• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are in the pipeline! The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy will be available on November 16, 2021 and 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 being released January 14, 2022, and is available for ordering here.

🎄 Holidays! THE OFFICIAL REVIEW: [Album] "CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT" SP-4726

How Would You Rate This Album?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 52 78.8%
  • ****

    Votes: 13 19.7%
  • ***

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • **

    Votes: 1 1.5%
  • *

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    66

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
Odd question for such a universally popular album but does anyone find any flaws in the original 1978 album presentation? Were there any performances, arrangements, sequencing spots that you thought could’ve been improved?

It’s not just the sentiment but I honestly think everything works and flows flawlessly. It’s a whole journey into the season, all the brightness and darkness it usually brings. Of course we talk about the immaculate details of the tracks on here endlessly but its whole really is the definitive summation of their artistry, even if most only hear it at the end of the year to preserve the magic.
 

Matthew Smith

Well-Known Member
Yes - they didn't include the single of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". That really disappointed me.
Yes, especially if you saw the title on the track listing and got excited that it was there, took it for a spin only to realize, that wasn’t the single version.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
Yes - they didn't include the single of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". That really disappointed me.
Well I can see why they didn’t include. As an experimental one-off ballad it works fine, but for Christmas Portrait and even An Old-Fashioned Christmas it’s the slowest song, because it’s got the jazz shuffle going in it. Whereas the other tracks really are not jazz tracks; even Merry Christmas Darling moves at a slightly faster speed than the 1974 Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.

But I think the most serious problem with Christmas Portrait is that they should’ve made it a double LP, and I’m saying this from a technical perspective. LPs could hold 60 minutes of audio, but those 60 minutes can only be achieved by using extremely narrow grooves and a lower signal (CP is about 50 minutes, most LP’s were around 30-40 minutes). Whereas a shorter album could’ve opened up the grooves and given the sound a much broader dynamic range. So the sound is not as good as it would’ve been had the album been split over 2 LPs. (On LP I find CP is their worst sounding album because of that, with the Australian “Very Best”.) I find The Christmas Song sounds better on 45 than it does on the 33. Luckily CD’s were able to give the album the dynamic range it required.
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
Yes - they didn't include the single of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". That really disappointed me.

I forgot that one, actually too. I get that they wanted all “new” recordings but that song was made for whatever their first Xmas album would be.

Also, Home for the Holidays should’ve been on the the first one. I’m surprised that such a mainstream, much loved classic didn’t make the cut.
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
I forgot that one, actually too. I get that they wanted all “new” recordings but that song was made for whatever their first Xmas album would be.

Also, Home for the Holidays should’ve been on the the first one. I’m surprised that such a mainstream, much loved classic didn’t make the cut.
Home for the Holidays is a great song, and that assessment has nothing to do with the lyrics mentioning eating pumpkin pie in Pennsylvania...or pining for the sunshine of a friendly gaze...
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
Home for the Holidays is a great song, and that assessment has nothing to do with the lyrics mentioning eating pumpkin pie in Pennsylvania...or pining for the sunshine of a friendly gaze...
Not a fan of the lyric?
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
Not a fan of the lyric?
On the contrary I love the lyrics! They are very literate and yet as "down home" as you can get - I live in PA & my wife's pumpkin pie is, as the PA Dutch are fond of saying, scrumptious! I guess I didn't convey the meaning I intended, which is that my love for pumpkin pie doesn't influence my assessment of the song's high musical value (especially as arranged/sung by the Carps) - sort of a play on words that fell flat...and when's the last time we heard the word pine in a song - or actually pined for something?
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
Home for the Holidays is a great song, and that assessment has nothing to do with the lyrics mentioning eating pumpkin pie in Pennsylvania...or pining for the sunshine of a friendly gaze...
Home For The Holidays was originally written as a Thanksgiving song.
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
On the contrary I love the lyrics! They are very literate and yet as "down home" as you can get - I live in PA & my wife's pumpkin pie is, as the PA Dutch are fond of saying, scrumptious! I guess I didn't convey the meaning I intended, which is that my love for pumpkin pie doesn't influence my assessment of the song's high musical value (especially as arranged/sung by the Carps) - sort of a play on words that fell flat...and when's the last time we heard the word pine in a song - or actually pined for something?
That makes sense now. I love how “pine” makes the song feel old-fashioned. When you hear this you can feel the warmth of that home, smell the pumpkin pie, and the whole cozy vibe she pines for.
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
Home For The Holidays was originally written as a Thanksgiving song.
I never realized that it doesn’t really have to do specifically with Christmas, but it works better for it because the spirit makes home worth traveling to even more.
 

