Karen Carpenter (Solo)
Karen Carpenter’s only solo album was nine months in the making. She had been thinking as far back as 1978 about making a solo record. The opportunity presented itself when her brother Richard Carpenter left California to go into treatment for an addiction to prescription drugs. Two weeks into his stay at Menningers in Topeka, Kansas, Karen visited Richard to let him know of her plans to go to New York and record a solo album. This did not sit well with Richard. He did not want his sister flying off to New York to record without him. Maybe it was at this time that he realized she could sell more probably records as a solo artist. He eventually gave her his blessings.
Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss (A&M) along with Carpenters’ manager Jerry Weintraub highly supported the idea of Karen dong a solo album (Hey maybe there was some money to be made here). It was Herb that suggested Karen work with mega-producer Phil Ramone. Ramone had a protfolio more impressive than anybody else at the time having worked with Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Chicago, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand and several others. Karen went with Herb’s suggestion and set out to meet with Phil Ramone. Phil Ramone was one of those producers that dug deep into the musicians that he produced. He studied their characters, he would get to know their previous body of work. He was like a detective researching every angle of his subject. This helped Phil to assist his client in creating a sound unique to the person and their personality.
Once recording commenced Phil Ramone assembled a top notch crew to create Karen’s masterpiece. The roster included Jazz great Bob James, Rod Temperton, the genius who worked with Michael Jackson and created the classic “Thriller.” Billy Joel’s backing band played on most of the songs on the album giving it a lively edge. The Karen Carpenter solo crew spent nine months creating and completing the album. The initial investment was $100,000 from A&M Records with an additional $400,000 from Karen herself (this total is equivalent to $1.5 million dollars in today’s money).
The album was completed in the early months of 1980 and was slated for a March 1980 release. A&M Records shelved Karen’s album against her wishes where the album stayed in the vaults until October 8, 1996 when it was finally released with very little promotion or fanfare from the record company. Despite the lack of promotion the album was a success having sold more than one million copies worldwide.
You can read the article “The Making Of Karen Carpenter Solo” here on LeadSister @ http://leadsister.com/?page_id=1113
Release Date: October 8, 1996
Catalog Number: 31454 0588 2
Singles: “If I Had You” (released in 1989 from the compilation album “Lovelines”), “Make Believe It’s Your First Time” (1996)
B-Sides: “If We Try” (b-side of “Make Believe It’s Your First Time”)
Track by Track
Written by Rod Temprton, “Lovelines” is one of three (possibly more) songs that were presented to Karen from Rod after she had rejected two other songs he wrote, those being “Rock With You” and “Off The Wall.” Arranged by Rod Temperton and Orchestrated by Bob James with a dynamic keyboard solo by Greg Phillinganes. Greg Phillinganes played keyboards for Stevie Wonders backing band, Wonderlove, from 1976 – 1981, as well as working with Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton and Toto. One of the outstanding features of this song are the layers of vocals that were craftily arranged by Rod Temperton.
All Because Of You:
“All Because Of You” was written by Russell Javors, he was part of Billy Joel’s backing band which recorded with Karen on most of the songs on her album. Javors also wrote “Still In Love With You.” “All Because Of You” has a slight country music twang to it as well as a bit of an adult alternative feel. Bob James composed the musical arrangement. The outstanding feature in this song is the way Karen holds the note at the end of the song, so gentle and tender yet precisely perfect.
If I Had You:
“If I Had You” is one of the most amazing songs from Karen’s album and is considered by fans to be the favorite from Karen’s solo album. Many fans claiming the song could have been a #1 hitin 1980. One of the most electrifying parts of the song is the vocal mix at the end where Karen’s recorded vocals overlap each other to create an otherworldly sound that we had never heard from Karen before. Rod Temperton created the enthralling vocal mix, which went on to be a signature sound for him as witnessed from his work on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and various songs by Manhattan Transfer. The song was released as a single in 1990 as credited to Karen Carpenter (after the release of the compilation album “Lovelines”), with almost zero promotion from A&M Records, it made it into the Top 20 of the adult contemporary music charts and received moderate airplay prominently in metropolitan areas such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Miami and other similar areas. The song boasts a high stepping saxophone solo by Michael Breacker. Brecker recorded a number of solo albums and albums with his brother Randy as well as being a well sought after session player. He played the sax solo on Paul Simon’s recording of “Still Crazy After All These Years” in 1976.
