As Time Goes By

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As Time Goes By is a collection of songs taken from demos, live shows, and television performances recorded by the Carpenters between 1967 and 1980. In his liner notes Richard Carpenter says this is a record for hardcore Carpenters fans only and he is right. The songs from the various TV specials the duo recorded are cute, mostly versions of standards like "I Got Rhythm," versions of the hits of the day, and Richard Carpenter instrumentals. Apart from the pretty take on the Wildweeds' country-rock-influenced "And When He Smiles," a song that should have been a hit for them if they had officially released it, the best of the lot is the duet on a medley of standards by Karen Carpenter and Ella Fitzgerald from 1980. While Ella is near the end of the road vocally, it is interesting to have two of the most precise singers ever trading verse back and forth. The "Carpenters/Como Medley" is also fun but much cheesier. The disc also includes a couple of songs that were previously unreleased ("Leave Yesterday Behind," a sweetly sung ballad recorded for a TV movie of the same name, and "The Rainbow Connection," which features a typically charming vocal from Karen as well as their versions of "California Dreamin'" and "Nowhere Man" from the original demos that got the band its record deal). The only problem with the outtakes and rarities here are that Carpenter felt the need to go in and fix, sweeten, or totally refurnish the songs. Perhaps he just has too much free time, perhaps he is an obsessive tinkerer. Whatever the excuse, the archival value of the songs has been tampered with and that makes the songs less valuable somehow. If indeed this set is designed with Carpenters diehards in mind, wouldn't they have liked to hear the original version of "Nowhere Man," the one-track mono version? Richard proudly boasts that he transferred the acetate disc to a 48-track, leaving him "47 tracks with which to play." Fine and dandy, but why not put the original on the disc and then follow it with the new version for comparison's sake? Or just listen to your new version at home and let the fans get a chance to hear an extremely rare and no doubt very interesting piece of Carpenters history? As for the tracks like "The Rainbow Connection" and the "Superstar/Rainy Days and Mondays" medley, Richard drenches his sister's vocals with strings and background singers when he should have left them alone. Maybe he just doesn't understand that people don't really care about his arrangements. What they care most about are his sister's vocals. As it is, he has done Karen and Carpenters fans a big disservice by tampering with artifacts that could have made for a very interesting disc. It still might be worthwhile to have for the material from the television specials and to hear Karen's voice again, however.

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