• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are now available. The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy can be ordered here. A big thanks to the authors and Richard Carpenter for their tremendous effort in compiling this book! Also, the new solo piano album Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook is available for ordering here.

📣 News Carpenters: The Musical Legacy (Discussion)

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
A recent review:

Jan 9,2021
"Quinn on Books: One-Sided Story"
Excerpt:
"If you’re unfamiliar with the Carpenters, this book is not the place to start. "

Complete review here:
 

Another Son

Well-Known Member
A recent review:

Jan 9,2021
"Quinn on Books: One-Sided Story"
Excerpt:
"If you’re unfamiliar with the Carpenters, this book is not the place to start. "

Complete review here:
I don’t agree with this review. I didn’t get the sense that Richard tried to grandstand right throughout the book, or at all. I think this guy had a negative view of Richard before he even opened the book and just wanted to express that point of view in his review, no matter the contents of the book.
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
A recent review:

Jan 9,2021
"Quinn on Books: One-Sided Story"
Excerpt:
"If you’re unfamiliar with the Carpenters, this book is not the place to start. "

...
No, I don't think it's a really good place to start - it's more than obvious that the perfect place to start is by listening to their music, say the "Singles: 1969 to 1973" album (or a homemade album of their very best songs - not necessarily all hits - put together by a superfan with impeccable taste, like, ahem, me)...then listen your way through all of their other albums - Carpenters is all about the music & the rest is very minor trivia...the book is a final and brilliant summation.

Even Quinn has this to say:

He [Richard] makes a case for the albums, the choices he made in putting them together, but it’s the singles that tell the story of their career, and they still hold up. They are of their time, but with that magical timeless quality that all the greats share.

Many of Quinn's complaints about Richard's "personality quirks" are off the mark - most of these are simple statements of fact by Richard.

What I do emphatically agree with in this review is this statement:

That voice is sadly missing here. While photos and memories of Karen are dotted throughout, she gets a scant two-page eulogy—an overcorrection of “the anorexia book”...

Here's what I said in a "Spoiler" a couple of pages back:

The chapter on Karen Carpenter is far too short - and very disappointing.

Since this is a book geared predominately toward a detailed discussion of the Carpenters' musical legacy this chapter should have dwelt at length and in depth on her development as a world class singer and as a highly accomplished drummer, i.e., the history of all of the factors and influences that led to the ultimate creation of the woman many consider to have musical talent that was "mind boggling" and "off the charts"...

The brief, cursory summary of her battle with anorexia should have been relegated to another appendix at the back of the book, and then only for the sake of newbies unfamiliar with this inexplicable tragedy.


Finally, in discussing Karen's voice, Quinn says this:

...haunted by Karen’s low, plaintive voice, always sounding sad, but hopeful. These feelings are mirrored in the listener: You feel like she understands what you’re going through, and no matter how bad you might be feeling, there’s also a chance that you’ll feel better. It’s a voice like eyes: It makes you feel seen.

While I disagree totally that her voice was "plaintive and always sounding sad" the rest of his description is dead on, especially that insightful part about "a voice like eyes: it makes you feel seen." This is the heart of why so many people say they feel like Karen was singing just to them and for them...
 
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GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
"always sounding sad."

Speaking for myself, I never thought that.
Karen did not "always" sound sad.
Again, that reads her biography backwards, as if every note she sang was a reflection of
the events which transpired on February 4, 1983.
 