Making Love In The Afternoon:
“Making Love In The Afternoon” is a feel-good power-pop tune that shines much on the same level as the 1985 hit “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. The song is part pop, part, rock and part new wave. It is the perfect pop tune for 1980. The guest backing vocal is sung by Peter Cetera, making it the first studio recording in which Karen is backed by a well known singer outside the Carpenters circle. Peter wrote this song specifically for Karen Carpenter and composed the musical arrangement. Timmy Cappello played the rousing summery saxophone solo. Cappello is best known for his work with Tina Turner through the 80’s and 90’s.
If We Try:
“If We Try” is a lovely song written by Rod Temperton especially for Karen. He wrote it after he took up residence on Phil Ramone’s property. During his employment as a chief arranger, producer and songwriter for the Karen Carpenter project, Rod was staying in one of Phil’s guest houses which sat behind Phil’s main house in Connecticut. At that same time period Karen was living in Ramone’s main house in the front. Temperton wrote “If We Try” several weeks after having been able to get to know Karen better. In many ways this song was tailor made to her personality and her emotions at the time. It is exactly what Karen was thinking and talking about in her life.
The song includes hints of smooth jazz and an underlying funk and has the distinction of being the only song on the album to be arranged (both musically and vocally) by Rod Temperton and orchestrated by Russell Javors. In essence the best of funk and jazz are being melded with the best of rock and pop in the Temperton/Javors collaboration.
Karen worked especially close with Rod Temperton, who was a fun going wisecracking guy who had a sense of humor that never stopped… but when he was in the studio it was 100% seriousness. Temperton created some of the great songs of all-time such as “Rock With You,” “Thriller,” “Always and Forever,” “Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)” and many others. “If We Try” belongs to that category of greats.
Remember When Lovin’ Took All Night:
Karen handles this song with an authoritative strength and sultry lift that comes naturally to her. It’s like she’s bursting out of a locked door into a wanting world saying “Hello world here I am!” There’s a lot of enthusiasm in her vocal. We first heard this sort of forward vocal interpretation from Karen back in 1977 with the jazz-fusion tune “B’wana She No Home.”
While this song has it’s root in disco, it is not an all out disco tune. It’s more along the lines of the type of disco (or dance music) Donna Summer was recording in 1978-79, dance music rooted in disco with touches of funk and rock. “Remember When Lovin’ Took All Night” certainly has a strong rock music influence with Billy Joel’s backing band playing the instruments featuring a subdued rock influenced drum pattern by Liberty Devitto. But there’s also a huge jazz influence as the song was arranged and orchestrated by Bob James and he contributes a fiery yet ethereal keyboard solo in the song. The song is a blend of disco meets jazz fusion meets rock.
Liberty DeVitto commented on how much work Karen put into this song, “Karen was a perfectionist in the studio and wanted the vocals to be perfect. She worked so hard on ‘Remember When Lovin’ Took All Night’ that she began hyperventilating and passed out while doing the backing vocals. Her vocals were amazing and she did them all: lead, backing and harmony.”
Still In Love With You:
“Still In Love With You” is one of the biggest departure from Karen’s former sound. It opens with a steady bass guitar rhythm (so fantastically played by Doug Stegmeyer) and leads in ripping electric guitar riff (played by Russell Javors). This song is dance-rock with a new wave feel. Karen was just one step ahead of Donna Summer with this sound as Karen produced and recorded this song a good 6 months before Donna hit the studio to record her classic new wave tinged dance-rock tune “The Wanderer.”
“Still in Love With You” is not meant to be a thought- provoking, mournful tune, as we had grown accustom to hearing from Karen most prominently in 1971 and 1972. It’s a good-time song meant to elicit a smile on your face and put a groove in your step.
