• The new Carpenters recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is now available. Use this link to order, and help us out at the same time. Thank you!

Karen’s Vocal Peak

In which year was Karen at her absolute vocal peak...and why?

  • 1969

  • 1970

  • 1971

  • 1972

  • 1973

  • 1974

  • 1975

  • 1976

  • 1977

  • 1978

  • 1979

  • 1980

  • 1981

  • 1982


Results are only viewable after voting.

ullalume

Well-Known Member
It was very close since she's particularly stunning on Horizon and her re-recording of Top of the World and Ticket in late '73 is soooooo rich and creamy, but as an interpreter of songs, plus that effortless and creaminess that was still present, I said '78.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
There is a very strong case to be made for 1978. Karen's Christmas vocals are incredible.
In fact, listening to the "unsweetened" work-lead of Honolulu City Lights
almost tilts me in that direction, yet, a direct comparison to
Trying To Get The Feeling Again reinforces my decision for 1975.
1975 and 1978 are close calls for me.

 

David A

Well-Known Member
1971. "Superstar" - sung once from a napkin. The results: absolute, unquestionable perfection.
Agree 100%. 1971. This is also the year Rainy Days and Mondays was released, another amazing vocal by Karen.

In a broader sense, Karen's voice has always been a marvel to listen to, but more often than not I find myself enjoying her vocals a bit more during the 1969 - 1975 period.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
Oh, man. This is like having to pick one kid as your favorite because I love every period of Karen’s career.

If I had to pick 3, I’d choose:

1970- The first time we heard the Karen we all know and love. Her vocals had matured drastically in less than a year. Prime examples would be ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ and ‘Baby It’s You’. Karen was 19-20 and she was already in complete control of her talents.

1975- Pick ANYTHING from ‘Horizon’ and there you have it. Powerhouse, deep, resonant and affecting.

1978: ‘Christmas Portrait’ tracks and all the other outtakes from the same year display her talents beautifully. Also, take a listen to the 1978 ‘Hits Medley’ from 1978. She sounds as stunning as ever. And her ‘scat’ singing while Tony does his guitar solo on ‘Goodbye To Love’ is simply fantastic.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
Oh, man. This is like having to pick one kid as your favorite because I love every period of Karen’s career.

If I had to pick 3, I’d choose:

1970- The first time we heard the Karen we all know and love. Her vocals had matured drastically in less than a year. Prime examples would be ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ and ‘Baby It’s You’. Karen was 19-20 and she was already in complete control of her talents.

1975- Pick ANYTHING from ‘Horizon’ and there you have it. Powerhouse, deep, resonant and affecting.

1978: ‘Christmas Portrait’ tracks and all the other outtakes from the same year display her talents beautifully. Also, take a listen to the 1978 ‘Hits Medley’ from 1978. She sounds as stunning as ever. And her ‘scat’ singing while Tony does his guitar solo on ‘Goodbye To Love’ is simply fantastic.
P.S. When I was talking about the 'Hits Medley' from 1978, I was referring to Carpenters performing it on The Tonight Show.
 

WYBIMLA

Well-Known Member
I went for 1978 because think of the volume of what the Christmas album was and her late night TV appearances.
She did every song flawlessly. It seemed to be her sweet spot of just the right amount of husk and the softer delivery that she preferred.
I think she sounded great all the time... throughout her entire career never once heard a bum note from Ms. C.
She's one of the few artists that could do one take and no one would ask her to do it again. Very rare gift she had.
 
Last edited:

WYBIMLA

Well-Known Member
:hide: Ticket To Ride ‘69:hide:
Okay yeah I'll give you that, and during a live show of Talk of the Town 1974 Karen started "For all we know" on the wrong note.
Alright and I can see why she wanted to re-do Top of the World. So let's be real and say she had a few minor vocal mistakes that are nothing compared to the plethora of "Singing Fails" you can find of contemporary artists screeching, hollering and probably giving themselves nodules on their vocal folds. That's still excellent for a career spanning well over a decade that we can only spot a few things here and there.
 
