The Carpenters – digging deeper…
The Carpenters are one of the most successful recording artists in pop history – hardly surprising given Karen’s gorgeous voice and Richard’s brilliant arranging skills, musicianship and all around-ear for a great song. There have been countless Carpenter’s compilations featuring their hits and well-known tracks, but how about some of their lesser-known gems. We’ve put together the ultimate playlist of Carpenters – digging deeper…
We begin at the start of their career and the first track on their first album, Ticket To Ride. ‘Invocation’ is included in its original demo form and along with it is their classy cover of Buffalo Springfields’ ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ – The Carpenters cover Neil Young, not something you would immediately think of.
Their Close to You album came out in the summer of 1970 and blew everyone away, particularly with their gorgeous cover of Burt Bacharach’s (They Long To Be) Close To You – that was originally done by Richard Chamberlain. Most of the tracks are cover versions, but it also includes two beautiful songs written by Richard and John Bettis who had played together in a band called Spectrum. ‘Mr Guder’ and ‘Crescent Noon’ rarely get the attention they deserve and on the latter Karen’s harmony vocals accompanying her own lead vocal are stunning. The real Mr Guder was actually Richard and John Bettis’s boss when they worked as musicians at Disneyland.
Practically every song on their self titled 1971 album is well known – most have appeared on compilations, but the album’s closer, ‘Sometimes’ written by Henry and Felice Mancini deserves to be more widely heard. Richard’s lovely piano playing and Karen’s sensitive vocal lift it above the ordinary. From A Song For You there is another Carpenter/Bettis gem, the exquisite ‘Crystal Lullaby’. But arguably the standout track on the entire album is ‘Road Ode’, a song that is a hymn to the life of a working musician – a bit like ‘Superstar’, only these guys are not superstars. The orchestration is stunning and the lyrics and music written by Gary Sims and Dan Woodhams are fabulous. Who are these working musicians? Woodhams played bass and Sims played the guitar in Spectrum and it’s great to think these guys got rewarded well for writing such a superb song.
1973’s Now and Then was a clever idea, paying homage to the great days of American AM radio on its second side. Almost hidden away on side one is the closing track, ‘I Can’t Make Music’ a song written by Randy Edelman – a great pop song, with lovely lyrics, expertly done. Horizon released in 1975 was yet another Platinum-selling album and like all those that went before it is musically varied. However, the cover of Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal’s ‘I Can Dream Can’t I’ is a decided musical departure for Richard and Karen to this point in their career. It was originally written in the late 1930s and appeared in a flop musical before being covered in the late 1940s by the Andrews Sisters.
Jackie De Shannon was a prolific songwriter and singer from the 1960s onwards; she also dated Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, is married to Randy Edelman and she wrote songs for Kim Carnes, The Searchers, Steppenwolf, The Righteous Brothers and The Byrds. She also wrote the ‘Boat To Sail’ for the Carpenters that appeared on A Kind Of A Hush. 1977’s Passage features the monumental cover of Klaatu’s ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’ which is too well known to feature in our undiscovered gems, but the album also features a lovely song written by Scott E. Davis called, ‘Two Sides’. You may not have heard of Scott Davis but among his writing credits is, ‘In The Ghetto’ memorably made a hit by Elvis; he’s better known as Mac Davis.
1981’s Made In America album is not the best known Carpenters album but it has some great songs on it, including ‘When It’s Gone (It’s Just Gone)’ written by Randy Handley and an absolute stunner from Burt Bacharach and his then-wife, Carole Bayer Sager called, ‘Somebody’s Been Lyin’. Just check out Karen’s vocal on this beautiful song; she sounds both sensuous and vulnerable – possibly the greatest undiscovered gem in their entire catalogue.
The Voice of The Heart album came out in 1983 after Karen’s tragic death and features songs recorded over the previous 6 or 7 years. Among them is ‘Ordinary Fool’ written by Paul Williams who wrote several of the early Carpenters hits. It’s a typically subtle Williams’s song and Karen’s voice is on another level when she recorded this. Luxuriate in this classic.
1989’s Lovelines album was mainly a collection of tracks from the Carpenters’ TV Specials that includes ‘The Uninvited Guest’ a song by Buddy Kaye and Jeffrey M. Tweel that shows the control that Karen exerted on her voice when she sang. From the same album is the lovely, ‘If I Had You’ that was written by Steve Dorff, Gary Harju, Larry Herbstritt, three Nashville songwriters.
And there you have it, our trip back through the Carpenter’s lesser-known recordings, but recordings that deserve to be as well known as any in their catalogue of great pop.
