Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait (1978)

The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait (1978)

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).
—Bruce Eder, Allmusic.com

  1. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" (Traditional, John Mason Neale)
  2. Overture:
    "Deck the Halls" (Traditional, John Ceiriog Hughes)
    "I Saw Three Ships" (Traditional, David Overton)
    "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin)
    "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (Traditional)
    "Away in a Manger" (Traditional, James R. Murray)
    "What Child Is This?" (William Chatterton Dix)
    "Carol of the Bells" (Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych, Peter Wilhousky)
    "O Come All Ye Faithful" (John Francis Wade, Frederick Oakeley)
  3. "The Christmas Waltz" (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne)
  4. "Sleigh Ride" (Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish)
  5. Medley:
    "It's Christmas Time" (Al Stillman, Victor Young)
    "Sleep Well, Little Children" (Alan Bergman, Leon Klatzkin)
  6. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin)
  7. "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" (John Frederick Coots, James Lamont "Haven" Gillespie)
  8. "Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells)
  9. "Silent Night" (Franz Xaver Gruber, Joseph Mohr, John Freeman Young)
  10. "Jingle Bells" (James Lord Pierpont)
  11. Medley:
    "The First Snowfall" (Joseph F. "Sonny" Burke, Paul Francis Webster)
    "Let It Snow" (Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne)
  12. "Carol of the Bells" (Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych, Peter Wilhousky)
  13. "Merry Christmas Darling" (Frank Pooler, Richard Carpenter)
  14. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" (James Kimble "Kim" Gannon, Buck Ram, Walter Kent)
  15. "Christ Is Born" (Ray Charles, Dominico Bartolucci)
  16. Medley:
    "Winter Wonderland" (Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith)
    "Silver Bells" (Jay Livingston, Ray Evans)
    "White Christmas" (Irving Berlin)
  17. "Ave Maria" (Johann Sebastian Bach, Charles Gounod)

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