Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The book comes close to the music that made the Carpenters superstars

LOS ANGELES (AP) – “Every sha-la-la-la, every wo-o-wo-o still shines,” sang the Carpenters on “Yesterday Once More,” their 1973 hit celebrating songs from the past.

This could be the slogan for a new book about the work of Richard and Karen Carpenter, which tries to get rid of the noise surrounding the duo and focus on their harmonious creations.

Carpenters: The Musical Legacy (Princeton Architectural Press), released 50 years after the duo’s first hits, was co-written with Richard Carpenter, along with Associated Press journalist Mike Sidonie Lennox and Chris May.

Carpenter has been involved in many retrospective projects after facing decades of questions about his sister’s inner life and her 1983 death from heart failure, a complication of anorexia, at the age of 32. It was a chance to do something new.

“It was a focus on the music itself, first of all, about it,” Carpenter told AP, sitting at the piano at his home in Southern California. “It’s about things that we haven’t touched before or that, if we touched, it would be ignored.”

It has the weight and visual history of the coffee table book, but it is also a near-written musical biography of the couple that dates back to their childhood lives in New Haven, Connecticut, where Richard Carpenter found the seeds of the group. sound in father’s records and a toy jukebox.

He cites some unexpected influences, including another male-female duo, Les Paul and Mary Ford, whose early experiments with vocal layouts and layered harmonies electrified him.

“It made a deep impression on me that ooh-ah, ooh-ah. I was 5 or 6 years old, ”Carpenter said. “I had no idea how it was all done. I just knew it was different and that I really like it. And many years later, of course, it occurred to me when I arranged a lot of things for which I wrote harmonies. “

He attributes a lesser-known name to renowned sound engineer, choral arranger Judd Conlon, whose work has appeared in the Disney films Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.

“His arranging style for a few vocals was tough,” Carpenter said. “These were very close harmonies that had a huge impact on me.”

The book makes it clear that their elaborate, multi-layered recordings were made at a time when the young duo were maintaining a staggering schedule of touring and television appearances.

He gives an account of almost every rainy day, and the Monday they spent in troubled 1970, “(They Want To Be) By You” was their breakout hit. Somehow in the midst of all this, they recorded their third album “Carpenters” in 1971, known to fans as the brown album and considered by many to be their best.

Carpenters have often been ridiculed for making silly one-off hits. But the book claims that they were the great creators of fully formed albums with an incredible amount of recordings between 1970s “Close to You” and 1973 “Now & Then”, a concept album that cemented their worldwide fame.

“We had so many hit singles, and usually in a row, that our detractors rejected us as a singles group again,” Carpenter said. “We’ve sold millions of albums.”

Carpenter’s ear for finding hits, often in unlikely places, was just as important as his ear for making hits.

He found “Superstar,” the Carpenters song, arguably the most beloved by the younger generation, when he heard Bette Midler sing it on “The Tonight Show”. He stumbled upon “We’ve Only Begun” in a commercial for the bank before it was a hit.

When he heard them, he knew what to do with them.

“If a song hit me, be it my song or a song that I heard, such as ‘We’ve Only Begun’, ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ or ‘Superstar’ if it was on the song, my agreement was made immediately, – said Carpenter.

And he knew the song was useless if it didn’t match his sister’s amazing alto voice.

“I could give you a list of songs that I heard on the radio, that I bought right away and knew that they would not work for me and Karen,” he said. “The fact that we were brother and sister had a lot to do with it.”

He also revised his music catalog from the forthcoming Richard Carpenter Piano Songbook. He reimagined some of the band’s greatest hits for solo piano on an album due in January.

Looking back, Carpenter recently visited what was once A&M Records in Hollywood for the first time in 30 years. It is now owned by the Jim Henson Company and the Muppets, who have changed it very little.

It was an emotional journey.

“We spent so much of our life there that it was like going home,” he said.


This story has been corrected to show that the book was published by Princeton Architectural Press and not Princeton University Press, and Carpenters was the duo’s third album, not their second.


Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton

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