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The official "Now" review thread.

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Sue, Feb 10, 2019.

"Now". Yay or nay.

  1. Yay

    34 vote(s)
  2. Nay

    9 vote(s)
  1. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Ed, again, makes a very salient point:
    I can handle Karen's high notes, that is not what truly bothers me regards "Now."
    I love the solo album and it is replete with great "highs." It is simply that the
    "highs" (high notes) on the solo album songs do not exhibit weakness in the lead vocal,
    whereas the vocals--high or low--in the song "Now" are noticeably weak.
    It would be interesting to hear the song without instruments or choir, only Karen's vocals.
    In other words, I would like to hear what they heard in the studio, before the song was completed.
  2. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    She still has that “rich, warm” tone in 1982 as evidenced by “You’re Enough”!
    CarpentersToYou likes this.
  3. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

    I've been debating whether to respond or not, out of respect for our dear friend and moderator, Harry. I know that he wants to limit discussion to the music, and really would prefer that we not "go there" into the illness. However, I feel that what I am about to say is relevant to the topic at hand. I will endeavor to keep it as generic as possible, and keep morbidity to a minimum...

    In interviews, Richard has maintained that, as sick as she got, Karen's voice was never affected by her illness, and he knew her voice better than anyone... yet Ed, Gary, and others here have commented that Karen's vocals on "Now" sound "weaker" to them. I'm of the opinion that both observations are not mutually exclusive...

    What produces the human voice, is air passing over the vocal cords, causing them to vibrate. These vibrations resonate in the throat, mouth, sinus and nasal cavities. The length and thickness of the folds of the vocal cords, determines how deep the voice can be (longer and thicker = deeper), and coupled with the size and shape of the rest, gives each of us our unique sound...

    When a person is chronically denied adequate nutrition, first their body burns their fat reserves. When those have been depleted, muscle tissue, bone, and if continued long enough, the internal organs, including the lungs...

    The vocal cords are largely composed of ligaments and cartilage, which generally escape the worst affects of starvation. There are small muscles involved in the function of the vocal cords. In the case of a professional singer, these muscles are well-developed from constant use (exercise), which would at the least delay any noticeable damage, perhaps for a very long time. Regardless of the degree of emaciation, the internal structure of the skull isn't going to change. Hence, Karen still sounded like Karen, and could still hit the same notes at the height of her illness, as she could when she was much healthier...

    What does remain to be addressed, and what I believe may be the cause of this "weakness" that some of us hear, is a combination of loss of stamina, muscle loss, and decreased lung capacity (from loss of lung tissue)... by way of analogy, think of an old church organ - a person pumped the bellows, which forced air through the organ to the pipes, creating the sound. Now, replace the bellows with a slightly smaller one (less lung capacity). The organ sounds essentially the same, but perhaps not quite as loudly (powerfully) as before, as less air is available to the pipes. Now replace the person pumping the bellows, with a person with smaller muscles (loss of muscle in the diaphragm). The organ still sounds beautiful, and all the notes still work, but it's going to take a lot more effort, and it's going to be difficult to maintain for as long (loss of stamina)... all may appear to go well for a song or two, but is the poor organ-pumper going to hold out for the whole service?

    From a purely physiological point of view, after all the years of abuse had taken their toll, Karen's body would not likely have been able to move the same volume of air over her vocal cords, as it had when she was healthy, everything would have required more effort on her part, and she would have become fatigued very easily. She could very well have been tired out by the time she recorded "Now". She does sound more like her old self on "You're Enough", which would have been recorded earlier in the day (since Richard has confirmed that "Now" was the last one recorded).

    Just my thoughts... Please accept my sincerest apologies, Harry, for "going there"...
  4. John Adam

    John Adam Well-Known Member

  5. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Perfectly stated.

    newvillefan likes this.
  6. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Outside of the ONE cover by one Japanese artist,
    there appears to be no other artists performing this song except Karen Carpenter.
    So, it can not be discounted that the song itself is not really that exceptional !
    Certainly, it is pretty and it does have nice lyrical content, but, it really is "elevator-ish."
    What really interests me is Why "You're Enough" sounds so much stronger vocally.
    Were the lead vocals for those last sessions placed to tape on the same day ?
    ThaFunkyFakeTation likes this.
  7. CarpentersToYou

    CarpentersToYou What I feel has come and gone before...