jcolo1956

Well-Known Member
Agreed, John. And all are convinced here that someone “had it against them” at Billboard at the time, as there’s no excuse as to why the number 2s never made it to number 1.
They could have had 8 count that EIGHT number #1's in the Carpenters Career up to Karen's passing instead of the 3 .... had the 5 #2's been rightfully .... Honestly should have been .... #1's in my humble opinion!
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
They could have had 8 count that EIGHT number #1's in the Carpenters Career up to Karen's passing instead of the 3 .... had the 5 #2's been rightfully .... Honestly should have been .... #1's in my humble opinion!
They had a few other #1's around the world, so they did have more than 8 #1's. I was just reading Carpenters All The Top 40 Hits by Craig Halstead (Createspace, 2021 4th Edition), and he was looking at charts from 19 countries including the US, Canada (before 2000---he couldn't find any charts since RPM ceased in 1999 except the Billboard), Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia). He occasionally mentions other countries, like Malaysia where, I think it was "I Need To Be In Love" hit at least #2, but between it hitting #2 and it's final week at #8, there are 6 weeks of charts missing, so it might've even been a #1 in those 6 weeks.
 

Jarred

Well-Known Member
"always sounding sad."

Speaking for myself, I never thought that.
Karen did not "always" sound sad.
Again, that reads her biography backwards, as if every note she sang was a reflection of
the events which transpired on February 4, 1983.
I think a majority of people well before the day of her death would say that there was always a pervasive, profound sadness coming through in her vocal chords. To different degrees based on the songs subject matter but even in “Sing” it’s clearly heard. There’s no joy in that vocal to my ears which is why that recording is so fascinating.

Hell, even Richard once was quoted as saying this:

Karen has impeccable phrasing, her voice had a lot of warmth, but always with that touch of melancholy, which singled her out from most other singers of her generation.”

In other words it’s not some exaggeration based off hindsight knowledge of her tragic life and death that there was a lonely, mournful sound she expressed with no effort.
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
I think a majority of people well before the day of her death would say that there was always a pervasive, profound sadness coming through in her vocal chords. To different degrees based on the songs subject matter but even in “Sing” it’s clearly heard. There’s no joy in that vocal to my ears which is why that recording is so fascinating.

Hell, even Richard once was quoted as saying this:

Karen has impeccable phrasing, her voice had a lot of warmth, but always with that touch of melancholy, which singled her out from most other singers of her generation.”

In other words it’s not some exaggeration based off hindsight knowledge of her tragic life and death that there was a lonely, mournful sound she expressed with no effort.
"A lonely, mournful sound she expressed with no effort" and "always with a touch of melancholy"...

Always? I disagree. When the lyrics -the story - of the song called for it, yes. But, not otherwise, and not always, and not naturally. And not without effort. The effort to infuse the vocal with the emotion demanded took a degree of effort, but that effort was just so easy for her.

And where is the sadness or melancholy in "We've Only Just Begun" or "For All We Know" or "You're the One" or "Touch Me While We're Dancing" or "One More Time" or any number of other warm, positive, upbeat songs?

And let's face it - quoting Richard seems to carry less and less authoritative weight after some of the highly questionable and debatable things he had to say in "Legacy" about Karen's drumming abilities or the songs that should or shouldn't have been on some of the albums. I'm sure that even to this day he thinks that double tracking her voice on her lead vocals was a wonderful sonic experience - a real stoke of genius...
 

GaryAlan

Well-Known Member
I felt Tom Nolan got it right in July 1974, Rolling Stones cover- story:
"...chilling perfection with much warmth; youth with wisdom..."
Paul McCartney: "melodic, tuneful and distinctive."

Matt Wallace (co-producer If I Were A Carpenter 1994 tribute album):
"I love that most of the bands shifted towards the brooding, melancholy side of what The Carpenters did.
Richard and Karen were more than just the bright, shiny, effervescent side of what they are sometimes most remembered for
."
Source:

As late as February 2013, you could even read this:
"...her legacy as one-half of the singing duo The Carpenters is a source of some disagreement."
Source:
 

Chris May

Resident ‘Carpenterologist’
Staff member
Moderator
Thread Starter
A recent review:

Jan 9,2021
"Quinn on Books: One-Sided Story"
Excerpt:
"If you’re unfamiliar with the Carpenters, this book is not the place to start. "

Complete review here:
What’s interesting—we literally gathered hours and HOURS worth of audiotapes, and at least a couple thousand images (photos, hi res scans of various artifacts etc). So, one can imagine how much sifting we had to do in order to get it down to the rather extensive volume that it is. Fair to say there was plenty more that was not included than included, and currently all sitting in my archive.

