• 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.

THE OFFICIAL REVIEW: "PASSAGE" (SP-4703)

How Would You Rate This Album?

  • ***** (BEST)

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • ****

    Votes: 17 47.2%
  • ***

    Votes: 12 33.3%
  • **

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • *

    Votes: 1 2.8%

  • Total voters
    36
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no1kandrfan

Well-Known Member
This album was a big surprise - beginning with the art work! I vividly recall walking into Music Plus - my favorite place for records. To the right of the door they had what could only be described as wooden steps that went from ground to almost ceiling. The height of the step was big enough to secure an album cover, and they would feature latest releases. I saw the album cover, one right after the other - I found it quite interesting but never ventured over. Of course I went straight to the C's bin and found Passage there as well. At first I thought it had been filed incorrectly - where was the logo?!? - but then I looked closer and realized it was them!

My all time favorite record is All You Get From Love Is A Love Song. I had spent time in Hawaii when it was released and was happy to hear it (or so it seemed) every where I went; in the car, in stores, on the beach. B'wana is another favorite!

I sure wish they would have experimented more on the next release and was VERY disappointed with MIA; as a record it's not bad, but they'd gone back to the same formula, which was rather surprising - in hindsight - when you consider Karen's solo sessions in between Passage and MIA.
 

newvillefan

I Know My First Name Is Stephen
I sure wish they would have experimented more on the next release and was VERY disappointed with MIA; as a record it's not bad, but they'd gone back to the same formula, which was rather surprising - in hindsight - when you consider Karen's solo sessions in between Passage and MIA.

It always comes across to me as A&M playing the role of teacher and yanking Karen back into the playground so she could play safely, after having wandered out into the neigbourhood...
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
I sure wish they would have experimented more on the next release and was VERY disappointed with MIA; as a record it's not bad, but they'd gone back to the same formula, which was rather surprising - in hindsight - when you consider Karen's solo sessions in between Passage and MIA.

IMHO, the formula returned, but the soul was gone once MIA came out. Other than the Xmas album, anything after Passage I don't even care for.
 
I loved Passage when it came out. So much that I wrote A&M and said how I loved the Cs and the album art. A&M mailed me a tube that contained a poster of the album and a banner which was about 60" x 12" of the stylized space ship trailing music notes with a headline that said something like "Carpenters explore new music horizons". I taped them on the hallway wall that led to my bedroom on the second floor. Big disappointment was not seeing Karen's picture. As I teen, I "amused myself" looking at Karen on the cover of "Horizon" and the inside sleeve of "Hush". At least I didn't go blind.
 

Jamesj75

Well-Known Member
I loved Passage when it came out. So much that I wrote A&M and said how I loved the Cs and the album art. A&M mailed me a tube that contained a poster of the album and a banner which was about 60" x 12" of the stylized space ship trailing music notes with a headline that said something like "Carpenters explore new music horizons". I taped them on the hallway wall that led to my bedroom on the second floor. Big disappointment was not seeing Karen's picture. As I teen, I "amused myself" looking at Karen on the cover of "Horizon" and the inside sleeve of "Hush". At least I didn't go blind.

Did you really go there?!?!

I hope you had the decency not to be "On the Balcony of Casa Rosada!"
 
What can I say? Karen was a beautiful woman in her heyday. I always dated girls who kind of looked like her. And no Jamesj75-- doing that on the balcony of the "pink palace" may have had other implications at the time. LOL.
 
I love PASSAGE, a truly ambitious recording, especially coming after most people's least favorite (I'm in that boat too) AKOHush. Purchased it the day it was released which I remember so clearly because it was also the release date for Jane Olivor's second LP CHASING RAINBOWS (if somehow you don't know who Jane Olivor is, you've missed out - for me, there was Karen, and there was Jane. Jane and the Carpenters, in very different styles, both/each recorded some of the same material (specifically, Solitaire (both Karen and Jane just knock it out of the ballpark), You (Olivor wins that one), and You're The One (Olivor wins that one too, because Karen's voice had started to weaken in my ears by then.

