Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
A SOLO CAREER ONLY JUST BEGUN
"She said, 'I really do love the album we made,' " recalls veteran producer Phil Ramone of his last conversation with Karen Carpenter. The singer had telephoned her onetime collaborator the evening before she died in 1983, at 32, of a cardiac arrest caused by anorexia. As the Carpenters, she and her brother Richard ruled the Top 20 in the 1970s with such hits as "Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun." But on this night she was talking about a solo album she and Ramone had begun recording in 1979. More raw and provocative than her easy-listening Carpenters LPs, the album was shelved in 1980 for fear of alienating fans. Last month, 13 years after her death, Karen Carpenter (A&M) was finally released, with the blessing of her brother, now 50. "Richard and I decided it was a period piece," says Ramone, 59. "I didn't change a thing."
Was this a real departure for her?
When Karen wanted to do a solo project, we agreed it should not be in the same vein stylistically or have the same content as the Carpenters. It would be more individual, more about growing up. At that point, there was no insight into what she was really about. She was a maturing woman who needed to say things about love and life.
How do you think fans will react?
They'll be shocked, but in a good way. Some will even be offended. Everything was so polished in her other stuff; this is a far more expressive album, with an outpouring of thoughts she had. She was a drummer, and she loves wild percussion. There is a very giddy kind of late '70s sound.
What was it like hearing her again?
It was a bit ghostlike. I have always loved her voice; it's one of the warmest, most unusual voices of the past 30 years. I would give anything to hear what she would have sounded like today.
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