Now & Then

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It was with the release of Now & Then that the Carpenters lost any pretense of being even dorky cool. The album jacket was a giveaway, depicting them in a car in front of a suburban home. The problem also laid in the relentlessly cheerful children's chorus on "Sing," which seemed to come out of every public music outlet that spring and summer; the silly version of "Jambalaya" on side one; and the oldies medley on the second side, which at least predated Happy Days going on the air but still botched its job, mixing Karen Carpenter's haunting rendition of "Johnny Angel" and her spirited version of "One Fine Day" (anticipating her white-bread but effective version of "Beechwood 4-5789") with filler like "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "Dead Man's Curve," all interspersed with Tony Peluso doing his best (i.e., worst) imitation of an obnoxious disc jockey. Whatever the reason, from the moment of the release of Now & Then, listeners under 30 buying a Carpenters album would have good reason to go to a neighborhood where no one knew them to make the purchase, and hide it from their friends. The pity is that the medley paled next to its framing song, the wistful "Yesterday Once More," the last really memorable song that the duo introduced, which summed up in four minutes all of the emotions and sensations that the medley took 15 to deliver. And that song was botched in its album edit, which, instead of giving it an ending, made it part of the medley, with an annoying segue into the latter.

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