To quote John Lydgate: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” 😀
 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
There is no real disagreement about Karen's legacy as one half of the Carpenters - the only question is how much more than half she was...

As a controversy or debatable point of discussion this is as invalid and assinine as the Rolling Stones's poll or survey naming her the 94th top or best female singer in the history of Rock - this is roughly equivalent to naming Secretariat the 94th best race horse in history - if the pathetic little spiteful, mindless morons
behind that article just couldn't bring themselves to place her at No. 1 where she belonged, which would have been the rational and rightful thing to do, then they should have left her completely off the list, since she was, in effect, in a category of her own...
 

Chris May

Resident ‘Carpenterologist’
Staff member
Moderator
Thread Starter
There is no real disagreement about Karen's legacy as one half of the Carpenters - the only question is how much more than half she was...

As a controversy or debatable point of discussion this is as invalid and assinine as the Rolling Stones's poll or survey naming her the 94th top or best female singer in the history of Rock - this is roughly equivalent to naming Secretariat the 94th best race horse in history - if the pathetic little spiteful, mindless morons
behind that article just couldn't bring themselves to place her at No. 1 where she belonged, which would have been the rational and rightful thing to do, then they should have left her completely off the list, since she was, in effect, in a category of her own...
Completely agree, @JohnFB! It just goes to show you that many of these critics are working with the same two ears that many of the various record labels' so-called "A&R" men and women work with.

Just ridiculous.
 

Chris May

Resident ‘Carpenterologist’
Staff member
Moderator
Thread Starter
I resonate strongly with a remark Mike Lennox made:
"...I think the last thing in the world that she (Karen) would have wanted was for her death to define her life.”

Source:
AMEN to that! I wish that quote was around much sooner and could have been used as a caveat here at the Forum!
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Rather than take away from posts on THE MUSICAL LEGACY book, I've moved all of the "Sadness, Melancholy" to its own thread:

 

JohnFB

I was born to belong to the lines of a song...
My "Spoiler Posts" in this thread unmasked, for those who might have missed them:

Post #398
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Thumbing through initially and came across the last heart warming line of Tom Nolan's "Reflections..." - so very true & no maybes about it...

Post #406
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There are two statements made by Richard under the heading "Richard's Take" on pg.41 (about the "Offering" album) that I strongly disagree with...one involves the songs he thought should not have been included on the album, and the other has to do with who he thought should have been the album's drummer...will elaborate later...

Post #451
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On page 190 in speaking of Anne Murray's 1979 chart success with the beautiful "I Just Fall in Love Again" the authors state: "The divine Murray, as always, sings her heart out on that record, but the sparse production makes it sound like a demo compared with the Carpenter's version." And once again it's mentioned how Richard felt his arrangement was too long for radio and that he didn't know how to (or didn't want to) trim it so that it could be released as a single (thus clearing the way for Murray).

Now, there are several of us here (at least) who have always insisted that Richard's arrangement was an over-production (perhaps ideal for the album version) and that the record as released as a single would have been much better in a "sparser" setting, thus just naturally shortening up it's length, and much more importantly letting Karen's warm and romantic vocal shine through and dominate. As it stands her vocal seems to be buried under too many layers of orchestration, and even the technical treatment that Richard applied to her vocals on the RPO album didn't appear to help that much. Murray's version doesn't sound like a "demo" at all - it sounds exactly as it should - you can hear her every beautiful vocal nuance, and why she was "divine". Karen's would have been even more so.

Post #466
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This has been discussed elsewhere but to reiterate, the pic of Karen and Richard on page 94 is one of their best ever combined portraits - used on the inner sleeve of the "A Song for You" album it should have been on the cover (of that album, or any other album).

