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Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Dec 1, 2014.

How Would You Rate This Album?

  1. ***** (BEST)

    43 vote(s)
  2. ****

    11 vote(s)
  3. ***

    0 vote(s)
  4. **

    1 vote(s)
  5. *

    0 vote(s)
  1. Jamesj75

    Jamesj75 Well-Known Member

    As there is ongoing discussion about how often (or rarely) one hears Carpenters on the radio (e.g., Heard Carpenters ), I was thinking about how Carpenters' Christmas songs are typically played every year for about a month preceding the holidays. Let's equate that to an artist having a hit record once a year, with airplay for a few weeks. Now if you consider that Carpenters' Christmas songs have been given airplay for 1 month every year for 40 years, that's quite an achievement! Not a bad track record if you think about it... And this string of airplay actually started several years earlier with the release of "Merry Christmas Darling."

    Christmas Portrait has achieved platinum status and continual accolades year after year. Thus, Carpenters' niche in Christmas music alone is a viable, enduring legacy...
    Jeff likes this.
  2. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    That's all true. For some reason, Christmas time allows American radio to delve back and play all sorts of artists that may have memorable, familiar, and inviting Christmas recordings. There aren't many occasions, other than Christmas where you'll hear artists like Carpenters, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, etc., on regular radio stations. What's a bit frustrating is that the month that Christmas music plays, these all-Christmas stations rack up HUGE ratings. One has to wonder what would happen to a station that continued to play these "odd" artists doing their regular output. Would the audience remain? My guess is no. But it's a fun think-piece.
    goodjeans and Jamesj75 like this.
  3. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Honolulu City Lights

    It's rare to find a review of Christmas Portrait, I guess better late than never.
    Stereo Review Dec 1980

    newvillefan likes this.
  4. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    That's odd they they criticized the segues....which are among my favorite features of Carpenters albums. But Stereo Review was an "audiophile" mag, so I can see where an audiophile might get nitpicky about such things.
  5. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    That opening of the above review/article is sad:
    "...you don't hear much from the Carpenters anymore...."
    Jarred and Rick-An Ordinary Fool like this.
  6. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    Christmas is one of those few times when all the rules go out of the window in terms of who gets played. Given that the definitive versions of most Christmas songs were made several decades ago, it's not surprising that it's generally those versions that are given the most airplay.

    You touch on an interesting point re the classification of the Carpenters' music though. I can believe that some might associate the Carpenters' music with that produced by artists such as Como and Crosby, if only because all these artists are (or were) lumped together in the dreaded 'easy listening' category in record stores, which was effectively a shorthand for old-fashioned and dull. While they were both fine artists, there's no getting round the fact that Como and Crosby's music does sound old-fashioned, largely because it's mainly from the pre-pop era. I'd imagine it may well even have sounded old-fashioned back in the 1970s during the Carpenters' heyday.

    Conversely, I don't think Karen and Richard really fit into that group of artists, given they were much more imbued with a pop sensiblity, and I rather wonder if their relegation into the 'easy listening' category was intended as something of a snub in the sense of saying they were too soft and lightweight to sit alongside other rock and pop artists, even if the latter included the likes of James Taylor and Bread, with whom they shared certain similarites.

    Strangely, here in the UK, after years of being in the 'easy listening' category, most music stores now put the Carpenters CDs in the rock and pop section, and I wonder whether this is a result of the reappraisal of their music here and of the public's continued interest in their catalogue (and thus the need to make it more visible and accessible in stores). It seems a terrible shame that the US continues to persist in following the old prejudices against them in terms of radio play and respect.
  7. John Adam

    John Adam Well-Known Member

    I gave this ***** stars. An Old Fashioned Christmas (thread closed) *** stars.

    Awe Christmas music. The sounds of the holidays, the joy and the melancholy. The Carpenters of course! "Portrait" is my favorite traditional pop holiday collection. I've bought more of these than any other Carpenters album, because it is just that good! From the joyful, Sleigh Ride/Winter Wonderland to religious, Christ Is Born/Silent Night to classic pop, Merry Christmas Darling/Let it Snow and everything in between. Beautifully arranged, orchestrated and produced, this one has sparkle with appropriate Karen vocals all over the place.......as it should be!

    "Old Fashioned" starts slow and really makes the listener wonder, what is this and what have they done with Karen? Finally on track 5, "Home For The Holidays" the voice you've longed for comes in crystal clear and finally it's Christmas!
    I love the ballad version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" in which this exquisite track finally has a home on an album.
    "Little Alter Boy" is a standout, as well as Richard and Karen's version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" I gave this one only 3 stars because it's a lot of filler Christmas, and not enough Karen. But what we get is a gift. It sounds beautiful.

