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Solo Album and Single Success

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by newvillefan, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    And so it goes.....I hardly think Phil Ramone was anything but supportive.

    Karen Carpenter: She Had Only Just Begun : Pop: New Carpenters' album features four songs from Karen's ill-fated solo collection. The album suggests she might have had a career as a soloist.
    Here is Richard Carpenter:
    In an interview tied to the release of the new album, Richard Carpenter, 43, was candid about the conflicts within the Carpenters in the late '70s.

    "Karen would mention every now and again that it would be nice to receive some accolades as a solo singer," he said in an A&M office in Hollywood. "Of course, that made me feel badly, because we were a duo. Lord knows, she was the star of the duo, but that's not quite the same."

    Richard said that he had a less-than-supportive reaction to Karen's announcement--just after he had begun a six-week drug rehabilitation program--that she was planning to record an album without him.

    "I probably said something like, 'You're just abandoning ship, just taking off and doing what you want to do.' I was feeling sorry for myself," he said. "It was a combination of feeling I was being abandoned--which was anything but the case looking back on it--and thinking this was a perfect time for her to get some treatment for her disorder. So I was not happy, and I told her as much."

    Richard, who produced and arranged the Carpenters' long string of hits, also acknowledged that he felt threatened by Karen's teaming up with another producer.

    "I'm human and it did cross my mind that something could come out of this and just explode at which time I would be going through a number of emotions. I'd be happy for Karen because I always felt that she should have been in the Top 5. On the other hand, being sensitive and feeling I'd done a good job for the Carpenters I would have been a little bit upset."

    Brian likes this.
  2. Carpe diem

    Carpe diem Well-Known Member

    Another thought on Karen's solo project. This would've been the perfect opportunity for Karen to do a duet with a big name male lead vocalist at that time...something I always wished she would've done (and sing a James Bond intro). And "no", the Peter Cetera song was not a duet! I don't know (throwing a few names out here); Barry Gibb, Jeffery Osborne, Kenny Rogers (?!), etc. What male lead would not want to sing with Karen Carpenter?! They could help each other's album sales.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
    Brian and jaredjohnfisher like this.
  3. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Carpenters’ record sales were NOT good at the time of Karen’s solo album. They hadn’t been for a while either. “Passage” did nothing and “AKOH” wasn’t huge either. The days of their chart domination were long over when Karen did her solo record and they wouldn’t see much success again, sadly.

    Daniel Perales likes this.
  4. Chris Tassin, your KC single sleeves are beautiful!!
  5. Or John Denver. They were awesome together on the TV special (although the medley of songs they did was a bit unusual).
  6. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    Diana Ross had bad sales when she first went solo but then there was Reach Out and Touch and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough that became her solo anthems.
    There was nothing released with Karen on it that year unless it was a catalog release internationally which did sell. I strongly feel that with the right material and marketing that people still wanted to hear Karen, and I think the elite crowd would have welcomed a solo go at things. She deserved support for it! There were some good very decent songs for that time period. I believe I remember Phil Ramone saying that people advised him on her weight issue and only saw evidence on the second visit. I’m sure that was more of a concern to those who loved her. And, from what we have read over the years, there was a wave of support for her new product and this energy may have succeeded if energy was not already spent on her dietary concerns. It just slowed results. The band that played for the solo project was excited and Olivia was ready to showcase her on a TV special. Instead, the attention went to Tina Turner. And the internal camp issues that did their best to protect her also played a part, but I feel it was out of love, at whatever picture of family dynamics that took place it was her decision that played out. As I have said before, had she lived, the next attempt would probably have nailed it. Our health always plays a roll in our successes! The year of a sales slump just meant the buying public was still looking for a good match song, just as the comparison of I Won’t Last A Day Without You and Please Mr. Postman did in 1974, as both are polar opposites in style and sales, plus the timing on the edge of pop culture with the ‘Happy Days’ ride! A new persona could have meant a new perspective into the music buying public. Fans may have questioned things, but a certain respect from those not fans may surely have surfaced. It would have all been in the marketing. (Taylor Swift is a marketing example that comes to mind in today’s world.) I just can’t imagine the magnitude of pressure that one decision could have on all the lives that surrounded them. So, in summary, the point of an ebb of sales would have little to do for those wanting a duet with Karen. I looks as she actually had a camp ready, once she was ready. As this post began...Diana Ross...but each success comes with a sacrifice and multitudes of decisions. The weird thing is that even though they were a duo, people still thought of her as the solo in the duo!
    Chris likes this.
  7. Chris

    Chris Active Member

    Forgive me if this video has been shared before. Have you all seen it? Producer John Florez describes how he would have produced Karen's solo album. I think he makes some very good points. I love some of the tracks she did with Phil Ramone, but it would've been great if we could have heard Karen do a solo album in the style that Florez describes.