Guitarmutt

Well-Known Member
On the contrary I love the lyrics! They are very literate and yet as "down home" as you can get - I live in PA & my wife's pumpkin pie is, as the PA Dutch are fond of saying, scrumptious! I guess I didn't convey the meaning I intended, which is that my love for pumpkin pie doesn't influence my assessment of the song's high musical value (especially as arranged/sung by the Carps) - sort of a play on words that fell flat...and when's the last time we heard the word pine in a song - or actually pined for something?
Weirdly, or not (?), I wrote a song with pine in it:
(Here's the extract of the larger verse):

I see a face in the crowd
That reminds me of you
There are enough days behind me
That I no longer pine over you.

Etc.

I wrote it awhile ago after a bitter breakup.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
I never realized that it doesn’t really have to do specifically with Christmas, but it works better for it because the spirit makes home worth traveling to even more.
When you think about it, there are a number of songs we listen to at Christmas that really don’t mention Christmas. “Jingle Bells” was originally written for Thanksgiving, “Winter Wonderland” is another song that’s about a winter romance, “Frosty the Snowman” has no mention of Christmas although the Rankin/Bass cartoon and song added Santa into it, and changed the last line from “be back again someday” to “be back on Christmas Day.

“Let It snow, Let It snow, Let it snow”, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “Little Altar Boy” & “Ave Maria” are other Christmas songs that are not about Christmas.
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
When you think about it, there are a number of songs we listen to at Christmas that really don’t mention Christmas. “Jingle Bells” was originally written for Thanksgiving, “Winter Wonderland” is another song that’s about a winter romance, “Frosty the Snowman” has no mention of Christmas although the Rankin/Bass cartoon and song added Santa into it, and changed the last line from “be back again someday” to “be back on Christmas Day.

“Let It snow, Let It snow, Let it snow”, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “Little Altar Boy” & “Ave Maria” are other Christmas songs that are not about Christmas.
This is true, but the songs that you mention are winter/holiday related and the most important, widely celebrated holiday of that season is Christmas. Songs about snow, cold weather, religious redemption, etc are evocative of the time around and of Christmas. I think people living in parts of the world/America (a place where so many of Xmas tunes are recorded) where it’s always warm can respond positively to songs that don’t match their external environment. More places than not where Christmas is celebrated it’s colder than warmer, I would imagine.

And I’m shocked that Jingle Bells was originally a Thanksgiving tune. I never knew that the sound of jingle bells could be associated with anything but Christmas. If there’s one sound that is it’s unquestionably those bells.

But then again I’m one of those guys who says that My Favorite Things works as a Christmas song. Maybe not intended specifically as such, but again some lyrics are evocative of the holiday and it’s about getting into a mindset of happy thoughts to not feel sad (we know that the season brings about depression for so many, how nostalgic elements can bring about highs and lows of mood; the best vocal cover of it is given by Barbra Streisand who’s arrangement and vocal captures a harrowing darkness about remembering things that perhaps can never again rekindle an inner flame of warmth and joy. If only Karen did a vocal with a similar moody arrangement...).

There had to have been some kind of conscious Christmas connection when it was written. Julie Andrews at least thought so when it was performed on the Gary Moore Christmas show in the early 60s.
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
But then again I’m one of those guys who says that My Favorite Things works as a Christmas song. Maybe not intended specifically as such, but again some lyrics are evocative of the holiday and it’s about getting into a mindset of happy thoughts to not feel sad (we know that the season brings about depression for so many, how nostalgic elements can bring about highs and lows of mood; the best vocal cover of it is given by Barbra Streisand who’s arrangement and vocal captures a harrowing darkness about remembering things that perhaps can never again rekindle an inner flame of warmth and joy. If only Karen did a vocal with a similar moody arrangement...).

There had to have been some kind of conscious Christmas connection when it was written. Julie Andrews at least thought so when it was performed on the Gary Moore Christmas show in the early 60s.
"My Favorite Things" works as a Christmas song mostly because it gradually came to be performed in that setting over the years (on albums, TV shows, radio playlists) - it's a conditioned association and not a natural one - I'm not sure Oscar Hammerstein had a conscious intention to associate it with Christmas when he penned the lyrics (would have to research that), but I highly doubt it - maybe it's parts of the lyrics like "brown paper packages tied up with string" or "snowflakes that fall on my nose and eye lashes" that evokes the Christmas spirit (definitely not dogs biting and bees stinging) - in the movie/play it's used by Maria to calm the children during a severe thunder storm, but one can easily imagine an entirely different setting for it, one involving everyone gathered around a very large ornately decorated Christmas tree in the mansion's music room, etc.

And no, I can't imagine Karen ever doing an arrangement of it as dark or brooding or moody as Streisand's - that kind of twisted quirkieness was Streisand's thing and definitely not Karen's - it would have been totally out of character for her, and totally out of place on their Christmas albums - I'm sure she would have balked...
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
This is true, but the songs that you mention are winter/holiday related and the most important, widely celebrated holiday of that season is Christmas. Songs about snow, cold weather, religious redemption, etc are evocative of the time around and of Christmas. I think people living in parts of the world/America (a place where so many of Xmas tunes are recorded) where it’s always warm can respond positively to songs that don’t match their external environment. More places than not where Christmas is celebrated it’s colder than warmer, I would imagine.

