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Revisiting Roger Nichols

Must Hear This Album

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I recently ordered the eponymous album, Roger Nichols & The Small Circle Of Friends, as I’ve been spending some time contemplating some important Carpenters’ influences and associates, etc. It’s scheduled to arrive in my mailbox on Friday, and I’m super geeked about it. So anyway, I stumbled upon this Japanese Q&A interview with Roger Nichols, and siblings, Melinda MacLeod and Murray MacLeod, which, I believe, was released in conjunction with either their 2007 “comeback” album, Full Circle (which I downloaded from iTunes and have been thoroughly enjoying), or some other, more recent release, as at the interview references the horrific earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 as well as at very end of the second interview, they play a clip of the trio singing, “We’ve Only Just Begun,” which sounds lovely, but it’s not present on the Full Circle album.

At any rate, it’s an interesting to hear about both their original A&M album as well as the newer one. They mention Carpenters at the end of the first interview, essentially indicating that A&M dropped the trio after they signed Carpenters (they didn’t get into specifics, but I took it to mean the label lost interest?). They make it clear of their great admiration for the duo, particularly Melinda, whose facial expression (to me, anyway) conveys a sadness about Karen’s tragic death (I don’t think I’m reading into this). In the second part of the Q&A interview they mention “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days And Mondays” as two of their very favorites. I thought others might enjoy the interviews as well. The three seem absolutely wonderful.

Interview, part 1:
Interview, part 2:
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
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The new album that they're referring to is MY HEART IS HOME, which I've not heard. It was apparently released in Japan in 2012.

I do hope you're going to enjoy the original SMALL CIRCLE OF FRIENDS album. My love for the album is detailed elsewhere on these pages, so I won't bore you with repetition. As somewhat of a "geek" on that album, I now own it as:

- original vinyl SP-4139
- the first Japanese CD release, POCM-2047
- the Japanese "complete" CD, POCM-2065
- the RevOla Records re-release, CR REV 86
- the 2012 Japanese dual SHM-CD release (mono/stereo), UICY-75172/3

...and I have to say that the mono version just blew me away.

I too have a copy of FULL CIRCLE, and while it's great to hear them do some of those old songs, it just doesn't have quite the same magic as the old SMALL CIRCLE OF FRIENDS album does. Still it's amazing to hear the three of them sounding so much like they did all those years ago.

Harry
 

Must Hear This Album

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Thanks for the clarification, Harry. It’s funny, because I actually thought Full Circle was recorded in the late 1960’s when I first listened to it (“Winner’s Theme” tipped me off that it was recorded later, as it sounds like something you might hear in a chase scene from “Hart To Hart,” a late-1970’s theme song, which, I believe read somewhere that Nichols actually penned). I then read that Full Circle was actually released in 2007 and recorded around that time. I love that they treated the album like it was still 1968: it’s as if they released their first album, went out for a burger, and then came back to the studio to record the follow-up. As I’ve mentioned before (ad nauseam) I’ve so often wished R&K had stuck with the early 1970’s “formula” in the latter part of the decade, after The Singles, even though I loved how Horizon turned out, departure that it was. Sigh...at any rate, a couple of related notes:
  • I haven’t yet heard the original Circle Of Friends album; it’s due to arrive on Friday of this week, and I can’t wait (your quick review, above, cranked-up my buzz even more; I’ll look for the related posts you reference).
  • I’ve also just stumbled upon The Parade, a similar-sounding trio from that era, which also featured Murray MacLeod and had a top 20 hit in 1967 with a song titled, “The Sunshine Girl,” which is kind of a perfect title for a song released in the “Summer of Love.”
  • Discovering these “forgotten" groups from the era give me a renewed appreciation for “sunshine pop” (i.e., The Association, Spanky & Our Gang, The Grass Roots, Mamas & Papas, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Beach Boys, etc.) and how it influenced R&K. Great stuff.
Thanks again for the note, Harry.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
I'm re-opening this thread from five years ago since the interview is still there, and this album needs a little more promotion. There are "Carpenters" references all over it.

First off, here's the album's cover and back cover. This is the CherryRed version with the bonus tracks. There are Japanese versions out there as well.

3237

3238

As you can see, Herb Alpert gets a quote on the rear cover, and if you look carefully at the composers, you'll see tons of "Nichols-Williams" of course, but also note a couple of "Bettis" references.

Then there are the songs that we all know from Carpenters: "Let Me Be The One" and "I Kept On Loving You".

Inside the liner notes, we find Roger's thanks box:

Roger Nichols would like to thank Herb Alpert,
Richard Carpenter, Paul Williams, John Bettis,
and Tony Asher for their kind support of this album,
They are good friends.


Track 6 has a lead trumpet by Chuck Findley
Track 10 has a trumpet by Ron Gorow

More quotes:


I first heard of Roger and his group in 1968 with the A&M releases "Snow Queen" and "The Drifter".
Karen and I were blown away then as I am now, having just listened to Roger's newest
Friends CD.
-Richard Carpenter
"I'm Comin' To The Best Part Of My Life"
Roger is one of the chief musical forces that helped deliver The Carpenters to the world. His songs,
Richard's production and Karen's voice defined us. This time was born in Roger's office that felt like a
bank vault full of golden songs. In between the laughter and friendship a lyric of hope and strength
appeared. Cass Elliot embraced it as a personal anthem and many of her fans still regard it as "her
song". My friend Cassie would be proud to have that expression included here. I am always honored to
be beside Roger who, I believe, is one of the finest composers of his time. Thank you for all you have
given to me and the world, Roger.
-John Bettis
Hearing the "Circle" perform again is like mail from home. It's the rare combination of sophistication
and warmth that makes this trio so unique. Toss in the brilliance of Nichols' compositions and you
realize that you're enjoying the artistry of a world-class master musician and writer ... combining
harmonies and sweet memories in a very special blend. Enjoy!
-Paul Williams
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Honolulu City Lights
I have the Roger Nichols & Paul Williams CD (tan cover) and my favorites are "Someday Man", "I Kept On Loving You" and "Out in the Country"
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Moderator
That album was all demos, as I recall. It was produced to demonstrate Roger Nichols-Paul Williams songs for the industry and was later released to the public as a sort of curiosity.

FULL CIRCLE, though it contains a few demos as bonus tracks, is a full-fledged album that Nichols and the MacLeod siblings did as a follow-up to their old A&M album, but recorded largely in the 2000s. There are a few bits and pieces of leftover recordings from the old days.

Here's the updated version of "The Drifter":
 
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