  8. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    I'm thinking that creating homemade Karen Carpenter CD singles are in order. :) Now where are my jewel cases...
    Chris likes this.
  9. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    Hi Chris, I just watched it and this was new to me. He makes some great points and for a moment I could almost hear how a different Karen Carpenter solo album could have sounded.

    While I agree with most of what he said (albeit it sounded mostly like what Richard and A&M have said all along)...I think this producer is forgetting some key points into what ultimately became Karen's solo album.

    From what I remember Karen was given her producer she didn't come up with several producers and picked Phil out from the bunch, this was her first solo go around so she went with who was recommended to her.

    For me it always seems to come back to one of the important parts in this whole process. We have people constantly making decisions for Karen and she was never allowed to make or follow through with what she wanted. Her solo album may not be perfect but it was far from the bomb that those around her made it out to be.

    I still have my doubts that had Karen made the perfect solo album and it turned out like how this producer in the video above...would it have been enough for Richard and A&M to allow Karen to release it? I have my doubts.

    The bottom line for me is that Karen enjoyed this journey in making her solo album. I can hear it in her voice as I listen. It may not have been in her signature key but underneath it all its Karen and she considered it good enough to release.

    Karen wanted others around her that she held in high regard to share in her excitement. I think telling Karen it wasn't good enough was far worse for her than allowing it to be released and letting Karen see how the public would take the singles from the album. I still think even if it had been released and didn't fair well on the charts this wouldn't be the last of solo albums by Karen Carpenter.
    Jamesj75, Mark-T and Chris like this.
  10. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    Sounds as if Richard was very honest and candid in this interview.
  11. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    I have thought this, too. I had never thought of Jeffery Osborne, though. What a great choice! Two warm, smooth and silky voices together. This would have provided a great opportunity for Karen to do more uptempo, jazzy stuff, similar to Jeffery's upbeat material. Then again, he recorded some great ballads, too, so they could have produced something excellent in that line. Only thing is, I think Jeffery would be singing the higher parts and Karen the lower(!) Well, similar pitch, probably - which might have worked well.

    I also agree that Karen could have sounded great on a slow, country-flavoured song similar to what Kenny Rogers was doing in this period. A 'story' song. At the time, I wouldn't have liked the choice of Kenny Rogers, though. (My respect for his music has grown a bit since then).

    I was really excited, before the 1990s release of 'Karen Carpenter', when I read that the album would include a song written by and performed with Peter Cetera. I was so disappointed when I bought the CD and actually heard the song. It's a 'tuck in the back of the drawer' track for me. I really dislike the affectations evident in some of Karen's phrasings / pronunciations in the recording, for one thing. And I'm disappointed in what Peter brought to the table.

    I have thought that a duet / production with some completely unlikely candidate might be great. Something like Nico's involvement with Velvet Underground. Imagine Karen doing something created by Lou Reed. (I realise that their worlds and experiences may have been too far apart for this to have worked).

    How about John Cale? Or some of the up-and-coming, more arty and alternate young guns - David Sylvian of Japan, Mick Jones of The Clash, Dave Greenfield or Jean Jacques Burnel of The Stranglers, Joe Jackson. Even Midge Ure of Ultravox. How about Karen and The Sparks?? :) So I'm thinking of Karen moving away from the 'Big name' artists, who MAY equate with 'safe' and 'dull', and producing something really startling. (Some of these guys were just starting out in 1979 / 1980, I know, and some had been around for a while by then).
  12. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    As great as some of the solo songs are--
    I stay grounded to the history of the day:
    Hush , Passage, and MIA--as Ed has reminded us--were relatively poor in chart/sales performance.
    And, even Christmas Portrait took until 1981 to to be certified RIAA Gold.
    Chart performance of the arguably great Portrait, from years 1978 to 1984, is hardly stellar.
    And, as we know, neither Old-Fashioned Christmas, or Voice Of The Heart, raced up the US Charts.
    Also, reminded that Richard Carpenter worked very hard on promotion for Voice Of The Heart.
    ( In fact, I would argue that A&M's lack of promotion for the 1984 Christmas LP stems from the
    relatively poor performance of Voice, given all the promotion aligned with it.)

    So, unfortunately, regardless of my personal feelings--that the solo LP had its strengths, and should have
    saw release in its day--there seems no compelling reason to believe its release would have turned
    anyone's fortunes (figuratively and literally) around.

    As unfortunate as it seems, were it not for the highly-rated CBS Karen Carpenter TV Movie,
    I remain unconvinced that a revisionist trend would have ever begun !
    (Although, it seems as if the slightly earlier Haynes Cult-movie may have helped, too !).

    Not to forget that the onslaught of cd's --at the time, a new format--played a huge part in the resurgence.
    ThaFunkyFakeTation likes this.
  13. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    It's the thing that's impossible to say, whether you love the solo album or hate it. We just don't know how it would have performed it it had been released in 1980. I think there are valid points to be made on both sides of the debate in terms of it selling or not selling.

