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Revisited: A Fresh Look at Close to You

Discussion in 'A Song For You: The Carpenters Forum' started by Mark-T, Feb 4, 2017.

  1. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    As many of you know, I've reviewed Carpenters' albums on my blog as the duo has so impacted my life.
    Today- In honor of Karen's achievements, I've written a fresh review of their first smash album here. I'd love you to share your thoughts on the disc.
  2. theninjarabbit

    theninjarabbit Well-Known Member

    In light of your review, Mark, I'm going to take "Close To You" for a spin today. My favorite of their albums is actually the Tan Album -- it's the one I play end-to-end regularly -- but Close To You is certainly a splash. It's still fresh and exciting. Thanks for sharing.
    Tapdancer likes this.
  3. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for reading it. It's a really great disc, and its a great way to celebrate decades of achievement.
    theninjarabbit likes this.
  4. theninjarabbit

    theninjarabbit Well-Known Member

    And a great way to realize the power of music. Something about the Carpenters struck a chord in us all -- and it is thanks to them that I'm currently enjoying a renaissance, falling in love with late-60's pop and folk music. I always come back to the Carpenters, though; it's the voice of this heart and soul.
  5. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    "I always come back to the Carpenters, though; it's the voice of this heart and soul."

    I love this line- I certainly love all kinds of music, but you're right. Something about the work of K&R goes deeper than anyone else.
    theninjarabbit likes this.
  6. Don Malcolm

    Don Malcolm Well-Known Member

    Mark, your love of Close to You comes shining through even more clearly in the new essay. Thanks so much for this! Of course, speaking as someone who has seven of his "Top 20" songs residing on the record, I should quite rightfully recuse myself from any further commentary as I am likely to be unable to avoid "gilding the lily" here! Just a few points:

    --I think it is easy to underestimate just how much of a leap Richard made as arranger in this time frame. That is what continues to astound me as I listen to the album--it's as if all of his disparate musical influences came together and guided him unerringly in applying exactly the right elements for each song once he moved through "Help!" to "Close to You" to "We've Only Just Begun" and into the sessions for the subsequent tracks. As much as I enjoy Offering/Ticket to Ride, the leap forward here--especially as applied to the Spectrum tracks--is mind-blowing.

    --I love "Baby It's You," though it is just on the other side of my Top 20. (We could do that poll again, I suspect, and get significantly different answers from all of us! If it were not for that reality--and the likelihood that many of us would need to revise our Top 20 before we could even start to determine our "next top 20," I'd go for another poll in a heartbeat! And I know that two more songs from CTY would be in my next tier, which would at least be a little less lopsided than is the case at present!)

    My question here, though, is whether others share your intriguing thought about the song being a sure bet to be a smash follow up to "Only Just Begun." I have never come across this idea expressed elsewhere and I think it would make for a fascinating thread--one in which we could examine all relevant considerations. Perhaps we can follow up with that...

    --One of the great blessings of the "hurry-up" that ensued as a result of "Close To You" going #1 is that Richard had to reach back into the Spectrum material in order to fill out an LP. With more time, he may have chosen to leave several of those songs in the can. While at the time tracks like "Crescent Noon" and "Another Song" did not register with the public at large, today the "fresh, varied and iconic" (nice phrase, BTW!) impression that surrounds the LP is bolstered significantly by that necessity. Richard brought his evolving talents to this earlier material (and let's include "Mr. Guder" in this grouping) and elevated these songs to the level their ambition warranted.

    The result is an LP that should be ranked in rock/pop's Top 50 of all time, if only historians could get beyond their biases. Richard covers more ground here than just about anyone, while making the sound seamless--and Karen makes the leap to transcendent greatness with stellar performances that match him step-for-step.
    byline, GaryAlan and theninjarabbit like this.
  7. I have very many similar thoughts and feelings regarding CLOSE TO YOU, the album, with significantly fewer negatives. I would have a hard time writing such an essay without sounding like I absolutely adore every track, because I do. Each one is a unique piece of the Carpenters canon and none would ever be allowed to be missed or skipped in my book.

    That said, Mark, I have a correction for you. Toward the end, you state:
    "I Kept On Loving You" is, of course, a Roger Nichols/Paul Williams tune.
    byline likes this.
  8. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Mark, I greatly enjoyed your thoughtful, fresh, review of LP Close To You !
    Thanks for the enormity and effort you put in to that endeavor !
    Your review prodded me to a new listen, this morning.

    We are fully in sync on the songs Mr. Guder and Help !
    Although, I always thought the arrangement for
    We've Only Just Begun was subtly complicated ( still brilliant) !
    (I've always loved Baby It's You, Another Song and Crescent Noon.
    Amusingly, were it not for the LP version of Close To You, that song would never be on my Top 10 !).

