on December 3, 2003
First, a warning: the song list on Amazon is incorrect and incomplete. The correct list is:
CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT (Their first Christmas disc)
1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
2. Overture: Deck The Halls/I Saw Three Ships/Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas/God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman/Away In a Manger/What Child Is This?/Carol Of The Bells/O Come All Ye Faithful
3. Christmas Waltz
4. Sleigh Ride
5. It's Christmas Time/Sleep Well, Little Children
6. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
7. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
8. Christmas Song (Chestnuts)
9. Silent Night
10. Jingle Bells
11. First Snowfall/Let It Snow
12. Carol Of The Bells
13. Merry Christmas Darling
14. I'll Be Home For Christmas
15. Christ Is Born
16. Winter WonderLand/Silver Bells/White Christmas
17. Ave Maria
AN OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS (Their 2nd Christmas disc)
1. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
2. Overture: Happy Holiday/The First Noel/March Of The Toys/Little Jesus/I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus/O Little Town Of Bethlehem/In Dulce Jubilo/Gesu Bambino/Angels We Have Heard On High
3. An Old-Fashioned Christmas
4. O Holy Night
5. Home For The Holidays
6. Here Comes Santa Claus/Frosty The Snowman/Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer/Good King Wenceslas
7. Little Altar Boy
8. Do You Hear What I Hear?
9. My Favorite Things
10. He Came Here For Me
11. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
12. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve
13. Selections From "The Nutcracker": Overture Miniature/Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy/Trepak/Valse Des Fleurs
14. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
The Carpenters released two Christmas albums on LP, "Christmas Portrait" and "An Old Fashioned Christmas". Their first CD release, also called Christmas Portrait, was a combination of the two LPs, mostly the first with some selections from the second. Some songs were given enhanced (or, at least, altered) arrangements, while others were omitted because of space considerations, although most Carpenter fans have undoubtably questioned the choices for years.
"Christmas Collection" is, finally, the original LPs, in their entirely, released together on CD. This is the music the Carpenters were born to make. Their sweet, sometimes corny arrangements and interpretations fit perfectly with these traditional and modern holiday classics. Karen's bright, clear voice adds a freshness to this music that few other singers could offer. Her warm, wholesome, "girl next door" singing brings to mind the image of a snow-covered American Christmas, from the star atop the tree to the rug by the fireplace. Not bad for two 20-somethings from Southern California, as they were when they recorded these songs!
The accompanying orchestral arrangements and layered vocals give this collection an elegant, timeless foundation, if a little overdone sometimes. While the Carpenters (mostly Richard) sometimes overwhelmed his songs with as much production as he could cram into 3 minutes, here he has just the right touch. It's a little unusual to hear Carpenters music with other singers providing background vocals, but they work just fine on this collection.
In the end, the buying decision comes down to Karen's voice. If you've always hated it, you probably don't want this collection. If you've always loved it, either you already own this double-CD set or you have the single CD and/or the LPs and you're wondering whether or not to spend the money. The answer: YES! If you're somewhere in the middle, this music is guaranteed to make you a Carpenters fan, a Christmas music fan, or both.
on October 27, 1999
Since so many people have already reviewed this I will keep my comments short. In one word: MAGNIFICENT! INCREDIBLE! AMAZING! (Ooops, that's more than one word, isn't it...) My family has gone through two sets of these albums on vinyl and I'm on my second set of cassettes. I'm very excited about them finally being on CD. CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT (CD 1) was the Carpenters' first Christmas album, and its awe-inspiring beauty does not let up for even one second. Karen's vocal talents shine for all to hear as do Richard's wonderful gifts of arranging and playing. His "one person chorus" on "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is a powerful opening. It is an equal match to the beauty of Karen's closing "Ave Maria". AN OLD-FASHIONED CHRISTMAS (CD 2), which was put together after Karen's tragic death, is a wonderful companion to the first. Although the circumstances which made it possible are very sad, this album necessarily gives a greater amount of the spotlight to Richard's genius. His performance of works like "O Holy Night" and excerpts from Tchaikovsky's NUTCRACKER ballet are brilliant examples of his amazing talent. Both of these albums are standards of excellence as to what Christmas albums should be. Even what were less-known works have become staples of the season because of the "Carpenters' touch" they received on these albums. What more can I say other than this: GO GET THESE IMMEDIATELY--IF NOT SOONER!!!
