Album #181 – Close to You

Album #181

The one thing that this album’s title track reminds me of is the following scene from Ron Howard’s 1989 film Parenthood:

This album reminds me of my childhood. Every year at Christmas time, my parents play the Carpenters’ first Christmas album, Christmas Portrait. We also used to listen to their first greatest hits album, Singles: 1969-1973.  The title track and We’ve Only Just Begun are songs that instantly take me back to childhood. There is an innocence about them. There is also a romantic quality to their songs, as evidenced in the clip above. The Carpenter’s music is flawless and almost too good. Many critics did not like their image and called them too perfect, sweet and boring. In a time where rock music was still raw and serious, The Carpenters did not fit the mold. And yet, they would influence the pop music that was to come in the ’70’s. ABBA, Barry Manilow and other 70’s ‘soft rock’ artists owe a debt of gratitude to The Carpenters. Richard was very much the arranger and musical mastermind behind their sound. He sings lead vocal on one track on the album, I Kept On Loving You. On the other album’s tracks, Karen does lead vocals and harmonies along with Richard. Karen was just as essential to their sound as Richard. Karen also was an amazing drummer but sadly, she was made by Richard to give up drumming and switch to lead vocals. Sadly, Karen died in 1983 from heart failure due to Anorexia Nervosa. But, their legacy lives on. After I listened to this album, I listened to a Carpenters tribute album called If I Were A Carpenter. It was released in 1994 by their label, A&M Records, and it features many alternative artists from back in the 90’s including: The Cranberries, Sheryl Crow, Shonen Knife, Grant Lee Buffalo, Sonic Youth and Matthew Sweet. It is a very good tribute album and shows just how good their songs and arrangements were. The other thing that I liked about this album were two unique covers: Reason to Believe and Help! Instead of trying to play them note for note, they did the covers in The Carpenters style. I respected them for that even though their covers were ok. The Carpenters legacy lives on and musically I cannot think of another group who did what The Carpenters did so well. Other highlights include: Love Is Surrender, Baby It’s You and Another World (featuring a drum solo from Karen Carpenter!!!). Overall, I give this album 4 out of 5.

Next: Stephen Stills’ self-titled, debut album

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