Last edited:

Graeme

Well-Known Member
I went for 1975. From 1970 to 1974 her voice was perfect; rich and smooth but powerful and edgy at times too. In tracks like Desperado and Tryin' To Get The Feeling she uses both of these sides of her voice but she seems to play around a bit more (for example the "At an-y moment" line in TTGTFA - which were the first words I ever heard her sing and I was hooked from then on). Her vocal on I Can Dream Can't I vocal is just perfection. Then again, so is her Close To You vocal, and her Rainy Days And Mondays vocal and her, well, I could go on. Even in 1969 she demonstrated that smoothness - her All Of My Life vocal sounds more like a post 1970 one to me.

After Horizon though I never felt her voice sounded quite the same somehow. It was still great and but just not quite so warm, smooth or rich somehow (although there are moments when I can hear it on later albums - It's Christmas Time/Sleep Well Little Children, I Believe You, and Slow Dance until the final "someone like you" which has always bugged me for some reason). And her final "Alleluia" in Christ Is Born gets me everytime.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Thread Starter
Her Horizon vocals are just too soft for me. It’s like she took her foot off the gas and went for more restrained, husky vocals, for the most part, sacrificing vocal stridency. It’s like she “breathes” the lines she’s singing, instead of singing in her hard voice (which was always quite soft anyway). Yes, it’s in keeping with the sublime texture of that album, but to my ears it also adds to the “dragginess” Richard complains about. Her 1978 vocals on the standards and the Christmas tracks regain the stridency and strength that is largely missing on Horizon.
 

Graeme

Well-Known Member
Her Horizon vocals are just too soft for me. It’s like she took her foot off the gas and went for more restrained, husky vocals, for the most part, sacrificing vocal stridency. It’s like she “breathes” the lines she’s singing, instead of singing in her hard voice (which was always quite soft anyway). Yes, it’s in keeping with the sublime texture of that album, but to my ears it also adds to the “dragginess” Richard complains about. Her 1978 vocals on the standards and the Christmas tracks regain the stridency and strength that is largely missing on Horizon.
Yep, Horizon does drag a bit - I don't think the track order helps.
 

WYBIMLA

Well-Known Member
After Horizon though I never felt her voice sounded quite the same somehow. It was still great and but just not quite so warm, smooth or rich somehow (although there are moments when I can hear it on later albums - It's Christmas Time/Sleep Well Little Children, I Believe You, and Slow Dance until the final "someone like you" which has always bugged me for some reason). And her final "Alleluia" in Christ Is Born gets me everytime.
I never heard Slow Dance that way before. Hmmm the final "someone like you" has a bit of breath on the word "like" maybe that's it.

It's just Karen being Karen. Like on the extended version of Let me be the One where she goes "figure out where the rest of the melody is I'll sing it." Just kinda humming or being subtly goofy while the song ends.

It's the same reason Richard couldn't use the full lead at the start of Do you hear what I hear? She would just kinda come in and lay something down just to get a feel for it. That's the problem with the posthumous material is that the majority of it were outtakes. I have a few spots where I'm bugged on The Uninvited Guest specifically around 3:34 "she's the other woman who's on your mind." sounds like the "on" has a bit of mucus in there. And the way she sang "I should leave you but a laaahhuuuuv ewww ooohhh" obviously doesn't sound finished.

It's not bad or anything, but I've come to understand what a work lead is from listening to Richard explain it. You can't really fault Karen for that because naturally she wouldn't bring out her best if it was like a rehearsal. Most artists mark what they're going to do before going into full voice.

I'm kinda surprised that Won't Last a Day Without You sounds as good as it does considering that she had a sore throat recording it, but you can't even tell.