    And, as with you, it was only after hearing this album that I heard the Offering/Ticket To Ride album.
    Which makes the LP Close To You all the more interesting !
    (That is, specifically contrasting/comparing those two LP's: especially Karen's vocals and drums !
    As for the Bettis/Carpenter partnership: it wasn't until Goodbye To Love that I became convinced
    of their songwriting abilities as partnership !).

    Also, of some slight relevance, I read this tidbit from the Carpenter Web Site:
    Richard Carpenter: " ...the first two tracks recorded being
    Love Is Surrender” and “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”.
    This was before “Close To You” was brought to our attention."
    Don Malcolm and John Tkacik like this.
  9. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Hi Guys, thanks for reading and responding! And for the kind words about the effort put into it. Someone wrote me and said, "I didn't know Richard Carpenter worked at Disneyland!" It reminded me again that new fans of their music come along all the time.

    Don- I am not certain what others would have thought about BIY as a follow up single to WOJB- but it's fun to speculate. It certainly sounds like a smash to my ears, but then again, so did All You Get From Love. I agree wholeheartedly that rock and roll historians have to put aside the bias in order to properly give Richard and Karen their due. The variety of textures on the album are mesmerizing when viewed as coming from a couple of very young adults!

    Harry- Thanks for the catch! I knew better, but I slipped up. Now corrected to reflect Nichols/Williams.

    GaryAlan- Thank you for the tidbits on information. Very interesting as I would have guessed LIS and INFILA would have come after Close to You. As far as Goodbye to Love- its a masterpiece from every angle! Still breathtaking after all these years.

    I'm already re-processing the Tan album. But I can tell you, it will be awhile before it shows up. I was pretty tired after finishing the review of CTY! :wink:
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  10. theninjarabbit

    theninjarabbit Well-Known Member

    I rediscovered the magic of the Close To You album this weekend, headphones and all. I only wish "Crescent Noon" would pull my attention -- it's one of the only songs that I can't seem to get into. "Someday" from Offering is another, and I love that album as well. :hide:

    Can't wait to read on the Tan Album. Your reviews are wonderful and insightful. :D
    Mark-T likes this.
  11. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    And, upon watching the 1972 Live in Australia performance of
    Baby It's You,
    slightly different than the Close To You LP version,
    I am all the more sold on this song !
    Watch it, see Karen's astute drumming and vocalization on the song,
    a sight to behold !
  12. John Tkacik

    John Tkacik Active Member

    Their cover of "Help" was another early recording for the album because the "unsweetened" versions of it along with "Love is Surrender" found their way onto the Your Navy Presents tapes in March. Since Richard said that they had to rush to complete the album once "(They Long to Be) Close To You" hit it big on the charts, I wonder if any of the songs were "leftover recordings" that did not make the final cut for "Offering"?
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  13. Don Malcolm

    Don Malcolm Well-Known Member

    A lot of data about CTY recording can be found in the Resource materials...here is a summary (first appearance of a song in the session listing below shown in bold type):

    3/24/70 session--Close To You, I Kept On Loving You
    --reasonable to conclude from anecdotal evidence that a version of "Help!" was in progress, as it has often been cited as an alternate choice for followup single to "Ticket to Ride"
    4/13/70 session--same as above plus Help!
    --which would seem to confirm that this was "hedge bets" situation, as if to make a final decision about which two songs would be on the 45
    --"CTY" released 5/20/70
    7/13/70 session--Baby It's You, Reason to Believe, We've Only Just Begun
    --right in the thick of "CTY"'s reign at the top the charts, these are the next three tunes taken into the studio
    7/17/70 session--We've Only Just Begun
    --musicians are Richard, Bob Messinger, Doug Strawn--intermediate step after basic tracks?
    7/20/70 session--Love Is Surrender, I'll Never Fall in Love Again, We've Only Just Begun, Baby It's You
    --maybe a strings session? (24 musicians listed)
    7/28/70 session--Maybe It's You, Crescent Noon, Mr. Guder, We've Only Just Begun, Reason to Believe, Another Song
    --Almost certainly there are a number of interim sessions that are not represented in the log sheets Chris May summarized on the Close to You LP page (thanks so much for that, Chris!!)...but it appears that the more complicated arrangements and the Spectrum material fell into place toward the end of the push to ready a full LP. This date also was big: 27 individuals in attendance.
    8/28/70--Close To You LP released
    --Yes, that is a LOT of work to get nine songs pulled together in what looks like (at most) six weeks. This doesn't specify when Karen did vocals, which must have been very shortly thereafter...followed by mixing, mastering, those eyebrow-raising photo sessions, packaging design, pressing, etc.

