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March 2, 2012 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Karen Carpenter's isolated vocal tracks.
posted by Joey Michaels (59 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
GRAAHHHHHH It's all blocked in Germany.
posted by sklero at 12:56 PM on March 2, 2012


Wow, that really sparse vocal/bass/drums arrangement makes it sound sort of like Portishead '72.
posted by griphus at 12:59 PM on March 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


I smell a Music Challenge.
posted by Beardman at 1:00 PM on March 2, 2012


Whoa. Chills from Ticket to Ride. I never expected to type all those words in that order.
posted by maudlin at 1:01 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's all blocked in Germany. --- We can't let you have our Advanced Carpentry technology.
posted by crunchland at 1:01 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Portishead 72 is awesome.

And the Carpenters was what constituted bleeding edge alternative on my parents hifi in the early 70's. And it's still pretty great.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:02 PM on March 2, 2012


John Carpenter is an underrated musician - I want to make that clear right now.

That said, The Carpenters without John would have still been The Carpenters. The Carpenters without Karen would have been Bread.

She's been gone nearly 30 years, if you can believe that, and every time I hear her voice again I get choked up about it all over again.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:05 PM on March 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Great post.

Is it only in retrospect that this singing sounds so chilling? Almost macabre?
posted by Trurl at 1:06 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


That sparse mix on Superstar is, in many ways, far better than the release. It really highlights the desperation in the lyrics.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:06 PM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, it was the "Yesterday Once More" link that made me feel I had to share this, breaking my "don't post two FPPs in one week" self-imposed rule for the first time in years.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:06 PM on March 2, 2012


John Carpenter is a good musician, but I think you mean Richard.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:06 PM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh shoot, of course. *face palm*
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:08 PM on March 2, 2012


That's it, I'm leaving.

(Germany)
posted by tempythethird at 1:09 PM on March 2, 2012


Whoa, when she sings about "talking to myself and feeling old" on this version, it really does sound like she's singing to herself. Eerie!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:11 PM on March 2, 2012


Trurl, chills, yes (see above) but not macabre at all. Just achingly lovely.

The Carpenters were no more than pleasant background noise on Top 40 when I was a kid, and once I got into punk, I turned my nose up at them. I came around some time in the 90s when I actually listened to them, but ... Jesus ... I don't know what it is about the harmonics in her naked voice that I'm hearing today, even on my shitty computer speakers, but this is actually getting me teary.

Carpenter has a pretty set emotional range -- she does sweetness, sorrow, regret, and pain, but not anger, playfulness or wit -- but what she does in that range makes her immortal. Best alto ever (and I don't care much for sopranos.)
posted by maudlin at 1:14 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Karen Carpenter's portamento is the single most awful sound in the universe.
posted by The World Famous at 1:19 PM on March 2, 2012


These are really nice. I grew up listening to the Carpenters when I was a kid, and the lush arrangements tended to blur some of the details of Karen's performance. These bring them into stark detail, like the slight roughness at the edges of some notes. I used to try to sing like her, except I thought she had a perfectly clear, clean voice with no edges. Now I know differently!
posted by LN at 1:23 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


What's interesting is that if you listen closely to the Superstar track, the bass isn't *entirely* in the pocket. A fair number of the player's pick strikes tend to be a little late. In a modern non-linear studio they'd nudge those notes.
posted by chimaera at 1:28 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, listening to "Goodbye to Love," I found myself automatically singing the fuzz guitar solo note-for-note. I never realized I had listed to the song that many times.
posted by neroli at 1:49 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The voice of an angel!
posted by ericb at 1:50 PM on March 2, 2012


She was really, really good, and like a lot of you I couldn't hear it until I got older and sophisticated enough about music to just listen to it instead of pigeonholing it. It's a shame that '70s style in pop music was to make it so fuzzy and lush, as LN mentioned - she'd have been dynamite in a simple singer/songwriter "unplugged" sort of format. She was so much better than her material. What a loss.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:54 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Between this and Davy Jones, I just feel really old and really sad.
posted by briank at 2:02 PM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


So good, so sad - these bring tears to my eyes.
posted by Segundus at 2:08 PM on March 2, 2012


That version of Ticket To Ride just needs a some reverb and it will sound exactly like This Mortal Coil.
posted by smartyboots at 2:34 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you. Nice post.
posted by mdrosen at 2:38 PM on March 2, 2012


These are great.

