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 The Carpenters

 

Studio Albums

Ticket to Ride 1969

Close to You 1970

Carpenters 1971

A Song For You 1972

Now and Then 1973

Horizon 1975

A Kind of Hush 1976

Passage 1977

Christmas Portrait 1978

Made in America 1981

Voices of the Heart 1983

 

Compilations

 

Linked Artists

Paul Williams

Richard Carpenter

Karen Carpenter

Burt Bacharach

 

 

 

The Carpenters

Click here to read an article and book review on the music of the Carpenters.

Ticket To Ride - 7

Invocation/Your Wonderful Parade/Someday/Get Together/All of My Life/Turn Away/Ticket to Ride/Don't Be Afraid/What's The Use/All I Can Do/Eve/Nowadays' Clancy Can't Even Sing/Benediction

Ticket to Ride was originally released in 1969 under the title "Offering" and met with little success due to the fact that the brother and sister duo were little known at the time and probably also the fact that the world and the world of music was going through a period of change. It came as something of a reverse shock therefore that in the middle of the "underground" movement in music, the struggle for identity, the violence of world events, came a pure pop sound - a fusion of the beautiful voice of Karen Carpenter and the lush arrangements of the very under-rated Richard. This was an embryo Carpenters album - fusing together original compositions by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis along with songs from Chet Powers "Get Together", Lennon and McCartney "Ticket to Ride" and Neil Young "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing. There are undeniably moments of great beauty, particularly in "Someday" one of the most romantic songs written by Carpenter/Bettis and "Eve". Both will have you singing along. By and large I don't like covers of Beatles' songs when the originals are usually so much better.  So it is with Ticket To Ride which has never been my favourite Fab Four song anyway. Richard and Karen do manage to stamp their own identity on the song, however, by turning it into a slow baroque ballad. Overall there is a kind of timelessness about this album and the efforts of the duo to produce harmony at a time of mayhem.

 

Close to You - 8

We've Only Just Begun/Love Is Surrender/Maybe It's You/Reason to Believe/Help/(They Long to Be) Close to You/Baby It's You/I'll Never Fall in Love Again/Crescent Moon/Mr. Guder/I Kept On Loving You/Another Song

If Ticket to Ride was an embryo Carpenters album, this was the real McCoy thanks to a series of exceptional songs that saw Carpenter and Bettis mingling with great songwriters such as Roger Nichols and Paul Williams "We've Only Just Begun" Tim Hardin "Reason to Believe" Lennon and McCartney revisited "Help" Bacharach and David (They Long to Be) Close to You and so it goes on. This is almost a one group greatest hits of the era. The fact the album kicks off with one of the duo's most endearing and romantic songs sets a standard that is maintained pretty much throughout the entire record. This was the album that truly defined the Carpenters style and set them up as one of the greatest acts of their era and one that has stood the test of time.

 

Carpenters - 8

Rainy Days and Mondays/Saturday/Let Me Be the One/(A Place To) Hideaway/For All We Know/Superstar/Druscilla Penny/One Love/Bacharach and David Medley -Knowing When to Leave, Make It Easy on Yourself, (There's) Always Something There to Remind Me, I'll Never Fall in Love Again, Walk on By, Do You Know the Way to San Josť/Sometimes

I read one review that claimed The Carpenters were running out of material to mine by the time they approached their third album. This is just nonsense. Once again an album of superlative songs. Today we have an ever expanding conveyor belt of female singers torturing us with their strangled vocals that masquerade as soulful. Karen Carpenter had one of the most soulful voices of all time without ever attempting to be anything other than a superlative vocalist. Quite frankly she could sing the telephone directory and make it interesting. Rainy Days and Mondays is the kind of song that we can all relate to and once again showed how comfortably Karen and Richard could dovetail in with the work of Roger Nicholls and Paul Williams. Other songs on this album such as For All We Know and, Superstar (the latter which brought Leon Russell into the picture) are top notch Carpenters efforts. Amongst the original material One Love is outstanding and the duo also link in an excellent Bacharach/David medley that helps to give rather than take away identity. It is here that Richard Carpenter's arrangements come to the fore to give a fresh sound to some very well known songs. The album concludes with one of my favourite songs of all times - Henry Mancini's Sometimes where the lyrics say it all - Just look them up on the internet and luxuriate in some of the most inspiring words ever put to music.

A Song For You - 8

A Song for You/Top of the World/Hurting Each Other/It's Going To Take Sometime/Goodbye to Love/Intermission/Bless the Beasts and the Children/Flat Baroque/Piano Picker/I Won't Last a Day Without You/Crystal Lullaby, Road Ode/A Song For You.