And I’m shocked that Jingle Bells was originally a Thanksgiving tune. I never knew that the sound of jingle bells could be associated with anything but Christmas. If there’s one sound that is it’s unquestionably those bells.

But then again I’m one of those guys who says that My Favorite Things works as a Christmas song. Maybe not intended specifically as such, but again some lyrics are evocative of the holiday and it’s about getting into a mindset of happy thoughts to not feel sad (we know that the season brings about depression for so many, how nostalgic elements can bring about highs and lows of mood; the best vocal cover of it is given by Barbra Streisand who’s arrangement and vocal captures a harrowing darkness about remembering things that perhaps can never again rekindle an inner flame of warmth and joy. If only Karen did a vocal with a similar moody arrangement...).

There had to have been some kind of conscious Christmas connection when it was written. Julie Andrews at least thought so when it was performed on the Gary Moore Christmas show in the early 60s.
I guess you’ve never heard the Australian Jingle Bells?


But still, for most of the world they could be singing those songs until the end of February. And in the case of “Ave Maria”, it’s a recital of the Catholic Hail Mary, which I believe is said all year long at Catholic masses.
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
"My Favorite Things" works as a Christmas song mostly because it gradually came to be performed in that setting over the years (on albums, TV shows, radio playlists) - it's a conditioned association and not a natural one - I'm not sure Oscar Hammerstein had a conscious intention to associate it with Christmas when he penned the lyrics (would have to research that), but I highly doubt it - maybe it's parts of the lyrics like "brown paper packages tied up with string" or "snowflakes that fall on my nose and eye lashes" that evokes the Christmas spirit (definitely not dogs biting and bees stinging) - in the movie/play it's used by Maria to calm the children during a severe thunder storm, but one can easily imagine an entirely different setting for it, one involving everyone gathered around a very large ornately decorated Christmas tree in the mansion's music room, etc.

And no, I can't imagine Karen ever doing an arrangement of it as dark or brooding or moody as Streisand's - that kind of twisted quirkieness was Streisand's thing and definitely not Karen's - it would have been totally out of character for her, and totally out of place on their Christmas albums - I'm sure she would have balked...
Quirky? That’s the last thing I’d describe that version as. It’s played totally straight, which is why it works. I know Barbra had that kookie, ironic humor in some 60s songs but I don’t hear it in this. It may not have worked on this album (which is largely about the uplifting and/or ethereal music contrasted with her melancholy bringing it down to earth) but I absolutely could hear her pulling off an amazing vocal for the song in that style. Whether she would have initially liked reworking the song is another story.

Conditioned association works well for MFT, despite some lyrics not working in the Christmas context. It’s interesting how so many today (likely younger people) are baffled that it could ever have been considered in anything but it’s original context, but clearly a solid majority accepted and enjoyed it as a holiday classic for decades.
 

Jarred

Your resident analyst right around the corner.
I guess you’ve never heard the Australian Jingle Bells?


But still, for most of the world they could be singing those songs until the end of February. And in the case of “Ave Maria”, it’s a recital of the Catholic Hail Mary, which I believe is said all year long at Catholic masses.
They could be singing about jingle bells in February but who ever actually has? The latest anyone probably thinks about them is New Years Eve. Sleigh’s and bells are so associated with Santa and the joy to be found in the season that’s well over by February.

Ave Maria (like Little Altar Boy) is more vague with its Christmas connection, but I think over time it’s actually grown closer with Christmas as (statistically) more and more people have moved away from its religious aspect and only associate these songs with a nostalgic time of the year. A single time of the year/their life perhaps when those songs could have (had) personalized meaning for them.
 

Geographer

Well-Known Member
But still, for most of the world they could be singing those songs until the end of February. And in the case of “Ave Maria”, it’s a recital of the Catholic Hail Mary, which I believe is said all year long at Catholic masses.
Perhaps I can shed some light on this one. The "Hail Mary" prayer (or "Ave Maria") is a recitation of the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 1:26-38) where the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and informs her that she has found favor with God to bare his son, the savior. The first half of the Ave Maria is a recitation of this Gospel passage (in part). The second half of the song (and the prayer) is a petition to her to pray for us "now and at the hour of our death." And before Harry shuts this down as not relevant to the discussion at hand, I think the connection is obvious. It's part of the "Christmas" story...where "the reason for the season" starts. At first, I, too, thought it an "odd" Christmas song; but in actuality, it is quite relevant and directly related to Christmas.

And lastly, no, the prayer is not a regular part of the Catholic Mass/liturgy. Just to clarify.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
That makes sense now. I love how “pine” makes the song feel old-fashioned. When you hear this you can feel the warmth of that home, smell the pumpkin pie, and the whole cozy vibe she pines for.
You know, I don’t think Karen sings the word, ‘pine’ anyplace in ‘Home For The Holidays’. I think she sings, ‘When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze’. But I could be totally wrong.
 
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