If we're going to grant copyright to music recordings, we should stipulate that the multitrack masters be made available for public consumption after, say, 30 years of the original recording.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 2:43 PM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


It was the quality of the songwriting too. They chose/commissioned/interpreted some amazing material. One of the few CDs I have saved through all the purges is a 1994 Carpenters tribute album - covers that could have been jokey, but instead executed with great reverence by notable alternative artists of that era.
posted by squalor at 3:09 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think all my exposure to Karen Carpenter as a kid is what makes me love Aimee Mann as an adult.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 3:17 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to compare this with Maude Maggart singing Superstar, I think Maude really nails that song, but I always wonder how Karen would sound singing a slower version.
posted by Lanark at 3:44 PM on March 2, 2012


What's a portamento?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 3:54 PM on March 2, 2012


Sorry "Close to You" wasn't in the list of songs. That is the first song I can actually remember, a very early memory of my father still being alive, sitting on the couch with him, his arm around me, listening to this song from his prized possession: a big hi-fi system with the late 60's dark wood frame. And I thought this song was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Just some lush dream of a song. Probably inspired a lifetime of love for slow and lush dreamy music.

So I will always have a purely uncritical soft spot for the Carpenters. Thanks for posting the links. Even if it didn't have the song I wanted, still takes me back to a delightfully warm time.
posted by honestcoyote at 3:54 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


honestcoyote, ask and ye shall receive.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:02 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


ThatCanadianGirl: What's a portamento?

Portamento is a vocal slide between 2 notes.
posted by Decimask at 4:12 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you for posting this - it was just what I needed today, I am curled up indoors waiting out what our media is calling a "weather bomb", with a plate of homemade fudge and now, Karen.
posted by Catch at 4:19 PM on March 2, 2012


Joey Michaels: thank you very much.
posted by honestcoyote at 4:25 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Superstar was just absolutely breathtaking. Her voice really was extraordinary, although something that struck me listening in this way is how much k.d. lang sounds like her.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:36 PM on March 2, 2012


That version of Ticket To Ride is fucking amazing. First off there's the weird, dissonant notes she hits when she sings the line "he don't care" at about 1:00 which manage to be both totally fucked up and wrong and so right. Then there's the amazing breaks, fills and rolls she throws in; they're the kind of weird-but-brilliant things that Ringo Starr* did on later Beatles tracks.

As for the other tracks, Christ, she had such a great voice; the vibrato on Rainy Days and Mondays really gives me shivers. And the version of Superstar – particularly that globular bass sound – is, yes, totally Portishead '72.



*Ringo, whether he was the best drummer in The Beatles or not, is vastly underrated as a drummer who completely filled the role he was meant to fill. People like to mock him because he sang with all the grace of a foghorn, but shit, he knew what he needed to do.
posted by Len at 4:51 PM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


People like to mock him because he sang with all the grace of a foghorn, but shit, he knew what he needed to do.

And it must be said, by all accounts, he almost never screwed up and caused a recording session to break down, where all three of the other broke down all the time.

posted by Joey Michaels at 5:01 PM on March 2, 2012


Joy. I forgot, she could do joy as well.

Joey, thanks so much. Not only do I get to hear Yo La Tengo murderize music later tonight, I've finally heard Karen Carpenter properly for the first time.
posted by maudlin at 5:21 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


where all three of the other broke down all the time.

All the time? Nah. Just in the middle of negotiation, investigation, or celebration.
posted by The World Famous at 5:46 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's only ever been three drummers - Keith, Karen and Stuart.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 5:53 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


All the time? Nah. Just in the middle of negotiation, investigation, or celebration.

That comment makes me want to give you my money.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:03 PM on March 2, 2012


And I never do that.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:03 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


My parents were really into The Carpenters in the early to mid 70's. At the time, I thought they were one step above elevator music (I believe my tastes ran more toward Elton John). Still, there was something about them that was compelling. That something was Karen Carpenter's voice. "Yesterday Once More" has always sent chills down my spine. Even at eight years old, I knew she had a great voice. Now that I'm older, I realize how perfect and rich and lush and rare it was.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 6:09 PM on March 2, 2012


I hope the entertainment industry assholes who told Karen she was too fat think about her every single day of their worthless lives. (This is magic. Thanks Joey Michaels.)
posted by Scram at 6:49 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


These are most excellent. I'm so very glad you posted this!!!

