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Unreleased Carpenters songs with Richard on lead vocals

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Without A Song, Mar 25, 2018.

  1. Without A Song

    Without A Song Member Thread Starter

    Hi everyone,

    I'm a longtime viewer of this site and a first-time poster. My love for the music created by Karen and Richard knows no boundaries. I've been hooked on Karen's voice and Richard's melodies ever since I first heard them in elementary school back in the 1970s. I'm happy to say I even helped sing a few of their tunes at school assemblies.

    One thing I've grown a greater appreciation of as I've gotten older and heard all of the Carpenters' official releases is their vocal harmony. That's why I chose Without A Song for my forum name. No other song in their repertoire can match this one for the beauty of their blended voices in my humble opinion.

    For my first post, I'd like to focus on a topic that I don't think has ever fully been addressed, at least that I can recall. I'm curious to know how many unreleased Carpenters tunes there are which feature Richard on lead vocals, and also if there are on outtakes from his first solo album "Time" that might one day come out. I've heard his wonderful take on "You'll Never Know" and the short snippet of "When I Take My Sugar to Tea," which was also nice. I hope they both will be released eventually.

    When I joined the Carpenters' official fan club in the late 1980s, I bought the entire set of newsletters. I remember reading that when the Carpenters were planning to do a follow-up album to "Made in America" one newsletter stated that the new album would feature two songs with Richard singing lead. Were "Fool Me" and Love as Old as the Heart" those two tunes and does anybody know if these tracks were completed?

    In closing I just want to give my heartfelt thanks to everyone connected in some way with this forum. You've helped sustain my love and appreciation for music made by Karen and Richard Carpenter, separately and especially together. For that I will always be grateful!
    BarryT60, David A and Jamesj75 like this.
  2. Rick-An Ordinary Fool

    Rick-An Ordinary Fool Honolulu City Lights

    Welcome to the forum!!
    Great first time post, sorry I don't have any answer but I'd sure like to hear those songs you mentioned. It's interesting to think what the next Carpenters album would have sounded like after MIA. I always enjoyed the earlier albums with Richard on lead vocals and Karen providing some overdubs.

    It would be like coming full circle had any future albums contained 1 or 2 solo tracks from Richard. I still think there is something special about the harmonies they both provided together, their voices complimented each other in song. I think that's why I enjoy the Christmas albums so much because they are a great mix of hearing Karen and Richard separately and then together.
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  3. Carpe diem

    Carpe diem Well-Known Member

    Without A Song - Welcome aboard, great to have you in this magnificent forum :)!
    BarryT60 likes this.
  4. I've mentioned in another thread how much I enjoyed Richard's vocal solos and instrumentals. To my ears, the "variety" found on the early albums was sorely missing as their sound changed (1975 forward); when even their own harmonies were substituted with chorale backgrounds.
    David A likes this.
  5. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I've been on record for a long time in appreciating Richard's vocals. I have always thought the tunes with him on vocals added a note of variety and (sometimes) humor to the albums. When they became all-Karen, as great as her vocals are, the albums lost some of their charm and got too "serious" sounding, at least to me.
    David A and jaredjohnfisher like this.
  6. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    Another unreleased Richard vocal is his version of “Toyland” from their 1978 “Christmas Portrait” special. Even Karen mentioned it in the interview that was included in the 1997 Readers Digest CD set.
  7. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    As much as I love the harmonies of Richard and Karen--those terrific background harmonies,
    I'm not sold on hearing more Richard Carpenter solo--lead vocal--material.
    His voice is too high, too thin, for a male lead vocal---that's merely my opinion.
    (My taste is more the deeper, lower, Josh Turner style.).
    I'm not implying Richard can't sing well, or that his voice isn't listenable,
    merely that his strength--in vocals--lies with his background harmonies with Karen.
    Yesterday, I listened to the entire Tan album (Vinyl LP). When Saturday or Druscilla Penny
    began--and, they begin with his vocals--I still felt his key was too high. Contrast that with the
    harmonies found on those same two songs--which are redeeming, in some sense.
    But, to each his own.
    ThaFunkyFakeTation likes this.
  8. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    Personally I don't feel to switch to 'all-Karen' vocals on albums was the problem - the reason why these later albums perhaps lost some of their charm is the nature of the songs picked and the way they were arranged and produced. As I mentioned in another thread, the 'Spectrum-era' songs, which had been exhausted by the A Song for You album, had a slightly rawer feel, and by A Kind of Hush they were both writing and picking songs that were much softer-sounding and less challenging, regardless of who was singing them.

    It's also worth mentioning that it's the Richard vocal songs that provide most of the weak links on Close to You, the Tan album and A Song for You (although I'll concede that his songs on Offering are generally somewhat better), so rather than elevating these albums or providing some variety, they blot what would otherwise be near-perfect copybooks.
    CraigGA and GaryAlan like this.
  9. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    Guess we'll have to disagree on that. For example, if Karen had sung "Piano Picker" or "Saturday," those tunes wouldn't have been nearly as fun.

    Almost all of my favorite "bands" (as opposed to solo artists) are groups who have more than one lead singer or who mix vocal tunes with instrumentals -- Fleetwood Mac, the Alan Parsons Project, Santana, Ambrosia... so my preference of a few Richard vocals on a Carpenters album is understandable.

