I see what you're getting at, but I'm not sure the distinction is quite as clear-cut as all that. I have huge respect for Richard as a musician and much admiration for many of his arrangements (particularly from the 1969-1975 era). However, the thing that first attracted me (and I imagine to most of the public) to their music was Karen's voice. Granted, Richard's framing of Karen's voice was an important factor, but the voice sounded great on pretty much everything they recorded and was often the only saving grace on some of their later material.I dunno. I DO care, and like very much, Richard's arrangemets. And I think at the heart of it, especially with all the back and forth regarding Karen's solo album, that we are of one of two camps: Carpenters fans or Karen Carpenter fans. I am firmly in the former as I value what Richard did with Karen's vocals just as much as I like Karen's vocals. In many posts here it sounds like Ricard is cast as some interloper invading into Karen's vocals (how dare he?!). But for me, I find each individually good, but together it was "magic."
Up to 1975, I'd agree that together they were largely 'magic'. But beyond then, I'd say the magic became much more sporadic and that . Whilst I'm sure not everyone would agree with me on this, it's possible that Karen could have created something equally 'magic' with another producer (and on a few tracks I think she came close to doing this with Phil Ramone). Richard, on the other hand, relied completely on Karen in order to be able to produce this 'magic'.
Coming back to the AllMusic review of As Time Goes By, I can understand the reviewer's frustration to some extent. We've discussed both Richard's and Karen's desire for 'perfection' in their recording and at times (such as in their live performances and in all the remixing done to tracks in the last 30 years) I'm not sure it's always been for the good. Sometimes 'imperfection' (or 'this is what it was') is more satisfying than something that's been reworked to get closer to attaining perfection (or 'this is what in hindsight I'd like it to have been'), particularly on the early demo tracks, which by their very definition aren't supposed to sound complete.