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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. David A

    David A Well-Known Member

    Not quite sure where to post this, it has -some- relevance to this thread...

    This is an interesting article, primarily because it mentions that the "soft rock" style that was so rejected starting in the 80's, is coming back to a degree. Makes one wonder if Karen and Richard may have had some kind of renaissance...?

    A quote from article: "It’s safe to say, outside of his initial ’70s superstardom, it’s never been a more opportune time to be [Michael] McDonald. His soft-rock vocals and vibe, which tumbled sharply out of favor in the ’80s and remained uncool for decades, are now part of a major revival utilized by some of today’s most cutting-edge artists."

    Michael McDonald on Thundercat, 'Yacht rock,' and his unlikely comeback
  2. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    I think this guy is full of himself and what he would have produced is actually Karen Carpenter as Diana Ross. I can’t believe I actually listen to his entire post. From his own words he thinks of himself as an elevation above the subject he is crafting, and refers to the subject as the singer, vocalist, and maybe artist, giving them little respect. I think A&M knew this and wanted to give Karen the best, and they did. Phil Ramone gave her the happiest time of her life and challenges with her own voice in challenging backup techniques resulting in distinct pleasure for the listener. I just don’t feel they were mixed and sweetened properly. Phil treated her as an artist who had a miraculous vocal talent. A voice that could have sung anything. He did not make a Carpenters sound. He made a sound distinctly different. The guy in the post would traded one trademarked sound for another and that would discredit Richard. Phil Ramone helped her create her own sound. Phil Ramone taught her how to compliment her individuality that she could use once she sang again with Richard. Phil was the best choice and the songs Karen chose were actually good and if her health was strong each song would have a solid conviction. After all, each of us have a different handful that we can’t do without! I know I have mine.
    Mark-T, Jamesj75, Walkinat9 and 2 others like this.
  3. Jeff

    Jeff Well-Known Member

    Eloquently said CraigGA.
  4. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    I just heard The Woman in Me, John Bettis' song for Donna Summer. What a GREAT song this would have been for Karen's solo album!
  5. AM Matt

    AM Matt Well-Known Member

    The female duo Heart (Ann & Nancy Wilson) also did the remake of "The Woman In Me" (from 1993 "Desire Walks On"). Matt Clark Sanford, MI
  6. My hope is, that eventually it will be released on vinyl as originally intended. Art work, colors, logo , intended photos, in a gatefold cover. As approved by Karen. I certainly feel that her solo was a lot closer to what was going on musically during that year 1980, than what Richard wanted to record, that being said that doesn’t mean I don’t like Richards work with her or the subsequent albums that were released. As with “Passage” it was nice to hear her branch out with some different styles of music. It’s just refreshing once in a blue moon to veer off the beaten path. I feel the album would have done reasonably well, had it been released in 1980.
  7. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Modern Drummer Magazine, November 1982:
    Liberty DeVitto Interview, excerpted;
    "I did twenty songs with Karen Carpenter for a solo album she was going to do without her brother.
    Something happened and it did not come out

    Entire Interview:
    Liberty DeVitto - Modern Drummer Magazine
    Jeff likes this.
  8. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen Thread Starter

    If that’s not a loaded statement, I don’t know what is.
  9. byline

    byline Active Member

    With the exception of "If I Had You," I agree with this. Not that I want to. I really wanted to like this album, but given Karen's remarkable voice, it astounds me how it does not showcase her voice to its fullest extent (in my opinion). It also astounds me that "Something's Missing" was not included on the album. Of all the songs Karen chose to record, that one showcases her voice and provides the emotion that, at least to my ears, is largely missing on this album.

