lunes, 18 de enero de 2016

175º-Passage (The Carpenters album)-

Released 23 September, 1977
Recorded 1977 at A&M Studios, Los Angeles
Genre Pop, jazz, easy listening, adult contemporary, country, experimental
Length 39:39
Label A&M
Producer Richard Carpenter/Associate Producer - Karen Carpenter

"Passage", released in 1977, would be the last Carpenter album to be relased until "Made In America" in 1981. After this album, both Karen and Richard were spent emotionally and physically and needed a break from the constant touring and studio recording. Richard would go into detox at The Menninger Institute in Topeka, Kansas, to kick prescription sleeping pills, while Karen would cut a solo album with Phil Ramone in New York and begin therapy for her ever deeper descent into anorexia nervosa.

The rock critics of 70's viewed the Carpenters' music as nothing more than sugar sweet filler material, best suited for elevators. While their fans bought their albums at a frantic pace, I believe Richard Carpenter produced "Passage" as an attempt to silence the critics and show that he and Karen could produce more than just "sugar songs for the masses". And so, thus we have "Passage", an album that was made to showcase the diversity of the Carpenter sound. There are some very different non-typical Carpenter songs on this eclectic album. First, there is the 7-plus minute extraterrestrial "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft", then an exploration into Broadway with Karen's lush rendition of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina". Three singles were released from the album, "Occupants", the jazzy "All You Get From Love Is A Love Song", and the jaunty county tune "Sweet Sweet Smile". A Carpenter album would not be complete without a sweet ballad or two, and this album has two: "I Just Fall In Love Again", and "Two Sides".

Again, it is not your typical Carpenter fare, but it certainly holds its own musically, and of course, Karen's vocals are unequalled. If you are looking for the love ballads that made the Carpenters famous, this album may disappoint you. However, you also may be surprised at the diversity of the Carpenters sound, and appreciate this album for what it is - a change of course for the brother and sister act."Passage" initially was not a commercial success, but has gone on to become a CLASSIC of sorts being known as The Carpenters' most diverse and experimental album.

The album opens with a triumph of robust jazz inflections on Michael Franks' "B'wana She No Home". The song was recorded live in the studio, so you get the full effect of the musical jam between Pete Jolly's keyboard and Tom Scott's flute. Tony Peluso adds some ripping guitar riffs throughout the song. Karen's vocal is bold and seductive. This is a style which should have been further investigated by The Carpenters.

The recording is full of one highlight after another. There is not one loser on this set. "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" is no exception. Peter Knight (who orchestrated The Moody Blues' "Days Of The Future Passed" album) orchestrated and arranged "Don't Cry For Me Argentina". Karen's reading of the song is flawless, it's as if it was written especially for her to sing. She soars on every note reaching each to perfection. She tells the story as if she lived it herself with a convincing emotional urgency. The Carpenters have recorded the definitive version of this song, they were even televised during the recording which was shown on news stations across the U.S. in 1977.

The album's most exciting moment is "Sweet, Sweet Smile", which was written by Juice Newton (Queen Of Hearts). The song moves along with an infectious upbeat bounce and once again Tony Peluso shines with his guitar chords. It reached #6 on the Country Music Charts in 1978.

"I Just Fall In Love Again" and "Two sides" are the album's ballads. Both are outstanding and should have been released as singles. "Two Sides" is the favorite track on the album according to a voting poll. ...

The LP closes with a very unlikely song for The Carpenters to record. It's a space song written by Canadian prog-rock group Klaatu. Klaatu recorded the song using synthesizers, while The Carpenters used all real instruments to create the other worldly effect. Again Peter Knight did the outstanding orchestration and arrangement. "Calling Occupants" was so well recorded that The Carpenters recieved a Grammy nomination for it in the U.S. and it reached the top ten in the U.K. The song opens with guitarist Tony Peluso portraying a confused DJ who is taking a song request from an alien. The song is an amazing work of art all the way through. Leon Russell (author of the songs "Superstar", "A Song For You" and "This Masquerade") provides futuristic keyboard parts and Tony Peluso's fuzz guitar solo just sends you out of this world. But above all is Karen's pristine crystal clear stellar vocal, she's right at home with this offbeat song. Others like Olivia Newton-John or Barbra Striesand would have never been able to pull it off effectively - but Karen Carpenter has a youthful versatility in her voice which is very evident on the album "Passage".

This recording was a considerable departure for the siblings and contained experimental material such as the Klaatu cover "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" single—which reached #32 in the US but was a top ten hit in much of the world. Ironically, the album's release predated Steven Spielberg's similarly themed film Close Encounters of the Third Kind by one month. Nonetheless, the album was the group's first to fall short of gold standard in the US. This is the only Carpenters album (aside from their Christmas albums) not to contain a Richard Carpenter or John Bettis song.

"Passage" may not have reached the top of the charts, but it is a musical triumph and has grown to be recognized as The Carpenters' most daring effort. 

"As a result of both “Horizon” and “A Kind Of Hush” not containing a “sell-through” single (Postman had been released approximately nine months prior to “Horizon’s” release) neither album fared as well, sales or chart-wise, as their predecessors; “Horizon” No.14 and “A Kind Of Hush” No.33.  I was hardly surprised then, when I heard from Jerry Moss, relating his concern about relatively lackluster sales by A&M’s biggest worldwide record sellers…us.  As an owner’s eyes fall on the manager when a fine baseball team doesn’t perform as expected, so the eyes of the record company fall on the producer when a successful artist’s record sales falter.  This, by the by, is the way it should be, so I was perfectly willing to let someone else take over my role; it would be a lot less work for me and, as previously mentioned, I was not 100% myself. The problem was, not one major producer would sign on; radio was not quite as friendly at that time to our type of sound and to be honest, my track record on the whole was a tough act to follow. Accordingly, I remained producer, but I did try to approach this new project from a different angle, hence my selection of songs for this album made “Passage” a bit of a departure from our previous recordings. I am still fond of every song on this album, but will mention the history of two:
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina -  This song was submitted to us by the publisher, and I immediately felt it was perfect for Karen, though now I feel differently, as I believe the song doesn’t linger long enough in a lower register, a great area for Karen’s voice.  We contacted England’s late, great Peter Knight to orchestrate the song, and two others on “Passage”. Peter flew to Los Angeles to conduct the L.A. Philharmonic for the recording. (Due to a contractual agreement their name was not allowed in the credits, hence the credit of the “Overbudget Philharmonic”.) Between the 100 plus member “Phil” and the 50 voice Gregg Smith Singers, the recording session had to take place on the A&M Sound Stage, and was wired into Studio D. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (The Recognized Anthem of World Contact Day) - I heard this song on Canadian group Klaatu’s debut album and couldn’t resist recording it. (Lyrics such as these don’t come along every day!) Peter Knight penned the creative orchestration to my arrangement. In addition to the guitar work, Tony Peluso reprises his role as a befuddled D.J.. This performance must be fairly convincing for following its release, we received numerous letters wanting to know when in fact, World Contact Day was scheduled!".

-Richard Carpenter

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