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Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | A&M

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Pop - Released December 7, 2018 | A&M

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The greatest classics from The Carpenters have resurfaced in a sublime blend of vocal harmonies and symphonic arrangements. For this project in 2018, Richard Carpenter himself went along to Abbey Road Studios. Their last album in 1981, Made in America, was a half-posthumous album (Richard’s sister Karen having died in 1983 at only 32 years of age) and invoked a certain feeling of nostalgia, showing that this legendary pop group shifting more towards easy-listening could still be deep. However, it is still very rooted in the American culture of the seventies, particularly through the classics Close To You, Rainy Days and Mondays and We’ve Only Just Begun.With this album, the legacy of The Carpenters lives on in an unconventional way. The producers have kept the voices of the original recordings and some instrumental parts, surrounding them with the brand-new sounds of the violins from the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Thanks to their classy arrangements, these strings tastefully accentuate the romanticism of this timeless pop. © Clotilde Maréchal/Qobuz
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Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | A&M

Usually the name Gold: Greatest Hits means "avoid this album." Many times small labels will buy the rights to some obscure songs by a big-name artist and then release it under that very title. But despite the name, this collection keeps the crap in the middle of the album, buried between the good stuff. In fact, this is a really good retrospective of this band. The dark and lonely ballads that Karen Carpenter sang take center stage, pushing brother Richard's pop contributions to the background. The album starts strong enough, featuring several of their biggest hits, including "Superstar," "Rainy Days and Mondays," "Goodbye to Love," and "It's Going to Take Some Time." And the album ends with more big hits, such as "Top of the World," "(They Long to Be) Close to You," and "We've Only Just Begun"; even their Klaatu cover, "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft," makes it. But the middle is a danger zone of filler, featuring forgettable tracks like "Please Mr. Postman" and its ilk. But this collection has the requisite amount of good Carpenters songs to make it worthwhile, and anyone who does not have these songs on album should give this a listen. © Bradley Torreano /TiVo
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Ambient/New Age - Released October 13, 1978 | A&M

The Carpenters were just about the last adult pop outfit of their era with anything resembling rock credibility (they did have a little of the latter in the early days, and weren't a kid act like the Osmonds) who could have pulled off a straight Christmas album. And they did it in superb style here, illuminated throughout by the delightful, complex, often playful arrangements, courtesy of Peter Knight, Richard Carpenter, and Billy May. Actually, for a change on a Carpenters album, Richard is the dominant personality on display across this record, as both co-arranger and producer, as well as the mastermind behind the project; Karen Carpenter's voice is also prominent, to be sure, most notably on "Merry Christmas, Darling" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and she threw herself into this next-to-last completed project (and their final release before a two-year hiatus), but it's Richard who comes to the fore everywhere here, in ways that are impossible to ignore. And the results are mightily impressive, as the mood never slackens in what amounts to a wall-to-wall celebration of the Christmas holiday. After a suitably festive introductory section, Karen Carpenter's solo voice comes up on the "Christmas Waltz" and the proceedings really take off, carrying us into the most engaging rendition of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" that has come down in many a year, and it only gets better from there, through a brace of holiday staples that end up sounding fresh in her voice and his arrangements. There's not a slack moment on this album. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Ambient/New Age - Released January 15, 1984 | A&M

In 1998, A&M released the original Carpenters' albums for the first time on CD. Along with the reissues, the label released Christmas Collection, a double-disc that combines Christmas Portrait and An Old Fashioned Christmas on one set. Neither album offers any surprises -- they sound exactly like you'd imagine a Carpenters Christmas album would sound like. Since the two albums are virtually interchangeable, relying on Richard's famously light, inoffensive arrangements and Karen's sweet, soaring vocals, they make for a terrific pairing. It is true that only hardcore fans will need this set, but they should be more than pleased by this definitive collection. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 19, 1970 | A&M