Written by Russell Javors, “Still In Love With You” was arranged by Le’ Band, which is Billy Joel’s backing band headed by Russell Javors accompanied by Liberty DeVitto, David Brown and Doug Stegmeyer. Stylistically the song features many similarities to Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me,” which was recorded at the same time as “Still In Love With You.” Russell Javors has said that the song was not an easy one for Karen to sing; it was an attitude she had never explored before in song. Phil Ramone asked Karen to try singing the word “love” differently. Javors, says, “At one point I was actually in the vocal booth with Karen, and I lip-synched the lyrics while she was recording her vocal because she wanted to copy my phrasing. I was impressed at how hard she worked to put her stamp on it. Also, I was surprised at how softly she sang. Karen’s voice was so rich and textured. Her voice was powerful without having to belt it out.”
My Body Keeps Changing My Mind:
Richard Carpenter told Karen not to do disco and with “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind” Karen did just that. Okay so this song is not true to form disco but a close assimilation. It’s a dance-pop tune with a light disco influence and a slight kitsch factor due to it’s lyrics.
The song was written by Leslie Pearl, who has written hits for artists such as Crystal Gayle, Kenny Rogers, Dr. Hook, Johnny Mathis and Karen Kamon (aka Karen Ichiuji, Karen Ramone and Itchie).
Johnny Mathis originally recorded “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind,” which appeared on his 1979 album “Mathis Magic.”
Make Believe It’s Your First Time:
“Make Believe It’s Your First Time” is one of three songs from Karen’s album to be arranged and orchestrated by jazz master Bob James. The other two are “Remember When Lovin’ Took All Night” and “Guess I Just Lost My Head,” both songs contain an unmistakable jazz influence about them, but “Make Believe It’s Your First Time” is different in that it has no trace of jazz elements in it. Instead the song is a straight forward ballad which discovers that love is possible after a few faulty relationships. It’s a song about moving ahead and not looking back as noted in the lyrics, “then is then and now is now. And now is all that matters anyhow.”
“Make Believe It’s Your First Time,” is a celebratory song. It celebrate love and bonding with someone in a new straight forward progressively moving way. The song was co-written by Bob Morrison a songwriter that has written or co-written some of country music’s biggest hits including “The River’s Too Wide” recorded in 1974 by Olivia Newton-John, Barbara Mandrell’s 1976 hit “Midnight Angel,” Reba McEntire’s 1980 Top 10 country hit “(Lift Me) Up to Heaven.” He is best remembered for co-writing Kenny Rogers’ 1979 Grammy Award winning hit “You Decorated My Life” and the classic Urban Cowboy track “Lookin’ for Love” performed by Johnny Lee. Johnny Wilson, the song’s other co-writer, has written a few songs recorded by country music stars Red Sovine and CW McCall.
Karen’s voice is up front and center on this song without the build-up of backing vocals or harmonies. Karen’s singular voice transcends as mesmerizing warmth of hopeful yearning. Bob James’ gentle piano work builds up into a gentle burst of sound which never becomes to overpowering. It’s the perfect blend of intimacy and strength.
The song was released as a CD single in Japan in 1996 and has become a rare collectible.
“Make Believe It’s Your First Time” was predominantly written as a country song which found its audience with the adult contemporary crowd when it was recorded and released in 1979 by Bobby Vinton, who took the song to #78 in the US. Country singer Charly McClain recorded a charming version of the song, which ended up on her 1980 album “Who’s Cheatin’ Who.”
When 1981 rolled around (after the forced shelving of Karen’s album) Richard Carpenter decided to do a re-recording of Karen’s song “Make Believe It’s Your First Time.” He added heavy orchestration and the OK Choral for backing vocal, many say the overly lush orchestration and the choir like backing vocals interfere with the song’s intimacy.
Guess I Just Lost My Head:
“Guess I Just Lost My Head” is one of those rare songs on Karen’s album that reaches back to sounds that were budding on the 1977 album “Passage” and would have fit well with that album. The song is a mid-tempo pop tune with a strong smooth jazz undertone in which Karen sings completely in a very comfortable and warm mid-range. Easily a choice for single release the song had the potential to be a genre crossing hit making it on to the pop, adult contemporary and jazz music charts.
