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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. Charlie D

    Charlie D Active Member

    I may have asked this here before but was Richard's mix of "Still Crazy.." different than the original? Some have heard a small distinction, I know.

    I'm glad that Richard took the time to go back in with these songs and give them the better treatment they deserved. I know that the original mixes were special to Karen, but Rich really added an ambience and warmth to the arrangements that matches those qualities in her voice. And it's not really Karen or Phil's fault really, Richard just had a signature ability to craft warm, atmospheric arrangements for his sister as well as with the other projects after her death.

    Eventually Karen would have found a producer/arranger who she could capture magic with like she did with Richard. Think something like Linda Ronstadt's collaboration with Nelson Riddle, a great arranger melding with a great voice.
  2. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    Apparently the difference is there in the way the backing vocals are mixed but my ears don't hear it.

    Definitely agree with you though that Richard's mixes are better...you can hear it most on My Body Keeps Changing My Mind.
  3. John Tkacik

    John Tkacik Active Member

    When I purchased this boxed set in 1992, it was the first recording that I owned in the compact disk format so I immediately went out and bought a portable, combination AM/FM radio/cd player/cassette tape recorder. After I heard side 1 for the first time, I always wondered why they did not have Karen sing the lead vocal on the "Offering" version of "Get Together" like she did on the "Your Navy Presents" version. I feel her version is the superior of the two. I also think that "Goodnight" could have worked perfectly as the final song on the "Offering" album.
  4. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    I was just listening to the in-store promo CD that I have for this box set today, and even on that "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" really stands out as being a very strong dance-disco song. I think Richard was going more for a dance-mix rather than the disco mix that is on the solo album, but at the same time he was working with what was recorded. Of course in one way it's too bad that he didn't do a re-record of the backing track to eliminate the disco elements and make it more of a late-80's/early-90's dance club sounding record. But I wonder, was Richard's mix of "My Body" ever released for Dance Clubs and if it did, did it ever chart on the Dance Charts? And did Richard make a 12-inch cut of 10 or more minutes for the track?Like, for example, I know that artists such as Belinda Carlisle, Veronique and Tiffany (even Madonna possible)had in the 70's, 80's and upto the 2000's have issued 12-inch LP/CD "Dance Remixes" of songs for different tracks, that in a lot of cases ran 10 minutes. And a number of those records charted on the Dance Charts as well.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2016
    Chris Mills likes this.
  5. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Here is (excerpt) from a review Entertainment Weekly November 1991:

    From the Top
    Intention: To prove that... she and her brother, Richard, were, in fact, underrated talents.
    Achievement: The Carpenters’ music can still seem painfully banal, but at its best it defined middle-of-the-road pop in the ’70s,
    with the sad, dark hues of Karen’s voice suggesting underlying currents of angst.
    The point is diluted, though, by soda commercials, forgettable ’80s recordings, and other padding.
    Fans, Behold: Early recordings by the Richard Carpenter Trio featuring teenage Karen’s nascent jazz drumming;
    unreleased songs from Karen’s canned solo album, including the ominously titled “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind.”
    Newcomers, Beware: Stick with the second half of disc 1 and all of disc 2.
    Or buy The Singles 1969-1973, the Carpenters’ greatest-hits package.
    Also: Richard rerecorded some of his keyboard parts to improve their CD sound quality.

    Box-set music guide »
  6. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Hadn't listened to this set in a while.
    The above review--a review which neglects so much-- compelled me to a re-listen.
    I still love this set.
    And, I had forgotten,
    Karen is the drummer credited on the 1980 Music,Music,Music Medley,
    a Medley which I actually find compelling !
  7. Jamesj75

    Jamesj75 Well-Known Member

    GaryAlan: Thank you for posting excerpts from this review.

    What jumps out at me from this review is "the ominously titled 'My Body Keeps Changing My Mind.'" After having been exposed to this song for 25 years, I NEVER made the association between Karen's anorexia and the song title. Does that make me naive? Does that make me clueless? I just instantly found this disco song highly enjoyable! The only negative undercurrent I felt with regard to this song is that Karen's solo album was not released upon completion and, thus, the masses were not exposed to this song while in the throes of the disco era. What a pity... I won't be "changing my mind" on that point!
    Jeff and Don Malcolm like this.
  8. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    I saw the box set in a music store front window and had no idea there was a new release by them. Judging by the large square size of the box I assumed it must be a vinyl collection and when I enquired in the shop, I was amazed to see a 4 disc collection. I bought it without hesitation and marvelled on the train home at all the song titles in the booklet that were completely unfamiliar to me. Two tracks in particular which made me giddy with excitement were the Magic Lamp songs, as I knew the titles already and it felt almost as if I'd found an actual copy of the single itself.