Post #468
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Some of the most significant statements made in the book are under the discussion about the "A Song for You" album on page 95 - here the authors write "in fact, Richard says the Carpenters didn't even need to tour by this point for promotion, as the records were already selling."

They also state: "Conversely, the Carpenter's studio recordings were far better investments."

And "They, not concerts, were more important in the big picture, as they laid the foundation for the Carpenters' long-term career and their musical legacy."

Much has been (and will continue to be) said about these considerations - as we know they were critical at the time, but are now after the fact and won't make a difference...but it's still fascinating to speculate on "if only..." or "what might have been..." And maybe we will later...

Post #471
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One page 126 in the interview with Herb Alpert he is quoted there as saying: "When I asked her [Karen] 'What do you really love to do?' She'd say - I'm not joking - 'I love to play drums!' She couldn't accept the fact that she was a world-class singer."

Well, Herb certainly knew Karen a tad better than I did, but I'm not so sure she didn't or couldn't accept that - she had to have known and accepted it and been quietly but firmly proud of it, and rightfully so - think of all of her recordings she had to listen to in the studio, and all the many female singers she had heard and compared herself to while growing up, and all the raving compliments from countless fans worldwide - she knew and cherished that distinction - maybe what Herb himself couldn't accept was the fact that in spite of her world-class vocal ability & performances she still loved her drumming a little more, which was always so very obvious when you saw her looks of near ecstacy in videos where she was doing some extended drumming...

Post #481
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In the chapter on the "Horizon" album the authors state: "Both lyrically and musically "I Won't Last a Day" was never a favorite of Richard's. Furthermore, this was yet another "A Song for You" selection on which Karen was vocally challenged, thanks to a node on her larynx. So, between troubles with the tune and it's performance the Carpenters never considered it single worthy."

But on outside urging they released it as a single, after having Tony Peluso add some melodious guitar fills to the existing 2 year old recording. However,, Richard and Karen were "never quite satisfied" with the recording, which went to No. 11 on the Hot 100 and No.1 on the Easy Listening charts.

However, Richard never made any changes to the structure or lyrics of the song as originally recorded - and this might have been a cause of some of it's problems and the dissatisfaction.

In Randy Schmidt's "Little Girl Blue" there's this passage about the song on page 90: "Roger Nicols and Paul Williams considered "I Won't Last a Day Without You" to be a complete song with just two verses and a chorus, just as they submitted it to the Carpenters on a demo in 1971.They struggled to honor Karen's last minute request for an additional bridge and third verse. 'We finally worked it out and went in and did the demo the day before they recorded it. They were screaming at us to get it to them and were upset with us because they were right down to the wire in the studio,' Nichols recalls. 'What bothered me was thati heard Richard never listened to the demo. He just looked at the sheet music and started changing it. It was kind of a sore point with me because he changed the melody in the bridge and the chord structure.'

Other artists subsequently recorded the song as originally written.

Nichols continues: 'I always felt that if the Carpenters had cut a better bridge it would have been a bigger song for them'.

How much of what Nichols relates here is accurate is debatable, but it is not addressed in the current book at all.

Nor is the question of why Karen was recording or singing in concert with nodes on her larynx is never explained or justified, especially when the usual therapy for this condition is complete rest of the vocal cords. This also might explain why Karen's lead vocal on the choruses of this recording are double-tracked, being an attempt to hide or disguise the vocal problem on these more demanding sections of the song - about the only conceivable excuse for doing so.


Post #492
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While I'm as big a fan as anyone of Karen singing in her deeply resonant lower range I'm not sure she needed to be in any key other than what she used on "Don't Cry..." - she doesn't sound strained at all, especially since she is well restrained on this interpretation, not trying as others have done to oversing it or get melodramatic - the problem with the recording in MHO is the arrangement calling for a veritable squadron of instrumental and vocal extras - this rendition would have been perfect with just a simple but elegant piano accompaniment from Richard...

