Carpenters

The Singles 1969-1973

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There's a certain inherent sadness listening to this concise 12-song collection of the Carpenters' early hits, especially as it opens with "We've Only Just Begun," with its hopeful, dreamy lyrics -- for it was never supposed to be definitive, just the first of at least two such collections. But changes in the public's taste and a slackening (though never a disappearance) of hits for the duo, and Karen Carpenter's death in 1983, made this the first and only real mass choice for a Carpenters collection. Ten of the duo's dozen Top Ten hits are present, from "Close to You" to "Top of the World," with their gorgeous and original slow ballad interpretation of "Ticket to Ride" and their cover of Carole King's "It's Going to Take Some Time" thrown in to offer a slightly wider perspective. Listening to this material, it's easy to accuse the Carpenters of being hopelessly retro even in their own time -- bear in mind that "We've Only Just Begun" and "Superstar" being contemporaneous with the Allman Brothers' At Fillmore East and Eat a Peach and you get the idea. But the lush melodies brought out in Richard Carpenter's arrangements and Karen's singing are justification in themselves. [The 1999 reissue in A&M's Remastered Classics series (#82839-3601-2) has a closer, toughened but warmer sound. Yes, the strings are brighter, to the point of glistening, but the rhythm section (Joe Osborn on bass, Hal Blaine on drums) has more impact as well. Moreover, the full original notes from the insert are now included, explaining how each song came to be discovered and recorded.]

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