Hurriedly put together in the wake of the success of the title song, and containing the follow-up hit "We've Only Just Begun," Close to You is a surprisingly strong album, and not just for those hits. Richard Carpenter's originals "Maybe It's You" and "Crescent Noon" are superb showcases for Karen Carpenter's developing talent, the latter a superbly atmospheric, hauntingly beautiful art song of the kind that Judy Collins was doing well at the time, and gorgeously arranged. There's also a Swingle Singers-style number, "Mr. Guder," showing off their paired vocal talents and more of Richard's arranging talents. Karen's singing on "Reason to Believe" isn't so much somber as it is passionate, as she emphasizes the melancholy component in the song more than most versions. Their version of "Help" lacks the inventiveness of "Ticket to Ride," although it has some pleasing vocal flourishes. The finale, "Another Song," tries hard for a serious rock sound, especially in Karen's animated drumming, but it's her voice that stands out. Released amid the political turmoil of 1970, in the wake of the Cambodian incursion, Kent State, and the conservative backlash against the antiwar forces, there was no way that the rock press or the most politically active listeners were going to appreciate this record, but the fact that it had two huge hit singles and earned a gold record award raised their ire against the Carpenters, a problem that would dog the duo for most of its career. But the public bought, and kept on buying. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released December 7, 2018 | A&M

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The greatest classics from The Carpenters have resurfaced in a sublime blend of vocal harmonies and symphonic arrangements. For this project in 2018, Richard Carpenter himself went along to Abbey Road Studios. Their last album in 1981, Made in America, was a half-posthumous album (Richard’s sister Karen having died in 1983 at only 32 years of age) and invoked a certain feeling of nostalgia, showing that this legendary pop group shifting more towards easy-listening could still be deep. However, it is still very rooted in the American culture of the seventies, particularly through the classics Close To You, Rainy Days and Mondays and We’ve Only Just Begun.With this album, the legacy of The Carpenters lives on in an unconventional way. The producers have kept the voices of the original recordings and some instrumental parts, surrounding them with the brand-new sounds of the violins from the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Thanks to their classy arrangements, these strings tastefully accentuate the romanticism of this timeless pop. © Clotilde Maréchal/Qobuz
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Pop - Released February 10, 2004 | A&M

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Pop - Released November 9, 1973 | A&M

There's a certain inherent sadness listening to this concise 12-song collection of the Carpenters' early hits, especially as it opens with "We've Only Just Begun," with its hopeful, dreamy lyrics -- for it was never supposed to be definitive, just the first of at least two such collections. But changes in the public's taste and a slackening (though never a disappearance) of hits for the duo, and Karen Carpenter's death in 1983, made this the first and only real mass choice for a Carpenters collection. Ten of the duo's dozen Top Ten hits are present, from "Close to You" to "Top of the World," with their gorgeous and original slow ballad interpretation of "Ticket to Ride" and their cover of Carole King's "It's Going to Take Some Time" thrown in to offer a slightly wider perspective. Listening to this material, it's easy to accuse the Carpenters of being hopelessly retro even in their own time -- bear in mind that "We've Only Just Begun" and "Superstar" being contemporaneous with the Allman Brothers' At Fillmore East and Eat a Peach and you get the idea. But the lush melodies brought out in Richard Carpenter's arrangements and Karen's singing are justification in themselves. [The 1999 reissue in A&M's Remastered Classics series (#82839-3601-2) has a closer, toughened but warmer sound. Yes, the strings are brighter, to the point of glistening, but the rhythm section (Joe Osborn on bass, Hal Blaine on drums) has more impact as well. Moreover, the full original notes from the insert are now included, explaining how each song came to be discovered and recorded.] © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 19, 1970 | A&M