Virtually every song a winner - virtually every song ready to slip onto a best of or greatest hits compilation. If one song sums up the brilliance of Richard and Karen Carpenter it is the opener on this album "A Song For You". They don't so much as interpret Leon Russell's brilliant song as much as inhabit and own it. Just when Karen's vocals threaten to reach a crescendo, Richard's arrangements bring them back to the recognisable soft harmonies that made the duo famous. Then in the middle of all this we get a jazz sax break which hints a little at some of the sharper edges on this album. A Song for You merges into one of the duo's most endearing songs "Top of the World" a sunny song of hope written by Richard and John Bettis. The great songs keep coming. "Goodbye to Love" became one of their biggest hits and the first soft rock song to include a sharp edged guitar solo, "Bless the Beasts and the Children and Paul Williams' "I Won't Last A Day Without You." You will see from my ratings that the three albums starting with Close to You and ending with A Song For You are all universally superb within their own genre and difficult to judge apart.

 

Now and Then - 8

Sing/This Masquerade/Heather/Jambalaya (On the Bayou)/I Can't Make Music/Yesterday Once More/Medley -Fun, Fun, Fun, The End of the World, Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home), Dead Man's Curve, Johnny Angel, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Our Day Will Come, One Fine Day/Yesterday Once More (reprise)

There is a wonderfully fun quality to Now and Then. I have always been a succour for 1960s/70s American radio. It was so fresh and so inventive and here Richard Carpenter's ability as an arranger finds new ground. The medley takes us back to American carefree teenage years and gives an unbelievably fresh take to a special and very typical genre. Add to this fine songs like "Sing", "Yesterday Once More" and another wonderful Leon Russell song in This Masquerade and you have another top top Carpenters album and possibly the final one to fit into the laid back fun and lush pop style before ill health and problems began to erupt.

 

Horizon - 6.5

Aurora/Only Yesterday/Desperado/Please Mr. Postman/I Can Dream, Can't I?/Solitaire/Happy/(I'm Caught Between) Goodbye And I Love You/Love Me For What I Am/Eventide

Reviewing music is by nature of course a very personal thing. I know many Carpenters fans love this album because of its sheer musicality. Certainly there are more diverse styles included here but after the originality of Now and Then I find it a little more difficult to appreciate. There's an inherent sadness about the laid back effect and this is particularly evident on Karen's interpretation of Richard and John Bettis' "(I'm Caught Between) Goodbye and I Love You" which she certainly seems to sing from the heart - hinting at personal and relationship problems. In addition I find the album rather too unhappy "you are always finding something is wrong in what I do/but you can't re-arrange my life because it pleases you/You've got to love me for what I am" is again a very sad statement by Karen about being used. This album is almost too sad to take - a very low key affair despite the presence of a song simply entitled "Happy". Karen is obviously wrestling with her inner demons and it is beginning to show. It's almost as if the duo have lost their innocence and grown to maturity - but at what cost?

 

A Kind of Hush - 6

There's a Kind of Hush/You/Sandy/Goofus/Can't Smile Without You/I Need to Be in Love/One More Time/Boat to Sail/I Have You/Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

By the time this album was released things were not going smoothly for the Carpenters. Karen's illnesses have been well documented, but Richard was also suffering and regularly resorting to the boost of various pills. As a result he has always been unhappy with some aspects of this album and it does have a rather stilted painting by numbers feel of it. I wouldn't say that the duo were going through the motions but the songs don't seem to hang together and whereas in the past their style had made them trend-setters, there is a horrible middle of the road feel about this album which contained just 10 songs (another indication of the paucity of good material). There are of course some highlights in beautiful songs such as "I Need to be in Love."

 

Passage - 3.5

B'wana She No Home/All You Get from Love Is a Love Song/I Just Fall in Love Again/On the Balcony of the Casa Rosada/Don't Cry for Me Argentina/Sweet, Sweet Smile/Two Sides/Man Smart (Woman Smarter)/Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft

Whatever the Carpenters were trying to achieve here they failed in an album that failed to tick any of the boxes. They tried to get funky on Man Smart (Woman Smarter) and the result was horrible, they tried to go original on Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft - a ridiculous song at the best of times and then there's Don't Cry for Me Argentina with its accompanying trappings with a tenor warbling in quite an alarming style before Karen fails to do justice to the main song. Indeed there is so little of note here that it just seems as if the duo are going through the motions and generally falling apart.

 

Christmas Portrait

To be reviewed

Made in America - 5.5

Those Good Old Dreams/Strength of a Woman/(Want You) Back in My Life Again/When You've Got What It Takes/Somebody's Been Lyin/I Believe You/Touch Me When We're Dancing/When It's Gone (It's Just Gone)/Beechwood 4-5789/Because We Are in Love (The Wedding Song)

The final album before the tragedy of Karen Carpenter's death. Really this is a series of middle of the road songs. I suppose The Carpenters were always middle of the road but they hid the fact with a series of classic albums. There is beauty here, particularly in the final track with the poignant words: "Because We are in Love/We reach for our tomorrows" which is heart-rending bearing in mind that Karen's glorious voice would be no more within two years. The final track has the kind of epic feeling that elevated the Carpenters way above the pack. it is a fitting epitaph, harking back to the safety and joy of childhood which was probably a territory Karen felt safe and happy in. It is a stand out track amongst an otherwise rather mundane collection of songs.

 

Voices of the Heart

To be reviewed