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Official Review [Box Set]: "FROM THE TOP" (AM75021/6875)

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Chris May, Jun 14, 2007.


  1. ***** (BEST)

    39 vote(s)
  2. ****

    26 vote(s)
  3. ***

    6 vote(s)
  4. **

    1 vote(s)
  5. * (WORST)

    1 vote(s)
  1. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter


    Original Release Cover


    Disc One, 1965-->1970:


    1. Caravan *
    2. The Parting of Our Ways *
    3. Looking for Love +
    4. I'll Be Yours +
    5. Iced Tea *
    6. You'll Love Me *
    7. All I Can Do (demo) *
    8. Don't Be Afraid (demo) *
    9. Invocation (demo) *
    10. Your Wonderful Parade (demo) *
    11. Goodnight +
    12. All of My Life (1987 remix)
    13. Eve (1987 remix)
    14. Ticket to Ride (1973 version)
    15. Get Together (Your Navy Presents version) *
    16. Interview (Your Navy Presents) *
    17. Maybe It's You (1990 remix) ^
    18. (They Long to Be) Close to You
    19. We've Only Just Begun (1985 remix)
    20. Merry Christmas Darling (1970 version) +
    21. For All We Know (1990 remix) ^

    Disc Two, 1971-->1973:


    1. Superstar (1990 remix) ^
    2. Rainy Days and Mondays (1985 remix)
    3. Let Me Be the One (1990 remix) ^
    4. Bless the Beasts and Children (1985 remix)
    5. Hurting Each Other (1990 remix) ^
    6. Top of the World +
    7. Goodbye to Love (1985 remix)
    8. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1984 remix) +
    9. This Masquerade (1990 remix) ^
    10. Canta (Spanish version of "Sing") +
    11. Yesterday Once More (1985 remix)
    12. Fun Fun Fun (1990 remix) ^
    13. The End of the World (1990 remix) ^
    14. Da Doo Ron Ron (1990 remix) ^
    15. Deadman's Curve (1990 remix) ^
    16. Johnny Angel (1990 remix) ^
    17. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1990 remix) ^
    18. Our Day Will Come (1990 remix) ^
    19. One Fine Day (1990 remix) ^
    20. Yesterday Once More (reprise)
    21. Radio Contest Outtakes *

    Disc Three, 1974-->1978:


    1. Please Mr. Postman
    2. Only Yesterday
    3. Solitaire
    4. Good Friends are For Keeps *
    5. Ordinary Fool
    6. I Need to Be In Love (1990 remix) ^
    7. From This Moment On (Live)
    8. Suntory Pop Jingle #1 *
    9. Suntory Pop Jingle #2 *
    10. All You Get from Love is a Love Song
    11. Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (1989 remix)
    12. Christ is Born (1990 remix) ^
    13. White Christmas (1990 remix) ^
    14. Little Altar Boy
    15. Ave Maria (1990 remix) ^

    Disc Four, 1978-->1982:


    1. Where Do I Go From Here?
    2. Little Girl Blue
    3. If I Had You
    4. My Body Keeps Changing My Mind (1990 remix) *
    5. Still Crazy After All These Years (1990 remix) *
    6. Medley: *
    a. Sing
    b. Knowing When to Leave
    c. Make It Easy On Yourself
    d. Someday
    e. We've Only Just Begun
    7. Touch Me When We're Dancing
    8. When It's Gone
    9. Because We Are In Love
    10. Now

    * denotes song previously unreleased before this compilation
    + denotes song that appears on CD for the first time on this collection
    ^ denotes a remix heard for the first time on this collection



    This is it. The ultimate collection for Carpenters' fans. 20 previously unreleased recordings, several extremely rare songs that had not appeared on CD before, dozens of remixes, many of the hits and some favorite album tracks. Just amazing!

    This collection delved deep into Richard Carpenter's vaults, and it includes recordings from each part of their career up until 1982. Sadly, none of Richard's solo work is included here.

    From the Top begins in 1965 in the Carpenters' living room, recording "Caravan." What follows are a number of pre-A&M recordings. "The Parting of Our Ways," "Looking for Love" and "I'll Be Yours" are Karen Carpenter recordings from 1966 (the last two having been released as a single that same year) -- Karen Carpenter was considered the artist, even though Richard wrote, arranged and played piano on all three. "Iced Tea" is performed by the Richard Carpenter Trio (Richard, Karen and Wes Jacobs). "You'll Love Me" is a recording by the Summerchimes (Karen, Richard and friends formed this group in 1967), and "All I Can Do (demo)" is Spectrum (same group, different name).