Many artists cut a Christmas album to cash-in on their popularity. Unfortunately, too many take a very casual approach to their Christmas albums, not perfecting the sound as they would a regular album. Fortunately, this is not true where the Carpenters are concerned. Richard Carpenter had the Carpenter's Christman album pictured the way he wanted it, and then took the time to get it right. The result is a lush, beautifully arranged sound with every effort made to make each song special. In essence, the Carpenters created Christmas music that defines what Christmas music should sound like.
This album is actually the "best" of two Christmas albums that Richard and Karen previously released. "Christmas Portrait", their first Christmas album was released in 1978, and An Old-Fashioned Christmas, released in 1984 after Karen's tragic death. When the first Christmas album was conceived, Karen and Richard recorded so much Christmas material that they almost released a double album. Instead, they released a full single disk, (Christmas Portrait, 1978) but packed it with nearly 50 minutes of music - which was pushing the limits back in the days of vinyl LPS. Christmas Portrait went platinum in the U.S. and became a hit all over the world, and it continues to do well. It is one of the few albums that has been a Top 10 hit on the Christmas charts in the `70s, `80s, and `90s. These are the songs you hear played in department stores and on the radio every Christmas season. In 1984, A&M released the second Carpenter's Christmas album, "An Old-Fashioned Christmas". The album features the best of the overflow from the Christmas Portrait sessions as well as some newly recorded pieces.
Now, if you want every Christmas song the Carpenters ever recorded, you have no choice but to purchase both originals, however, if you want the best of both, 31 songs in all, then this is the album for you.
You will love the Christmas sound of the Carpenters and will play it every Christmas season. It is an A+ album and is perhaps the finest Christmas album ever recorded.
Jim "Konedog" Koenig, Carpenters Fan for 35 years
on August 15, 1999
Christmas is always special,especially when you hear these unforgettable holiday classics by The Carpenters. This collection features their classic,original 1978 Christmas album,"Christmas Portrait",which is one of my all-time favorite Christmas albums.Their wonderful renditions of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas","The Christmas song",and their own holiday classic,"Merry Christmas,Darling",are truly legendary Christmas gems! The second CD,which is their 1984 posthumous holiday album,"An Old-Fashined Christmas",contains more great stuff,including wonderful versions of "Home For the Holidays","Little Altar Boy",and,"What Are you doing New Year's Eve?'however,"O Holy Night",and a couple of others,make me sad. Overall,this truly is a fantastic collection,by a legendary musical duo,and your Christmas music collection,would not be complete without it. You will definitely enjoy spending Christmas with The Carpenters!
on December 17, 2005
I was a great fan of the Carpenters from the time I heard "Close to You" more than three decades ago. I believe Karen Carpenter was (and still is) one of the most under-rated singers of the twentieth century, primarily because the beauty of their music ran headlong into the harder rock-n-roll of the 1970's. DJ's often shunned their music and even ridiculed it to a point where many younger listeners were afraid to admit they liked the Carpenter sound. Had it not been for Karen's untimely passing, I don't doubt they would have persevered through that era and become embraced once more as music with melodies came back into vogue; and Karen would have been properly recognized for her superb voice and flawless delivery of lyrics.
AS FOR THE ALBUM ITSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
First of all, the two-disc set is more than just a series of tracks of Christmas music: It is an extremely well arranged and produced Christmas performance. Although it is a studio recording, it seems more like hearing a Christmas concert than listening to a Christmas CD. Each disc begins with an overture; fine instrumental and choral passages, during which Richard, who generally allowed all of the limelight to shine on his sister, gets to display his talent as a performer. The overture on disc 1 uses shortened versions of "Deck the Halls", "I Saw Three Ships", "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "Away In a Manger", "What Child Is This", "Carol Of The Bells", and "O Come All Ye Faithful" to set the mood and lead us into the more secular songs, such as: "The Christmas Waltz", "Sleigh Ride", "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", "The Christmas Song", "Jingle Bells", and "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow". The tempo and mood then slow slightly for "Merry Christmas Darling", "I'll Be Home For Christmas", "Christ Is Born", and "Ave Maria". Richard shows his production genius with a pacing of tempo and mood that allows the music to flow from one track to another so that the listener is hardly aware of breaks between songs. Disc 2 uses a similar, but slightly different format that puts more of the up-tempo secular songs into a medley.