    Gary--wishing to clarify on your expressed skepticism of the early Carpenter/Bettis work...they had a much greater range during Spectrum days, but the ambition of these early works doesn't seem to be the issue, as you affirm great affection for "Crescent Noon" and "Another Song." True, they had no hits till "Goodbye to Love," but much of their initial partnership was not about that--it was about stretching their songwriting skills, which served them in good stead when they reconnected after a three-year hiatus.

    We don't have one poll that gets directly at the forum's overall assessment of Carpenter/Bettis material, since Chris's polls were broken up into singles and album cuts...but the album cut poll and the Top 20 poll show that folks tend to favor the earlier C/B album cuts over the later C/B album cuts by a sizable margin. There are three hits that form the basis of their popular reputation--"Goodbye to Love," "Yesterday Once More," "Only Yesterday," with "Top of the World" maybe being a "one-off" that is less representative of "Carpenters' music" than the others.
    Jamesj75 and GaryAlan like this.
  14. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    ^^Great analysis, Don !

    I can only add--in reference to the Carpenter/Bettis songwriting partnership--
    Specifically, for the
    Close To You LP:
    Crescent Noon,
    Another Song,
    Maybe It's You

    Mr. Guder

    were done while Carpenter and Bettis were in College (Liner to 40th Set)
    Of those four, I really like the first three and really dislike the last one !

    1967's All I Can Do (at 1:50 time)
    was originally written as an instrumental, then John Bettis added lyrics (presumably later),
    (From The Top Liner Notes) thus, I neglected that tune in my opinionated piece.
    Mr.Guder (horrid !)
    One Love (beginning life as "Candy").
    (Time: 1:20,but, released 1971). I do not, and never have, cared for this song ! Again, I am in the minority.
    Your Wonderful Parade (at 2:22 in length), which I have really never much cared for.....I know I'm in the minority !
    (Treasures Liner Notes specifically states written in 1967).
    1968 :
    Crystal Lullaby (but, released 1972--see Treasures Liner Notes).....okay, I do love this one......
    Eve, the Treasures Liner Notes states that Richard started the Lyrics, then "called John" to finish the lyrical content.
    Maybe It's You (Time 3:06) and released in 1970.
    , at One Minute in length, which I like, but I do not hold it as an excellent example of their partnership.
    Eve (at 2:51 length), a song I like, but still not quite great !

    Date written?
    Druscilla Penny (
    Time: 2:18, still horrid! IMHO)

    Then, finally....two that I love !
    Written Late 1971:
    Goodbye To Love
    Top of The World
    (And, even here, Top of The World does not yet reach its perfection, as it does with the 1973 version !).
    And, too, I really think that the song was originally intended/written as a country song,
    and then altered later to get on the "pop" money-making bandwagon.
    Even so, I do enjoy both incarnations.

    I have, no doubt, forgotten something.
    But, of these songs--1967 to 1972--
    only four,
    Another Song, Crystal Lullaby, Goodbye to Love and Top of the World
    stand out for me as excellent Carpenter/Bettis Compositions.
    And, at that, Top of the World is "iffy" ! (Though, I love the song !).

    Interesting material, to be sure !
    Jamesj75 and Don Malcolm like this.
  15. Don Malcolm

    Don Malcolm Well-Known Member

    Thanks for putting all of that early collaboration into a very coherent perspective, Gary--great work!

    For me, the two others from CTY you praised at the top of your post--

    Crescent Noon, Maybe It's You

    --should also go on that "excellent" list. These two are, as you'd expect, on my personal Top 20.

    The third additional Carpenter/Bettis tune in my personal Top 20 would be "All I Can Do," which is a special case in several ways (how it became a collaboration, as you note, and for its representation of a jazzy side of the C's that also features Karen singing...that is unique in their catalogue. It's on my list for that, and not as a "Carpenter-Bettis collaboration," however.

    Your approach here took me back to the Top 20 "DB" to calculate something I'd neglected to do previously--which is to see how many "Carpenter-Bettis" songs are in the voters' personal Top 20 lists. The average turns out to be one of those hopeless fractions--4.63--but we can get a more useful percentage from that...about 23% of songs in the overall Top 20 are signed "Carpenter/Bettis."

    For the record, you have four of these in your top 20:

    Another Song, Goodbye to Love, Top of the World, Only Yesterday

    I have seven C/B songs in my Top 20 (the same number as Ninja, though our specific songs are not identical):

    Another Song, Crescent Noon, Maybe It's You, Only Yesterday, Yesterday Once More, Goodbye to Love, All I Can Do

    So thanks much, we are learning and gleaning more from the data and from the ongoing discussion. Again, thanks to Mark for getting us back into these matters!
    Jamesj75 likes this.
  16. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I find all this discussion fascinating... and great fun! :)
  17. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Don !
    And, thanks to all who challenge me to re-assess long-forgotten/long-neglected aspects of Carpenters' recorded output !

