Voice of the Heart was released about nine months after Karen died. Although Karen and Richard had worked on a few songs in early 1982, Karen spent most of 1982 in treatment for her anorexia, and they did not do any recording work in the months before she died. So this album is really a combination of new songs and previously unreleased songs from the previous seven years.
Perhaps it's because these songs were recorded at different periods of the Carpenters' career, and perhaps it's simply due to the circumstances of this album's release (coming so shortly after losing Karen), but this album was quite a bit more interesting than Made in America. It even fared better on the charts, in the absence of a hit single.
The album starts with Karen's last recording, "Now," which was a work lead recorded in April of 1982. Richard completed this song (and several others on this album) by adding the orchestration, backing vocals and other finishing touches later in 1983. Several of the songs had been recorded during the Made in America sessions in 1980 (work leads were recorded or songs were completed for "Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore," "Two Lives," "Make Believe It's Your First Time" and "At the End of a Song"). And other songs date back even further; "Look to Your Dreams" was recorded in 1978, and "Ordinary Fool" was recorded during the A Kind of Hush sessions in 1976.
The first single released, shortly before the album's release, was "Make Believe It's Your First Time." It fared poorly on the charts, although it did fairly well on the Adult Contemporary charts. This is a song that had been recorded for Karen's solo album in 1979, and apparently Richard liked it enough to have Karen re-record it in 1980. This version differs rather significantly from the solo album version; on the solo album, Karen's vocal sounds tentative, vulnerable, and is accompanied pretty much by just a piano. The Voice of the Heart version is more confident and much more lushly orchestrated. The Voice of the Heart version also contains a bridge that was not used in the original, which makes the song a little more compelling. My only gripe with the remade version of the song is the backing vocals, which are a little too sweet for my taste.
One thing that Richard did very well was select material for this album. Many of the songs are optimistic in feel, including the opening and closing tracks; had it been a more melancholy album, it could have been really depressing. Richard wisely saved songs like "Where Do I Go from Here" and "The Univited Guest" for future release.
This album's true highlight is the final song, "Look to Your Dreams." This song was written in 1974 at Karen's request, recorded in 1978 during the Christmas Portrait sessions (hence the "big" production), but not included on Made in America because it had more the feel of an "old standard" than a contemporary pop song. The haunting postlude, played by Richard alone at the piano, gives the listener the feel that, while the singing has stopped, the music continues on.
Produced by Richard Carpenter
"Make Believe It's Your First Time" / "Look to Your Dreams" #101
"Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore" / "Sailing on the Tide" (didn't chart in the U.S.)
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