Sunday, April 29, 2007

Karen Carpenter's Solo Album

The Carpenters are one of my favourite groups despite the fact that their music always makes me feel blue. The pair released their fair share of sad ballads but I find their upbeat numbers equally depressing. There is just something innately melancholic about Karen Carpenter's gorgeous, golden voice. I'm probably only projecting my feelings about Karen tragic death on to her music but rainy days and The Carpenters always get me down, in a comforting kind of way - if that makes any sense. I was going to write a post about The Carpenters but Pop Trash Addicts doesn't feel like the appropriate venue. I like to focus on all things happy and shallow, so I thought I would concentrate on Karen's delightfully vapid, self-titled solo album instead.

Karen started recording her solo album in 1979 when her brother, Richard, took a break from The Carpenters. The album was recorded in New York with Phil Ramone, who was determined to show Karen in a whole new light. Karen wanted to attain a more contemporary sound and that meant experimenting with disco and the kind of pop/rock that Olivia Newton-John was riding to the top of the charts. I get the feeling that Karen was almost a little bit too eager to try new things, which results in the album sounding somewhat disjointed at times. The music itself is excellent and I'm sure a couple of the tracks could have been substantial hits. However, Richard and Karen's record company obviously didn't agree. It seems they were less than impressed with Karen's change in style and as a result, the album was shelved and gathered dust until 1996.

Listening to "Karen Carpenter" in retrospect, it is hard to believe that anyone could find the material so objectionable as to scrap the album rather than release it. Some of the song titles such as "Making Love In The Afternoon" and "Remember When Lovin' Took All Night" might have sounded somewhat risque back in the day but the song lyrics are completely harmless. The experimentation with disco is also very subtle. A handful of the songs encompass elements of disco but the music rarely leaves the safety zone of mid-tempo pop. I guess we should just be grateful that the album was eventually released. There are a couple of missteps but "Karen Carpenter" contains several gems that belong in every fan's collection. I have uploaded "If I Had You" and "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind", two of the album's most enjoyable numbers. "If I Had You" slowly builds up into a funky groove, while "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" is a catchy, disco tinged anthem, which shows off Karen's new, saucy side.

Unfortunately, "Karen Carpenter" is yet to appear on iTunes and the CD is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Your best bet is to look for the album on Ebay or Amazon.

8 comments:

Black_Nail said...

i have loived the Carpenters all my life.. and Karens voice has always moved me.
I was not even aware of this solo album.. so thanks so much for sharing your thoughs and the tracks.. Im hoping to hunt down a copy on Ebay.

You Rock...
LOVE your blog... im always left with tears of laughter and on the edge of my seat begging for more.

loves and kisses.

Jarrod.

Trash Addict said...

Hi Jarrod!

I'm happy that you're enjoying my Blog. I love Karen Carpenter too, Her voice is just amazing. If you're a big fan, the album is definitely worth hunting down. Good luck with your search!

Ro Ro said...

I did love this album. Such a tragedy Karen. I do find their stuff extremely depressing i guess her true feelings were expressed in her music. Things that seem so happy never really are.

Jake said...

This album is one of the most interesting chapters in the story of The Carpenters. It was great for Karen to branch out for a while and try some new sounds. Just a shame she was still so ill in 1979/80. How exciting it would be if Karen had tried out other producers had she lived as well as the fantastic albums she could have made with her brother.

chuck said...

"always get me down in a comforting kind of way"...well put. my older sister had all the carpenter's albums when i was a kid. i think we literally wore out the one that had "deadman's curve" on it, it was played over and over...hehehe.

Tommy said...

I don't have a whole lot of Carpenters albums, but I totally love this album. I picked it up at a used CD shop just out of curiosity one day and absolutely fell in love after listening to it.. Your comments on the disco tracks are spot-on. I'd forgotten how good "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" is.. That voice + those sublime disco strings = love..

Brandon said...

I *love* this album and also blogged (and bitched) about the fact that it truly went too underrated for too long. even the unreleased tracks that i've managed to stalk down impressed me a bit.. but then again, i have yet to hear anything karen ever did that didn't impress me much (with the exception of those damn group songs from the tv specials).

Brian said...

This was sure a good find, although now out of print, it is worth getting if your a fan of Karen..she was just simply amazing..i can only think of what great things she would have done in music if only she had lived..i miss her to this day..she was one of a kind.!