Hurriedly put together in the wake of the success of the title song, and containing the follow-up hit "We've Only Just Begun," Close to You is a surprisingly strong album, and not just for those hits. Richard Carpenter's originals "Maybe It's You" and "Crescent Noon" are superb showcases for Karen Carpenter's developing talent, the latter a superbly atmospheric, hauntingly beautiful art song of the kind that Judy Collins was doing well at the time, and gorgeously arranged. There's also a Swingle Singers-style number, "Mr. Guder," showing off their paired vocal talents and more of Richard's arranging talents. Karen's singing on "Reason to Believe" isn't so much somber as it is passionate, as she emphasizes the melancholy component in the song more than most versions. Their version of "Help" lacks the inventiveness of "Ticket to Ride," although it has some pleasing vocal flourishes. The finale, "Another Song," tries hard for a serious rock sound, especially in Karen's animated drumming, but it's her voice that stands out. Released amid the political turmoil of 1970, in the wake of the Cambodian incursion, Kent State, and the conservative backlash against the antiwar forces, there was no way that the rock press or the most politically active listeners were going to appreciate this record, but the fact that it had two huge hit singles and earned a gold record award raised their ire against the Carpenters, a problem that would dog the duo for most of its career. But the public bought, and kept on buying. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 1, 1973 | A&M

Featuring a surprisingly poignant cover photo of a suburban house -- not unlike the Downey, CA homestead in which Karen and Richard Carpenter grew up -- Now & Then is a concept album about the music that inspired Karen and Richard in their childhood. Besides the hit single "Sing" and a charming take on Hank Williams' "Jambalaya," the centerpiece of Now & Then is Richard Carpenter and John Bettis' nostalgic "Yesterday Once More." The song opens and closes a side-long medley of early-'60s pop hits that includes the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun," Skeeter Davis' "The End of the World," the Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron," and Jan & Dean's "Dead Man's Curve." Also included are Shelley Fabares' "Johnny Angel," Bobby Vee's "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," Ruby & the Romantics' "Our Day Will Come," and the Chiffons' "One Fine Day." Given Karen's immense skills as an interpretive singer, not one of the covers is less than interesting, and most are flat-out wonderful. © TiVo
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Pop - Released October 15, 2002 | A&M

The Carpenters' 2002 box set, The Essential Collection (1965-1997) is a revised version of their 1991 box set, From the Top. This time, Richard Carpenter has aimed more at a comprehensive treatment of the Carpenters' career, including all of their Top 40 hits (some with grudging remarks in the liner notes) in an expansion that adds 45 and a half minutes to the running time. There are also some more album cuts and rarities, though the only previously unreleased tracks are a commercial and a medley of standards by Karen Carpenter and Ella Fitzgerald from a television special. In total, he has added 17 tracks, while deleting four: a cover of the Beatles' "Goodnight"; a Spanish-language version of "Sing" (replaced by the English-language hit version that had been left off From the Top); and two songs from his sister's solo album (which he no longer describes as having been shelved in 1980 "at Karen's behest," but now "for reasons that are well-chronicled elsewhere," presumably in Ray Coleman's 1994 authorized biography), "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" and "Still Crazy After All These Years." Since that album finally saw release in 1996, he may have thought it was no longer necessary to represent so much of it. The result of the changes is a big improvement. From the Top didn't really justify its four discs; it could have fit on three. And it was a compromise between an all-out rarities set and a thorough career overview. This version uses its greater length to satisfy the latter goal. It is worth noting, too, that like From the Top, The Essential Collection (1965-1997) is a retouched version of the Carpenters' story. Richard Carpenter has not hesitated to remix, overdub, and otherwise spiff up the band's recordings. Purists may object, but the sound justifies the changes. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 27, 2005 | A&M

The Carpenters' radio-friendly soft rock virtually defined the genre in the early 1970s, and this album -- their third full-length -- was the group's ace card. Following on the heels of the wildly successful Close to You, Carpenters features more breezy melodies marked by rich arrangements and beautiful lead vocals, courtesy of siblings Richard Carpenter and Karen Carpenter, respectively. The record is most notable for two of the duo's strongest and best-loved singles. "Rainy Days and Mondays," written by soft pop gods Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, is a bittersweet pop masterpiece fleshed out by Richard's string orchestrations and smoothly produced backing vocals, while Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett's "Superstar," from its melancholic verse to its dramatic chorus, is equally hard to resist. (Both songs showcase Karen's sultry alto.) The rest of the album includes Richard's bubble-gum pop originals, another Williams-Nichols tune ("Let Me Be the One"), and a medley of Burt Bacharach-Hal David tunes. Even more commercially streamlined than its predecessors, Carpenters is a classic of early-'70s pop. © Rovi Staff /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 27, 2005 | A&M

