• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are now available. The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy can be ordered here. A big thanks to the authors and Richard Carpenter for their tremendous effort in compiling this book! Also, the new solo piano album Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook is available for ordering here.

🎶 Album Sides THE ALBUM SIDES [Poll]: "CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT" (SP-4726)

Which side is your favorite?

  • Side 1

    Votes: 19 59.4%
  • Side 2

    Votes: 13 40.6%

  • Total voters
    32

leadmister

Well-Known Member
Devastating is an excellent word to describe it. Devastating both to our emotional barriers that come tumbling down, and devastating to our hearts as we feel every bit of what she is conveying after she gets in over those torn down walls. That, my friends, is a God-given gift that not many singers possess.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
I think a reason why the three non-secular songs work for me on this record, and probably wouldn't on another Christmas album, is that there's a distance in Karen's voice as always. As one poster a while back ingeniously wrote: "Her voice was meant to sing haunting poetry with strange detachment, like she wants to believe in a lyric but simply knows better." As a non-believer this makes the songs work emotionally for me (Christ is Born gets me tearing up and you can hear this detached quality hauntingly here).

For some non-fans this general detachment of her voice may put off some who want a more direct, decisive emotional connection to a voice (and a voice to the material), but it's such a distinctive gift that Karen's innate melancholy makes this quality feel achingly human and warm. It's not emotionally deadened or cold at all, but something about her phrasings and natural tone convey a darkly shaded, at times scary distance that at once exposes glimpses of Karen's harrowed soul, allows accessibility, and makes her a singular artist all at once.
 

Chris May

Resident ‘Carpenterologist’
Staff member
Moderator
Thread Starter
A total departure here from topic, but as I listen to Portrait tonight on vinyl, I’m reminded of the differences between the original mixes vs. the remixes.

Richard’s biggest regret on the remixes?

Too much reverb — at the suggestion of engineer Roger Young. This is a topic that has come up many times over the last 30 years since the remixing efforts first began.

As Richard has recently pointed out, “Karen’s voice is one that doesn’t need reverb in order to make it sound great.”

He’s well aware of the error in judgement looking back. So if and when the Christmas songs get another remix, the reverb on Karen’s leads will be the first thing to go!

Whether you’re hearing an original mix, a remix, or a re-remix, this album gets five stars across the board.
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
I listened to Christmas With The Carpenters Time Life last night and it really took me back how much reverb is on Karen's lead vocals. I had not listened to this for a couple years. Christmas Portrait and An Old Fashioned Christmas (LP's) are really my go to music for Christmas. My mind is so use to hearing it in that format and mix.

It's especially noticeable on "White Christmas" so much reverb. I still don't like Time Life's MCD, the only real plus to this set is that it's all Karen one song after the other. It's refreshing to hear it like this but I still prefer the instrumental breaks anticipating Karen to arrive on the main LP's. It will be interesting to see if he ever decides to remix the 2 Christmas albums yet I doubt it will ever satisfy Carpenters fans who still prefer the original LP versions.
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
As Richard has recently pointed out, “Karen’s voice is one that doesn’t need reverb in order to make it sound great.”

He’s well aware of the error in judgement looking back. So if and when the Christmas songs get another remix, the reverb on Karen’s leads will be the first thing to go!
You can probably guess what else I'm going to suggest Karen's voice never needed, and thus should be the next thing to go...
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
I am very pleased to announce that I received a West German CD of Christmas Portrait in the mail today, and it sounds gorgeous. One big surprise — I hadn't realized how noticeable the "Ave Maria" remix was. The electric piano segue from "White Christmas" on the remixed versions folds down to mono in the notes leading up to Ave Maria; this stays stereo the whole way.

I also found the mixing during Karen's breaths throughout to be very odd and noticeable.

However — I am a big fan of the thundering drums, and it is an interesting experience to hear this rendition without the choir. Very clean listening experience, imho. Crystal clarity, as would be expected from a Carpenters record.
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Regarding the sides: impossible question. Both sides have such strong songs.

I have to add, I have the vinyl pressing of “Christmas Portrait,” and the reason why the West German CD has now made its way into my heart is because I find strings and other sibilant sounds to be very grating on vinyl if the record has been played a lot or if it’s had a bad needle burn crackles into the groove. And this album has lush string arrangements and bells that can easily become crackly, especially on a record that hasn’t been cared for well. (Again, I’m the first to admit my setup has ruined many a record.)

So you can imagine, I’m giddy with glee to have the West German CD! “Christmas Portrait” as it was originally intended to sound!

Okay… listening to the CD, and “side one” is so entertaining. Great classics.

However… I’m going with side two, for basically “Merry Christmas Darling,” “Christ Is Born,” the “Winter Wonderland” medley, and the non-remixed “Ave Maria.”
 

Cuyler

Bright colored pinwheels go 'round in my head.
Ugh but “Christmas Song” is one of my favorites, and it’s not Christmas unless “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” comes on our adult contemporary radio station.

Ugh. 😭 too difficult.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
I am very pleased to announce that I received a West German CD of Christmas Portrait in the mail today, and it sounds gorgeous. One big surprise — I hadn't realized how noticeable the "Ave Maria" remix was. The electric piano segue from "White Christmas" on the remixed versions folds down to mono in the notes leading up to Ave Maria; this stays stereo the whole way.

The West German CD sounds great doesn’t it? The stereo segue from the Winter Wonderland medley to the non-choir version of Ave Maria is just lovely. The remixed Christmas Collection version features a new piano/keyboard part on the segue and it just ruins it.

Congrats on your purchase - I picked this CD up while living in Munich in 1994 and had it for around a decade before I realised just what I had been sitting on all that time. It was a wonderful and unexpected surprise when I pulled it out, played it and realised I’d had that rarer version of the CD all that time.
 
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Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
The frustrating thing about the CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT German release is the track indexing. Being an early CD, track indexing hadn't yet become the precise thing that it usually is today. For example, if you just wanted to listen to "Sleigh Ride" and start it cleanly with Karen's "Just hear...", the German CD starts the track with the concluding note from "The Christmas Waltz". Conversely, if you wanted to ONLY play "The Christmas Waltz", the start of "Sleigh Ride" segues at the end of it.

When making up my annual Christmas compilation, I of course like to get most of the CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT songs on there, but I've had to make my own separated edition of the German CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT, taking each song individually into Audacity and clean up the starts and ends of each track to make sure that they start promptly, and those that end segued will fade quickly instead.

That version of the album doesn't hang together as an album, instead it became a collection of individual tracks.
 
Karen's Christmas Waltz and, especially, her performance of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas are breathtaking. Her phrasing of, "through the years we all will be together...if the fates allow" grabbed me from the first time I heard it. I thought of it shortly after hearing the news of her untimely passing.
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
Karen's Christmas Waltz and, especially, her performance of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas are breathtaking. Her phrasing of, "through the years we all will be together...if the fates allow" grabbed me from the first time I heard it. I thought of it shortly after hearing the news of her untimely passing.
HYAMLC & CW are on my own homemade greatest hits CDs along with MCD - these are not just Christmas hits, but albums of ALL of their hits - can't listen to them only around Christmas time but must hear them all year!
 
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