Usually, as I listen to a CD, I take advantage of my CD remote to jump to the songs I really like, skipping the ones with lesser appeal. In this case the music flows so smoothly I just never find myself tempted to skip anything. I listened straight through the collection as I am doing while I write this. There is not one song in the two-disc set that I do not like.
It is simply the best Christmas collection I have ever heard.
on November 19, 1998
The music of Richard and Karen Carpenter has been revisted numerous times over the past few years. Several alternative groups paid tribute to the dynamic duo with the release of "If I Were A Carpenter," A&E's Biography featured an hour special "Harmony & Heartbreak," VH-1 included them in it's "Behind the Music" series, E!TV featured "Karen Carpenter-The E! True Hollywood Story," and Lifetime Television continues to enjoy high ratings when airing "The Karen Carpenter Story." Much of our nation scoffed at the Carpenter siblings' clean-cut image during much of their heyday. Yet, the multi-talented Richard and Karen never apologized for being straight-ahead Americans, who wanted to be remembered for being professional, talented and decent people.
Now nearly three decades after their debut on A&M Records, the Carpenters' name is associated with a truly unforgettable release.
Unforgettable. This word is often overused today, but in this case here's why the word fits: Since the release of their second holiday album, "An Old Fashioned Christmas," only a limited number of songs from both that release and the original masterpiece "Christmas Portrait" could be enjoyed in crisp digital sound.
Even the superb "Christmas With The Carpenters," complied and remixed for a 1992 Time-Life/Polygram campaign has notable omissions. Mainly, "My Favorite Things," "Jingle Bells," and the fantastic "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
Now, closing a chapter (and putting an end to I'm sure thousands of letters pleading it's release,) both albums are heard in their entirety.
As usual, Mr. Carpenter lends his golden touch to each track on this complete set. In just a few minutes of listening to either CD you are reminded once again that this sensational team left an indelible mark on the landscape of American Pop music history.
Richard has no more enjoyed the same level of success by recording with another artist since his sister's untimely 1983 death, than would Karen, had Richard's death preceeded hers.
Karen's unmistakable, throaty alto voice has always taken even the trained ear to another place; but not without the framing of her ingenious brother's innovative, thoughful arrangements. Had Karen conquered her demons, there's no doubt she would have continued enjoying much success on the A/C charts, television, movie soundtracks, even Broadway.
Yet had she survived and taken any number of detours from the group, her loyalty to the tight circle which brought her the fame of her formative years in the music business would have remained. I doubt any other producer/arranger could have brought out her magic the way Richard did.
How wonderful it would have been to see another special similar to "Music, Music, Music" perhaps sometime in the early '90's after Miss Carpenter had long won her battle with anorexia. Artists such as Amy Grant, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, among others would never have gotten away with some of their sugar-coated hit singles had it not been for a singer like Karen Carpenter to prove songs like hers never go out of style.
Over time, critics and fans have continued to compare Karen's style, delivery and subtly with the likes of Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page and Nat King Cole, rather than any of her own contemporaries. One reviewer called her the female Sinatra of the last quarter century due to her ability to take even the most simple lyric and turn it into an enduring classic.
Enter "Christmas Collection." Many who will enjoy this compilation would also most likely have on their Christmas CD tower holiday collections by Perry Como, Anne Murray, Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams, to name a few. The above are all top-notch professionals who have made their mark and instilled in all of us the knowing that their music will long outlive their critics and whatever many of the future's three-hit wonders try to sell us.
As for the actual material, if you are familiar with both of the original vinyl albums, there's nothing new as far as tracks go.
But it doesn't matter. The Carpenters remain one of the most consistantly played (and requested) artists during the holiday season. The classic selections are familiar yet fresh when put up against even today's modern Pop or Country renditions.
Other selections, like the lesser-recorded "He Came Here For Me," "It's Christmas Time," "First Snowfall," and "Christ Is Born" have become more synonymous with the Carpenters than any other artist--and with good reason: These gems are not easy to sing or reinvent.
