After an extended period without any new recordings from the Carpenters in stores, 1981 saw the release of the first new album of pop songs in almost four years. And it was a return to a more traditional Carpenters' sound as well.
Karen and Richard certainly weren't idle between 1978 and 1981; they actually undertook a large amount of recording during the period, beginning work on a new album in 1978 ("I Believe You" was recorded at that time and released as a single that year). That album was never completed or released, and in 1979 Richard took time off to undergo treatment for prescription drug addiction. During that period, Karen recorded a solo album (see the Karen Carpenter album for more details), which was also not released. In 1980, Karen and Richard recorded a HUGE number of songs, some of which were intended for their fifth television special, Music Music Music, some of which were turned into Made in America, and some of which were saved for later release.
Ill health, personal distractions (like Karen's wedding) and a demanding recording schedule did not make of a triumphant return to the American pop charts, though. Made In America, while pleasant, is lacking in energy and diversity. It's hard to pin down exactly what the problem is, because the production is really quite good. I think that it is perhaps the fact that many of the songs sound too much alike, and in the early-'80s era of post-disco punk-influenced pop music, the "easy listening" sound of Made in America just doesn't have enough edge.
The album's biggest highlight was the song "Touch Me When We're Dancing," which ranks among their best songs since 1973. Another highlight is "Because We Are in Love," which was written for Karen's wedding in 1980, and is a much bigger and grander song than the others on this album.
There are moments of pure magic here as well. "Somebody's Been Lyin'" is a masterpiece of melody and phrase, with some old-fashioned Carpenters' vocal overdubbing theatrics. And "Beechwood 4-5789," while lightweight, is quite catchy and very similar to their take on "Please Mr. Postman."
Some of the songs recorded (either a work lead or a completed vocal) during the Made in America sessions, but not included on the album, were: "Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore," "Two Lives," "Make Believe It's Your First Time," "At the End of a Song," "The Uninvited Guest" and "Kiss Me the Way You Did Last Night."
Produced by Richard Carpenter
"I Believe You" / "B'wana, She No Home" #68
"Touch Me When We're Dancing" / "Because We Are In Love" #16
"(Want You) Back In My Life Again" / "Somebody's Been Lyin'" #72
"Those Good Old Dreams" / "When It's Gone (It's Just Gone)" #63
"Beechwood 4-5789" / "Two Sides" #74
Return to the Carpenters Album Index.