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Karen's voice in 1980

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by BrandonBarry, Dec 4, 2014.

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  1. BrandonBarry

    BrandonBarry Member Thread Starter

    USA
    I've heard some say that at this point the richness was slowly thinning out in her voice. Like on MMM for example. Do you think it was in 1981 when that change was first heard? That would have been after the wedding fiasco, and MMM was a few months before the wedding.

    Karen sang from her soul and when something changes deep inside someone you can hear it in their eyes and voice, and I think this was the case post-1980. From 1976 on there was a change from the early years but it could also be a result of her illness taking its toll.
     
  2. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    It has been Richard Carpenter's contention that: "Karen's voice was never less than perfect when she sang--right to the end." (page 22,Coleman)
    He has written, regarding the song "Now", that: "Karen's voice was never lovelier." (40th Box Set Notes)
    And, "There never was a point where she acted sick." (People, November 21, 1983)

    At the risk of alienation, I will offer no opinion regarding this particular issue.
    Probably best, anyway.
     
  3. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    As time passes I really think the differences in her voice were down 99% to the way her voice was placed in the mix/sweetened/how she was recorded, and nothing to do with weakening vocals.

    If you listen to some of her unsweetened solo tracks. . ."midnight" for instance, then compare it to "If we Try", the songs may have been recorded within days of each other, but they sound COMPLETELY different.

    Same with The Wedding Song . . .a gorgeous vocal, compared to Want You Back In mY Life again, a much "thinner" vocal. . . .again, probably recorded within a month of the former, and nothing to do with inferior vocal ability, just where and how she was placed in the mix.

    Her lung capacity may have been hampered by her illness, I'll give you that. Her live performance of "Top Of The World" in late '81 sees her struggling for breath at times. . .but the voice itself is as gorgeous as ever. . .maybe not the same as it always was. . .but just as lovely.
     
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  4. BrandonBarry

    BrandonBarry Member Thread Starter

    USA
    Alienation? Why do you say that? It's your opinion, your not saying anything bad about anyone. It's probably best to speak your mind on an issue that's definitely interesting to talk about.
     
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  5. BrandonBarry

    BrandonBarry Member Thread Starter

    USA
    Yeah
    Yeah but there's just something missing from her timbre in later years. That's something that can't be distorted by technology - its a human feeling.
     
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  6. arthowson

    arthowson Active Member

    Nothing wrong the timbre in Where Do I Go From Here
     
  7. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    Listen to 'At The End Of A Song' from 'Voice of the Heart', which was recorded in late 1980. That's the OLD Karen. It was recorded at the same sessions as '(Want You) Back In My Life Again'. Karen was an extremely versatile singer who could change her style at the drop of a hat. Furthermore, Richard is a producer who tended to use orchestras, back-up singers and lots of sounds in Carpenters recordings. His approach was far different in 1980 than it was in 1970.

    It's the combination of all of these things we're hearing when comparing and contrasting those periods. Carpenters recordings and overall approach to performance and production had naturally evolved over a ten year span. Whereas Karen was always front and center on the earlier stuff, she was utilized as more of an instrument (the most vital one) in the later years.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2014
  8. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    BrandonBarry, my use of the word "alienation" is probably incorrect.
    More a "divergence" from the normative views expressed.
    Your question is a good one, merely more subtle than can be explicated in a few lines (by me, that is).
    Obviously, with the onset of age, physical attributes change.
    Whether I discern any changes in Karen's vocals, or not,
    I am still unable to disentangle changes (in vocals) as a result of stylistic alteration, age, illness, or a combination thereof.
    Also, comparison of studio recordings against live performances poses some nuances.
    How does technology affect what I hear, and also how the information (music) is communicated to my senses.
    And, of course, my own hearing has declined as I have aged, so, my perception, too, has changed.
    My opinion, such as it is, goes all the way back to 1981: Made In America , Karen definitely sounded different from
    all previous efforts---now, whether she chose that direction or had no choice in that direction---I do not know.
    A&MRetro seems to describe it nicely!
     
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  9. song4u

    song4u Well-Known Member

    I just assumed that as she approached and reached her 30's she was singing softer to preserve her voice for the future. (I think now of Whitney Houston who was a wonderful singer, but really belted out a song and over time her voice seemed to suffer burnout.) Of course back in the day I had no idea Karen had health issues, but I really missed her singing the way she had earlier.
     
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  10. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Her voice absolutely is deeper then. It's unusual for a female singer's voice to deepen that early. Thirty isn't old in the least bit. The first voice change that happened (between the first record and, say, "A Song for You" is the result of her gaining knowledge of her instrument. She was never lovelier than that third album through "I Believe You". Her voice does seem to have deepened afterward and it's not all Richard's production.

    Ed
     
  11. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    By the way, Carpenters' Fan Club Newsletters have it that the Paris Top Of The World Performance
    was on October 16th,1981--it then aired in December.
     