    Having said that, I do respect the courage it took for Karen to break away and take on this project. But for the most part, the end result just doesn't appeal to me the way I wish it did.
    sussex salvo and Jamesj75 like this.
  10. byline

    byline Active Member

    I agree with this, too. I wonder if it was because, as we have since learned, Karen was quite ill during this period, and Phil didn't want to burden her by challenging her song choices? His approach to producing vocalists was to support them, and make them feel comfortable in the studio ... which I appreciate. It's why he let her choose the songs she wanted to sing. But I also think he should have challenged Karen more on this. She wanted to break away from her Carpenters persona, which is very understandable. But I also feel that in the process, she ditched some of her greatest strengths. In my opinion, most of the material, and also the arrangements, don't do Karen's voice justice.
    Geographer likes this.
  11. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    Around this same time I remember hearing Olivia's "A Little More Love" single, thinking it was great, buying her "Totally Hot" LP and wondering what the h*** had compelled her to try material like the squawky title track and "Gimme Some Lovin'". Don't get me wrong -- I'd been a big ONJ fan since "Let Me Be There" and was excited to see her resurgence after falling a bit pre-"Grease". Didn't matter a whit that I thought "Totally Hot" was the weakest overall collection Olivia had recorded. Of course it was a super-smash. So I sort of get what Karen was probably thinking going into her solo project, at roughly the same time. And I get why Ramone might have gone along with it. Ramone has said numerous times that he knew the solo LP was not going to age well. Karen wanted hits and an image makeover. I was an adult and listening to Top 40 at the time and you have to understand that the stuff you hear on Karen's solo record is what was getting airplay in 1979-80. We can all sit back today and judge Karen and Phil for not recording the album that was going to be her one and only statement for posterity, but that's BS. It's not what they set out to do. If either of them had been able to see into the future, you can bet they'd have delivered the album we all now wish we had. Sadly, nobody gets that opportunity. So I take the album for what it was meant to be at the time, and compared to other things being released in '79 and '80, it not only holds up well but is even somewhat ahead of its time in its recognition of the influence that people like Temperton would soon have.

    Sorry for the length, but I just get tired of this "who do we blame for Karen's album not being great" stuff. Blame whatever fates you want for her not getting the chance to do a second or third. Don't blame Karen or Phil for not being able to see into the future.

    As far as ONJ, I feel strongly that she recorded her best work with "The Rumour", years down the road from "Totally Hot". A little masterpiece it was, that showed she had a strong voice and pretty solid writing chops, too. Had Karen gotten the same chance, who knows what we might have seen from her in the years after "Karen Carpenter".
    goodjeans, Mark-T and GaryAlan like this.
  12. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    How about reading how things were in 1980......

    Billboard Magazine June 7, 1980, Paul Grein
    "LOS ANGELES -Karen Carpenter's solo debut album, produced by Phil Ramone, has been shelved at
    her request, to avoid interfering with a Carpenters LP being recorded now for release on A &M in August or
    September. The unreleased solo album, which included Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years"
    plus tunes by Rod Temperton and Peter Cetera of Chicago, was completed a few months ago after a year
    of on -and off recording. But since then, Richard Carpenter's creative energies have been regenerated,
    sparking his return to the studio to work on the first Carpenters studio album since 1977's experimental
    "Passage." That effort brought the duo its first complimentary reviews from the rock press, but
    broke a seven -album string of gold LPs. "Karen thought about it long and hard," says Gil Friesen, A &M's
    president. "and decided that the duo takes precedence; that was the priority in her life and there was no way
    she wanted the solo project to interfere." Says five -time Grammy- winner Phil Ramone:
    "Naturally I'm disappointed, but if the album had come out with her tied up in the studio and unable to
    play clubs and concerts, that would have defeated it." "She had to deal with the possibility of one career hurting the other; this LP was stylistically different from a regular Carpenters album. My fear, as I told her,
    is that I don't want people to think we made a stiff album and nobody wants to put it out.
    "Maybe this was the stimuli the Carpenters needed to go into the studio and work real hard to make a new album."
  13. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen Thread Starter

    That statement is ironic read back now, because years later many of those close to the situation (including Jerry Moss, Derek Green and even John Bettis) all admit that this is exactly the reason it wasn’t put out. Herb Alpert was always deliberately vague when pressed for a reason. He veered from “I’m sure she wasn’t real comfortable with it” to “I don’t exactly remember the reason why”...sometimes in the same interview!