As far as "An Old Fashioned Christmas" I agree fully with your choice of other songs to be gleaned from it - I was as surprised as you at what he said and have no idea of what he was thinking or why he would eliminate these great vocal performances...

He said something similar earlier in the book in the chapter on "Offering" when he included (if my memory serves) "Invocation", "Benediction", "Your Wonderful Parade" and "Ticket to Ride" as the only songs he would retain if he had to do the album over, tossing out "Someday", "All of My Life", "Don't Be Afraid" and even the underrated "Clancy..." for some strange reason(s)...

Post #498
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The chapter on Karen Carpenter is far too short - and very disappointing.

Since this is a book geared predominately toward a detailed discussion of the Carpenters' musical legacy this chapter should have dwelt at length and in depth on her development as a world class singer and as a highly accomplished drummer, i.e., the history of all of the factors and influences that led to the ultimate creation of the woman many consider to have musical talent that was "mind boggling" and "off the charts"...

The brief, cursory summary of her battle with anorexia should have been relegated to another appendix at the back of the book, and then only for the sake of newbies unfamiliar with this inexplicable tragedy.


Post #512
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Doing the basic math on the peak position and the weeks on the Hot 100 and the Easy Listening/Adult Contempory Billboard charts for all of the Singles listed in the book (with the exception of Merry Christmas, Darling which has had too many releases to reasonably count) these stats were ascertained:

1. Singles listed on Hot 100 = 29 (from Ticket to Ride to Make Believe It's Your First Time)

2. Singles listed on EL/AC = 30 (from Ticket to Ride to If I Had You)

3. Average peak position on Hot 100 (all 29 Singles) = 27 (rounded)

4. Average peak position on Hot 100 (first 16 Singles released) = 11 (2 Singles: Ticket to Ride @54 and Bless the Beasts & Children @67) raised this average considerably - without them the average would have been 4)

5. The average peak position on EL/AC (all 30 Singles) = 6

6. Average peak position on EL/AC (first 16 Single releases) = 3

7 Average number of weeks on Hot 100 (all 29 Singles) = 11

8. Average number of weeks on EL/AC (all 30 Singles) = 13

9. Singles reaching No. 1 on Hot 100 = 3

10. Singles reaching No.1 on EL/AC = 15 (incl. 6 in a row from I Won't Last a Day Without You to I Need to Be in Love)

11. Singles reaching No. 2 on Hot 100 = 5

12. Singles reaching No. 2 on EL/AC = 3

13. Single reaching No. 1 on both Hot 100 & EL/AC = 1 (Please Mr. Postman)


From the above a very strong case could be (and probably has been) made for the importance of the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart as the true indicator of the appeal and success of the Carpenters and the major reason for their immense record sales over the decades - and the chart they should have concentrated on during the recording/touring days...

Post #513
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As a sort of addendum to my post above concerning the Billboard charts, a few additional thoughts:

1. It's really difficult to believe, or accept, the fact that only one Single reached No.1 on both the Hot 100 & EL/AC charts, and that that one was Please Mr. Postman, when far better songs (musically speaking) such as We've Only Just Begun, Rainy Days and Mondays, Superstar and Yesterday Once More didn't (but did actually reach No.1 on the EL/AC chart) - and further, that the songs that kept them out of the No.1 position on the Hot 100 chart were not in their same class musically...all of which speaks volumes about the unreliability of that Hot 100 chart, and the need to have placed far less emphasis on it...

2. The EL/AC chart seems to have been much more reliable and reflective of the broad demographic that was buying Carpenter records over the years - the fact that 18 Singles reached either No.1 or No.2 (15 +3 =18 & 18 of 30 = 60%) is astounding - and these numbers probably would have been higher if other really good album cuts such as A Song For You, One More Time, You're the One, Where Do I Go From Here, Leave Yesterday Behind, A Place to Hide Away, One Love, If We Try, Desperado and others had been released as Singles...

