December 7th, 2008
In the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I would share information on a rare Christmas CD that it took me quite awhile to obtain. It is the original European issue of the classic Carpenters album Christmas Portrait. The disc was pressed in West Germany and was released by A&M under catalog number of 394 726-2. What makes this disc unique is that it represents the only issue on CD to mirror the LP issue with 17 tracks. When Christmas Portrait was to be issued on CD, Richard Carpenter had intended to release a “Special Edition” with 21 tracks — the original 17, plus four more. For one reason or another, the original LP version was released on CD in Europe and was pulled off the shelves quickly and then replaced with the Special Edition.
In other markets, all issues of Christmas Portrait are the Special Edition. It is quite easy to distinguish the rare European issue from the Special Edition. Of course, one should check the number of tracks on the disc. Also, the Special Edition is so labeled on the cover. One other interesting difference is that the original European disc lacks the choir track on “Ave Maria” (track 17), while the choir track appears on the Special Edition. “Ave Maria” appeared without the choir track on the LP due to the fact that the tapes containing the choir parts had been lost. Some years later, these tapes were found, and the Special Edition has the choir track added in.
Shown below are pictures of the rare European disc and the accompanying cover. For me, the holidays are not right without a Carpenters Christmas CD of some kind playing in the background. This particular disc is extra special to me due to its rarity and the history behind it.
The cover for the original European CD of Carpenters Christmas Portrait (A&M, catalog number 394 726-2). The catalog number appears in the lower right corner. The poster in the painting lists the 17 tracks on the disc, which match the 17 tracks on the original LP. The considerably more common Special Edition, which was released subsequently in Europe and also in all other markets, is labeled “SPECIAL EDITION” at the top of the poster. The poster then lists 21 tracks.
The original European issue of Carpenters Christmas Portrait (A&M, catalog number 394 726-2). As noted along the perimeter, the disc was pressed in West Germany by Polygram. The matrix code is “394 726-2 01”. Note that 17 tracks are listed. A West German PDO pressing with 17 tracks also exists. The disc is identical to the one above except that it has “MADE IN W. GERMANY BY PDO” stamped on the play side near the center hole.