    The songs "Don't Be Afraid (demo)," "Invocation (demo)" and "Your Wonderful Parade (demo)" were part of the tape Richard and Karen used to try to get a record deal. "Goodnight" is a lovely performance of the Beatles tune, recorded on a record of the California State University Long Beach (which was a project of Richard's; he arranged all the songs, and Karen sings lead on three of the songs on that album).

    Everything is pretty standard up until "Get Together" and "Interview," both from the radio show "Your Navy Presents." The Carpenters recorded 12 songs live-in-the-studio for this show, and "Get Together" is one of them. It's terribly unfortunate that Richard did not choose to include some of the other songs from that radio show, such as "Can't Buy Me Love," "Cinderella Rockafella" or "I Fell In Love Again," but perhaps these will surface on some future collection...

    The next song of note on the album is "Merry Christmas Darling." The version here is the original 1970 version, never before released on CD (Karen had re-recorded the lead vocal in 1978). "Let Me Be the One" is also VERY different from the original; not only is it remixed (with new keyboards), but Richard included a little "outtake" at the end -- Karen singing about "figure out where the rest of the melody is, I'll sing it." The Spanish version of "Sing" had not been released on CD before, and the "Radio Contest Outtakes" are selected flubs from the DJ radio contest recording session (the radio contest heard during the "Yesterday Once More" oldies medley).

    BIG suprise on the track "Maybe It's You." This was a new remix for this collection, and not only was the track remixed with new keyboards (different from the 1987 remix, by the way), it contains an ALTERNATE VOCAL TAKE on verse one -- Karen actually sings the phrase "that I've never been the kind who can pass a lucky penny by" differently (both in terms of timing of the phrase and one of the notes she sings) than the 1970 original release or the 1987 remix. Unfortunately, the liner notes don't say anything about this change, so I don't know if this was an alternate lead vocal track (work lead or other take) recorded at the time, or if this was re-recorded later (like the re-recorded lead vocals for "Ticket to Ride," "Top of the World" and a few others). If anyone knows the answer to this, please let me know!

    Disc Three has only three previously unreleased tracks, all of which are commercial jingles. The first, "Good Friends Are For Keeps," was a Bell Telephone commercial. The two Suntory Pop jingles were for a grapefruit-flavored Japanese soda.

    Disc four has two more tracks from the then-unreleased Karen Carpenter solo album (four tracks had been released the year before on Lovelines. Both new tracks were remixed by Richard, making them different from the versions that appear on the solo album itself.

    And on disc four is my favorite part of the collection, the medley from Music Music Music. It opens with a bit of "Sing," but then continues with pretty much full-length studio recordings of "Knowing When to Leave" and "Make It Easy On Yourself." After that is a re-recording of "Someday," which is absolutely stunning, and the medley closes with a bit of "We've Only Just Begun." This medley alone is worth the price of the 4-CD set!

    Aside from these previously-unreleased tracks, there are a number of remixes which appear here for the first time, including new remixes of Christmas songs. The version of "Top of the World" here is the original album version, which had not appeared on a CD before this collection.
    Last edited: May 12, 2015
    John Adam likes this.
  2. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    What a treat it was to get this box set when it was new! I can still recall wandering in to the record store in our local mall (which is still there in the same location under it's third or fourth name change!) and seeing this giant 12x12 box set for Carpenters. I knew I had to have it immediately, and the price just didn't matter, even though I'm sure I could have shopped around and found it for a better price than a mall store wanted.

    The years from 1989 to 1991 were a sort of renaissance period for Carpenters fans. First we got a totally unreleased "album" in LOVELINES, and then this big box set with all kinds of "new" tracks and mixes to explore.

    I remember sitting and listening to this set for the first time, and being totally impressed with all of the nifty "old" tracks on disc one, having never heard any of these demos and early singles before. I still enjoy Karen's Magic Lamp singles and wish they'd been bigger hits.

    I remember my wife and I taking a trip out to Lancaster County, PA. that weekend that the set was released and we played the discs in the car on the way out and back. It made the time pass so effortlessly.

    It seemed like such a short time later that I was browsing in the same record store and saw the re-issued "narrow" book version of FROM THE TOP. I didn't buy it - seeing no reason to get it for just a packaging change. I'm glad I got the full-sized set when I did. The large booklet and full-sized individual CD jewel cases for the four discs seem extravagant by today's box-set standards.