Over the past decade adult contemporary artists have introduced "new or modern" standards (enter "Christmas Through Your Eyes" by Estefan and "Because It's Christmas" by Barry Manilow.) While these are shining examples of listenable material, they can't hope to endure the way "Merry Christmas Darling" has.
Every year I fool myself into thinking I'll have the pleasure of seeing a third (oh, say 1998,) Christmas special from the Carpenters. Featuring Richard banging out selections from Messiah or playing a jazzed-out "Jingle Bell Rock" on the piano.
And standing in a wintery setting is Karen (in full recovery,) filling out a lovely evening gown singing unmatched interpretations of (the other) "Ave Maria," "There's No Christmas Like A Home Christmas," or "Away In A Manger."
We also needed Karen, when the soundtracks were being put together for "Sleepless In Seattle," "Top Gun," "Hope Floats," and others. When variety shows began leaving our living rooms. When FM became saddled by over-produced, studio-magic imposters who have since become legends only in their own mind.
This collection reminds us that only a select few performers will remain in our hearts and on our music systems for years and years and years to come. Richard and Karen Carpenter had a nack for picking and recording great music.
Due to their durable, timeless sound and continued popularity, the Carpenter name has also become as synonymous with Christmas as Nat King Cole, Elvis and the philharmonic orchestra of your choice.
Their are very few artists whose yuletide CD I can listen to more than once or twice during the festive season. Both these discs stay in the CD changer from Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve.
Thank you Richard. And Karen, we wish you hadn't left us so soon, but I'm sure God isn't complaining. Nonetheless, we miss you.
on October 4, 2003
Christmas Collection brings the Carpenters' two holiday albums together for one double-cd. "Christmas Portrait", the duo's 1978 release, still stands as perhaps the greatest Christmas album ever recorded. Karen's soft, warm voice over a dazzling selection of beautifully arranged Christmas songs, is a perfect cup of hot chocolate for the season. There are just enough standards and new songs to keep everyone happy, while interested. And Richard's choral and orchestral arrangements allow one song to flow gently into the next, creating a symphony of sound that communicates Christmas better than any other CD on the market.
The second disc "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" was released in 1984, a year after Karen's death. Without the same amount of material, Richard re-entered the studio and arranged several additional songs. "Old Fashioned Christmas" is beautiful and perfectly arranged, yet features much less of Karen, understandably. The highlight is the slow-down ballad version of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" - one of the most romantic versions of a children's Christmas song ever attempted. Still, even without Karen on every track, Richard manages to engage the listener with beautiful music that again captures the essence of the season.
on December 20, 1999
This is the difinitive Christmas album! For years I have enjoyed "A Christmas Portrait" on cassette tape. To find it - as a two CD collection with "An Old Fashioned Christmas" makes for a very merry Christmas indeed. My wife and I have long felt we have one of the best Christmas CD collections possible. Since adding this jewel to our collection, we haven't listened to any others! This is Karen Carpenter at her very best. Combining spiritual and secular classics, it has something for everyone. One listen and you will be hooked. This is truly a work of musical geniouses. You can't have a merry Christmas without it!
on December 21, 1999
Mesmerizing. What beautiful work; glorious arrangements and heavenly production sung by the voice of an angel! Superb!
on December 7, 2004
What can I say? I have had the priviledge of hearing many Christmas albums in my time, but I have to say that this one ranks near the top. Along with other greats such as Sinatra, Nat "King" Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, etc, Karen Carpenter was undoubtedly one of the finest female singers of her -or any other- generation. From the opening overture, to the last closing note, the album is solid and well produced. I DARE anyone not to get chills when they hear Karen sing "Ave Maria". Just listen to the resonance of her voice on other classics like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", "Little Altar Boy", "Do You Hear What I Hear", "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?", etc. Karen never fails in her delivery.
I really believe these recordings should go down as one of the finest holiday albums ever made. Even people who aren't really fans of the Carpenters have admitted that it's a timeless holiday album, and one that EVERYONE should have on rotation during the holidays. (my local radio station gets lots of requests to play this album) On another level, it's also a sad reminder of what we ALL lost that can never be regained. Thankfully, we have these recordings and we have our wonderful memories. The world was truly blessed with an angel, if only for a short time. Don't walk, RUN to the store and buy this CD. A timeless holiday classic that brings back many fond memories of the way Christmas -and entertainers- used to be like. A solid 5 star rating.