• Two exciting new Carpenters releases are in the pipeline! The new book Carpenters: The Musical Legacy will be available on November 16, 2021 and 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 being released January 14, 2022, and is available for ordering here.

Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook

NowhereMan

Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
Amazon product
"Richard Carpenter is the icon, musician, record producer, songwriter, & music arranger from the astronomically successful The Carpenters, a group who have sold more than 90M albums worldwide. On Richard Carpenter's Piano Songbook, Richard reimagines The Carpenters' biggest hits - & some choice favorites that inspired them - on solo piano. The album includes some of the most beloved melodies of all time - `Top of the World' & `We've Only Just Begun' - presented in a gloriously relaxing new way."

The description sounds amazing. My only quibble is that the number they reference of albums sold is much lower than I remember hearing. But that aside, I'm excited to hear this.
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
So this sounds like Richard’s 3rd solo album (definitely not his long-awaited Christmas album). But it’s interesting that it’ll be on the Decca label, which is another Universal label (unless there’s a second, independent label called Decca).
 

Portlander

Well-Known Member
Clever artwork! Looks like there are clues to some of the songs included such as the umbrella for "Rainy Days and Mondays", the globe for "Top of the World", the birds for "Close To You" the radio with music notes for "Yesterday Once More" and possibly the white star for "Superstar". Did I miss any?
 
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tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
Clever artwork! Looks like there are clues to some of the songs included such as the umbrella for "Rainy Days and Mondays", the globe for "Top of the World", the birds for "Close To You" the radio with music notes for "Yesterday Once More" and possibly the white star for "Superstar". Did I miss any?
Could the piano be for Piano Picker?
 

NowhereMan

Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
The Times of London has done a new interview with Richard that discusses this new album. It sounds like a legitimately new release and not just a reissue of the PACC album.

Richard Carpenter: ‘Karen could have done so much more’

The brother-sister duo the Carpenters were once mauled by critics. Not now, Richard Carpenter tells Will Hodgkinson

Ed Potton
Monday September 06 2021, 12.01am BST, The Times

In the Seventies, two bands in particular were derided by critics for being crassly commercial, hopelessly uncool and generally beyond the pale. Today, Abba and the Carpenters are celebrated for their beloved contributions to the canon of classic pop.
“Abba and the Carpenters were hammered together!” Richard Carpenter says of reviews like this one from Stereo Review of the 1971 Carpenters album: “The emotional connection between the Carpenters and their songs is about as strong as my last resolution to quit smoking.” And that’s one of the kinder reviews.

“A lot of the media was saying, ‘What’s going on here?’ ” Carpenter says. “Abba were terrific, which nobody questions now, but they did then. Today, the Japanese use Carpenters albums to teach English because I always put Karen’s voice way up in the lead, her enunciation is perfect and the songs are so popular. It proves that if the product is good it will survive.”

It also proves that dodgy image and credibility fall away over the years, leaving behind songs with singalong melodies and eternal truths that have resonated across the world for millions of people.

Carpenter, 74, is in the basement studio of his home at Westlake Village, a northwest suburb of Los Angeles. This is where he has been reworking the rich arrangements of Carpenters classics such as Close to You, Top of the World and Rainy Days and Mondays for Richard Carpenter’s Piano Songbook. It’s an album of solo piano instrumentals of songs that, for anyone who grew up in the Seventies and Eighties, evoke a Brady Bunch world of Oldsmobiles and picket fences; suburban soul for the silent majority of Nixon’s America. As a brother-sister duo who smiled out of album covers in canary yellow V-neck sweaters, goofed about on TV specials, celebrated the good old days in 1973 on Yesterday Once More and sold more than 100 million records, the Carpenters had little to do with the counterculture. No wonder it took a few decades for the quality of their music to be appreciated.

“These are songs with strong melodies, arrangements that don’t sound like they came from any particular period in time and lyrics that touched people,” Carpenter says. “Then you have Karen and her timeless voice. Karen could have been a hit in the Twenties, the Thirties, the Forties, today. She sang the songs straight, just the way the melodies were written, in a way that could make someone happy or melancholy, depending on how she sang the notes. It is remarkable, considering how young she was [20 when they broke through].”

For the most part the Carpenters didn’t write their own songs, instead covering material that made sense to them. Close to You, their first hit from 1970, was an easy-listening classic by Burt Bacharach and Hal David released in the aftermath of Woodstock, while the Carpenters’ rendition of Ticket to Ride turned the Beatles’ carefree 1965 rocker into a languid, middle-of-the-road lament, the ideal accompaniment to sherry mornings and discreet affairs.

“Ticket to Ride is one of my favourite Carpenters records, maybe the favourite,” Carpenter says. “In 1969 I heard it played on the radio as an oldie and imagined it as a melancholy ballad, which was perfect for Karen, and it all came flowing out. If you happen to be writing what turns out to be a great song, they just about write themselves, and it’s the same with a good arrangement. Like most Carpenters songs I had the sound all in my head before going into the studio. It goes against my nature to experiment once you’re in there. The clock’s ticking and you don’t want to spend a fortune on session fees.”