    However, I'm not sure I agree with the sentiment that just because the Carpenters were in a sales slump and with an image problem in the late 1970s/early 1980s that this would have meant the solo album stood no chance of being a success. This album wasn't more of the same, either in terms of sound or image (it was Karen on her own).

    'More of the same' (in the form of the Made in America album) certainly didn't cut it commercially, but it's worth noting that 'Touch Me When We're Dancing' did make the Top 20 and this was surely because a) it made some attempt at updating their sound in better fit into the contepmorary music landscape and thus got more radio interest, and b) it benefited from the buzz of being a new/comeback single and thus attracted a certain level of extra attention and curiosity. I don't see any reason why a good single pick from the solo album couldn't have benefited in exactly the same way as 'Touch Me...' did, and probably to an even greater degree.

    Gary, I'd agree with you about The Karen Carpenter Story being key to their critical and commerical renaissance in the early 1990s. Without that, even with the CD era, it's hard to see what would have kick-started the interest in them again.
    GaryAlan likes this.
  14. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    I found this video very interesting, Chris. Thanks for posting it.

    I agreed with some things John Florez said and disagreed with others. I disagree that it was more or less essential to keep the artist, (in this case, Karen), recording in the very same studio as always with the very same musicians as usual. Recording her in new settings with unfamiliar people could have resulted in the creation of something exciting and unique.

    I agree that focusing on her lower register was important. This didn't really happen much on the solo project. I like the idea of teaming her with a group of true soul, male backing vocalists, although it would be disappointing if her own multi-tracked background vocals weren't also evident.

    John Florez's choice of 'Baby, I'm Yours' was a good one for Karen to record as a revived oldie. Although I'm a bit of a fan of John Sebastian and The Lovin' Spoonful, I didn't think much of the JS song chosen.

    The use of 'Still In Love with You' provided the perfect example of Karen not being fully successful in her performance of a song. However, I believe that this was a good song, band performance and production and that Karen might have pulled it off with a different approach, some more work and a few more 'takes'.

    It would make sense to follow Florez' idea of trialling the artist, (Karen), in the studio with two or three possible producers and presenting the resulting demos to the record company, before the final producer was chosen. (Then we'd also have a number of potentially interesting demos to hear now as bonus tracks on CD re-releases! :) )

    Perhaps it was necessary to have 'exploding' choruses, as this producer suggested, if you wanted hit singles. Then again, maybe the time for this sort of song structure had passed.

    Some of these ideas sounded very 60's and 70's - the backing soul singers, the 'exploding' chorus, the piano and vocal demos to give an indication of what the final album might sound like. Given that this album would have kicked Karen off into the 1980's and sent her in a new direction, you would think that the thought of using some of the technology of the day on the demos might have come up. Most artists, by then, were using CS80 sounds and computerised effects, or whatever, for better or for worse, to add to their musical landscapes.

    Florez seems to be coming from a 'safe' and traditional stand-point. True, this might have been the most effective route to take in order to get the best sound from Karen, given her style and history. Then again, this might have been reason enough to go with someone else.

    Personally, I just wanted to hear THE VOICE on show on the solo LP, performing some good and well-produced songs. Maybe John Forez's strategies would have suited my tastes, after all.
    Jorge and Chris like this.
  15. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    I disagree with Florez's assessments. Brian above mentioned Florez's safe approach and I agree completely with the folly of it. Karen was given a somewhat radical change with a little safety and I thought it largely worked. He went for the low-hanging fruit with the Javors tune. Those are my least favorite on the album by a long shot as I feel both are totally wrong for her.

    Having Karen work with different musicians (not just Billy Joel's band as Florez stated) worked wonders for the rhythm tracks in almost all cases. "Lovelines" without Greg Phillinganes and Louis Johnson never would have worked.

    The "mocha mix" idea for Karen is nonsense, IMHO. She didn't need that stuff. Ramone's idea to marry her voice with Rod Temperton's vocal arrangements was inspired and Karen pulled all of them off brilliantly.

    While I don't think "Karen Carpenter" would have sold particularly well, I don't blame Phil for it like some do. I also don't think the solo record is unreleasable. I think it's a decent record that would have done about as well as any Carpenters' album would have at that time. The only mistake made here was by A&M. They spent a half-million dollars on it and that allotment of money set up unrealistic expectations that Karen and Phil never could have reached.

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  16. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    Agree 100%. The main criticism I have of the album is in the material itself, not the production or performance. There's not a single track I hear and think "That's a great song!" ("Still Crazy", though good, isn't even one of my favorite Paul Simon songs.) My favorite track, "If I Had You", I like almost in spite of the triviality of the material...it works because of a brilliant arrangement.