    Things changed in the recording industry over the years and box sets in general became more of a catch-all, full-career retrospective item. Richard and A&M must have realized that FROM THE TOP was a little deficient in that department, missing quite a few of their big hits and emphasizing their oddities and rarities. Thus the ESSENTIAL COLLECTION was born a decade later to fill out the set with the missing hit tracks and give both new and old fans a better overall representation of the full Carpenters career. Sadly, not quite all of the FROM THE TOP tracks made it to THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION, making both sets a necessity for obsessive completist fans.

    Present on the FROM THE TOP set is the version of "Goodbye To Love" mentioned in our ANTHOLOGY thread - the one with the count-off and opening breath. The track was mentioned in the ANTHOLOGY liner notes, but was changed for the second release of that set.

    John Adam likes this.
  3. thestitch

    thestitch Member

    When I purchased the set, I sent the booklet to Richard and he kindly autographed it for me! Must say I dearly love it. I do agree with Harry in that you really need to have the Essential Collection as well. And then we have the Reader's Digest one! And it goes on and on ... !!!

  4. cam89

    cam89 Active Member

    Oh I remember when I first heard about it. Around Fall or Christmas of 1990. I cut out articles in music magazines that mentionned it. I remember when I finally did buy it. I was 19, and heading out to Kenosee Lake Bible Camp, to Camp youth function. I stopped in Regina, which had a nice downtown mall, and finally bought it. I remember just staring at, and imagining what the songs would sound like. I was curious as to Still Crazy after All these Years, and My Body Keeps Changing My Mind would sound like. Also, I did not have a cd walkman, or even a cd player. They were too expensive. So I sat on the Greyhound bus, and opened it up, stared at the pictures and read the booklet over and over again.

    A few days later, while at camp, one of the guys who's parents were the musicians and main speaker...we were sitting in his beautiful parent's motor home, and he had a built in cd player, so I asked if I could listen to some songs. So I did. I just listened to the MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC medley. I loved it.

    Then around Christmas of 1991, I was at my cousin's house and she had a cd stereo. An almost unheard of luxury. I listened to My Body Keeps Changing My MInd and Still Crazy After All These years, and was totally blown away. Just phenomenal. I also listened to Karen's 1965 solo songs and loved them.

    Finally in February of 1992, I bought myself a cd stereo system. And loved the whole FROM THE TOP project.
  5. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I guess I've voiced this before, but since this IS the "Official Review" thread.... My only gripe with this set was the sprinkling of the Christmas songs in among the others. I thought sure that when ESSENTIAL COLLECTION was released, this "flaw" would be fixed...but no. I realize it was done that way to make things chronological, but at the expense of ruining the flow of the set (at least, when played on a hot July afternoon!).

    Would have been much better to group all the Christmas songs at the end, or maybe have a whole disk of Christmas songs.

    Other than that, I was happy with this set, and especially with the book. I wish all artists were as willing to reveal the inside info as Mr. Carpenter is.
    John Adam and jaredjohnfisher like this.
  6. Dave

    Dave Well-Known Member

    A Used Copy at a store was where I got to hear the tracks exclusively on this set... A lot of "Remixed Stuff" make this set a favored collection for those who "Have Everything", while still a Bonanza for the "Newbie", who wants a fairly comprehensive "Starter-Set" and finds a one-disc, even a two-disc set, not being enough as far as Richard & Karen demonstrating their greatness, compared to the "Ear Candy" you'll hear, HERE...! :)

  7. It was in the spring of 1992. After I had finished university with success, I had no idea which direction I should go professionally. At age 28, I did a very boring job in an insurance office to make a living, and my private life was boring, too. I had no idea what was going on in the Carpenters world, because the fan club, which I had been a member of, was disbanded. The last album I had bought was LOVELINES in 1990.

    I made my monthly visit to SATURN, perhaps the biggest record store in Germany, in Cologne. I was on my way to look for Carpenters CDs, when I ran into FROM THE TOP. I couldn't believe it. So many unreleased songs! Even though the price was high and I really dind't have much money to spend, I instantly bought it. I couldn't wait to return to Bonn to my student's flat and listen to it.

    During the following days, I grew especially fond of MY BODY KEEPS CHANGING MY MIND, STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS and the MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC MEDLEY. Other favorites were THE PARTING OF OUR WAYS and GOODNIGHT.

    I voted for BEST, because for me this is one of the best Carpenters releases.

    If you look carefully at the original cover, there are some songs printed on it. You can find AS TIME GOES BY written on it, even though it wasn't included. I thought: Well, some day even this song will be released! And I guessed, that the album title would be AS TIME GOES BY. I was right, wasn't I?