Karen’s voice, I suggest to Carpenter, evoked innocence and sadness at the same time. “I think you’re right, which is why I never went crazy on the orchestrations because I didn’t want to smother that quality. Tom Nolan, who wrote a Rolling Stone cover article on us in 1974 [much to the displeasure of his hipper colleagues, according to Nolan], described Karen’s voice as youth combined with wisdom. That’s why we’re still talking about it, 50 years later.”

Just like the wall-to-wall carpeting in homes where Carpenters albums were never far from the wood-veneer record player, Richard and Karen’s wholesome, happy image insulated all kinds of problems, notably the anorexia that killed Karen in 1983. They grew up in Connecticut and then the LA suburb of Downey, where Richard, three and a half years Karen’s senior, became a teenage piano prodigy and his sister’s musical interests were confined mostly to playing drums, which she picked up as a way of getting out of gym class.

“Our father had a record collection with everything from soundtracks to Bing Crosby, our mother would sing along to the radio, and Karen and I soaked in all the Top 40 hits,” Carpenter says. “The strange thing with Karen is that she sang so purely, it was like nothing had an effect on her at all. That’s why impressionists could never imitate her, in the way they could imitate Frank Sinatra or Mick Jagger. With Karen, all the emotion was built right into the voice. There were no stylistic hooks.”

Karen wasn’t particularly interested in singing professionally at first. She played drums for the Richard Carpenter Trio, her brother’s early foray into light jazz, and there she would have happily stayed, not least because she had no problem with singing while drumming. “Every now and then I would get her to sing something up front, and she would do it very begrudgingly,” Carpenter says. “We went on tour, not much more than kids, and she was only 5ft 4in, so when she sat behind the big Ludwig drum set most of the audience couldn’t see her. It took some doing to get her away from them. Even once we made it, we had to have a drum kit on stage for her so she could show off and have her fun.”

It seems odd for a woman with one of the purest and most recognisable voices in music not to want to sing. “It was all so easy for her that she didn’t think it should be her primary role,” Carpenter says. “It’s a hard one to answer for me. Maybe it was down to high ego and low self-esteem. We did the Royal Albert Hall [in London] in 1971, and here she was, just turned 21, fronting a group with all these people looking at her. She was a bit frightened. She wanted to be successful at making records, but going out there and fronting a group . . . it wasn’t something she was crazy about.”

Carpenter says that the band’s imperial phase — which began with Close to You in 1970 and lasted until Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft in 1976, surely the only easy-listening smash about alien communication — started off exciting but got more stressful as the popularity (and critical pastings) built up. “Close to You came out and it was like a bomb went off,” Carpenter says. “We were middle-American white kids, making music that a lot of critics hoped had seen its last, and it connected with everyday suburban people. It was so big, we were so young and wanted by so many different TV shows, that it was more than just having a No 1 hit. I was supposed to write or discover songs that would be arranged for the next album, not be out on the road doing live nights. I wasn’t happy out there.”

Richard dealt with the pressure via an increasing reliance on sleeping pills, while Karen succumbed to anorexia. I suggest that it might have been a way of regaining control amid the dizzying fame, but Carpenter says that it began long before they had any kind of success.

“She wanted to be a straight up and down Twiggy type, which was the fashionable shape at the time,” he says. “Ideas of beauty change, and if you look at sculptures and paintings from a hundred years back you’ll see the kind of hourglass figure Karen had, but she didn’t like that. By 1967 she was on the [low-carbohydrate, high-protein] Stillman diet. She lost 20lb or so and stayed like that for a few years, but then of course she wanted to lose more. This was before we had hit records, so I think — and I could be all wrong — that this was something on her mind that was sniping at her, whether she was a pop singer or not. The amazing thing is that it never affected her voice.”

It’s true. The combination of Richard’s arrangements and Karen’s singing evoked sophistication, comfort and vulnerability, all at once. “She was only 32 when she died. She could have done so much more,” her brother says. Then he adds, with the weight of someone who has run it through their mind many times: “But there is only so much you can do.”

Richard Carpenter’s Piano Songbook is released on October 22 on Decca Records.

The Carpenters: the stories behind their greatest songs

We’ve Only Just Begun (1970)

This romantic ballad by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams began life as an advert for the Crocker National Bank in California featuring newlyweds starting out on the road to married bliss, an attempt by the bank to appeal to young people. Recognising Williams’s voice, Richard Carpenter coaxed its writers into turning the jingle into a full song and it scored the Carpenters their second No 1. It captured everything they represented: familiarity, security, a lingering sense of sadness.