    Gary, I imagine that that's because the song is in her more usual register.
  8. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    I am quite ignorant of the actual keys/notes being sung, but when Karen sings....
    "Can't you see in these eyes that adore you, I've been waiting here for you, baby can't you see..." (1:09)
    seems as if she is rather strong in those higher notes (and, she is climbing from lower to higher).
    CarpentersToYou likes this.
  9. Sue

    Sue Active Member Thread Starter

    Its really interesting to hear everyones reviews of "Now" its brought some light to why it is left off so many folks top lists. Excellent also to read that I am not on my own thinking that this single is fantastic!
    My thoughts are that Karen sings it beautifully and I personally do not hear any weakness in her voice. Its clearly a different choice to their more traditional singles, so Karen being the professional she was, I feel sings it how she felt it should be sung. Well that's my opinion but I am no musician!
    I wonder if Karen had lived and was still making music whether the "weakness" some are mentioning would have been picked up? Is it a "in hindsight" review, knowing now that she was ill at the time of recording?
    AnnaSock and Nick like this.
  10. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    So many of you are defaulting to that and I understand why. In truth, though, I promise I'm not listening to "Now" with Anorexia earplugs; I'm only listening to listen. That's what's telling me she sounds weak. I wish it weren't so but that's what I'm picking up. Again, she doesn't sound terrible; just weak to me.

  11. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    In answer to Sue's question:
    first time I heard the song "Now" was as the first song on the Voice of the Heart LP (back in late 1983).
    Compared to every other song on the LP, listening to the entire LP--
    from song one (Now) to final song (Look To Your Dreams),
    it is easily the weakest of Karen's lead vocals.
    Thus, my assessment at that time (and remaining)was that the song was
    off somehow. Of course, I had no idea at the time that it was recorded in 1982 as her last session.
  12. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    I think reason that this line sounds stronger is Richard employed a "doubling" effect on Karen’s lead, similar to what he did on Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again.

    For me, the game changer with the 1982 tracks is that the resonance in Karen’s lower register is all but gone. She can hit the notes certainly, but the richness, depth and fullness of tone we heard on the opening notes of a song like Only Yesterday is gone.
  13. Jarred

    Jarred Active Member

    A friend of mine, who supposedly has a trained or perhaps natural(?) musical ear, has said that he definitely hears that on the solo album her tone had thinned, not her range. I don't know if I hear this on the 1980 duo recordings which sound just as rich as ever, but perhaps by 1982? I can't imagine that the ipecac and vomitting didn't do some kind of damage to her vocal chords at the rate she was abusing it.
  14. Carpe diem

    Carpe diem Well-Known Member

    As most of us would hate to admit it, the last sentence of your post has a lot of validity.
    Jarred and newvillefan like this.
  15. Sue

    Sue Active Member Thread Starter

    My other thought was that her solo album seems mainly without the richness, although I haven’t listened to every track. Was the change in the 80’s releases intentional on Karen’s part? Perhaps she had a point to prove. That it didn’t always have to be “in the basement” to achieve success?
    Geographer likes this.
  16. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    Agree with just about every comment about the vocals, but I'll keep my critique to this: I just don't find "Now" to be a very interesting song. It's fairly generic MOR material. I tend to pass it over on that basis rather than any other. I wish Karen had lived to tackle "In Love Alone", which, while still firmly in the adult contemporary category, I think is less lyrically cliched and every bit as melodic.
    Jarred likes this.
  17. Jarred

    Jarred Active Member

    To this day and possibly forever on, I'm still puzzled as to why Richard didn't want to move beyond the elevator by the early 80s. The lush, string laden sound was so fresh and inspired in the early 70s, but in the early 80s, while his his arrangements still had a timeless sound, felt so old hat with lesser material. Would he ever have regained his magic touch from the 70s even if they were never going to be as hugely commercial again and Karen had lived? not mad at him for it, I'm just genuinely curious as to why psychologically/emotionally he couldn't move beyond it. It was as if that kind of understated, lush, echo chamber of the two of them creating a signature sound was so much a part of the ethos that made up the fabric of who he was as a human and musician.
    newvillefan likes this.
  18. I’ve always had an affinity for this song. I remember my older sister bringing home this album after school one rainy day (and I think a Monday, if memory serves...) in late 1983. “This was the album Karen was working on when she died,” she softly said as she put the vinyl on the turntable. I was 12 years-old and still sad about Karen's death a few months earlier. I remember being surprised by the album cover photo after the ghastly People magazine cover: she looked pretty to me in that picture, not sick. I remember pondering the album cover that rested on the wood-grained stereo in our living room while “Now” played as the first track. As we listened to the first verse, my sister asked, “Do you think that’s really Karen singing?” It’s funny, because, as others have noted hearing a difference in Karen’s tone, I, too, wondered. The voice sounded like Karen, but it also sounded different. Even though the lyrics to “Now" are sweet and hope-filled, the mournfulness of the music reflected the sadness I saw on Karen’s face on the album cover. I don’t know why, but when the song ended, I immediately leaned over, lifted the needle, and placed it back at the beginning of the track. I really wanted to hear the song again. My sister was irritated, as she wanted to keep moving forward, but I wanted to linger.
    Nawvish74, newvillefan and AnnaSock like this.
  19. Kacfan

    Kacfan Member

    I love “now”. To me it is a special song and I love the way she sounded even though it is different. The first time I heard it was in the TV movie the Karen Carpenter story. I was born in 1978 and moved to Australia in 1991. So I didn’t speak English when I watched the TV movie. I remember not recognizing karen’s Voice in “now”, and assuming that it was not sang by Karen.
    Must Hear This Album likes this.
  20. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    I think it's easy to assume that the choir was the way their sound was headed but if you look at the facts this theory doesn't really hold water.