And yes Horizon is surreal almost in the way it was engineered and sounds like Karen just woke up in the middle of the night to lull you to sleep. :razz:
 
Last edited:

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
Thread Starter
Horizon is surreal almost in the way it was engineered and sounds like Karen just woke up in the middle of the night to lull you to sleep.
There we go. The best assessment of Horizon I’ve ever read. In one way, a compliment to her vocal talent, in another it sums up what’s lacking on the album.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
Well, Richard did say once that you could wake Karen up and ask her to sing....and it would be spot-on. So, that makes perfect sense.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
In tracks like Desperado and Tryin' To Get The Feeling she uses both of these sides of her voice but she seems to play around a bit more (for example the "At an-y moment" line in TTGTFA - which were the first words I ever heard her sing and I was hooked from then on)
That “an-y moment” reading never fails to give me chills and demonstrates the incredibly nuanced, melodic complexity she brought to her phrasings. That little rise on that word is something else, and then when she says “...he’ll be walkin’ through that door... that vocal fry, I believe, on “door” is just great.

Part of what makes her such a gifted vocalist was that she could suggest facets of intellectual logic and emotional tones about the lyric while not specifying too much. That’s what keeps us coming back. She makes the viewer do some of the work, project themselves into the words/melody and holding back extraneous, self-indulgent detail. She’s at once completely emotionally invested yet there’s a slight detachment, where her innate melancholy knows better, and on the saddest songs, already knows the score. When we hear a song she’s alive again, but like an apparition still - caught somewhere between existing and not existing - yet emotionally full-bodied where you just get lost in her vocal tones with just enough satisfying speculation, but not firm answers. Attempting to figure out who Karen Carpenter really was as much as you’re trying to understand yourself and why you respond to her. Few singers of any era work such fascinating angles when they open their mouths.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
I should leave you but a laaahhuuuuv ewww ooohhh"
A line like that doesn’t bother me because I hear real feeling in it but I do understand how it isn’t technically as precise a phrasing as it normally would be. That whole reading has this hushed, airy feel to it, much like the ghost in the room, so it kind of works overall for me.
 

motownboy

Active Member
For me it was the "Horizon" album - 1975 - where both Richard and Karen had reached the point where the spontaneous talent and creativity were in equal measure to their professional polish. Usually, after this point in an artist's career, the quality of their work tends to suffer because the creative process starts to become more deliberate and less spontaneous. It can be argued that the peak was actually the "A Song For You" album, or "Now and Then", but for me, it was "Horizon" where the musicianship and production were nearly perfect.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
For me it was the "Horizon" album - 1975 - where both Richard and Karen had reached the point where the spontaneous talent and creativity were in equal measure to their professional polish. Usually, after this point in an artist's career, the quality of their work tends to suffer because the creative process starts to become more deliberate and less spontaneous. It can be argued that the peak was actually the "A Song For You" album, or "Now and Then", but for me, it was "Horizon" where the musicianship and production were nearly perfect.
Horizon floats in from another universe. So unlike anything they had done before or would do after. It’s this cloudy gemstone right in the middle of their career that (aside from Postman) feels like a new step of growth for both as artists. I understand the “draggy” criticism but the album forms a cohesive unit with its material and arranging, even if sometimes you want to hear the tracks individually because of such sameness.
 

David A

Well-Known Member
Usually, after this point in an artist's career, the quality of their work tends to suffer because the creative process starts to become more deliberate and less spontaneous.
Agree 100%, and for me, from 1976 on, this was the case unfortunately.
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I certainly disagree with characterizing Horizon as having vocals that are "soft and/or restrained."
Songs such as Happy, Love Me For What I Am, Only Yesterday and especially Solitaire show otherwise (and opposite) to that description.
The actual vinyl album--where you listen to Side One, then listen to Side two, is a different listening experience
from the cd (which you do not flip-over). The original vinyl (which you have to flip-over) is the best way to listen to Horizon as an entire ALBUM.
The songs do not suddenly become "better" if listened to "out-of-sequence," disconnected, from one another.
The experience of thinking every song should be a "hit-single" is once again coloring the experience of an entire-album (imho).
If any song characterizes soft, sleepy, vocals, with little edge, it is I Believe You (puts me to sleep).
Regards Karen's vocals on the work-lead, Trying To Get The Feeling Again.....hardly soft and only restrained where it needs to be, otherwise strong as ever...edgy is apt description.
 
Top Bottom