The duo's best album, and the place to start beyond the hits compilations. Up to the release of A Song for You, the Carpenters' success had seemed an awesome if somewhat fluky phenomenon, built on prodigious talent, some beautifully crafted pop sensibilities, and a very fortunate choice of singles -- their albums Close to You and Carpenters, though they were top-sellers, both seemed just a bit thrown together. Then came A Song for You, a seemingly unified concept album written and recorded during a frantic period of concert activity, and brimming with lovely musical ideas even more lovingly executed, laced with good humor, and enough hits of its own to have established any artist's career on its own. And even in between the hits, the album was built on material that could have made a whole career for anyone. The duo's version of a then-new Carole King song, "It's Going to Take Some Time," not only became a hit single but helped them in the "cool" department, Carole King being about the hottest musical personality there was at that particular time. One song, "Top of the World," which Richard Carpenter had only visualized as album track, became an unexpected hit single and one of the most popular songs of the decade. And where the Close to You LP had included some beautiful album tracks ("Crescent Noon," " "Maybe It's You"), A Song for You was dripping with masterpieces, including "Crystal Lullaby" and "Road Ode"; Richard Carpenter's "Piano Picker," a confessional piece sung by the composer, also marked the high point of his solo vocal contributions to the duo's music. Even the two cuts that reach back into the past -- the soft jazz instrumental "Flat Baroque," a 1966-vintage Richard Carpenter composition that he resurrected for this release, and "Bless the Beasts and the Children," the B-side of "Superstar" from more than a year earlier (written for a Stanley Kramer movie) -- slot in perfectly among the new songs. The high point of their recording career, A Song for You marked the last time that their music (and the only occasion that one of their albums) would be accepted in the rock world on its own terms, without the duo's squeaky-clean image and sound, and middle-class dorkiness becoming a drag on their sales and image. A Song for You has been released several times on CD, the best of which by far is the 1999 A&M remastering with new notes and full lyrics. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 9, 1969 | A&M

The Carpenters' first long-player, cut in 1969 (and originally released as Offering) amid the breakdown of America's postwar social contract, the Vietnam War's soaring to a crescendo of bloodshed, the coming apart of the Beatles, and the final flowering (and wilting) of the youth rebellion of the prior four years. And in the middle of all of that, Karen and Richard Carpenter issued a finely crafted record that moved effortlessly between Spanky & Our Gang-style pop/rock ("Your Wonderful Parade") and art-song. In some ways, Ticket to Ride is the Carpenters' most interesting album, for it contains a range of interests and sounds that were modified or abandoned on subsequent albums. The lushly orchestrated "Someday" is a brilliant showcase for Richard's arranging skills and the most dramatic side of Karen's voice -- it points the way toward songs like "Crescent Noon" on the next album, and although that highly dramatic sound proved a blind alley, it did result in some ravishing performances by the duo. "All I Can Do" is the most solid reminder of their origins as part of a light jazz trio called Spectrum, a pleasing vocal workout that might've been well covered by the Manhattan Transfer. Their version of "Get Together" is about as convincing as a version by the Cowsills would've been, but it's balanced by Richard's slow ballad arrangement of "Ticket to Ride," an unexpected and beguiling (if too upbeat) cover of Neil Young's "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," and a couple of superb originals, "Eve" and "All of My Life." © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 6, 1975 | A&M