Rainy Days and Mondays (1971)

A soft-rock masterpiece, this gentle encapsulation of grey, rain-soaked ennui was also written by Nichols and Williams. The latter would go on to write songs for The Muppet Movie and Bugsy Malone — a perfect songwriter for the Carpenters’ poignant brand of innocence. “Karen did Rainy Days and Mondays when she was only 20,” points out her brother, who was 23 at the time. “It sounds like she has lived through everything she is singing about. Rainy days and Mondays didn’t get her down, actually. But she managed to sound, very naturally, like they did.”

Superstar (1971)

Written by Leon Russell and Delaney Bramlett of the country-soul duo Delaney & Bonnie, this tells the story of a groupie left lonely by a rock star. “I saw Bette Midler do it on The Johnny Carson Show,” Carpenter says. “She called it a modern-day torch song, and I thought it would be perfect with the right arrangement. But we did have our image, which was a good thing and a bad thing, and I didn’t think the words ‘sleep with you’ would play well with our fanbase. So I changed it to ‘be with you’ and it was made for us.” Sonic Youth covered Superstar on the 1994 alternative-rock tribute album If I Were a Carpenter, setting off a critical re-evaluation of the duo in the process.

Top of the World (1973)

In 1972 Richard had written and arranged a song he didn’t think much of for the Carpenters’ fourth album, A Song for You. Later that year he and Karen were booked as, by his own description, “the token youth” at a reception in Los Angeles for Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, when the country singer Lynn Anderson came up and announced that she was recording Top of the World for her next album. It went on to be a huge hit for Anderson, by which point Richard realised his mistake. A year later the Carpenters’ version went to No 1.

Yesterday Once More (1973)

Faced with oil embargoes, rising unemployment and the continuing nightmare of Vietnam, it isn’t surprising that middle America yearned for the apparent innocence of the Fifties and early Sixties. The Carpenters, with American Graffiti, Grease and Happy Days, were there to provide it for them. “Yesterday referred to doo-wop and things like that,” Carpenter says of a tune he wrote with his songwriting partner John Bettis to set up the Carpenters’ 1973 oldies album Now & Then. “Fifty years has elapsed since that song has been around, so it has the same nostalgic effect now as it did then.”

Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (1976)

Released to tie in with an obsession with all things spacey after the enormous success of Star Wars, this began life as the work of a group of Canadian studio musicians who called themselves Klaatu after the robot in the 1951 Cold War-themed movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. “They were Beatles fans and sci-fi fans,” Richard Carpenter says. “I saw an ad for the album in Billboard magazine that said, ‘Who is Klaatu?’ People thought it was the Beatles under a different name. I never meant it to be a single. After all these years I get more requests to use it in TV shows and movies than any other song.”

(Richard Carpenter: ‘Karen could have done so much more’)
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
@Chris May
Did you have any more info about this release?
How does this differ from the PACC project other than a different track listing.
I wonder if there will be any backing vocals from Karen and Richard on any of these tracks from Songbook?
I'm a bit surprised to hear of this release of new material.
 

Chris May

Resident ‘Carpenterologist’
Staff member
Moderator
@Chris May
Did you have any more info about this release?
How does this differ from the PACC project other than a different track listing.
I wonder if there will be any backing vocals from Karen and Richard on any of these tracks from Songbook?
I'm a bit surprised to hear of this release of new material.
There will be more press in a few days about the album's upcoming release. Keep a lookout for updates on the Carpenters' official Facebook and Richard's Instagram over the coming days and weeks.
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
If you do a search in google for this CD title it doesn’t even bring up the Amazon listing. It only brings up a search of various music books for piano. It will be interesting to hear why the new CD was titled this way.
 

Walkinat9

Well-Known Member
Man, this is so exciting! Finally some new music again, can't wait!! :wiggle:
I hope there will be lots of promotion for the new album, maybe it'll be on vinyl as well? (Richard will probably be like "Why does everybody wants to go back to surface noise??" :D )
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
Man, this is so exciting! Finally some new music again, can't wait!! :wiggle:
I hope there will be lots of promotion for the new album, maybe it'll be on vinyl as well? (Richard will probably be like "Why does everybody wants to go back to surface noise??" :D )

Would we really want a vinyl edition with Universal handling the pressing?
 

Rick-An Ordinary Fool

Well-Known Member
Would we really want a vinyl edition with Universal handling the pressing?
Not only that, with it being an instrumental album with a relaxing feel…on vinyl that would be quite difficult to get a noise free sound.

Remember what Richard said in the liner notes on Treasures 2 CD set from Japan. The track “One More Time” he says happy to include this in a compact disc compilation as this piece gets very quite in places and the surface noise from LP’s can be quite intrusive”
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
Not only that, with it being an instrumental album with a relaxing feel…on vinyl that would be quite difficult to get a noise free sound.

Remember what Richard said in the liner notes on Treasures 2 CD set from Japan. The track “One More Time” he says happy to include this in a compact disc compilation as this piece gets very quite in places and the surface noise from LP’s can be quite intrusive”

But really, even with songs that you don’t care if there is surface noise from—-when you’ve got Universal turning out vinyl that sounds like it came from a pawn shop or thrift store do you really want Universal issuing any vinyl?
 
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