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  12. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    I'm sure the technical proficiency of the French TV station wasn't the best for 'live' sound in late '81. She does sound somewhat quiet, and her breaths are more obvious than usual. But she's still SPOT-ON.
     
  13. BrandonBarry

    BrandonBarry Member Thread Starter

    USA
    Some of her best performances happened in the later half of the 70s so don't think I'm complaining. I'm just noticing a change that could very well be a conscious effort on her part (at least to a degree) to sound more soft and womanly.

    When Karen sang it was from her soul, and when a singer who sings from their soul has changed or is changing deep down (professionally and personally) you can hear it in their voice. This is perhaps why Horizon has the effectiveness it does; the beginning of her disorder, her romantic life in shambles, and myriad other issues plagued her especially at this point and you hear it.
     
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  14. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    Whether it's this or Richard's attempts to mix her into the background (or both, depending on when each MIA track was recorded), one question remains. How could she produce leads as different as 'The Uninvited Guest' and (Want You) Back In My Life Again? They are completely different. In the former, Karen is back to her old vocal self: upfront, intimate, rich and sounding wonderful. On the latter, she sounds weak and distant. I don't understand how Richard could let the mix of 'Back In My Life Again' go forward for the album.

    Another example is the quality of Karen's vocal on 'Somebody's Been Lying' compared to 'The Uninvited Guest'? They're essentially the same kind of 'torch song', so you'd expect her to sound the same on both, but the song that made the album doesn't have the same upfront presence.
     
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  15. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Great synopsis of the situation, Stephen!
    Absolutely spot-on in your assessment; took the words out of my mouth.
     
  16. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    I would give anything to hear a remix of 'Back In My Life Again' with Karen upfront. It would be a very different listening experience. It will always be my favorite song from MIA, but Karen's just so far back in the damned mix!
     
  17. BrandonBarry

    BrandonBarry Member Thread Starter

    USA
    I know this has been talked about before, but I think it could be that Richard intentionally mixed Karen in back to let his intricate arrangements take center stage; perhaps bitter over solo album. I actually like some songs/arrangements on MIA, and it sounds like Karen is attempting a whispered, much softer vocal style (probably after picking it up with Ramone) that works sometimes but not on everything.
     
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  18. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    She doesn't sound like that on "Karen Carpenter". I agree with you that her approach is likely a result of Richard's production style on "Made in America". He mixed her further down in the tracks than he ever used to so that she's not the driving force. Odd choice and one that shorts the overall sound of the album.

    Ed
     
  19. There's a little trick where you can bring Karen up in the mix by about +3db. It's the trick of collapsing the track to mono. One of the reasons that special mono mixes were made back in the day was that if you collapse - or fold down - a stereo track, whatever exists in the center of the stereo mix will end up being boosted by about 3db in the mono mix. Since that made some records sound "wrong", engineers and producers would make special, dedicated mono mix for radio stations or 45 singles.

    You can do this collapse-to-mono trick in several ways.
    First, if your stereo equipment has a mono switch that will work on your records or CDs, you can use that.
    Second, you can use a set of "Y-adapters" between your turntable or CD player and your amplifier. The first Y-connector joins the two channels coming out for your player. Then you use another Y-cable to split that mono signal back to two channels so that you can get identical sound in both left and right speakers.
    Third, you can use computer software to accomplish it. Programs like Audacity will allow you to combine two channels into a mono mix.

    So, if you want to hear "Back In My Life Again" or "Those Good Old Dreams" in mono - and don't happen to have promo 45s in mono - this will accomplish the same thing.

    Harry
     
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  20. Just thought of another way to boost Karen's vocal on these tracks - using a surround sound system, you might have the ability to boost the center channel or lower the volume on the left-and-right channels if you use the Dolby Pro-Logic II sound field.

    Harry
     
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  21. BrandonBarry

    BrandonBarry Member Thread Starter

    USA
    What I meant is that it's a similar "sensual" sound that she has on both albums. And she still sounds really good on MIA but I think the devastation over the solo fiasco made her much less enthusiastic about recording this and you can kinda hear it.
     
  22. newvillefan

    newvillefan Well-Known Member

    I would bet you any money if we asked Richard whether this was the case, he'd say he doesn't hear what we're hearing and that she sounds perfectly fine.
     
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  23. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    I'll bet you're right, newvillefan.
     
  24. BrandonBarry

    BrandonBarry Member Thread Starter

    USA
    I agree with you. I won't turn this into an anti-Richard thread, but we just know that he would never utter a word about her voice and how she was mixed. I'm still a bit confused on why he calls MIA his favorite album, or at least one of them. Like I said earlier, his lush, intricate arrangements took center stage so maybe that's why he's so proud of it. It's not the most consistent set of songs and it feels generic and drab in spots, and it was made during a very heightened time emotionally.
     
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