The Carpenters were one of the more ubiquitous and successful acts of the early and mid-'70s. This 1975 effort seems to be willing to explore sad emotions -- with the more blithe songs appearing almost as an afterthought -- which is actually a nice fit for Karen Carpenter's pitch-perfect and sorrowful voice, and emphasizes the duo's subtext. The beautifully arranged "Aurora" sets the album's ambience. "Eventide," a continuation of the melody and theme, shows up later in the album. The covers, "Desperado" and "Please Mr. Postman," have the duo adding nothing new to the tracks. A more convincing take on the standard "I Can Dream, Can't I?" was co-arranged and orchestrated by the legendary Billy May. The track has Carpenter's empathy and tone ringing clear. Another cover, "Solitaire" written by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody, is melodramatic but a great match for Carpenter's voice. The originals, including "(I'm Caught Between) Goodbye and I Love You," are competent but not magical. Although some might be put off by the sorrow-or-bust ethos of this, Horizon gains its strength from strong production values and, of course, Karen Carpenter's singular gifts as an interpreter. © Jason Elias /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1997 | A&M

There may be too many Carpenters compilations on the market -- there are certainly enough to confuse the average neophyte -- but Love Songs is a welcome addition to the clutter, since it offers 20 of the duo's very best love songs, including "We've Only Just Begun" and "Top of the World." Anyone looking for a collection of the duo's romantic songs should definitely consider this fine collection, even it does leave off some of their poppier, rock-inflected material. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | A&M

Ever since their version of Bacharach-David song,"Close to You" hit the charts in 1970, the Carpenters have long seemed the epitome of anti-rock. Actually, Richard Carpenter revered the Beatles and Beach Boys just as much as Burt Bacharach. So there was more of a continuum with the '60s pop/rock tradition than appearances might suggest. Karen Carpenter is simply a singer of the first rank, comparable to pop divas like Patsy Cline and the Brazilian Elis Regina. On this classic (now remastered) singles collection, spanning hits from the early "Ticket to Ride" up until "Goodbye to Love," Karen's warm, sure voice, filled with an uncanny (and sad) grace, transforms smooth pop melodies and lyrics into something deep and abiding. © TiVo
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Pop - Released June 11, 1976 | A&M

The formula behind the Carpenters' albums was starting to get fairly routine -- a hit single and an oldie or two (which sometimes was the single) surrounded by some well-produced soft pop/rock, driven by electric piano, strings, and a guitar solo or two cropping up. "There's a Kind of a Hush" and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" are the two most memorable tracks on this pleasant, well-sung, and well-played, but basically bland, album, A Kind of Hush. There are virtues here -- "You" has a good guitar solo by Tony Peluso, and the vocals on "Sandy" are radiant, but this record was where the real rot began to set into the Carpenters' fortunes, in terms of remaining connected to rock. Instead of covering Leon Russell's or Carole King's contemporary material, they're doing songs like "Can't Smile Without You" -- the latter is very sweetly sung by Karen Carpenter, and gets a lyrical but spare arrangement from Richard Carpenter, but they needed something more credible to the under-30 audience (and especially material that, if not attractive to guys in that age range, at least wouldn't make them self-conscious about listening to it with their girlfriends) on this album, and it wasn't here. If you close your eyes, it's possible to imagine Captain & Tennille, not to mention Debby Boone, taking lessons from this release, although Karen's voice was still beyond comparison with any of them. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1981 | A&M

The Carpenters' final album, Made in America, released after their two-year break from work, a period in which Karen Carpenter attempted a solo album and when Richard was incapacitated due to a drug problem, is very much a comeback effort, with a fair amount of energy on most of it, newly radiant arrangements ("The Wedding Song," etc.), one cute oldie cover ("Beechwood 4-5789," which was made into a video), and the best new songs they'd had since the mid-'70s ("Those Good Old Dreams," "Touch Me When We're Dancing"). The latter song, in particular, marked a breakthrough to a new sound and a new sensuality in Karen's image as a singer, and could have led to a new beginning for all concerned, and the album as a whole was more energetic and memorable than anything they'd done since A Song for You. Unfortunately, the singer was already suffering from worsening effects of the psychological disorder that would kill her less than two years after the release of this album -- "The Wedding Song," in particular, seems now like an unintentionally poignant bookend on the other end of her life and career from "We've Only Just Begun." © Bruce Eder /TiVo