Sunday, April 21, 2013

Behind The Music: Karen Carpenter (Solo)

Karen Carpenter who rose to fame in 1970 with her brother Richard Carpenter in the band Carpenters decided to record a solo album in 1979 when her brother entered rehab for a prescription drug addiction. She employed famed producer Phil Ramone to produce her album. Many well known musicians at the time contributed to her album including Rod Temperton, Bob James, Russell javors (Billy Joel Band), Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel Band), Louis Johnson (Brother’s Johnson) and several others. Due to differences in viewpoints the album was shelved. For many years Karen Carpenter fans speculated on the album and fially in 1996 it was released to the public. To date the album has sold more than one million copies worldwide and is a favorite amongst Karen Carpenter fans.

 Karen Carpenter “Karen Carpenter” (Click Here for purchasing info)

The following article is a brief "behind the music" history of some of the musicians who helped to shape Karen’s solo album.

The Brothers Johnson features bass player Louis Johnson who also played bass on Karen’s album. “All About The Heaven” is featured on the Brothers Johnson’s 1980 album “Light Up The Night” which includes many of the same musicians on KC’s album and was written by Rod Temperton, who was a major contributor to KC’s album. Temperton wrote many of the songs on KC’s album including “If We Try”.
* A little trivia: Louis Johnson developed a crush on Karen while working on her solo album.

Jazz musician Bob James arranged and orchestrated several of the songs on KC’s album as well as playing keyboards. In 1980 he released his album “H” which includes many of the same musicians that were on KC’s album. Listen to Bob James’ keyboard work on “The Walkman”, it sounds very similar to what we hear on “Remember When Lovin’ Took All Night” and other KC tracks.

 Bob James “H” (Click Here for purchasing info)

Producer Phil Ramone was working on Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses” album at the same time as he was working with KC on her album. The bulk of Billy Joel’s backing band (Dave Brown, Libery DeVitto, Doug Stegmeyer and Russell Javors) performed on almost all the tracks on Karen’s album. Ruseel Javors also wrote “All Because Of You” and “Still In Love With You”. Engineers Jim Boyer and Bradshaw Leigh worked on both Joel’s and Carpenter’s albums. Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” contains the same sort of new wave drive as Karen’s “Still In Love With You”.

Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” was released at the time that Karen was recording her album. Rod Temperton was a major contributor to Jackson’s album having written three of the tracks and also arranging some of the musical and vocal tracks. Louis Johnson played bass on both albums. Karen’s one time boyfriend, Tom Bahler, wrote the song “She’s Out Of My Life”, which was rumored to have been written about his breakup with Karen. Rod Temperton originally wrote the song “Rock With You” for Karen to record on her solo album, but she rejected the song and Jackson recorded it instead and took the song to #1.

   Michael Jackson “Off The Wall” (Click Here for purchasing info)

From 1976 to 1977 Heatwave was a hot commodity making hits with the classics “Boogie Nights”, “Always and Forever” and “The Groove Line”. All three hits were written by Heatwave’s main man Rod Temperton. In 1979 Heatwave released their album “Hot Property”, their first and only album produced by Phil Ramone. Engineer Jim Boyer worked on the heatwave album as he did Karen’s. Billy Joel bandmate Doug Stegmeyer’s brother Al Stegmeyer was an assistant engineer on “Hot Property”. Take a listen to the track “Razzle Dazzle”, the vocal arrangement at the end is very similar to the arrangement Rod Temperton arranged for Karen on the song “If I Had You”.

Heatwave “Hot Property” (Click Here for purchasing info)