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Christmas Collection

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Album Review

In 1998, A&M released the original Carpenters' albums for the first time on CD. Along with the reissues, the label released Christmas Collection, a double-disc that combines Christmas Portrait and An Old Fashioned Christmas on one set. Neither album offers any surprises — they sound exactly like you'd imagine a Carpenters Christmas album would sound like. Since the two albums are virtually interchangeable, relying on Richard's famously light, inoffensive arrangements and Karen's sweet, soaring vocals, they make for a terrific pairing. It is true that only hardcore fans will need this set, but they should be more than pleased by this definitive collection.

Customer Reviews

This Is What Karen Was Born To Sing

By 1978, Karen's voice was at it's perfoming peak and was forever captured recording the Carpenters favorite music, Christmas carols. Richard's arrangement skills was at it's zenith during these sessions and Richard was aided by big band arranger Billy May and the Moody Blues arranger Peter Knight. This two disc set is both Christmas albums, disc one is 1978's "Christmas Portrait" and disc two is 1984's "Old Fashioned Christmas." Some of the songs on the first disc may seem a bit "show tunish" due to the songs being recorded for the Carpenters 1977 Christmas television special and track sixteen's arrangement betrays its soundtrack origin. "Merry Christmas Darling" was a single in 1970 and Karen, now in complete control of her voice, wanted to re-record her lead for the song's inclusion on this album, the 1978 re-recorded single release was a huge top ten. Sadness and a feeling of emptiness overshadows 1984's "Old-Fashioned Christmas," a collection of outtakes from the 1977 and '78 Christmas sessions, filled out with an accapella multi-tracked vocal opening from Richard and a long overture leading to a short vocal of the title track by Richard, another instrumental, the moving "O Holy Night" complete with a choral backing vocal, then segues into Karen's lead of "There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays." It's beautiful and sad, even the chestnut "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" recorded and released as a single in 1974 is mournful. A standout track is "Little Altar Boy." As with all the album remasters released in 1999, this set was first released as is in the U.K. and Canada in 1998, this set features the original album masters with no remixing except for track four on disc one, it's an alternate vocal with a touch more reverb.

Best Christmas with the Carpenters

Pop interpretations of Christmas tunes get no better treatment than in the hands of Richard Carpenter and two other incredible arrangers (Peter Knight and Billy May) and that voice that seems to sit next to you on the sofa. Christmas Portrait has been a classic since 1978 (expanded in the 90's on CD) - it was followed by 1984's An Old Fashioned Christmas which included additional very unique Karen left-overs from the late 70's (Little Altar Boy may be in her top 5 finest recordings) that were part of other added arrangements and Richard's rare lead singing. The enhanced Portrait on CD created a newly sequenced set that left out a few choice cuts from the 84 album. Although that makes for a nice enhanced collection on its own, the winner is this fan-requested double-album Christmas Collection which includes exact replicas of the 2 original albums (save for an updated symphonic choir version of Ave Maria, giving Karen background vocal accompaniment that she just doesn't need). Since many still prefer the original lineup and connectivity of that first Portrait album, this set rings the nearest true (I cannot find a digital version of the original Karen-only Ave Maria, can you?). As someone else offered, you can listen to the Carpenters doing Christmas in the middle of summer...hoping to find some egg nog in the fridge!

Light's a fire of warmth to the Xmas season

Beautiful, Karen, where ever you are, thanks.

Biography

Formed: 1968 in Downey, CA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

With their light, airy melodies and meticulously crafted, clean arrangements that appealed to a variety of audiences, the Carpenters stood in direct contrast with the excessive, gaudy pop/rock of the '70s; yet they became one of the most popular artists of the decade, scoring 12 Top Ten hits, including three number one singles. Karen Carpenter's calm, pretty voice was the most distinctive element of their music, settling in perfectly amidst the precise, lush arrangements provided by...
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