    I know, FTT was released in 1991, but it didn't show up in Germany before 1992.
    I guess, A&M decided to release FTT after the success of the UK CD ONLY YESTERDAY, which topped the british charts for several weeks in 1990. ONLY YESTERDAY had a white cover. There was even a German version of this CD, with a red cover, same songs, but the booklet was in German language. Sadly, it didn't sell very well.

    I wish, Richard would remix all songs from Karen's solo album, because the remix of MY BODY KEEPS CHANGING MY MIND is far superior than the original version.

    Don Malcolm likes this.
  8. Dave60640

    Dave60640 Active Member

    I totally agree Bruno!
    I would love to hear KC's entire solo album given the golden RC touch.
    Sadly we all know that, save for a few of us extremists and KC herself, there is really no real reason to pursue that project.
  9. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I suppose if Richard were to do that, it could be called a "Carpenters" album so it might sell a little better!

    But, he probably wouldn't have chosen most of those songs, so it most likely would never happen.
  10. The songs on Karen's solo album aren't the best songs of the world, but what is really bothering me about this album aren't the songs themselves, but the very bad recording and mixing quality. For example, check out the song LOVELINES. The original mix is bad, sometimes even putting Karen's lead vocals somehow in the background, if you know what I mean. Richard's remix is perfect. He puts Karen's vocals in the center of this song, and you get to hear all those different instruments. It is much more clearer and louder.

    MY BODY KEEPS CHANGING MY MIND is another good example for Richard's ability to give a song the right remix.

  11. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    Agreed. Richard's remix of "Lovelines" is better but he did an unnecessary edit towards the edit of the song that I could have done without. I also wish he hadn't replaced Louis Johnson's superior bass playing in some of her tracks with that of Joe Osborn. In my opinion, there was no reason to do that. Louis Johnson is a far better bass player for those arrangements and his basslines are fantastic.

    I do have to say, though, that I like the Karen's mix of "My Body..." better than I do Richard's. All if his mixes of Karen's songs de-emphasize the band. While I understand the tendency to want to do that, the band she used for her album is first-rate and should not have been so supressed in his mixes.

  12. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    I agree with that, but then I think "Hmmm, if Richard's going to touch the mixes to begin with, he's obviously going to use the method of production that best suited Karen--that being more emphasis on vocals". What does surprise me is, considering how much Richard dislikes disco, that he would have selected THIS song of all songs to include here.... :rolleyes:
  13. ThaFunkyFakeTation

    ThaFunkyFakeTation Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo

    I'm not a huge disco fan either but this song has a great vocal arrangement on it. Perhaps that's what tickles his ear. I know that's what does it for me. Despite the disco-isms and rather disposable lyric, the song's still a winner to me...:wink:

  14. Dave

    Dave Well-Known Member

    I really should'a given "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" a listen if it had been remixed; just seem to have taken it for granted that it would be too much like the original, being a Disco song and all... --Might'a even put me over to buying this set, as well...

  15. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    In a way, it's hard to consider the version of "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" found on FROM THE TOP to be a *remix*, since it was the first, hence original version for most of us.

    FROM THE TOP was released before Karen's actual solo album. The same goes for the other four tracks from LOVELINES that we heard the "Richard" treatment way before hearing the Phil Ramone/Karen Carpenter versions.

    Just based on the chronology, Karen's solo versions could be considered the *remixes.*

  16. davidgra

    davidgra Active Member

    I've struggled with that very issue in putting together remix dates for the website, but in the case of the solo album tracks, my final judgment was that the solo album versions of the songs were mixed in 1980, and Richard's mixes of the songs weren't done until 1989 and 1990. So on my website, the Phil Ramone mixes are "original" and the Richard remixes are given a remix date.

  17. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    I fully agree with David on how to officially describe these tracks, but was just referring to the odd juxtaposition of them. We all heard the "remixes" first and the originals later.

  18. no1kandrfan

    no1kandrfan Active Member

    I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one. So many interesting things; the best of all was having additional Karen 'solo' tracks. I have to agree with Harry on "My Body Keeps..." - it's a great mix, much better then the original. My sister was DJ'ing at a local club around the time this was released. I took the CD over and she played this track over the loud speakers while showing Karen in the "All You Get From Love Is A Love Song" video on the TV screens. You could tell she wasn't singing to the song that was playing, but it didn't seem to make a difference. The club was pretty empty at the time but someone did get up and dance to the whole thing. More then a few people made comments about it being Karen, and not being aware that she had ever done disco! A great experience.

    Another of my favorite tracks is "Let Me Be The One" - it's great to have that additional 'funny' ending. Made me love and miss her even more.

  19. Carpenters Forever

    Carpenters Forever New Member

    I own From The Top CD Set. Both the release-cover, and re-issued release cover editions. I really enjoy llistening to the music, and tunes of Richard and Karen's melodic and harmonious sounds in the musicianship and special talents that they both bestowed.