    I do agree that he's "not a singer" though (same with Herb Alpert, by the way) and a whole album with his vocals would get tiresome. That was what made the Time album an okay listen ... he didn't sing on all of it.
    Geographer and David A like this.
  10. Rumbahbah

    Rumbahbah Well-Known Member

    Oh I agree that Karen wouldn't suited 'Saturday' or 'Piano Picker' (particularly as the latter is not her story!), but on other occasions, when Karen sang the whole of 'Love is Surrender' and 'Get Together' in the live versions, they sounded far better than the album versions.
    CraigGA likes this.
  11. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    I think of these as just different versions. The first time I heard Karen singing the entire leads it was a pleasant surprise but I still enjoy hearing the Richard vocals every now and then...just not all the time :)
    Geographer likes this.
  12. David A

    David A Well-Known Member

    I think Richard's backing vocals add a solidifying element to many of their earlier songs, a "vocal base" if you will, and it is sorely missed post-75, IMO. Richard's line in "We've only just begun" where he holds that note (attn: music knowledge types, what note _is_ that, that Richard sings?) adds something, for me at least. It's a subtle thing.

    As a stand-alone he has a decent voice who can carry a tune very well, but doesn't have the timbre to really stand out and grab you.
  13. Without A Song

    Without A Song Member Thread Starter

    I think "Toyland" was a great lead vocal by Richard. I hope that's released someday, perhaps on the next Christmas compilation? I also really enjoyed his vocal contribution to the Carpenters-Como medley.
  14. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    Mentioned this on another thread somewhere, but when I wrote to the fan club once after the release of "Passage," the reply I received said that Richard had recorded a lead for that album but left it off. Considering the experimental nature of that record, I'd be curious to know what he recorded.

    I enjoyed the occasional Richard song (thought he sounded great in the "Now and Then" medley) but it was definitely a case of picking the right tune... unlike Karen, he couldn't make just about anything sound good. As for the later albums, I absolutely agree they suffered not from a lack of vocal variety but an absence of really killer material. I don't know that it would have helped them remain big on the Top 40 indefinitely, but better songs would have made "Hush" and "MIA" much better albums.
  15. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    In that particular example, he sang the line, held the same note for an extended time and then went back in and doubled up his vocal on the same line again without sliding up or down to another note at any time. For non singers, that would be almost impossible to do without repeated takes. To Richard and Karen, who both had relative pitch, it came easy.

    Richard almost always doubled his lead vocals because his singing voice is so thin. Sometimes it had a detrimental effect because his leads sounds affected and almost “phased”. Even more so when sat next to Karen’s beautiful, untreated leads on the same album.
  16. Without A Song

    Without A Song Member Thread Starter

    I was unaware that Richard had recorded a lead vocal for "Passage." I'd be curious as well to know what that song was, too. Maybe it was "Fool Me" or "Love as Old as the Heart."
  17. JUST FOR FUN: I was thinking; which song might Richard have sung lead on from each post-'73 album just as it was released? I chose:

    Horizon: "Happy"
    A Kind Of Hush: "Goofus" (His lead might have made it more likable to some?)
    Passage: "Sweet Sweet Smile"
    Made In America: "Want You Back In My Life Again" (Similar in style to "Say Yeah" and "Who Do You Love?")
    Voice Of The Heart: "Prime Time Love"
    Lovelines: "Honolulu City Lights" (?)
  18. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Sorry, but I disagree. Whether Richard can sing a little or not is irrelevant. Karen is the best female pop singer music has ever known, IMHO. Richard never had any business singing on albums with Karen. Karen should have sung absolutely everything and the tunes featuring his lead vocals should have been excised. She was always the main draw and he should have been aware of that. Did the albums become more serious? Yeah but that was mostly due to Richard's increasingly serious production style. He was looser on the first four albums. By the time we got to "Horizon", his perfection began to be more precise and, yes, more serious.

    Carpe diem and GaryAlan like this.
  19. Without A Song

    Without A Song Member Thread Starter

    I think you could definitely make the case for "Prime Time Love." He actually sang several of the words with Karen on that tune, including "Trust is the answer, that's how it starts."
    jaredjohnfisher likes this.
  20. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    And even that part sounds as dry as sticks and without emotion, despite all his vocal overdubs. It’s too up front in the mix and not masked by Karen’s lead. One of those posthumous tracks that really suffers from not having Karen present in the backing vocals.
  21. David A

    David A Well-Known Member

    Great point about Richard's voice re: lack of emotional resonance. He does often sound mechanical. Still, they work for me as part of a backing vocal to Karen's voice, in many songs. Just not upfront in the mix or stand-alone.
  22. Karen could sing ANYTHING and make it sound good...but not EVERYTHING Karen sang was good (several solo album songs, for example). With Richard, the material was critical. I Kept On Loving You is probably his best album track. It was perfectly suited for his voice and the era it was recorded. Toyland and You'll Never Know were also very good vehicles for Richard...but his voice doesn't lend itself to the multitude of songs Karen could pull off. I'm all for having more "Richard" leads, as long as those songs were properly suited for him.

    However, a voice like Richard's isn't exactly "timeless" in many regards, unlike Karen's voice. That, I think, is the biggest draw-back for him as a "lead singer." Sort of like Gilbert O'Sullivan (a la "Alone Again Naturally"). It is a product of its time and not transcendent. Not bad for when it was; but not good for today. Richard's vocals on TIME were probably the last serious contemporary attempt...which wasn't bad, but again, he sang too high.
  23. Without A Song

    Without A Song Member Thread Starter

    I loved his backing vocals in "Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore." I thought those were some of his best in support of Karen's singing.
    Mark-T and theninjarabbit like this.
  24. Without A Song

    Without A Song Member Thread Starter

    I agree. Many of Richard's vocals on "Time" were too high. I would have liked to hear him singing in a lower key more often, like he did in "Without a Song." His voice on that tune is deeper and resonates better.
  25. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    I’d agree with that. For once, just his backing vocals alone added much gravitas and drama to the finished track (I’m thinking especially of the line “give it up!”, before the solo).

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