One wonders how their career would have progressed or unfolded if they had stopped touring excessively , stayed in the studio most of the time making great records, and had either ignored the charts, or concentrated on the one that most closely reflected reality, the EL/AC chart..another "What if" that boggles the mind.

Post #521
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In rereading the book in Chapter 2 about the "Offering" album I'm struck again in the "Richard's Take" section in which he states that "Certainly other than 'Invocation', 'Benediction', 'Your Wonderful Parade' and 'Ticket [to Ride]' nothing else should be on the album".

What was he thinking? I still disagree emphatically with this. "Invocation" and "Benediction" are interesting, but not real songs at all, just short little exercises in multi-track harmony, and "Your Wonderful Parade" is just simple sophomoric social commentary without much musical value at all, and wouldn't have been all that exciting even if Karen had sung it.

What about "Don't Be Afraid", which could easily have been the first single, or "All of My Life", which could have been the second...

What about the beautiful "art song" "Someday" or Neil Young's "Clancy...", which is far superior musically and lyrically to "Parade...".

And then there's the sidebar on the chart climb of "Ticket...", which reached No.54 on the Hot 100 and No.19 on the Easy Listening charts.
It's my opinion that this outstanding recording could have gone much higher on both charts if (1.) they had released it as the 2nd or 3rd single from the album, and (2.) if the single version (but not the album version) had been edited to eliminate all of the instrumental intro except the last few piano figures right before Karen starts to sing, i.e., deleted the 1st 30 seconds - this intro is beautifully crafted and absolutely belongs with the album version, but is far too serious or "classical" in feel for most consumers of the pop radio sound of the day. This would have created a killer single short enough for radio of the day and may have been all that was needed for a much bigger hit.
















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CarpentersToYou

Somehow you brought the gambler out in me...
As I read this and watch the video of the interview you guys did with Richard, I get the feeling that I am reading the liner notes of an amazing, new box set. Makes me thirsty for new project and it is so nice to hear Richard excited about new projects.
 

newkarenfan

Active Member
I read through some of the pages so I hope I can just tell off my opinions of the book here. I bought it before it went on reduced price (damn!) however I was extremely pleased with the price tag since its a masterfully constructed book as you all probably know :shh:
[SPOILER="however...my smallest gripe/want(?) is I wish there were a bit more detailed parts of touring and those effects, or if the timeline of a 'year in the life' had been extended to follow their whole career (through ~1982, maybe), like sure they stopped touring after a certain year, but a year in the life with some extra bits of "recording for (show) on this day" or personal life events or something for the following years. Though that would delve a bit into their personal lives, it would have been interesting. And more Karen interviews or excerpts of interviews would've been nice, to feel she had a little bit more presence in the book (and offset the pittance of a chapter she had) but yknow.

Oh! And more scans of magazine clippings/similar from the 70s would've been nice for us youngins. But thats all just stuff I would personally like to see to replace the things I didn't like.

At some points it really did seem like the authors were repeating things that were already common knowledge/known/published by other authors (I had read 'Carpenters an illustrated Discography' right before this) and hm, I wish the authors had taken a different approach so that it stood out. Though of the two book, I like the musical legacy a lot more. Meh, I dunno, there was a lot I didn't quite like about the book I haven't gone back to reread in a bit but there is still a lot to like on a page-by-page level."[/SPOILER]
 

moog

Well-Known Member
I skimmed it at first and read the interview with Herb Alpert where he says, "When I asked her [Karen] 'What do you really love to do?' She'd say - I'm not joking - 'I love to play drums!' She couldn't accept the fact that she was a world-class singer."

Aww, Herbie, that wasn't it. That interpretation made me kind of sad. In the words of a previous biography, "she knew she was good" as a singer, but that wasn't the question- it was "what to you really love to do?" And she answered "I love to play drums!" because she DID love it! (Let her play!)
 
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