The Carpenters

The Singles 1969-1973 (A&M ‘73) Rating: A-
One of many ‘70s bands who are now seen in a revisionist light, The Carpenters work has grown all the more poignant over the years due to Karen Carpenter’s sad death caused by anorexia. At least her passing helped get people’s attention as to the serious nature of the disease (not much was known about it back in Karen’s day), which was but a small consolation within a tremendous loss. For whatever you think of brother Richard’s (occasional) songwriting, arranging, and playing (primarily piano whereas Karen played drums) ability and the material that they selected, few would (or at least should) deny that Karen had the voice of an angel. One of the flat out prettiest instruments that I’ve ever heard, her voice had a melancholic quality that makes even their happiest lyrics sound sad, though lyrics like “all I know of love is how to live without it” would have a despondent edge no matter who was singing it. Of course, critics derided their string-laden folk pop songs as being corny schmaltz, and these criticisms have some merit, but for all I care the critics can take a powder, since I can’t help but be moved by lovely songs (all penned by outside writers) like “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Rainy Days And Mondays,” “For All We Know,” and “(They Long To Be) Close To You.” Some of their more upbeat moments, such as “Top Of The World” (one of three Richard co-writes on this compilation), “Superstar” (at least the chorus is musically upbeat), and “Sing” are also harmlessly catchy and offer sing along pleasures, while “Goodbye To Love” (one of those Richard co-writes) shockingly has not one but two great guitar solos from Tony Peluso. Based on the evidence here I’d say that the voice of Karen Carpenter will live on long after more “critically respected” artists have been forgotten, and since The Carpenters are best remembered for their singles this 12-track compilation album (itself a massive seller) capturing their prime years should be your first stop.

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