    The other titles I was desperate to hear were the two new solo tracks. I'd fallen in love with the songs on Lovelines and never thought we'd get to hear more, but here were two, one with the strangely exotic title My Body Keeps Changing My Mind. I still remember Richard's liner notes word for word:

    "From the sublime to the disco, as Karen demonstrates her versatility with this catchy period piece". For me, that was the very best track on the entire 4-disc collection as it felt like gold dust at the time (and sparkled just as much :)).
  9. this is a lovely set, along with the 12 disc set as well, though to this day, I still keep coming across carpenters cds/sets I don`t have!
    I saw in one documentary that at one point, they started to struggle to produce songs, yet the carpenters cds/sets I keep coming across, seem to contradict that, as I`m buying something all the time.
  10. A&M Retro

    A&M Retro Well-Known Member

    I couldn't agree more! 'My Body Keeps Changing My Mind' was also my favorite off the original boxed set. Aside from the obvious edit Richard made to drown out Karen's high pitched "dancin'" note, I still like remix quite a bit.
    newvillefan likes this.
  11. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the solo version in 1996 because Richard's attempt to drown that out was finally uncovered. I'd always thought the remix a bit "off" because her vocal almost phased on that line as he'd doubled it from the first chorus.
    A&M Retro likes this.
  12. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    So Much.jpg
    Jeff, Jamesj75 and K.C. Jr like this.
  13. Mike Blakesley

    Mike Blakesley Well-Known Member Moderator

    I remember seeing that ad in a color version somewhere. Probably Billboard.
  14. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Taking another listen to this Box Set,
    it remains a favorite.

    I did a rough count of drummers credited on this set....
    Of the 67 selections (and, nine of which have no drums credited):
    (1) Karen Carpenter is credited approximately 50% of the selections !
    (2) Hal Blaine, next (25 %...primarily the pre-1975 Hits),
    (3) Ron Tutt,
    Followed by: Cubby O'Brien, Larrie London, Ed Greene, Liberty and John.

    Thus, providing an interesting set to compare Karen's drumming skills
    with the others.....
  15. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    As I (re)listen to Disc One,
    I am struck by two things:
    Karen's superb drumming,
    Richard's creative keyboard work....
    As time went by in their career....it all became so commercial !
    As, I suppose had to happen to remain contracted by a recording company.
    I really believe chasing that 'next big hit' became so all-consuming
    that sight was lost of creativity versus commerciality.
    From The Top
    remains one of my very favorite collections.
  16. Chris May

    Chris May Resident 'Carpenterologist' Moderator Thread Starter

    Great observation @GaryAlan! And I think for them it became about good business sense mixed with ego. If you consider the reality that every artist has their hey day, married with the fact that the thought crossed their minds at the time that Close To You may be their only success, only to then have another chart topper with Begun, it becomes an obsession. "Now we have a second hit, let's go for a third, fourth...and so on".

    Also consider the money aspects. John Bettis said it so well back in the '96 Yesterday Once More documentary: "Imagine it's like throwing $100 dollar bills in front of an electric fan and everyone is running around the room trying to grab them as fast as they can. And you're told that in (6) months these dollar bills are gonna stop if you don't have another hit...etc." One can see the cycle of frenzy this sets up.
    song4u, Harry and Don Malcolm like this.
  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Oh, by the way, I do have a question regarding this information (lifted from the Resource):
    "When record stores complained that these did not fit into their displays,
    A&M re-released the set in a long-book format.

    I recall those days...the record-store bins...and, my memory of the situation is that the
    12"X12" Format was quite in line with other box-sets being released in that year, 1991.
    I have distinct memory of thumbing through the display-rack of "Box Sets", and the
    only issue which struck me was how--mysteriously--this box set was "hidden" behind other artists.
    I purchased the only set available at the time in a record store in a Mall in Ocala, Florida. (Thrilled, of course.)
    And, I do believe the price was around $65....a princely sum for me at the time.

