Excellent album with some unusual tracks
Peter Durward Harris | Leicester England | 05/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album contained a few surprises to fans who thought they knew what to expect from Richard and Karen. The opening track, B'wana she no home, is certainly different from anything on their earlier albums, but I like it. The album also includes Don't cry for me Argentina, but with an intro titled On the balcony of the Casa Rosado - another strange piece compared to anything that they'd released on their previous albums. However, the biggest surprise came with their cover of a Canadian song written and first recorded by Klaatu, a group otherwise unknown to me. That song's full title - Calling occupants of interplanetary craft (the recognized anthem of World Contact Day) - makes it the song with the longest title ever to make the British pop charts, where the single climbed into the top ten. On most compilations, the title is abbreviated and that can cause arguments about the length of the title. However, there are 73 letters in the main title, excluding spaces and parentheses.
Elsewhere, this sounds like a typical Carpenters album. They had a surprise top ten country hit with Sweet sweet smile that, less surprisingly, became a minor British pop hit. It certainly has a country feel to it, which is something rare but not unprecedented for the Carpenters, earlier examples being Jambalaya and Top of the world. Other songs that you may be familiar with include I just fall in love again (a cover of an Anne Murray classic) and All you get from love is a love song.
One song that makes me chuckle is Man smart woman smarter, later covered by Roseanne Cash. If any man recorded the song with the genders reversed, he'd likely be lynched., but we men can take this sort of thing and laugh it off. The only track that I haven't mentioned is the excellent ballad, Two sides.
This is an excellent Carpenters album, if somewhat different from its predecessors."
Excellent eclectic CD of music by the Carpenters
Robert A. Scala | Warren, NJ | 07/25/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD of eclectic music by the Carpenters first released in 1977 will surprise you. Many people remember the Carpenters from "Close To You" and "We've Only Just Begun". This CD represents a departure from the "typical" Carpenters sound. Sure, there's still some pretty ballads here, but most of the album is very unusual. For instance, many well known and respected musicians joined in to create this music. The result is a denser and more daring sound. The beats are more driving and will make you sit up and take notice. Jazz, country and some synthesized styles are well represented here.
The Carpenters were experimenting with new territory here. They were breaking away from what was expected of them. Karen and Richard wanted to "shake things up" and they succeeded. If you've written them off as too "white bread" and bland, then you MUST listen to this. I promise you that you will be surprised and satisfied with the experience."
The Carpenters grand experiment
Superdave | 09/04/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After "A Kind of Hush" failed to set the charts afire in 1976,Richard Carpenter decided a new aproach was needed for his and Karen's seventh studio album entitled "Passage". This genre bending selection of only 8 songs is full of firsts for the duo. Most notably,for the first time,not a single composition was written by Richard and his lyricist John Bettis. Secondly,it's the first Carpenter's album to not have all the vocals done on all tracks by Richard and Karen,relying on some apt background vocalists (dubbed "The Carpettes") on some tracks to further diversify the sound. Also,sadly it also was the first Carpenters album not to go gold upon it's original release.
However,while a not a commercial triumph,this album was certainly an artistic one and demonstrated that they could do more than "silly love songs". Even the cover artwork and design was a step in a new direction,no stock photo of Richard and Karen smiling or posing,no CARPENTERS logo in the usual fancy font...just splashes of color and musical notes.It's certainly eye catching!Then when you put on the album,and the first track begins "B'wana she no home",you quickly realize this ain't gonna be "We only Just Begun"! A jazzy number recorded live (meaning the vocals and the music were recorded together at the same time in studio rather than their usual method of recording the vocals and instruments at different times,then mixing them together). The lyrics are a bit politicaly incorrect,but Karen's playfull delivery makes the whole thing work.
The next track,which is probably my favorite on the album is "All you get from love is a love song". Again,a perfect combination of great melody and arrangement from brother,and vocal delivery from sister. As she sings "like a sailing ship sailing way to no where..." you can see the ocean waves and smell the salty air. Stunningly,the song NEVER changes key!The lyric is also true,because the best love songs ARE usually written with a broken heart. It should have been a much bigger hit!Two fun facts about this song,joining Tony Peluso on Guitar is Ray Parker Jr. of "GHOSTBUSTERS" fame (who you gonna Call?). Also,there was a video made for this song and I strongly suggest you go youtube it,because it's just fun. In fact this video is what started my relatively new intrest with the Carpenters and Karen Carpenter in particular. She was just is so beautifull in this video!(and probably sadly,one of the last times she was realitively healthy.)Big dark eyes,lovely smile and THAT VOICE!How any guy could watch her here and not fall a little bit in love with her is beyond me. The next track is a song that two years later would become a hit for Ann Murray called "I just fall in love again". However,I prefer this version,as Karen's vocals and Richard's arrangements are superior to the hit version. The last track of "side one" is the song from "EVITA" called "Don't cry for me argentina." Admittingly,the lead in to the opening where Karen sings is a bit overblown,but again Karen's delivery is flawless and infinitely better than the version that was done my Karen's friend Olivia Newton-John on her "Making a Good Thing Better" LP.
"Side two" opens with a jaunty number written by a then unknown Juice Newton called "Sweet Sweet Smile", which was actually a modest hit on the country charts for RC and KC in 1978! The next song is a standard Carpenters ballad called "two Sides" that keeps a bit of the country vibe from the previous track. Again,as only Karen can,she can break your heart and make it feel so good,a paradox if ever I heard one. The next track "Man Smart(Woman is Smarter)"is my least favorite on the album,almost venturing into "Goofus" territory,but it's all in great humor,and it grows on you. Plus,how can you begrudge KC her fun? The last track...."Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" is obviously the most "UN-Carpenters" thing they ever recorded in their 12 year career,but it is one of the best things they did in my opinion. It reminds me of the Stuff the Beatles did on their latter albums.Experimenting with their sound,going against type,being balsy without sacrificing their musicality and quality. Yeah,it's a remake,but so what?What Richard does with this obscure prog rock tune from "KLATU" is remarkable. The arrangement by the legendary Peter Knight is epic no doubt,and Karen makes the lyric work. Plus,Rich shows some rare humor at the beginning as the Alien calling in to the Radio DJ(Tony Peluso once again reprising his role from "Now & Then")"We would like to make a contact with you...baby".
All in all,"Passage" is the last truely great CARPENTERS original studio Pop album. "Christmas Portrait" a year later would mark the end of their 70's run as Richard went into rehab in 1979 to cure his qualude addiction and Karen went to New York to record her ill fated solo album,and the drama that followed thereafter as consequence. 1981 saw "Made in America" with a Richard Carpenter who was renewed in spirit and body,if not a bit rusty musically, and a Karen Carpenter whose voice was still in top form,but terribly unhappy in the grips of a difficult marriage and the last stages of her anorexia. Sadly,neither were able to make the comeback they desperately wanted as Karen passed from this life on February 4,1983. Yes,there would be "Voice of The Heart" , "An Old fashioned Christmas","Lovelines" and "As Time goes by",each of which were quality albums in their own right,but they serve as an afterword to their incredible legacy. To me,I prefer to see "Passage" as a nice final word on The Carpenters and a must have album for fans and for people who love great music."