PASSAGE also received a very favorable review in STEREO REVIEW and (rare for S/Review and their view at that time of the Carpenters) listed it as one of their Recommendeds for the month (the gist of that review was similar to many of us - so many surprises were in store in PASSAGE). I do remember feeling very strange about their being no photograph at all (especially after the horrific inner sleeve photo of Karen on AKOH).

But ah......PASSAGE. When a Carpenters album opens with a Michael Franks song (interestingly, Franks was the opening act for Jane Olivor in September 1977 for her Carnegie Hall review, a concert which shot Olivor into the big leagues with review quotes like "a superstar in the making". And I was just looking at the credits for A SONG FOR YOU, which Louie Shelton played guitar on (as well I read on other Carpenters albums (including Close To You, but was uncredited), Shelton produced five of the songs on Jane Olivor's The Best Side of Goodbye album (the world is so circular) -- anyway, I digress -- what I was saying was that a Carpenters recording which opens with a song about master/slave [not racial, but the other kind.....cough) relationships is clearly going to be very, very special. I will say, however, that Calling Occupants is my least favorite on the recording (especially that really odd instrumental break right after Karen sings "oh oh oh oh"). Two Sides is just stunning and I'm sure a lyric that Karen really "got" at the time. And the sheer daring of Argentina, by including the pre-"you think it's easy" recitative with Che and the "Peron....Peron......Peron.....Peron" folllowed by that total stillness leading into the main verse and chorus -- that's a jawdropping risk/surprise. Certainly PASSAGE is in my top three favorite C/recordings.

P.S. I just love (what's the percussion instrument called?) that you hear at the beginning of All You Get From Love......And I love the video of it - Karen actually looks as if she's enjoying herself, and she's not having to "push" the capital C-Carpenters personality like ABC and Weintraub made them do on their ABC specials.
 
p.s. I think Richard's arrangement and orchestration on All You Get is just perfect, esp. the percussion and the "bump bump/bump bump"s that hit at the end of the verses. Karen, and rightly so, is pushed way to the front on the backup, and there's that lovely, elegant musical-notewise taking it "up" on the final fade......
 

Dave

Well-Known Member
A fairly good grab-bag of what the Carpenters really can do, after finding & revisiting what made their early albums great (amidst the following of the lull of their post-Singles 1969-1973 material)...

And this time adding the ambition & fury of the early stuff & revisiting the initial potential, though clearly displaying a new-found showcase of a forward dimension of their career, as opposed to the naive amateurism... (Though that was proven to be something that did work, as they clearly gathered the experience of the business, thus actually getting ahead of a lot of their current competition!)

Of course, among stuff like 'On The Balcony Of The Casa Rosada / Don't Cry For Me Argentina' (bordering on the verge of bombast) are clearly the old fashioned radio-friendly ennui of 'All You Get From Love Is A Love Song' (Steve Eaton offered a pallette of his stuff to the group, of which this one was best suited, while Art Garfunkel did 'Rag Doll', but heaven forbid, if only 'We're All Powered By The Same Old Juice' could'a been given a sportin' chance by these two!), 'Sweet, Sweet Smile' and 'I Just Fall In Love Again', while the playful 'Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft' (played On The Air w/o the narrative intro) kind'a tips that sort of scale towards something that would make your skin crawl, as you scan the AM/FM dial...

Worth the time & space on the A&M lot (as were the latest offerings by Johnny Mathis, Ray Conniff and Perry Botkin Jr.'s Ports, and a project like Hummingbird's Diamond Nights, probably stirring up some interesting camaderie in the break room, as Herb put down his horn enjoying his desk job), while Passage carried out its mission, offering a very brief, open well-rounded view, creating a climactic point & reigniting Karen & Richard's pinnacle of their career!