  8. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    Over the past few days I’ve had “The First Snowfall/Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” playing in my mind and ever since I first heard the original CP album in the “Christmas Collection” I’ve always loved how this track ended and after a pause goes into “Carol of the Bells. In my mind I see a video of Karen and Richard and me playing with kids and other people in the snow, tobogganing, take a sleigh ride, making snow angels and snowmen, and finishing with throwing snow in the air, and then when “Carol Of The Bells” starts a number of us rushing into town to the stores where we all Christmas shop before heading home, where we find Karen and the kids writing letters to Santa and Christmas cards to family and friends. And playing over all this is a montage scenes from inside a busy post office of mail being sorted and shopping malls with crowds of people rushing for that perfect gift.

    But really “Christmas Portrait” is two mini-symphonies.
  9. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Having finally listened to my copy of the infamous West German cd,
    today (travelling as it did from Australia),
    I can only say: fantastic sonic experience !
    The disc has those AAD and AM+ insignias, so, does that mean anything,
    or simply printed there 'for show' ?
    Needless to say, this is the definitive Christmas Portrait for my ears !
    The choir no longer drowns Karen's vocals out on Ave Maria....great !
    newvillefan likes this.
  10. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    The aad is called a spars code. It tells the listener that the disc was recorded in analog, mixed in analog, and mastered in digital (as all CDs would be). In the early days of CDs, some listeners were looking for pure digital experiences - which would be represented by ddd.

    The AM+ logo is sort of a relic from the 70s bad vinyl days. A&M sought to assure people that the vinyl they were buying was better than average and they created a line of audiophile records. After a time in 1980, they began manufacturing just about all of their vinyl on translucent vinyl that was purer and quieter than the run of the mill stuff from the 70s. On their specially-made audiophile records, they dubbed it as AM+, or Audio Masters Plus. When CDs followed soon after, the AM+ logo was used on just about every disc, since theoretically all CDs would be audiophile.
    John Adam, GaryAlan and newvillefan like this.
  11. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    It was a sheer joy for me to hear that for the first time without the choir. I still remember it vividly. Glad you enjoyed the experience too!
    GaryAlan likes this.
  12. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    The CPSE also has those logos, although only the AM+ logo is on the back cover; the aad is on the disc itself.

    Although not all labels used the spars, or the used them off and on. My late-80’s copy of Michael Bolton’s 1987 album “The Hunger” does not have aad, while his 1991 “Time, Love And Tenderness” does have the aad (and they were both Columbia). “The Hunger” does have, under the CD logo on the front cover, ‘Digitally Mastered Analog Recording’ and on the back cover warns that the “resolution” of the CD could reveal limitations of the analog tape.

    But it’s because of the spars that I can tell that LPs mastered from all digital recordings were done better in the 80’s than they seem to be now. For example I’ve got “Tiffany’s “Hold An Old Friend’s Hans” on LP and CD. The LP is really great to listen to and doesn’t sound like it is only half there, but gives a really solid sound; and the CD has DDD on it indicating that the LP was mastered from digital tapes.
  13. I recently got this on vinyl (finally!) And I prefer the original album mix compared to all the reverb on the cds... I especially love "Ave Maria" without the choir.
  14. AM Matt

    AM Matt Well-Known Member

    Actually it is Tiffany "Hold An Old Friend's Hand" (1989). Matt Clark Sanford, MI
  15. CarpentersToYou

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

    The original album is, and I stand by this, my very favorite Chrismas album. My german copy of the cd may be my favorite C’s treasure
  16. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    Heads up, but tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of Christmas Portrait’s release. October 13, 1978.
  17. Jarred

    Jarred Active Member

    Just listened to CP for the first time this year and it's truly a whole, complete experience.

    The one moment more than any other that captures the (literal) depth of Karen's ability and one that I get lost in every time is on "I'll Be Home for Christmas" where she first sings "...you can count on meeeeeeeeeeee...."

    That one word drops into a beguiling, bottomless pit of darkness and it's richness is a thing of beauty as it is of horror. This for me is Karen's best somber ballad performance on the record and it often sounds like she's about to cry, the yearning is too much. It's as if it was personal for her; appropriate then, that the word that stands out for myself is her chillingly reading of "me". Her profoundly melancholy voice always mirrored her real life pain and torment, but in this one lyrical phrasing it's as if she's giving an aural, almost physical demonstration of the depths of her despair. She said through her songs what she couldn't say in her life.
  18. Jarred

    Jarred Active Member

    For a post on another site I made earlier about the album I wrote this:

    An exquisitely human ghost of Christmas past is rendered timeless on this record - one spirit who comforts with memories of yore, while simultaneously undercutting it all with her trademark pristine, guileless melancholy. A warm hug that's as much a celebration of joy as to what the holiday can be, as it is an elegy to what it could never be again.
    goodjeans, Carpe diem and leadmister like this.
  19. leadmister

    leadmister Well-Known Member

    Beautiful comments. She has me when she first opens her mouth on Christmas Waltz, "Iiiiiiiit's thaaaaaaaaat..." My heart literally jumps at that moment, every time.
    Mark-T and Jarred like this.
  20. Jarred

    Jarred Active Member

    Thank you! I love her glistening vocals on CW, the way she phrases "candles gleaming inside..." Ooh the warmest chills.

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