Kind of sad that drums are included. I had visions of finally doing something with all those NIN multi-tracks I've downloaded from their past few albums, merging them with Karen's vocals, coming up with something dark and wonderful... Hard to do that with Karen's drums included, but maybe I'll try anyway.
posted by hippybear at 7:33 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


maudlin, linking isn't working for me, but if you listen to "Sweet, Sweet Smile," you'll get the playfulness.
posted by datawrangler at 7:59 PM on March 2, 2012


I love Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Karen Carpenter, Charles Mingus...wait...Karen Carpenter?

Can't help it.

On my monthly brunch solo piano gig I usually play a meandering version of Superstar, keeping in mind the spirits of Karen Carpenter, Luther Vandross, and, of course the author: Leon Russell. 25 + 25 + 25 and 25% of what's going through my mind at the time. Don't know why her voice, so unexperimental and sometimes even sounding like someone who a therapist might wonder if she might come across as someone with "a flat affect" is so enthralling to me. Please don't tell anyone. How can a guy love the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Karen Carpenter? It's weird.

March 2nd is also the day PKDick died, thirty years ago.
posted by kozad at 10:51 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


In case anyone missed it, the movie about Karen made with Barbie dolls as actors, is surprisingly watchable and sympathetic.

I am surprised at how much I'm enjoying these versions of the songs, much more than the finished tracks.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:45 PM on March 2, 2012


Thanks. Now I have tears. I adored Karen Carpenter. Aside from a fabulous voice, she was also beautiful. If I wasn't so much more inclined to pork her brother, I'd have been in love with her. LOL!
posted by Goofyy at 11:53 PM on March 2, 2012


That was great. Thanks for that and for leading me to the StudioMultitracks link from that site.

A dear departed friend had that 1994 Carpenters covers CD. I found Sonic Youth's version of Superstar there, which I think does justice to the original.

It was great listening to Outcast's Ms. Jackson's separate tracks at the StudioMultitracks, <--there!
posted by alicesshoe at 8:16 AM on March 3, 2012


That said, The Carpenters without John would have still been The Carpenters. The Carpenters without Karen would have been Bread.

Is that meant to be disparaging? Because Bread/David Gates were pretty good with melody. And they were writing their own stuff. Not angry about it or anything, I just think opinion will come around on these guys too. Here's Everything I Own. Pretty strong melodically.

Re: Ms. Carpenter. I've always liked how matter-of-fact she is. Not what you'd call a showy singer. Let's the melody be beautiful.
posted by Trochanter at 8:58 AM on March 3, 2012


Fun Fact: "Superstar" had a working title "The Groupie Song."
posted by Trochanter at 9:14 AM on March 3, 2012


Karen Carpenter's portamento is the single most awful sound in the universe.

Hee Hee. She can stretch 'em out, can't she? Can sound positively medicated.
posted by Trochanter at 9:27 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Trochanter - re: Bread

I am thinking more in terms of legacy than ability. Bread created songs that could with some justification be called classics, but they've largely dropped off the cultural radar (I would group them with Toto and 70's period Jefferson Starship in this regard - people know the songs but not necessarily the band).

Karen was iconic even before her way-too-young death. Bread was a strong band that never quite reached that status.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:34 PM on March 3, 2012


Years ago, I had a "Best of Bread" cassette that I loved. Sometimes it was just the right kind of music for my mood. Now I'm off to Youtube them.....
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:15 PM on March 3, 2012


I did my own little Youtube wander for Bread, and one thing I gotta say. Those lyrics are pretty on the nose. If you were a young singer looking for a song to cover they might turn you off.

I'll just quickly share one gem I found while poking around on Youtube. It's an almost otherworldly performance of "I Started a Joke" by Robin Gibb.

I remember a behind the music type show where Barry Gibb said Robin had at around that time witnessed a horrible train crash. Like, really bad, with fatalities up close and all. Barry said Robin was totally changed by it, and that his music and his singing went to a whole other place.

It seems to me like some of that's evident here.
posted by Trochanter at 8:26 PM on March 3, 2012


Beautiful as expected. I remember reading some biography of her and what a complete asshole her ex husband was.
posted by stormpooper at 5:35 PM on March 4, 2012


Been meaning to post this here for a few days now...

Karen Carpenter does complete justice to Evita's signature song "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" (featuring the lead-in scene "On The Balcony Of The Casa Rosada").

Madonna doesn't hold a candle to this.
posted by hippybear at 8:52 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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