Beautiful work, Mark! Those who cannot jettison their preconceptions and revel in Richard's perfectly matched reach/grasp that's demonstrated on ASFY are doomed to permanently underestimate the artistry that he provided for the greatest and truest pop singer in history. We can only hope that some form of divine intervention will knock them off their (high) horse and bring their ears and eyes into the light of day. What you've written will be a big help in setting the stage for such a revelation...
My only quibble is just personal opinion: I tend to think that ASFY is just a tad too "of a piece" to capture the full range of material that the C's could master; for that, I'd turn back to CLOSE TO YOU, where Richard was similarly harried schedule-wise in terms of production but was able to reach back to his first set of collaborations with John Bettis to capture the formative foundation of the group in the "artier" artifacts of the Spectrum era. Side 1 of CTY is the "commercial side" with a higher-register Karen sandwiched between their two great early hits anchored by her "basement" sound; it is certainly eclectic, albeit not with the outrageous flamboyance that ensues on Side 2, which takes all of what was put into play on Side 1 and ups the ante in astonishing ways. Some, including Richard, tend to discount this material, but it's a precious signpost of their early influences and how they reworked them into their own unique sound.
All that said, I do think that ASFY is the best place for newer fans to start, as its unity of sound, diversity of style, and its retention of the "Richard moments" in the track order is better suited to acclimate those who've not heard any of the C's material. And "Goodbye to Love" will (or at least, should) prevent folks from dismissing the group as nothing more that a super-sophisticated pop confection. With your sentences as a guide, particularly in the portions that relate your youthful reminiscences to the various tracks, you've provided a brightly-lit trail which ensures that the receptive reader will find his/her way to a beautiful new experience that will impact their lives in the same way that it happened to all of us.
Thanks, Don. I think you hit the nail on the head better than I did regarding the Close to You album. In the past, when I have gone back and forth on how I feel about all their different albums, Close to You has always remained a steadfast favorite (as has Horizon, but for very different reasons). It has always sounded fresh to me due to its energy and variety of textures.
Mark: I really enjoyed your renewed assessment to this album as most of it fits all I have thought through the years. The comment I wanted to make is in reply to the chorus review of I Won't Last A Day Without You, as if it stopped the song from measuring up to the past parings. When you talked about the Piano Picker and Flat Baroque being better live, I began to think that the last chorus coming out of the bridge should have ended with a slow intimate take as it does live and then following into the beautiful overdubbed ending, which is among my favorite endings. Perhaps, it would have made it too sweet, but I can feel what you mean about the feeling of something missing. This is one of my favorite songs for its opening, ending and bridge, and Karen sounds so great on it and it fits perfectly into 1972. I did not hear the album, A Song for You, until the summer of 1974, so when thinking back, as I first heard it as a single version, I don't know if I liked the song in '74 for the song or because it was Karen. I do feel that it would have broken into the top 10 in a 1972 single release, but it may have pigenholled them with Paul Williams, so perhaps the tunes in between helped? Sometimes, I think had they re-recorded the vocal as they did on Top Of The Word that it would have fixed things. Maybe it will be on an RPO take next time, if there is one, and all our issues will be addressed! I do agree that Tony Peluso's guitar helped lift the chorus/song.
As a single, the words, if all my friend have forgotten all their promises... coming out of the bridge is just perfect love song candy and the section I always replayed the song longing for another piece of that candy. As an album cut, the subject of emotion reflects into words of the lead song echoing, listen to the melody for my love is in there...
So many of their albums are on an equal basis as favorites in my emotional subjection and through the years this album has toggled with Horizon as my favorite, but Horizon usually wins for its Karen at her best and each song reflects it. Not just life on canvas, but life on vinyl, there is not a more introspective look with thoughtful design woven from any groups career as distinctive as A Song For You is for the Carpenters for it displays their character and their life into their beautifully crafted songs, and it is a perfect snapshot of Carpenters 1972.
I do love the live version of IWLADWY on the Palladium disc. Its simpler production served it well. Sometimes less is more. Of course, like you Craig, I would have enjoyed hearing different arrangements of it. Yes, absolutely- AS4Y is the "perfect snapshot of Carpenters in 1972".