Christmas Portrait is the first Christmas album recorded by The Carpenters (and the only one issued during Karen Carpenter's lifetime), originally released on October 13, 1978 (A&M 4726).
The album sold one million copies and included a revised version of the group's signature Christmas song, "Merry Christmas Darling". It also includes one of two versions of "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town". (A slower version, recorded in 1974, as well as other unused songs recorded during this album's sessions, were issued on the Carpenters' later Christmas album, An Old-Fashioned Christmas.)
The original album cover by Robert Tanenbaum is modeled on Norman Rockwell's 1960 painting, "Triple Self-Portrait", done as a cover for The Saturday Evening Post.
The CD version of Christmas Portrait, issued in 1984, is a compendium of selected tracks from the Carpenters' two Christmas albums into one 74-minute program, with tracks from each interspersed in the running order; "Ave Maria" was remixed at this time in order to include a choral track that went missing in 1978 and was later found.. (A CD of the original LP content was briefly issued exclusively in West Germany around the same time.) In 1996 (1998 in the US), a two-CD set titled Christmas Collection was issued internationally, containing Christmas Portrait and An Old-Fashioned Christmas together in their original respective tracklists. Richard Carpenter remixed most of the album tracks for Christmas Portrait due to deteriorated masters.
In December 2011, the album re-entered the Billboard 200 album sales chart at No. 150 and eventually achieved a new chart peak position of No. 126.
In December 2012 and then in December 2013, the album again re-entered the Billboard 200 album sales chart and attained a new chart peak position of No. 114, and then of No. 113.
Carpenters were an American vocal and instrumental duo, consisting of siblings Karen and Richard Carpenter. Though often referred to by the public as The Carpenters, the duo's official name on authorized recordings and press materials is simply "Carpenters". During a period in the 1970s when louder and wilder rock was in great demand, Richard and Karen produced a distinctively soft musical style that made them among the best-selling music artists of all time.
Carpenters' melodic pop produced a record-breaking run of hit recordings on the American Top 40 and Adult Contemporary charts, and they became leading sellers in the soft rock, easy listening and adult contemporary genres. Carpenters had three No. 1 singles and five No. 2 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and fifteen No. 1 hits on the Adult Contemporary chart (see The Carpenters discography). In addition, they had twelve top 10 singles (including their No. 1 hits). To date, Carpenters' album and single sales total more than 100 million units.
During their 14-year career, the Carpenters recorded 11 albums, thirty-one singles, five television specials, and a short-lived television series. They toured in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands and Belgium. Their recording career ended with Karen's death in 1983 at age 32 from heart failure following complications of anorexia nervosa. Extensive news coverage of the circumstances surrounding her death increased public awareness of the consequences of eating disorders.
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