    This quote has always confused me and I think is even disrespectful towards Karen. Phil is making the point here that he felt he’d been used. In the Coleman book he even went as far a describing himself as a “stupid boy” [for being so gullible]. Whatever his criticisms of the project, even Richard has since said there’s no way she would have entered into this project lightly and that you couldn’t have had a more willing partner than Karen once she was signed up. Add to that the fact it cost the Carpenters $400,000 in future royalties when it was shelved and it makes it even more unrealistic that she used the solo album simply as an excuse to fuel the next Carpenters album.
  14. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Let us go back to April 1979....
    Carpenters Fan Club Newsletter #64:
    "News Flash !!
    Karen is fine now and can't resist the challenge, while on vacation, to realize her long-time ambition
    to cut a solo album. While Richard enjoys his driving vacation, she has flown to New York to work with
    producer Phil Ramone. She looks forward to her new venture, and we wish her every success.
    P.S. The Carpenters will be right back...."
  15. It's sad and strange, in hindsight; the "fibs" the fan club newsletters had to tell.
  16. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen Thread Starter

    That to me screams a comment Agnes would have had told Rosina or Evelyn to insert at the end of the newsletter to protect her beloved Richard.
    David A likes this.
  17. New Horizons.

    New Horizons. Active Member

    I always wonder how Karen felt being friends with Olivia and watching Olivia do Grease and Xanadu and all her singles and albums over the period 1976 to 1981 and having an urge to try it herself solo but then maybe reluctantly going with the familiar flow. I also wonder how Richard felt hearing the keyboards played on the solo tracks like Make Believe it's your first time and Karen doing all the harmony on certain songs. Watching Karen on the Bruce Forsyth show in 1978 made a lot of people around me think Karen had gone solo then when it was broadcast that Christmas.

    I was watching the group America and their live in central park in summer 1979 on dvd recently(also available on yt) and the start features a wonderful segment of life in New York for about 5 minutes . Karen would be in New York in 1979 so watching the Roller skaters on the streets and crowds in central park and street scenes in general on the America dvd makes sense of a time and period of the end of the 1970's and the solo lp.
    I hear tracks from Michael Jacksons Off the wall lp nearly daily on the radio these days especially Rock with you. Can't help but wonder what if....
    goodjeans likes this.
  18. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Back to Coleman (1994):
    (1) "Alpert told Moss that Richard was not in good shape and needed time off, and the A&M chiefs
    went to Weintraub with the idea for the solo project." (page 263)
    (2) Werner Wolfen: " the best thing that could happen is that you (Karen) make a great album.
    Then, he'll (Richard) make a greater one." (page 263).
    (3) "Solo album would have been unthinkable if Richard had not needed to go for treatment"
    and, Werner Wolfen: "Who knows what's going to happen to Richard. How do you know you're
    still going to have a career ?" (page 264).

    The charge that Karen was not healthy enough to begin this solo album is either without merit
    --if these quotes are accurate for the time,
    Or, no one--at the time of beginning the solo album--admitted Karen was not healthy enough to do it.
    As one reads in the Coleman Bio, the concern was overwhelmingly for Richard's health--at that time.
  19. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen Thread Starter

    I’ll bet he was as jealous as sin. As I’ve said before, Karen could create that great overdubbed sound all by herself. The background vocals on If I Had You are very reminiscent of those on Without A Song.
    byline likes this.
  20. Wasn't it Karen who realized at the time they needed an injection of something new? Richard's ego would not allow him to realize "Carpenters" had reached the heights they were going to reach. They'd had an incredible run; you'd think Richard would have wanted to "extend" their run through Karen. That would at least give him the chance to still be "known by association" to Karen.
  21. byline

    byline Active Member

    Apparently he accused her of "stealing" the Carpenters' sound (as in, the overdubbed vocal harmonies). Which, if true, is silly. Yes, Richard and Karen did take overdubbed vocals to the nth degree, but it's not like they were the only ones doing it ... especially by this time.

    Sibling rivalry, something Richard has admitted to, can trump common sense. He had long resented Karen's stardom within the duo, and I think he did feel threatened by her going out on her own. He may not have liked her album (and I happen to agree with some of the points he's made about it), but I also think he did both of them a disservice by retreating to what he perceived as their old sound on the "Made in America" album. Sadly, much of what is on that album plays it unbearably safe, which is the last thing their career needed at this point. But it seems he took Herb's advice (I think it came from Herb) to go back to what had made them so popular, and interpreted that excruciatingly literally.

