Craig LaForest

Two Lives: The Songs of Richard and Karen Carpenter

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The Carpenters were probably one of the most successful brother and sister teams popular music has ever seen. During the 1970s and early '80s, they consistently had songs that were riding at or near the top of the pop charts. Their soft music became a refuge for those who were being assaulted by the loud cacophony that pop music was heading for. They also made a lot of money for such tunesmiths as Paul Williams. New York vocalist Craig LaForest has come along with a tribute album honoring both the performance and arranging sides of this seminal team. Whether it's fair or not, such albums are always compared to the original product. Certainly, LaForest was wise enough not to muck around with the material by putting it in an artificial Latin or hip-hop cover. The major difference is that there is a male voice doing the vocalizing with a cabaret feel. This musical sex change harms the songs not a bit. LaForest keeps that gentle, intimate, almost reverent delivery technique that characterized Karen Carpenter's style. To be sure, there is a female presence on some cuts. Peggy Blu, Erin Hamilton, and Bridgette Bryant join in on "Hurting Each Other," "Two Lives," and one of the duo's biggest blockbuster hits, "Close to You." The latter is enhanced with an artificially created orchestra for the album's big production number. The arrangement for "Rainy Days and Mondays" has a choral backing that makes the tune even more fanciful than the original. In addition to the singing help, LaForest is joined by a bevy of similar respectful musicians. Whether it be guitar, piano, saxophone, strings, or any combination in the forefront, everything is done with taste. Two Lives is a worthy accolade to two icons of pop music.

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