Ticket to Ride

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The Carpenters' first long-player, cut in 1969 (and originally released as Offering) amid the breakdown of America's postwar social contract, the Vietnam War's soaring to a crescendo of bloodshed, the coming apart of the Beatles, and the final flowering (and wilting) of the youth rebellion of the prior four years. And in the middle of all of that, Karen and Richard Carpenter issued a finely crafted record that moved effortlessly between Spanky & Our Gang-style pop/rock ("Your Wonderful Parade") and art-song. In some ways, Ticket to Ride is the Carpenters' most interesting album, for it contains a range of interests and sounds that were modified or abandoned on subsequent albums. The lushly orchestrated "Someday" is a brilliant showcase for Richard's arranging skills and the most dramatic side of Karen's voice -- it points the way toward songs like "Crescent Noon" on the next album, and although that highly dramatic sound proved a blind alley, it did result in some ravishing performances by the duo. "All I Can Do" is the most solid reminder of their origins as part of a light jazz trio called Spectrum, a pleasing vocal workout that might've been well covered by the Manhattan Transfer. Their version of "Get Together" is about as convincing as a version by the Cowsills would've been, but it's balanced by Richard's slow ballad arrangement of "Ticket to Ride," an unexpected and beguiling (if too upbeat) cover of Neil Young's "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," and a couple of superb originals, "Eve" and "All of My Life."

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