    1) With the exception of the Christmas Album only 4 tracks had used a chorale. . .IKTBIL, Occupants, Argentina and IJFILA. In a '78 interview both commented how they wanted to get away from this and return to their stacked vocal sound. . .something that was evidenced by the 2 finished tracks from Sept of that year. . .I Believe You and Slow Dance.

    2)MIA is packed with overdubs. Only in The Wedding Song is a choir present, it being a show-tune and entirely in keeping with the song's old-fashioned sweep.

    3)a)So Richard hits March of '83 and has 10 songs selected, only Sailing on the Tide in a virtually complete form. I personally feel he had a crisis of faith. For 15 years their sound was both siblings on BG vocals. Without her he perhaps felt he alone would not work. He did it for Prime Time Love and Your Baby but maybe felt the magic wasn't there. Similarly their songs almost always were surrounded by backing voices and he may have felt dubious about Karen singing just by herself (though he did it for Ordinary fool to great effect). In effect, out of necessity, he opted for a choir.

    b)AM originally wanted VOH out in Summer of '83 so Richard had very limited time in the studio. Perhaps it would have taken too long to record his voice 8 times for each song and the choir was a quick fix.

    4)In subsequent post-humous releases Richard mixes the choir way lower (Uninvited Guest/ Honolulu) and in his solo album his overdubs are more prevalent than ever.

    So. . .only in my opinion of course since this is all conjecture. . .mainly taking MIA as my key argument, the 1983 album, had Karen lived, would have featured their trademark sound and not the choir.

    As for me. . .I like a good choir, but with the exception to the 2 xmas albums, the singers Richard has employed over the years are, to me, below par. . .from 1980's Wedding Song through to last years Philharmonic.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
    Kacfan, Murray and Mark-T like this.
  21. ullalume

    ullalume Well-Known Member

    Oh, I voted yay btw. I've always really liked this song...even before I knew it to be her last. Her voice is lovely and emotive. Lose the choir and bring her voice up in the mix to the level it is at the songs end and I dare say it would make my top 20. Also sweet that Nichols kind of bookended her career... Begun in '70 and this a dozen years later.

    It's not single material but In Love Alone...another track destined for that unfinished album most definitely is, imho.
    Mark-T likes this.
  22. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    I re-post this from Richard Carpenter, his words regarding
    Voice of the Heart:
    "...the songs are outtakes, and though I still feel that Ordinary Fool is a good vehicle for Karen,
    and a good piece of arranging and production on my part, had Karen lived, we would have turned
    our attention to the new songs (along with some standards, no doubt) and not thought of these tracks again.
    Out of the two recorded in 1982, only Now would have made any bona fide follow-up to Made In America."

    My emphasis on the words in bold.
    Firstly, the song Ordinary Fool is here being undervalued by Richard (it is more than "a good vehicle for Karen").
    Secondly, if only the song Now would have made "any bona-fide follow-up" to the 1981 album,
    then this song appears to be the direction Richard Carpenter was heading.

    Obviously, my thoughts differ from many.
    The album-- as an entirety-- is very good.
    The two weakest-link songs are:
    Now and Make Believe It's Your First Time.
  23. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    I like how we all have different takes on the album. As far as weakest song go, I'd put "Two Lives" and "Prime Time Love" as the bottom two.
    Kacfan, Murray and newvillefan like this.
  24. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member

    That said, in my mind. VOTH is much, much stronger overall than MIA.
  25. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    I think that Karen’s passing released these songs. I don’t think it would have ever been released otherwise. I’m glad we have it even though questions arise. One’s body strength affects ones vocal strength. Her talent was so immense that she could fake it during the bad times.
    Sometimes I think of what she could have recorded if her 1973-1975 voice had remained during her lifetime and how different the solo would have sounded. Both suffered from the strains of their career, unmercifully. It’s time to just celebrate the good how that all angles have been discussed. Besides, many others have passed by now and we en the Music
    Industry. I celebrate it dsily
    Voice of the Heart had songs from 1974-1983 which gave the album more variety. Some on Loveliness are even stronger. Made In America had the wrong songs selected and recorded for an act of 13 years.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019

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