Wednesday, February 29, 2012


THE MUSIC OF THE late Karen Carpenter and her brother, Richard, sometimes gets labeled yacht rock, but this is unfair. The Carpenters' music does not qualify, in any way, shape, or form, as "rock." And that's okay. The brother-sister duo were synonymous with late-seventies saccharine orchestra pop, untouched by the rock 'n' roll revolution, by the blues chords, the wailing and primitivism and raw sexualism that characterized that genre. But that doesn't mean Karen Carpenter was asexual. In fact, I'm positive she was not, with lines like this on her posthumous 1989 release Lovelines:

Remember when lovin' took all night?
Remember the feelin of doin' it right ...

("Remember When Lovin' Took All Night," a steamy Brazilian-jazz-tinged song that fades out with Karen doing sexlike "oohs")

Or, from the title track -- courtesy of Rod Temperton (who also gave us "Rock With You," "Boogie Nights," "Groove Line," and "Always and Forever"):

Heaven knows I need you, I wanna feel you
I got that strange sensation deep inside
That only you can satisfy  ...

So give me loving
Like I've never known before
Make me cry out loud for more ...

I'd love to, Karen. That is, if you had not allegedly killed yourself 29 years ago by overdosing on ipecac. You'd have just turned 61, but that's okay; you'd be a fine, fine 61. After a bit of fattening up....

Anyway. Karen's alto croon is the aural equivalent of some kind of creamy, buttery dairy concoction which if it were literal, I'd be highly intolerant to, but since it's merely metaphorical, I can bathe in its delights like a milk bath. A milk bath for my ears. The woman just had a freakishly smooth voice. And don't tell me you (guys) wouldn't have done anything to have her purr these love lines into your ear hole.

And, although this record is dated 1989, there's barely an electronic sound to be heard, no MIDI, none of the brittle cheap sound quality that became so prevalent in the late '80s. That's because Lovelines was recorded ten years earlier, literally at the height of the recording art and recording budgets -- when  it was all done with instruments played by musicians, in 48-track studios on two-inch tape through custom-made mixing boards, likely tube- rather than transistor-based. The result is an unstinting tribute to the lavish disco-era studio production: an orchestra, flugelhorns, and about twenty tracks of Karen stacked atop each other, giving dairylicious sustained "ahhs" and "oohs" so perfectly harmonized that all today's Autotune-dependent poseurs should literally hang their heads in shame. It's one of the most fantastic-sounding records in my collection, and I'm glad it happened to be at the thrift store with a 50-cent sticker, just waiting for me to get it.

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