The second posthumous release of Karen Carpenter recordings was An Old-Fashioned Christmas, which was a companion piece to Christmas Portrait. The two albums are nearly identical in structure: They open with an a cappella performance from Richard, have an instrumental overture, continue with a selection of complete songs and medleys of songs, end side 1 with a somber yet showstopping number, have a true Carpenters-sounding song in the middle of side 2, and end with another big ballad.
And though An Old-Fashioned Christmas contains only half the number of songs performed by Karen that Christmas Portrait had, you don't even seem to notice. The one previously released and six previously unreleased tracks are so good that the album seems full of Karen.
"Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" is the oldest track on the album, having been recorded in 1972 and completed and released as a single in 1974. It is pure Carpenters' magic. The version on An Old-Fashioned Christmas is different from the single version, however; the sax solo in the middle of the song is different.
The other songs on which Karen sings are "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays," "Little Altar Boy" (which is one of the finest performances ever given by Karen), "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (which is a true duet with Richard), "He Came Here for Me," "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" and "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Some of these songs are less familiar to American audiences than the songs on the previous Christmas album, which may explain why they were not included on that album, but they are certainly not second-rate performances or productions.
The remainder of the album is made up mostly of instrumental pieces (Richard at the piano being backed by the orchestra). Aside from a few phrases in the overture, only "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" contains any non-Karen vocals, and the vocal duty there is shared by the O.K. Chorale and Richard. "An Old-Fashioned Christmas" is a very nice original Carpenter/Bettis song, but the weak and airy vocals by the chorus and Richard suffer by comparison to Karen's strong vocals on other songs, and the song loses impact because of that.
This full album is available on CD worldwide as part of the Christmas Collection. Unlike Christmas Portrait, this album is presented in its entire original vinyl mix on the Christmas Collection. It was alse re-released in Japan in 2001 with its own original album artwork (which is the only place the original album cover has ever appeared on a CD). Portions of the album are available on the Christmas Portrait Special Edition CD, and also on the Time-Life Christmas with the Carpenters collection.
Produced by Richard Carpenter
"Little Altar Boy" / "Do You Hear What I Hear" (didn't chart in the U.S.)
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