Hurray for The Carpenters!

Digging through my old cassette tape collection. Let’s see …

Led Zeppelin
Bing Crosby
Pink Floyd
Leon Redbone

and, ah, yes… The Carpenters!

As innocuous as a glass of milk, they’re about the musical equivalent of watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood. While watching one or listening to the other, it is difficult to believe things like nerve gas and child abuse really exist. You suddenly become aware of not what “normal” actually means, but what it should mean. It is the horrors that are ridiculous.

God bless 'em.

The Carpenters are great. I have their second album, Close To You, and a compilation disc of theirs. I should have mentioned in the “Favorite Album Track” thread that I like the album tracks of Close To You. The album is just superb, and the music is translated perfectly by the musicians who include that famous trio themselves: Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne, and Hal Blaine.

Some of the tunes, despite being softer fare, actually rock: I’m thinking of the clever bass drum playing and the finely riffing horn section during the chorus of “We’ve Only Just Begun”, as well as the tension-filled timekeeping throughout “Close To You”, leading up to a dramatic release via a tasteful tom-run at the end, featuring Hal’s famous Octo-Plus toms (although he himself only used seven; he skipped one of the mid-range ones and opted for a double-headed floor tom). And, quite wrongfully, it is only now that I begin to recognize Karen’s haunting yet beautiful alto that is, after all, the star feature of the music. From prim and proper to footloose and funky, she still maintained a sober, down-to-earth texture to her voice throughout this wide range that to this day remains unequalled.

Richard is not to be forgotten; in fact, wasn’t he originally slated to be the “star”? While I am disagreed with by a few on this choice, my favorite track on this album is “Mr. Guder”, a lighthearted jab at Richard’s former employer. This piece is a perfect (and possibly the best) example of their over-overdubbed harmonies. I must admit that I am a sucker with anything that contains the slightest resemblance of a bossa-nova beat.

Their later stuff I don’t really care for that much; for me, the peak of their career is contained at least in part on Close To You.

I also liked the Carpenters. While I agree their music has an innocence to it, I also think the thing that made it something more than a Grinning Americans clone was an undertone of subdued sexual hysteria lurking beneath Karen’s voice. It’s what made “Close To You,” a hit – anorexia and repressed passion, what a combo!

Personally, I think Karen Carpenter is the best female vocal of all time - over Barbara Streisand, Whitney “Screech” Houston, Shenia “Twaing” Twain, etc. It is such a crime that life shapes a warped image for each of us. In her case, her misperception of herself (and perhaps pressures within the industry) led to her anorexia. :frowning:

As an FYI: A cousin of mine did PR work for A&M records. He says the Carpenters were pissed at A&M for suddenly paying more and more attention to the flash-in-the-pan group known as “The Captain and Tenille” and favoring this new group over the Carpenters. Not sure, but I WAG this may have been the subtle start of their slide down the Pop Charts. IMHO, A&M made a BIG mistake here and did the Carpenters a major disservice. Maybe this is why the A&M label was so weak compared to so many other bigger labels. - Jinx


You forgot Mariah “Mistuned Piano” Carey…but enough with the hijack.

Whether you liked their music or not, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better female voice than Karen’s. It’s too bad she didn’t live long enough to move past the pop stuff.

I agree. This masquerade in their version stands up with the best songs of all time IMHO - in the company of acts like Pink Floyd, Genesis, U2 and Uriah Heep…
TGWATY, excellent choice with Mr. Guder. It’s a great song and too bad that it is seldom included in their compilation Cds.

It’s really eerie to listen to “A Song For You” and hear the lyric…
And when my life is over…remember when we were together…. It’s impossible NOT to find that prophetic.

I always liked the Carpenters, since I was little and found my mom’s old records.

One of the uproariously funny bits in the movie “Tommy Boy” has Chris Farley and David Spade driving down the road together, when Karen Carpenter comes on the radio, singing "Superstar. Naturally, both guys act as macho as possible, and dismiss the track as lame. Just as naturally, seconds later, they’re both singing along at the tops of their lungs.

I was never a big Carpenters fan, but a few of their songs are so irresistible, a guy can’t help abandoning his macho posturing and just embrace them wholeheartedly.

My oft-stated opinion goes along with several of you in this thread - that Karen Carpenter had one of the finest female voices of the 20th century - IMHO, the finest.

And the harmonies they overdubbed - sometimes incredibly spine-chillingly beautiful.

Was this thread started as a joke? If so, apparently a lot of us are getting whooshed - or is it the OP who’s getting whooshed here?

I remember the summer of 1970 when “Close To You” was played every hour on AM radio. Nobody knew who they were, we hadn’t seen any pictures, but the high school boys though she must be a fox because of Karen Carpenter’s voice. Well, then when they began making appearences, and they had their own show TV, the lust faded. And the boys weren’t such big fans anymore. Or, as astorian stated, it was like the scene from “Tommy Boy” – the apperciation was in private.

No one has ever disputed that voice, but I really believe if she was a smokin’ hottie, or a mixed up coke head she may have been one of the most celebrated female singers in history.

They were true to themselves. They never tried to be anyone else but themselves. And for that matter Richard has never jumped on the “tortured-soul-deeper Karen” vibe that seems to prevail in discussions about her over the past 10-15 years.

Just a great voice. Why does every entertainer have to be something else too?

Ain’t that the truth. One of the greatest voices (male or female) of the 20th century!

I agree, the most beautiful female voice ever…
I still have a VERY hard time listening to her music.
Even reading these posts brought tears to my eyes…
Why is that???
I am very proud of Richard for truly loving his sister and not turning her life into a free for all.

Yeah, but Karen wasn’t ugly, either. When she wasn’t sick, she looked very simple and pretty. Unfortunately, she was too skinny most of the time.

I thought Karen had a very nice, open face but a really skinny figure (for whatever reason).

I personally like the tortured-soul aspect of Karen’s personality. the anorexia, and the very probably incestuous feelings for Richard. (An E! network special on Karen reported on how she sabotaged Richard’s attempt at marriage out of jealousy.)

To my mind this doesn’t detract from the beauty of her voice, and I see the insistent “wholesomeness” of their music as an attempt to escape some very unwholesome, very deep feelings.

I always thought he was gay.

Anyway, great bunch of songs, and her voice is the greatest non-gimmicky voice ever.

I enjoyed many of the Carpenters songs. Every gernation remembers theirs as a much simpler, more wholesome time, but maybe that’s because its true.

During high school, when I was into Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Jefferson Airplane and jazz and everybody else was into Zeppelin, REO Speedwagon, KISS, and Aerosmith, it was considered uncool to admit you liked the Carpenters.

However, I’ve recently started to listen to all-70’s shows when I’m home for the weekends, and I have to agree: Karen Carpenter had an incredible voice. I mean, unlike the trollops of today, she could actually sing!

kevja: You are dead on. In one of her recent novels, Sharyn McCrumb speculated that a singer as talented as Patsy Cline could not make it in today’s music world because everybody wants a size 2 harlot rather than a chunky woman who has incredible talent.

My God, their version of Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” will give you chills.

Tremendously under-appreciated act.

…and “Superstar” will put send you right to absolute zero.