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.