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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Carpenters: Lovelines


1) Lovelines; 2) Where Do I Go From Here; 3) The Uninvited Guest; 4) If We Try; 5) When I Fall In Love; 6) Kiss Me The Way You Did Last Night; 7) Remember When Loving Took All Night; 8) You're The One; 9) Honolulu City Lights; 10) Slow Dance; 11) If I Had You; 12) Little Girl Blue.

Apparently, one still largely untapped source for extra Carpenters material was their TV specials, for which they'd recorded some exclusive tracks in the late Seventies — few of them deemed worthy of inclusion onto any of the regular studio LPs; but since, as of the late Eighties, there seemed to still be some nostalgic demand for more Carpenters, Richard went ahead and released this collection of tunes that he probably knew very well was subpar, but completism probably got the better of him (and this time, it is useless to even begin to accuse him of money-grabbing: the album did not chart at all, and only a complete idiot might have hoped it would). Another source were tracks from a planned, but shelved solo album from Karen, recorded in 1979 but not re­leased in its entirety until 1996; for certain reasons, in 1989 Richard only went as far as to take a few favorite selections.

For the most part, this is all just tepid, utterly generic adult contemporary pap: I am not saying that sentimental balladry from the disco era is worthless by definition, but unless it is on a Bee Gees level, with unbeatable hooks that transcend formulaic limitations, it is worthless, and the professional songwriters employed here seemingly did not have that purpose. Rod Templeton's ʽLovelinesʼ, chosen as the title track, is romantic disco on such a soft level that even Olivia Newton-John can sound like AC/DC in comparison — because this material, in order to trans­cend anything, needs at least a powerhouse vocalist with plenty of visible fire; Karen, with all her fires always burning on a purely internal level, hardly qualifies. Unfortunately, things hardly get any better on the slow ballads (there's even a Barry Manilow hit on here), or on oldies like ʽWhen I Fall In Loveʼ: too much sugar and happiness, too few hooks.

Surprisingly, the last three songs offer a tiny bump up in quality. ʽSlow Danceʼ, written by Philip and Mitchell Margo, is the usual pablum, but at least graced with a single attractive touch — there is something quite distinct about Karen's phrasing on the "it's a slow dance..." introduction to each verse, a strange, barely noticeable, possibly unintentional whiff of what could be either reproach or ecstasy, something that promises an intrigue which, unfortunately, never comes to pass, but at least having this unfulfilled promise is better than having nothing at all. ʽIf I Had Youʼ gives a tiny, tiny bit of that old melancholic spirit — there's an aching swell in the middle of the verse that is probably the only trace of Karen's greatness on the entire album. (The song also has a strange, almost ghostly coda for a slow dance number, with miriads of tiny cloned Karens overdubbed in a hypnotic-hallucinating style). Finally, it was a good idea to end the record with ʽLittle Girl Blueʼ — naturally, Karen is no Nina Simone, but she gets the spirit of the song, and it feels far more alive than everything else on Lovelines put together.

All of this comes too late and is far too insufficient to redeem the record as a whole; once again, it is recommendable only for huge fans of Karen who also have a high tolerance level for glitzy late Seventies pop. For everybody else, this will be a thumbs down, but, given the nature of the album, not a vicious one — had Karen lived, chances are that most of the songs here would never be released in the first place.

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