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Christmas Portrait (The Special Edition)

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Album Review

The Carpenters were just about the last adult pop outfit of their era with anything resembling rock credibility (they did have a little of the latter in the early days, and weren't a kid act like the Osmonds) who could have pulled off a straight Christmas album. And they did it in superb style here, illuminated throughout by the delightful, complex, often playful arrangements, courtesy of Peter Knight, Richard Carpenter, and Billy May. Actually, for a change on a Carpenters album, Richard is the dominant personality on display across this record, as both co-arranger and producer, as well as the mastermind behind the project; Karen Carpenter's voice is also prominent, to be sure, most notably on "Merry Christmas, Darling" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and she threw herself into this next-to-last completed project (and their final release before a two-year hiatus), but it's Richard who comes to the fore everywhere here, in ways that are impossible to ignore. And the results are mightily impressive, as the mood never slackens in what amounts to a wall-to-wall celebration of the Christmas holiday. After a suitably festive introductory section, Karen Carpenter's solo voice comes up on the "Christmas Waltz" and the proceedings really take off, carrying us into the most engaging rendition of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" that has come down in many a year, and it only gets better from there, through a brace of holiday staples that end up sounding fresh in her voice and his arrangements. There's not a slack moment on this album, which is also, curiously, one of the few Carpenters' albums that managed to sound good in every CD edition so far released on it (most of the others needed to be upgraded).

Customer Reviews

The Christmas Classic-expanded

Christmas Portrait, the original vinyl version, was released in 1978 and was an instant holiday classic; leave it to the Carpenters to record a top 10 Christmas song, "Merry Christmas Darling." This album was released around the same time as the import "Singles 1974-1978" and while Karen was in Japan to promote the Christmas album, all the buzz was centered around the second singles compilation. Perhaps the Japanese didn't realize they were overlooking a Christmas album that had been likend to Ella Fitzgerald's songbook collections, namely the "Gershwin" set, due to Richard's arrangments with the help of Billy May and Peter Knight, and Karen's exceptionally warm readings of the holiday standards. This album features Richard on a lead vocal for the first time in years, and until 1984, his last. To create this cd, Richard would cull tracks from the 1978 and 1984 Christmas releases. This release would stand out on it's own because of the dropped tracks from both holiday sets and the sequence of the songs. "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear"and the segued long medley would open the vinyl set of "An Old Fashioned Christmas" and this set, and "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear" features Richard stacking his vocal to equate forty voices. To state from which album each track is from would make this review very long, but to summarize, this disc is a great starter and is an excellent highlight of both albums. We diehard fans would have to wait until the remastering sessions in 1998 for the two-disc set of the complete Christmas albums released because, according to Richard, of requests and outright demands from the followers.

Top 10 Christmas...

You can hear it in her voice and his arrangements - they loved the Christmas season. I could listen to this album even in the middle of summer

Wonderful... A Must Have For Christmas

This album/cassette/CD was released in 1978 after Karen and Richard had been working on it for a while. This album took a lot of their time up, having this recording and "Passage" recording simultaneously, not to mention their two other television specials that needed to be released this year as well: "Space Encounters" and "A Christmas Portrait." Richard was also very sick this year, and "the temperature is down to 30 degrees [Fahrenheit]," Karen said on the Bruce Forsyth Show. This album is a wonderful production, though. It has classics like "Merry Christmas, Darling" (I personally prefer the single version of it), "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and "(There's No Place Like) Home For The Holidays." These songs make Christmas Christmas. These songs brighten up your mood and her vivacity makes it seem like she's really here. I suggest whomever is reading this to buy this album for the Holiday Season. Happy Holidays, everyone! If you don't celebrate Christmas, it's a nice addition to your Carpenters Collection. Not to mention, Karen's voice is wonderful. Her voice is the closest to perfect you can get. By the way, if you don't understand Spanish, LA DE LA's comment was, "Without a doubt, it’s the best Christmas album I’ve ever heard. Great arrangements, fabulous voices. Super recommendable and Merry Christmas to everybody. Enjoy!"

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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