    One liner-note from, From The Top CD Set - that caught my eye was:

    Yesterday Once More
    (Now & Then / 1973)

    The "Oldies" were enjoying a resurgence in popularity during the
    early '70's, much to Karen's and my delight. I thought it would be
    nice to write a song about this and use the piece to "bookend"
    the "oldies" medley we were planning to record. The resulting
    "Yesterday Once More" became one of our most popular
    recordings worldwide. Additional recording and remix done
    in 1985. Engineer: Roger Young

    - Richard Carpenter, 1991 From The Top
  20. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    Sort of off-topic, but relevant to the song "Yesterday Once More":

    Last year I purchased a CD from France by a French singer (Laurent Voulzy) who did a duet with Andrea Corr on the song "All I Have To Do Is Dream". It's a nice classic song, decent arrangement, and recently included on The Corrs own DREAMS: ULTIMATE COLLECTION disc.

    What I hadn't noticed (or I'd totally forgotten) was that Mr. Voulzy also did "Yesterday Once More" as a duet with another singer named Lenou.

    Another A&M-related song on this album is "The Captain Of Her Heart" originally performed by DOU3LE.

    The album is LA SEPTIEME VAGUE from Sony/BMG/RCA.

  21. In the Rolling Stone Album Guide, reviewer, E.L., who paints an overall positive summary of the duo’s career, makes a statement about the From The Topboxed set: “Selecting all the wrong tracks and seriously botching their sequencing, the Carpenters’ four-disc set From The Top misrepresents the duo’s legacy and is recommended only to obsessive-complusive completists.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. I actually went into credit card debt to pick up this set when it first came out. I was a junior in college and didn’t even own a CD player! What I liked most about the set was the “origins” story it told: the Magic Lamp sides, like “Caravan,” “The Parting Of Our Ways,” “Looking For Love,” “I’ll Be Yours,” and “You’ll Love Me” were revelatory, as well as the Spectrum/demo versions of familiar tunes. Karen singing Ringo Starr’s “Goodnight” blew me away (her voice so sweet on that early track).

    I felt like an insider, hearing the outtakes and remixes as well as the radio jingles, and the Karen Carpenter solo tracks were a teaser of what I KNEW would eventually come to light with the release of KC’s solo album. So I borrowed a CD/cassette player from one of my neighbors and wore out the cassettes I made of those CDs. It was my biggest Carpenters-related splurge, and I’ve never had buyers remorse on that collection. On a semi-related note, I recently attempted to purchase the 40th Anniversary set from Amazon only to have the Japanese seller email me that they no longer had it in stock. Sigh...irritating.
    Rick-An Ordinary Fool likes this.
  22. Wow. That mirrors my experience almost exactly, down to borrowing the neighbor's CD player. I'm even from the same "neighborhood" as you. Wierd. I too was in college at the time. I also felt the exact same way hearing his set. It was so full of "new" old stuff that it really expanded my understanding of the duo's career.
    Must Hear This Album likes this.
  23. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    Be very careful with that 40th Anniversary set. There are still tons of Chinese knock-offs of that set. I can see one up on eBay now, where if you zoom in on the picture of the disc spines, you can read the errant "Maade In America" - a telltale sign of a fake. And the eBayer is looking for a $700 price!

  24. Rudy

    Rudy ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ Site Admin

    I didn't think it was a great set, but since it covers the hits and is pretty much sequenced chronologically, and includes enough rarities to make it worthwhile, it isn't that bad of a set really. Yes, I'd probably have made a small handful of substitutions, and would never have used one single note of re-recorded tracks or remixes, but that is just my preference. It's a nice chronological listen to their recordings.

    Used sets around here are dirt cheap, usually $20 or less when they show up. I paid $24 for mine, used, when it was still a newer release.
    Must Hear This Album likes this.
  25. Toolman

    Toolman Simple Man, Simple Dream

    My main criticism of it is the inclusion of the entire "Now and Then" oldies medley (at the expense of, say, then-unreleased recordings or alternate takes). I listen to discs one and four fairly often, but the other two, not so much. But I do love the oddball snippets of commercials and studio chatter. And at the time, getting more of Karen's solo work made it essential for me. I still think her take on "Still Crazy" is on par with most of the better Carpenters tracks. "Make It Easy" from MMM...gorgeous.

    I do remember making a number of fruitless trips to record stores trying to find it when the release date was originally announced a year before it actually hit the market. That was frustrating.
    Must Hear This Album likes this.

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