differently; her lead in Santa Claus Is Coming To Town is as sexy as anything; Slow Dance is wonderfully playful.
    Mark-T and Brian like this.
  14. Brian

    Brian Active Member

    In regard to Karen's solo potential, I was thinking how much I enjoy some of the recordings that Carpenters did that were not related to love and 'moon / June', 'around/ frown', 'me /see', 'true / blue', 'love you / I do' sorts of ideas.

    I think that Karen could have tackled something arty and different on her solo album and done something really interesting, with the right vision, writers and producer. It might have been good if she'd teamed up with someone from the alternate scene, (if there was anyone, back then). Imagine if she'd teamed up with someone like Mick Jones of The Clash, or John Cale of The Velvet Underground, or David Sylvian from the group, Japan. Someone who would have taken her far away from her origins but still produced that voice. (I know a couple of these guys were just starting out at that time, so, in reality, it may not have been possible around 1979 - but maybe a couple of years later). Maybe these fictional partnerships wouldn't have produced a fully commercial product but they might have resulted in something totally artistically fulfilling and credible, and something that really stimulated the public.

    A second appealing thought is what if Karen had been able to write her own songs that expressed her own personality and individuality - something removed from the typical love songs that she was known for. That might have resulted in something truly unique. I suppose she may have been too sheltered to come up with anything along the lines that I am thinking, but even if you haven't lived something, you can still delve into your imagination.

    I will finish by saying that I do love most of the Carpenters songs that include rhymes like the ones at the beginning of this post!
  15. Ive really enjoyed karens album, from that day oct 8 1996 at 11:12am(i still have the recept, i paid $13.99+$1.01 tax US DOLLARs), i bought my cd that day. blockbuster music(remember them?) anyhow... why in 1996 after 16 years was it released? what changed richards or phils mind? ive read the "time and events make me think differently about the cd" thing...

    still wondering...after all these years.....
  16. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    From what I recall, there were essentially two factors that led to the release of the solo album in 1996:

    1) Pressure from fans on Richard and the record company: I gather that fans had been contacting Richard since the 1980s about releasing the solo album, but Phil Ramone noted in a UK radio documentary on Karen about 10 years ago that the key change was the revival of the Carpenters' chart success in the UK in the early 1990s following the TV movie, which led to people finding out that there had been a solo album and thus making efforts to seek it out. Of course, Richard had included a few tracks from it on Lovelines and later From the Top, so that just fed the desire to see the whole thing released.

    2) By 1996, A&M had been taken over by Polygram and Alpert and Moss were no longer in charge of the label. Presumably the new heads, seeing that there was interest from fans in seeing the album released, decided to press ahead with it. I'm not sure how much of a say Richard had in this (although presumably he could have continued to block its release if he had wanted to, even if in the event he didn't really give its release much support in any case). Phil presumably had no influence on this decision, just as he'd had no influence on its shelving back in 1980.
    goodjeans likes this.
  17. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    I think by 1996, with A&M no longer under Herb and Jerry's control, and after years of continued haranguing from the fans about its release, he held his hands up in exasperation and agreed to it going forward. His liner notes do reflect that, almost as if to say "I don't really like it, but there's nothing on it to be ashamed about".

    I do recall an anecdote where Richard said the fans were "driving him nuts" about releasing the album, I think it was to Phil Ramone.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2017
  18. goodjeans

    goodjeans Active Member Thread Starter

    ...just listened again after a while and... so satisfying. I heard (new) nuances to "Make Believe..."and in love again with this solo effort.
    Jeff, GaryAlan and Mark-T like this.
  19. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    When I play a selection of tunes spanning their career, a few of Karen’s solo tunes fit quite nicely between Passage and Made in America tunes. Here is an example of the latter:
    1. I Just Fall In Love Again
    2. Where Do I Go From Here
    3. Guess I Just Lost My Head
    4. Still Crazy After All These Years
    5. You’re the One
    4. If We Try
    5. I Believe You
    6. Last One Singing The Blues
    7. Uninvited Guest
    8. Make Believe Its Your First Time (solo)
    9. Touch Me when We’re Dancing
    10. Something’s Missing
    11. Love Making Love To You
    12. Kiss Me The Way You Did Last Night
    Bonus: Ordinary Fool

    They seem to weave together! The songs were there...
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2018
    Rick-An Ordinary Fool likes this.
  20. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    What I still find interesting is Richard's statement:
    " If I Had You....is my favorite from the solo album" (Essential Collection, Liner Notes).
    Does he mean his favorite--period, at that time--or,
    his favorite after he "stamped it with his arrangement-alterations ?
    Good as this song is (especially Karen's background vocals),
    some of the lead notes are too high (lyric, "...a..g..a..i..n...")

    (1) Again, was the song Something's Missing
    never considered as release-worthy ?
    (2) Again, Richard liked Make Believe It's Your First Time
    well enough
    to: re-cut it, ask the writers to write a 'bridge,' then, release on Voice Of The Heart.
    Again, the original solo effort of this song is perfect,...if not, brilliant.
    Jeff likes this.
  21. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    I think he meant it was his favourite of the songs she recorded for the album. I don’t think he was referring to the 1989 remix, just the song in general. He did - begrudgingly - accept the fact that it may have been hit single material, which is about as close as praise as we’re ever going to get from him regarding the album.

    Phil and Karen chose not to include it on the album and Richard has said in recent years he’d like to complete it and release it. Let’s hope by “complete it” he doesn’t mean smothering it in syrupy strings and oboes. The song is fine as it is.
  22. David A

    David A Active Member

    I'm good at roaming off topic, it seems. But...has Richard ever talked about why they went away from their earlier style, using their vocals on backing tracks?
  23. JayJayVA

    JayJayVA Member

    I "tried" to love "Still In Love With You" ---I still don't love it. I always skip it.:cop:
    newvillefan likes this.
  24. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Its only redeeming factor is that stack of harmonies Karen does over the guitar solo. Other than that, it’s awful and far too contrived. It shouldn’t have been included on the album.
    CraigGA likes this.
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