-- Dave
 

song4u

Well-Known Member
I was really, really excited about this album when it came out. I loved that they were exploring new styles of songs. I was especially hopeful that they would continue to go in the direction of jazz because Karen had what it takes to be a great jazz singer, and I wrote to them and said so. All of the ballads are great, as usual. I remember there being controversy over the lyrics of "B'Wana" and "Don't Cry for me Argentina". I loved Karen's reading of Michael Franks' "B'Wana", and "Argentina" is exquisite - preferable to any other version I've heard. It really shows off her range. And a record making recording session with the number of musicians playing all at once on the sound stage!

I already commented on the "Calling Occupants" video; the video being shown in the theater before the movie "Close Encounters". Not my kind of song, but Passage was such an interesting compilation of styles that it worked somehow.

 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
I already commented on the "Calling Occupants" video; the video being shown in the theater before the movie "Close Encounters". Not my kind of song, but Passage was such an interesting compilation of styles that it worked somehow.

I read the reasons why they chose that song--it was by a favorite group of theirs (and Klaatu, of course, being heavily Beatles influenced). That is one nice thing about Passage: it is like a recital of some of their favorite works or musical styles outside of pop vocals, even stepping into new territory (Broadway with "Argentina", country with "Sweet Sweet Smile", jazz vocals with "Bwana"). In a sense, it was more adventurous in spirit like Offering.
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
I had to dig this one out of the moth balls. This is positively the strangest and most unexpected album in their catalog. I remember reading in Randy's book that they were encouraged to look for another producer to helm the project but no one would do it. Richard, knowing a real change was needed, was forced to take the helm again and, for some of this, displayed almost total disregard for all he'd done before. Rather than find a new producer, he became another producer.

Let's look at "B'wana She No Home" as an example. It's a jazz Pop thing by nature so Richard doesn't drown it in strings. He lets it breath and the tune is all the better for it. He also achieved...groove! Very rarely can one say that a Richard Carpenter arrangement grooves but this one absolutely does! He gives up piano duties to Pete Jolly (who just kills this.) It gets better, though. He gave up the vocal arrangement to the best vocal arranger that's ever lived, Mr. Gene Puerling. Gene arranged and sang with both the Hi-Lo's and the Singers Unlimited (he would also later win a Grammy for his arrangement of the Manhattan Transfer's recording of "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square"), so he's more than up to the task. His flourishes don't show up throughout the way Richard's would but when we hear them, they're just sublime!

Let's careen toward "Man Smart, Woman Smarter", shall we? Again, another groove! Karen, while ill-suited to the Trinidadian-isms of this tune, sounds like she's having a blast. The arrangement is totally fun with Richard's obvious sense of humor at the forefront and the crowd vocals in the chorus are just perfect. Rarely did Carpenters just have fun with something and here, they just let loose.

Even "All You Get From Love Is A Love Song" is different. The backgrounds are augmented by Julia, Carlena, and Maxine which give a totally different sound to them and Tom Scott! Wow! He does what he does and he's really good at it, to say the least. As usual, the vocal arrangement on this is just stellar.

"Calling Occupants"? Why even go there? The topic and movements make it seems weirder than it actually is. If the song were about something else, it wouldn't be so strange as the song is quite identifiably Carpenters. Still, the movements itself make it a strange piece for them to tackle and the hugeness of it (and "Don't Cry For Me" by Android Lloyd Weber) is quite admirable.

The rest of it is rather mundane "Carpenters-by-numbers" that we've already heard before. I never really liked "I Just Fall In Love Again". Anne Murray got the definitive take on it and Richard's arrangement is too "elevator" for my ears (oboe...AAAHHHH!!!!). "Two Sides"? No, thanks. They did that already. The worst to my ears, "Sweet, Sweet Smile". I'm not a Country guy at all and this just doesn't fly for me. Even the vocal arrangement can't save it. To my ears, it's a dog and should have been left on the cutting room floor. The lyric is generic and the arrangement is the kind of ersatz Country that just grates.