    Don, I might add a bit to my assessment of
    Maybe It's You.....
    It really is anemic (IMHO) in its arrangement.
    For my tastes, in any event, it lacks "beef" in the arrangement:
    Almost non-existent drums....except the barely perceptible "timing" beat throughout the song (and, it is Hal Blaine on drums !).

    Now, I hit a snag.....
    The Treasures CD remix replaces the acoustic piano with a "DX-7," and I sort of like it a bit more...barely a bit.
    Needless to say, it is a nice cut, but, I hesitate to elevate its status !
    Oh, perhaps one more listen.....to the original LP......
  18. Carpe diem

    Carpe diem Well-Known Member

    Thanks Mark, read your blog about the album. Good read! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    The more I hear the album the more I like it (like Passage, it grows on me). The two hit singles that the album was built around are not the tracks that I usually go to. I go for the "filler" material which IMHO is classic. I believe the album really showcases them as the competent musicians they were. Crescent Noon is especially striking to me and that middle part where they come in with that harmony "somewhere in a fairy tale forest..." is one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard. Love Is Surrender; love Karen's vocals and the fast pace. Reason To Believe; good enough to have been a hit single (Take that, Rod Stewart!). Baby It's You; Karen belting out NEVER! is worth the price of admission. Maybe It's You; one of my all time favorite Karen performances. Perhaps the weakest moment on the album; I Kept On Loving You but not really too bad for that era.
    Don Malcolm and Mary Beth like this.
  19. Mark-T

    Mark-T Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Thank you for reading! Like all of us here, the Carpenters and their music has a big impact on our lives. The music they created still speaks to us. Your insights mirror my own in so many ways!
    Mary Beth likes this.
  20. What is it you don't like about it?
  21. GaryAlan

    GaryAlan Well-Known Member

    ^^Mary Beth, I believe I have a love/hate relationship with the song, Mr. Guder.
    It seems so sophomoric (lyrically) compared to much of the Close To You album.
    And, yet, I do discern sparks of ingenuity: the harmonies, especially.
    Thus, my use of the term 'horrid,' might be over-doing it, but it is a song I routinely skip.
    It has no business appearing on the Gold compilation, but, there it is !
    I feel it has been over-sold as a money-maker for the composer !
    Carpe diem likes this.
  22. I let the lyrics slide a bit more because of the unusual subject matter (not that I have a real issue with them) and that it's a rather interesting topic and title.

    I love how the tempo and tone is upbeat and breezy, but the lyrics and ending are very dark and melancholy. Mr. Guder represents their intro to a patriarchal social structure who they will continue to be dictated by. Guder wants them to stay the same, play a game and have no distinguishing characteristics of their own - to become a generic follower. They want to rebel (they publicly make fun of him with the song/title) but know that they are the only ones who will ultimately suffering the consequences. They almost can't muster up the inner strength to fight back (not against just Guder but future "Guder's") and somehow know that despite their youth there going to be stuck in a cycle until they break it. And that really never happened. The song is like a plea, at first disguised as fun and accommodating, but they soon, at the end, real what they really wish to say through the tone and structure of the arrangement. The operatic overdubbing at the end followed by the flute, etc drives home that resigned melancholy like nothing else.
    Don Malcolm likes this.
  23. CraigGA

    CraigGA Well-Known Member

    Before there were any other favorites, there was this album and it holds lots of memories that surface upon relistening. This is one album where I like the originals better then the optional remixes. Now, I like the window each remix gives, but I still like the originals better for the edits seems to cover up the magic and focus is brought out on the fix and the whole song feeling is lost. I like some of the other remixes on later albums, but for this one, I like it in its original form, with one exception. I like We've Only Just Begun on the Singles 1969-1973 and on Icons better, but just buy a little - the fidelity is more pleasing and stacked vocal overdubs are as effective in each version/remix.
  24. Boy! I bet when Richard wrote this song that he could've never imagined it would ever be analyzed so deeply and intently many years later! Yikes! :shock:
    Carpe diem and Mary Beth like this.
  25. Well, thank you! I love to analyze/dissect and have a good ability for it, especially when it comes to subjects I'm passionate about. I mean, I'm just breaking it down, Richard wrote it. I don't know if he was conveying what was happening then or predicted what was to come, but the song's structure and tone tell a story with an open end. Enduring proof that Carpenters deserve a serious critical evaluation in terms of lyric and music.

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