    Thus, my issue is that the re-issue was minimized more for production-cost savings than
    complaints from dealers. Not saying that did not arise, but, I believe the re-issue was ultimately
    offered at a cheaper retail price due to production-cost savings.
    In other words, I believe A&M mis-estimated what the cost of production would be for the
    12"X12" Format. The cd-production cost would be the same, but the savings between the big set
    (cardboard box,foam padding,big booklet) and the smaller-box would be substantial....or, so I would think.

    Any input on my theory ?
  18. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Well-Known Member

    I was just double checking a few websites for places that offer vinyl pressing and CD replication, vinyl records are actually cheaper to press than CD's --- for less than 1000 copies you are looking at about $1.12 (USD) for vinyl vs. $1.25 for CD per copy, less when you get up over the 1000 mark (by comparison audio cassettes cost about $1 for every copy).
  19. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    This remark applies to:
    The Essential Collection
    (Am I losing my eyesight, as I did not find an Official Review thread for that set)....
    I see where Karen is drumming on one of the 1980 Medleys
    (the one which begins with Sing---Cubby O'Brien drums on the other, Karen/Ella Medley).
    In any event, I do so love that Sing- Medley. (I do have a Fan Club 8X10 of Karen on drums,here).
    Which leads to me to the remark that Karen had made--in 1979?-- to Phil Ramone
    that she was finished with drumming, thus, I wonder,
    did she simply change her mind--in 1980-- in this respect ?
    A change of heart ?
    She does an outstanding job on the 1980 Medley
    (especially, listen to the parts after Knowing When to Leave
    and before/during Make It Easy On Yourself...)....
  20. newvillefan

    newvillefan I Know My First Name Is Stephen

    Good question - she also drummed on other MMM TV special tracks and appeared performing drums on the show too, so she can't have completely divorced herself from playing by 1980.

    I wonder if she'd lived and gone on into her forties, whether she'd still be drumming on the occasional record or concert? I just can't imagine a forty-something Karen playing drums somehow...
  21. Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts are in their seventies and are still rocking their drum kits, so if Karen were alive and well today, she probably could and would too. :)
    Jeff and Don Malcolm like this.
  22. Brian

    Brian Well-Known Member

    'From the Top' earns itself five stars for the previously unreleased tracks, alone. I especially like Karen's performances on many of the pre-A&M recordings, such as 'Goodnight' and 'The Parting Of Our Ways'. Later performances, such as 'Get Together', are also great.

    Then there are some wonderful previously unheard vocals from around 1975 to 1977, on tracks such as 'Good Friends Are for Keeps' and the Suntory Pop ads.

    At the time of release of 'From the Top', I was excited about the chance to hear Karen singing 'Still Crazy After All These Years'. I like the arrangement and background vocals on that, but find her lead vocals disappointing, which, for me, is true of most of her solo stuff, including 'My Body Keeps Changing My Mind'.

    'From the Top' was released in pre-Internet days. I ordered my copy from a US seller who had advertised in a music magazine. I was living in the far-north of South Australia at the time. When the CD set arrived, I was alarmed to find that the postie had left it sitting on my front gate post all day while I was at work, where anyone could have stolen it, in full sun, on a 46 degree day. (That's about 115 degrees Fahrenheit). However, I'm glad to say that the CDs survived and still play to this day. :)
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  23. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Obtained (finally)
    a copy (cheap !)
    of the later-slimmed-down- packaging
    From The Top.
    Smart move on A&M's part. I'm pleasantly surprised that
    the inside booklet , and the re-packaging, is done as well as it is.
    On another note, for whatever reason,
    From This Moment On
    sounded incredibly bright and fresh, here.
    I do not recall enjoying the song as much as I did on this Set.
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  24. Harry

    Harry Charter A&M Corner Member Moderator

    It's the LIVE AT THE PALLADIUM version.
    CraigGA likes this.
  25. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Yes, regards:
    From The Top and Live At The Palladium:
    I did a direct comparison of both of the song
    From This Moment On.
    I do remain unconvinced that these two recordings are exactly the same.
    That is, From The Top
    sounds far and away superior.

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