Sunday, December 13, 2015

Karen Carpenter's lost gem

Growing up The Carpenters were one of my mother's favorite groups.  She loved Karen Carpenter's singing and the music of Richard Carpenter.  I remember listening to many of their albums on a weekend afternoon.  Karen Carpenter had a wonderful voice and she knew how to deliver what her brother wrote.  The Carpenters ruled the soft rock to easy listening area of the AM dial in the 70's.  I don't think there were many weddings that "We've Only Just Begun" wasn't played at during that time.  Were the Carpenters a really great duo?  Sure the songs that  Richard Carpenter wrote are classics.  Were some of them more than bordering on sapy?   Yes. I really think Karen didn't get her due as a vocalist or the fantastic drummer that she was due to the sapy factor.

In 1979 Karen worked on her solo release with producer Phil Ramone.  As I have read and heard  about from interviews is that Karen wanted to explore a more mature and modern sound.  As 1980 came around she brought the release to A&M records only to have Albert and Moss to urge her not to release it. As described by her producer Phil Romone, after a painful decision she shelved it and had to pay back the money it took to make it.  Three years later, Karen Carpenter left us due to her struggle with Anorexia.  Growing up with the Carpenters, her untimely death really hurt.  If anything good came out of the loss was that a disease that had been in the dark for too long came out into the light.

So I grew hearing of the lost album.  It was just the past few years that I found that the album was actually released.  I found a copy on ebay but didn't pull the trigger and buy it.  So while watching a recent special on the Carpenters I got curious about her lost release. Yes, Apple music has it and after a few times listening to the music  I believe Albert and Moss were wrong not to release it.

Now I am reviewing the music with the mindset of living in 2015, but I remember 1980.  Sex and sexuality was there but on the fringes of popular culture and certainly the nice girl from the Carpenters didn't sing about Making Love or her First Time.  Looking at the lyrics from the next century it seems so tame but Madonna and Prince hadn't taken over main stream music yet.  So I can understand their decision, but boy we missed out on some great music.

Karen Carpenter the album is filled with catchy, if a bit dated songs.  I think it could have really moved Karen's career along to new areas.  Making Love in the Afternoon is a track that Peter Certera wrote and sang background vocals on.  With no doubt I am sure that the track would have been a mega pop hit.  It's a catchy well sung track that I could listen to over and over again.  If I had You is another pop hit and finally her cover of Still Crazy after all These Years is a lost classic.  Truly her delivery of that song could have a blog written about it alone and is a testament to how great a vocalist she really was.  The only knock I have on the album is that the music style to some of the songs is a bit pop disco sounding. which is something that  was done a the time.  The music isn't enough of a knock on the album that I wouldn't recommend it.

So if you are looking for a wonderful artist who explored new areas to only be denied, give Karen Carpenter's solo album a listen.  And I have to say it is nice to live in a world that at least we are starting to respect female artists for the complete Woman that they are.

Til next time, listen to the best - your ears deserve it.  

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Kylie: Christmas in the Disco

It is December and in the spirit of the season I am going to review some of my favorite Christmas CDs.

Kylie Minogue is the greatest Disco Princess outside the USA.  In my mind she should be the greatest in the states too but for some reason she has never fully gone over around here.  Kylie has been on the music scene for decades.  In 1988 she broke on the US shores with a cover of the classic Locomotion.  After that she disappeared from the States for a while.  Now the rest of the world was enjoying the disco diva, but Kylie was another one of those artists that didn't just come across in the USA.  I got back to listening to her in 2001 with the Fever CD. The video of Can't Get You Out Of My Head was futuristic and hot.  Kylie not only is a great singer, but certainly not hard to look at. Fever was a great disco/dance CD and I enjoyed it.  But unfortunately like with her appearance in 88 she left the US pop carts.

With Kylie being in the charts world wide as long as she has been I was surprised that this year's release is her first Christmas CD.  Drama/Switchblade Kitten, an old and dear friend, suggested I review the release and I couldn't wait.

The new release is a mix of what you would expect in a Christmas CD and some surprises.  The CD starts out with the Christmas standards and they are okay but how many times have you heard Winter Wonderland and It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?  Now what I was looking for was found in the tracks like I'm Gonna Be Warm This Winter, Every Day's Like Christmas and Christmas Wrapping.  These tracks are fun, poppy and danceable, Christmas Wrapping has a enjoyable contribution from Iggy Pop.  Kylie just smokes on Santa Baby and since she seems to be Madonna's successor in the Dance world it is appropriate she gives her own take to the classic that Madonna torched in the 80s.  The standout on the release is Kylie's cover of 2000 Miles.  Her voice molds the the feel of the song and shows that Kylie can really deliver an emotional ballad.

If you want to listen to a great artist that most of the world seems to enjoy more than Americans; I would give Kylie Christmas a listen.

Til next time listen, to the best - your ears deserve it.