Written, arranged and orchestrated by Rob Mounsey, this flirtatious song has a versatile atmosphere that fits well in a dance club or a jazz lounge. Mounsey also played the ethereal keyboard solo that you hear a little past the midway point.
Rob Mounsey has some very nice things to say about Karen, “Karen was very smart, very gifted and accomplished, and very nice. She gave me what may have been her greatest compliment – She likened me to her brother Richard. I was so happy that she wanted to do my song (“Guess I Just Lost My Head”). The only problem was that it was really a man’s song to sing to a woman. The second line was “I was only watching the flower in your hair…” Not being a congenital lyricist I was stumped for a substitute line, and it was Karen who came up with “Only trying to memorize you there.”
Still Crazy After All These Years:
“Still Crazy After All These Years” is a classic tune written and originally recorded by Paul Simon for his 1975 album of the same name. It was Simon’s third single from the album and it placed at #40 on the Billboard US Top 100. Simon’s recording of the song is somber and straight forward soft-rock with a tinges of folk. His vocal delivery was somewhat wry and sarcastic. Simon’s recording included Richard Tee on acoustic and electric piano, Steve Gadd on drums and Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone, all three musicians play the same instruments on Karen Carpenter’s recording. Rob Mounsey (“Guess I Just Lost My Head”) arranged and orchestrated the tune and added his capable, keyboard parts complete with a sleek guitar solo by David Brown from Billy Joel’s live band. This was Karen’s (and Phil Ramone’s) way of paying tribute to the legend Paul Simon. By the way Phil also produced Simon’s recording of the song.
Karen’s recording of the song heavily leaned on a smooth jazz framework while maintaining her familiar pop sensibilities. She turned Paul Simon’s somewhat socially bitter tune into a harmony filled nostalgic ballad.
Paul’s original lyric read as; “Four in the morning, Crapped out, Yawning” Phil Ramone decided that the lyric had to be changed and instead she sings “Four in the Morning, Crashed out, Yawning,” a lyric line that is more befitting to the young lady she was. Karen did however keep the lyric, “And we drank ourselves some beers,” a line which may have turned the heads of a few diehard fans if it had been released in 1980.
In the original approval of Karen’s album in 1980 “Still Crazy After All These Years” was chosen as the closing track on side two. “Last One Singin’ The Blues,” which closes the 1996 release was not chosen to appear on the album.
* Sidenote… Karen also recorded Paul Simon’s song “I Do It For Your Love,” which was featured on Simon’s album “Still Crazy after All these Years” and was the b-side of the single “Still Crazy After All These Years.” Karen’s recording remains unreleased.
Last One Singin’ The Blues:
“Last One Singin’ The Blues” again shows off the “jazz” side of Karen Carpenter with a slight (ever so slight) hint of blues heavily infused with pop music sentiments. This song showcases a wonderful and stylish guitar solo by the one and only Russell Javors and the outstanding jazz drum patterns of Liberty Devitto. Best of all we are treated to Karen’s triumphant and exuberant vocals. You can hear a certain brilliance and glistening in her voice that we just had never heard before.
The song is an outtake not meant to have been on the album. A small bit of tweaking was done in order to include it as a bonus track when the album was released in 1996. In the beginning of the song you hear some finger snapping, and Karen saying the words “Just a zinch slower, Lib.” She was speaking to drummer Liberty DeVitto, who was cuing up the rhythm for the song. This opening paved the way for one fantastic tune. Somewhere around 2:40 she also speaks a few words, saying, “Don’t forget the break.”
“Last One Singin’ The Blues” was written by singer/songwriter Peter McCann, who first reached fame in 1977, when Jennifer Warnes took a song he wrote, “Right Time of the Night,” into the Top 10 in both the US and Canada. A few months later he had his own Top 10 hit with “Do You Wanna Make Love.”