    What made them so popular was Richard's keen ear for a good pop tune, but infused with that remarkable creativity that both he and Karen brought to the table. And, of course, Karen's voice. There was too much perfectionism brought to bear with "Made in America" ... and it resulted in a plodding, almost lifeless series of tunes completely out of touch with the music scene of that time. I think Karen's solo album is slightly better, and stands out thanks to a few tracks that save it for me. But Karen, too, seemed hemmed in by what she thought would succeed, rather than playing to her own greatest strengths. So I have problems with both albums ... for different reasons.
    jaredjohnfisher likes this.
  22. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen Thread Starter

    That’s a spot on assessment of the album. Richard (and Karen to a degree) seemed to cling on to the notion that if they weren’t trendy, it didn’t matter because their music would always be played. Richard seemed to take that to the extreme with their material from 1980 onwards and seemed to be indulging his own musical tastes over keeping the duo relevant and not really taking into account what was going on around them musically at the time.
    byline likes this.
  23. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    Using the only real data he had (the prior decade in 1970), going against the music grain had worked just fine for Carpenters. When "getting back to basics", why not try again what had worked before? Yes there was also the data of some lesser success in the latter half of the 70s, but "fresh starts" are usually an OK thing to do when trying to restart a career. And look at "Touch Me..." - it really did get them back into the top 20.

    One must always place these things in the context of the time. There was no harm in trying another soft-sounding album to counteract what was going on in the early 80s. At that time, they'd have the rest of their lives to continue to try to top the charts with whatever worked. No-one knew that Karen would not be around.
    Jeff likes this.
  24. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    The soft-sounding style hadn't gone completely out of fashion in the early 1980s though. Acts like Christopher Cross and Air Supply were having #1 singles in 1981, so there was clearly still a market for that sound.

    The bigger problem was that much of Made in America was both too timid and too slavish in trying to re-create past glories. 'Touch Me When We're Dancing' was one of the few tracks that did try and come up with something slightly new - the fact that it was a reasonable hit while the following three singles all bombed says it all in terms of which approach was right.

    'Back in My Life Again' was so timidly approached and sounds so watery as to completely nullify its attempts at a more contemporary sound, while 'Those Good Old Dreams' and 'Beechwood' were firmly in the vein of 'hey! Remember "Top of the World"/"Please Mr Postman"? Here's another one that sounds just like it!' That's not making much of a fresh start.

    I don't think it was at all wise to so clearly try and create ersatz copies of past hits without taking any market/audience changes into account. Given that they and A&M must have realised they would still face some image problems even after a break, they should really have put more thought into how album would be perceived and what singles would be able to make headway on the charts in a market that needed persuading to listen to them. A point that's been made several times on this board is that they'd actually recorded better songs during the recording sessions for the album, yet the final tracklist is made up of much of the most derivative and safe-sounding of all the songs they recorded in 1980-81.

    It's definitely fair to say that Made in America is perhaps treated more harshly among the albums in their catalogue because it was the last album they released while Karen was alive. However, the fact is that it was seemingly disappointing by design (a long time was spent putting the album together and a lot of songs recorded for it) rather than disappointing because of burnout or being on autopilot (which is why I would give A Kind of Hush some leeway by comparison, even if it's not a very good album). Artists don't get many opportunities to launch a comeback, so to make the most of the opportunity, you have to seize the moment with something that will make a statement or make people take notice. Made in America just doesn't do that, and I suspect that's why it did poorly.
    byline likes this.
  25. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    If we keep in mind that Elvis had sell out concerts but years had passed since he’d had a top ten in the charts. It’s not just the current album that defines a group but the catalog still has merit. That’s what all the documentaries forget. Just because you don’t buy their current album does not mean you don’t like them. It just means you feel you already have a good perspective of their work. Strong fans like me want to hear it all, but we are fans, not the buying public. I think we should focus on the good in each album. A pop or sparkle is relative and Passage is one of my favorites! The thing about Caroenters’ albums is that we can hear the album as a whole, with nuggets that most did not know existed outside of the Singles. When I have the Carpenters urge to begin listening it usually starts with one of those nuggets and the same goes when trying to show a friend Carpenters appreciation.

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