Overall, a very interesting album with enough weirdness to interest those who wouldn't come within a mile of a Carpenters record but enough safe stuff to satisfy those who loved what came before. It absolutely deserved a better fate than it got.

Ed
 

jfiedler17

Well-Known Member
The most unusual album in their catalog, yes, but it also might be my favorite of theirs, with the sole possible exception of A Song for You. As everyone's already mentioned, they were clearly taking more chances here, both in production and choice of material, and after so many consecutive albums that were partially or fully saturated in nostalgia, like Now and Then, Horizon, and A Kind of Hush, it's nice to see them here doing something so fresh and forward-looking (though that would obviously change with Made in America, which sounded very much like a retreat backwards and more of a sequel to A Kind of Hush than to Passage.) It would've been awfully interesting to see just where they might've gone had they continued going in this direction. I mean, Passage may not have been the huge hit it deserved to be, but they were clearly trying harder here (both in terms of production and song choices) than they had in a while to sound contemporary, and I think the album's aged much better than most anything else in their catalog as a result.
If not for "Only Yesterday," which is still my favorite single of theirs, "All You Get from Love Is a Love Song" would probably have to be my pick for my personal-favorite single R&K ever did, and why it didn't do better on the Top 40 is beyond me.
Richard's production and Karen's vocal on "Calling Occupants" are both first-rate, and even if it doesn't lend itself to repeated listens as easily as "All You Get ...," it's still an endlessly fascinating single and one of the most admirably ambitious things they ever attempted. I tend to spot new things in it every time I listen to it.
"B'wana" is just impeccably-arranged (love that piano solo, too!) and the jazziest thing R&K ever did.
I actually really enjoy "Sweet, Sweet Smile," though I'll admit that it doesn't really get going for me until the chorus with the tom-tom fills. The tom-toms do it for me everytime. I don't know that I'd like the record nearly so much if the toms weren't there. Just a brilliant arrangement touch.
And I also enjoy "Man Smart ..." as well, but then, I'm also a really huge Robert Palmer buff and love pretty much everything he ever did, so I don't mind in the slightest that they used his own arrangement of that song over Belafonte's. I don't know that their version is quite as good as Palmer's (if only because his is significantly more concise and also features the wildly-underrated Little Feat as his backing band), but it's still very enjoyable - for me, at least. I know I'm in a minority on that one! :laugh:
The only track that I tend to skip over is "I Just Fall in Love Again." Not that it's bad, but, as Ed just said, Anne Murray's recording is just superior, I think. Karen's the much better vocalist, don't get me wrong, but the production on Murray's recording is better than what Richard did with it, which I agree is too "elevator"-sounding for my own tastes.

- Jeff
 

toeknee4bz

Well-Known Member
Well, I can see that after 35 years, apparently, "Two Sides" is still the most overlooked, underrated track on PASSAGE. Why no one really makes mention of it is beyond me. It's a great song on it's own merit, but it got buried in the hodgepodge. Personally, I think it should've been a single. Which begs me to ask: Does ANYBODY out there really like this song as much as I do, or is it just "an ok album filler" to everyone?
 

Dave60640

Active Member
Two Sides is a great track. Not quite sure about single material, DJs wouldnt have played it, but it would've certainly held up against most of the MOR of the day we were hearing. It's a great showcase piece for KCs style. If you've ever heard any other artist attempts they always "over do" it and turn the song into sludge. Not KC though. She let the song speak for itself.
 

A&M Retro

Well-Known Member
'Two Sides' is one of my top five favorite Carpenters tracks! Karen harmonizing with herself sounds so cool. Wish she'd done that more often. It's perfect vocally and arrangement-wise. And I love the ending, where she gets way up there and sings the 'oooh' during the fadeout with her upper octave head voice. I personally think it would have done great as a single.
 
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