From the title one can mistakenly take this song as an inward and introspective song though digging deeper into the lyrics the song ends up being more of an outward positive minded song meant to be enjoyed as a “letting loose” and “letting go” type of exercise.
“Last One Singin’ The Blues” is a celebratory song with which Karen is finally cutting loose from the “blues,” she is no longer in the shackles of all that has made her sad and blue. Karen Carpenter is finally FREE.
- Karen Carpenter – lead and backing vocals, drums
- Phil Ramone – Producer
- Bob James – Orchestration (Lovelines, Remember When Lovn’ Took All Night, Make Believe It’s Your First Time), Musical Arrangements (All Because Of You, If I Had You, Remember When Lovn’ Took All Night, Make Believe It’s Your First Time), Keyboards (Keyboard solo on Remember When Lovin’ Took All Night)
- Rod Temperton – Vocal Arrangements (Acrobatics), Musical Arrangements (“Lovelines,” “If We Try,” “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind”), Composer (“Lovelines,” “If We Try)
- Rob Mounsey – Orchestration (“If We Try,” “Guess I Just Lost My Head,” “Still Crazy After All These Years”), Musical Arrangements (Guess I Just Lost My Head,” “Still Crazy After All These Years”), Keyboards (Keyboard solo on “Guess I Just Lost My Head), Composer (“Guess I Just Lost My Head)
- Russell Javors – Guitar, Composer (“All Because Of You,” “Still In Love With You”)
- Le’ Band – Musical Arrangement (“Still In Love With You”)
- David Willaims – Guitar
- Eric Johns-Rassmussen – Guitar
- David Brown – Guitars (“Still In Love With You”)
- Liberty DeVitto – Drums
- Steve Gadd – Drums
- John Robinson – Drums
- Ralph McDonald – Percussion
- Airto Moreira – Percussion
- Doug Stegmeyer – Bass
- Louis Johnson – Bass
- Greg Phllinganes – Keyboards
- Richard Tee – Keyboards
- Peter Cetera – Backing Vocals (“Making Love In The Afternoon”)
- Michael Brecker – Saxophone (Solo on “If I Had You”)
- Timmy Cappello – Saxophone (Solo on “Making Love In The Afternoon”)
- Jim Boyer – Engineer, Audio Remixer
- Ray Gerhardt – Engineer
- James Guthrie – Engineer
- Glenn Berger – Engineer
- Dave Iveland – Engineering Associate
- Bradshaw Leigh – Engineering Associate
- Chaz Clifton – Engineering Associate
- Ralph Osbourne – Engineering Associate
- Randy Pipes – Engineering Associate
- Dave Croather – Engineering Associate
- Ted Jensen – Audio Mastering
- Dave Collins – Audio Mastering
- Ed Sulzer – Production Associate
- Michele Slagter – Production Associate
- Laura Lonctreau – Production Associate
- Karen Ichiuji – Production Associate
- Jerry Hey – Orchestration (“If I Had You,” “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind”)
- Chuck Beeson – Art Direction, Design
- Rebecca Chamlee – Design
- Paul Posnick – Conceptual Stylist
- Phyllis Posnick – Fashion Coordinator
- Claude Mougin – Photographer
- Amy Nagasawa – Photo Colorist
- Joe Tubens C.A.D. – Hair Design
- Henriquez – Makeup
- Special thanks to: Roberta Kleine, Nancy Sorkow, David Alley, Billy Jones/Ardel Travel
“Karen Carpenter” (1980 released 1996)
Offering (1969) Click Here
Close To You (1970) Click Here
Ticket To Ride (1971) Click Here
Carpenters (1971) Click Here
A Song For You (1972) Click Here
Now & Then (1973) Click Here
Horizon (1975) Click Here
A Kind Of Hush (1976) Click Here
Passage (1977) Click Here
Christmas Portrait (1978) Click Here
Karen Carpenter (Solo)(1980 – Released 1996) Click Here
Made In America (1981) Click Here
Voice Of The Heart (1983) Click Here
An Old Fashioned Christmas (1984) Click Here
Lovelines (1989) Click Here
As Time Goes By (2001) Click Here