    Ramone said the album wouldn't have a long shelf life, and he was right. Karen had a very specific objective -- she wanted a few more Top 40 hits and an image change. So there's not much depth to the record beyond that. Of course, she wasn't approaching it as the only solo album she'd ever do, either.
    byline and Jorge like this.
  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    My favorite track:
    Something's Missing
    Which--as we are all aware--is missing from the "official" release....
    And, I still raise that issue !
    It's a fantastic solo song...it has everything...I say it has "hit" written all over it (if properly finished).

    No short shelf life to that song.
    Why does this song remain "unreleased" ?
    There is no reasonable, logical, explanation.
    Now, or then.
  18. New Horizons.

    New Horizons. Active Member

    I like reading everyones opinions on the solo project.
    Personally I love the solo album. Like Frida from ABBA's Somethings going on (which I adore)it's a solo album.
    Not more of the same well trodden road but a chance to be an individual, a break from the normal and do something that you feel happy with. Going against the grain but I love it. Karen was pleased with it and that is good enough for me.I'm not listening on this album for Richard or his production as it's Karen solo. Almost a pity she didn't wear black leather and duet with Iron Maiden or have Nile Rodgers and Chic produce it.
    For an album with supposedly bad songs and disco it certainly gave fans a lot of Carpenters releases after Karen's passing and also Carpenters a way to end the eighties with Lovelines(a title track no less). I hope Richard allows Somethings missing at least to be released.
    Nothing better than a sunny day drive with Karen's album on.
    I wonder if it would sound different had it been a vinyl release and we had to flip the record over with a split in listening instead of a continuous cd? (secretly praying for a vinyl release in a gatefold sleeve with a poster).
    Jamesj75 and Jeff like this.
  19. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    So, I'm listening to the fourth disc from
    From The Top,
    where we get the three songs in sequence:
    If I Had You
    My Body Keeps Changing My Mind
    Still Crazy After All These Years

    Not only is the sequence great, on this compilation, I really believe those three are fine songs !
    Not only are Karen's lead vocals fluid and up front, her backing vocals are incredible.
  20. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    Iron Maiden! There's an idea! :) I thought the same thing about Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, (Chic)). Maybe Karen could have sung 'My Old Drums' instead of 'My Old Piano'. :)

    Seriously, given that most of Rodgers' / Edwards' work was based on beat and rhythm, working with them would have given Karen the opportunity to contribute some drumming. You can imagine a wonderful, catchy rhythmic phrase being captured on her drums and used in a computerised 'loop', Chic-style.

    I totally disliked Diana Ross' and Debbie Harry's Chic-produced albums at the time they came out but have bought both of them in the last five years and really like them, as well as the Sister Sledge Chic-produced albums. I especially like the Debbie Harry LP.

    Karen could have sounded great on songs that were a bit surreal, such as Debbie Harry's 'Now I Know You Know'. She might also have sounded good on the more angular vocal lines of Chic songs, even though you'd imagine she'd need a more melodic flow than their compositions usually offer.

    The main thing needed would be the provision for her to show off that trademark lower register - a draw-card that Phil Ramone mainly forgot to use.
  21. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    I've always thought Lovelines the song sounded fresh, as did If We Try. I love Phil's Quincy Jones type approach to recording Karen. Reminds me of MJ's Off the Wall disc. My favorite by him. Though the quasi duet with Cetera was good, I would have liked to hear a full on duet with George Benson on something like Love All the Hurt Away, his duet with Aretha.
    Brian likes this.
  22. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Well-Known Member

    Having not listened to this song in a while...I woke up this morning and I'm singing this song over and over. "I guess I just lost my head, I know we should really know much better, I guess I just lost my head, I know we don't really know each other, so pardon the things I said, won't you tell me you forgive me, guess I lost it..guess I lost it" over and over it's playing in my head...How is that possible when I haven't even listened to this lately?

    I'd recon if it had been released in 1980 the same thing would have happened to me then, catchy phrasing and playful vocals by Karen get stuck in my head.
  23. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    Rick, I'm with you- its very catchy.
  24. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    Another idea, Newy! Karen could have done an album with Phil Collins producing. Instead of Phil doing his famous drum breaks, Karen could have done them.

    Frida is an example of a woman from around the same era who broke from a partnership that had a very particular sound and image and came up with a good album that was distinctly her own. It's a shame this LP wasn't more successful - it deserved to be.

    I believe that Frida was a lot more successful in making the transition than Karen was, and handled her change in musical type and genre style better. It's a shame that the public didn't go with her.

    Don't get me wrong. I do think that there was a lot of good and potential in Karen's solo work. It just didn't ALL come together, in my view. Pretty much everything worked for Frida, (except for the sales!)
  25. song4u

    song4u Well-Known Member

    Kudos to Richard for putting his honest feelings out there - good and bad.
    byline and Brian like this.

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