Friday, October 18, 2013

Carpenters - Voice of the Heart

Today (October 18th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Voice of the Heart, the eleventh studio album from brother-sister pop duo Richard and Karen Carpenter. Released eight months after Karen’s death, it features material from her final recording sessions as well as some unreleased material. It charted at number 54 in Australia, number 46 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 41 in Japan and number 6 in the UK.

Side one begins with “Now”, a track that was recorded in April of 1982 while she was on a break from medical treatment. Showing her legendary professionalism, it was done in one take. Her soaring vocals are supported by a rich, orchestral accompaniment. The song was released as the third single from the album in 1984.

The B-side to the second single was “Sailing on the Tide”, a sunny and upbeat song.

“You’re Enough” features a signature piano accompaniment by Richard who co-wrote the song.

“Make Believe It’s Your First Time”, the first single, went to number 101 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 80 in Australia, number 60 in the UK and number 7 on the US Adult Contemporary chart. The Carpenters recorded this romantic ballad back in 1979 but shelved it when Bobby Vinton released it as a single earlier that year.

“Two Lives”, a song about a painful romantic separation, closes out the first half.

Side two starts with “At the End of a Song”. It speaks to the power of music and how it can remind us of people who are no longer in our lives. The melody features a light tropical flavor that takes you away much like a memorable song can do.

It is fitting for the next track “Ordinary Fool” to have been written by Paul Williams; he penned the duo’s huge 1970 hit “We’ve Only Just Begun”. This one has a classic standards sound to it, complete with a soothing saxophone solo.

“Prime Time Love”, with a swinging beat, follows.

As the second single, “Your Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore” went to number 12 on the US Adult Contemporary charts.

The final ballad ‘Look to Your Dreams” was also the B-side to the first and third single. The smart turn of phrases in the opening verse remind me of a show tune. The song’s hopeful message is made all the bittersweet when the listener knows that we won’t have Karen’s voice as a part of it. Richard's trailing off piano bit at the end is the perfect goodbye.

Growing up in the 70’s and listening to pop radio on both AM and FM, I developed a very good appreciation to the music of the Carpenters. There was something about Karen’s voice that still brings calm and comfort to me; around the holidays their Christmas songs are some of my favorites. Despite all that, this was my first listen through to the entire Voice of the Heart album. I liked what I heard and feel it could grow on me even more after a few more listens.

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