July 17, 2014 at 8:18 pm
How can I get all their music in a CD. I loved the Carpenters.
July 18, 2014 at 12:03 am
Hi Sylvia, they released all of their albums on a 4 cd anthology back in the 90’s I believe. It should be available still. You might have to try ebay. It’s a wonderful collection with a book talking about each song. I paid around $80 for it then. Worth it. I hope this helps.
September 19, 2015 at 7:37 pm
I also have this 4 CD collection. I believe it came out in 1990 or 1991. I guard this collection like its one of my children!!! LOL!!
July 18, 2014 at 2:16 am
There are many, many compilations of The Carpenters’ music. I suggest itunes “Carpenters Gold: 35th Anniversary Edition” which has many remastered versions for most of their tunes.
Geoff Hall (Cloudberry)
July 18, 2014 at 8:44 pm
You can buy the box set of the 12 studio albums from Amazon, or get them separately. Well worth the outlay. Do se and enjoy!
August 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm
fyi have them and they are way cheaper then ebay they have everthing they have out of the carpentors music look and see youll see very cheap 3dollrs fore there music
August 22, 2014 at 10:40 am
There are numerous compilations, but two box sets (From The Top – four CDs – and a box of their 12 studio albums) are still available, I think, from Amazon. There are The Singles 1969-1973, 1974-1978 and 1969-1982) which may all still be available.
September 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm
AMAZON. I have been a fan since they first begun so all my music was on LP. I decided to finally make the investment and get the CDs..All of them. And if you are a big fan like me, you will love it. Especially the double Christmas Album. To me it was worth every penny.
maria elizabeth s bragante lopez
July 17, 2014 at 8:34 pm
sao ótimos conjuntos e intérpretes de época passada que merecem serem reconhecidos na idia novamente todos sucessos deles
Andreia Aparecida da Silva Stefano
July 17, 2014 at 10:51 pm
Sempre amei os Carpenters,gostaria de saber onde posso encontrar o cd deles com todas as músicas.
July 17, 2014 at 11:15 pm
There’s one not so popular song from the earlier album that I really love. It’s titled “Happy”.
July 18, 2014 at 8:33 am
Great shout out!
July 18, 2014 at 12:10 am
I love these hidden gems. But, you failed to mention “Tryin’ to get the feeling” it is so outstanding.
July 18, 2014 at 1:44 am
Lovelines contained only two songs from specials, When I Fall In Love and Little Girl Blue. Two songs were partially played in the Karen Carpenter movie. Where Do I Go From Here and You’re The One. How I miss waiting for the next new songs from Carpenters. Two Sides, I Just Fall In Love Again, Strength Of A Woman, Now, Let Me Be The One, and Love Me For What I Am, should have been released as Singles.
July 18, 2014 at 8:35 am
July 18, 2014 at 2:34 am
It needs to be mentioned that Richard and Karen, John Bettis and many of their band members came together because they were students at California State University, Long Beach, where their mentor was Frank Pooler, CSULB’s Director of Choral Studies, who wrote the lyrics to one of the loveliest Christmas songs, “Merry Christmas Darling”.
July 18, 2014 at 8:33 am
That’s fascinating, thanks so much
July 18, 2014 at 4:24 am
“….but the album also features a lovely song written by Scott E. Davis called, ‘Two Sides’. You may not have heard of Mr Davis but among his writing credits is, ‘In The Ghetto’ memorably made a hit by Elvis.”
Scott E. Davis is none other than Mac Davis, who was a major star back in the ’70s, with hits like “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me” “Watchin’ Scotty Grow” and “I Believe In Music”.
July 18, 2014 at 8:34 am
We know it is Mac Davis, but just failed to mention it! Thanks for pointing it out.
July 18, 2014 at 10:35 am
what about the unreleased songs that Karen recorded for her solo album that are on youtube in horrible recordings; why fans cannot enjoy those songs? release them! Karen’s memory must be respected as all her work unconditionally!
July 18, 2014 at 1:21 pm
I think, that it is highest time to have something like they did for the Beatles, remastered versions of the all CDs. For a real fan it would be the greatest gift.
amy o. carantes
July 18, 2014 at 4:32 pm
I love their music….
July 18, 2014 at 5:54 pm
There are many strong choices here, but in my opinion a few glaring omissions.
“Let Me Be the One” from the self-titled album is an utterly superb vocal showcase for Karen.
The same goes for “Love Me For What I Am” from “Horizon.” The result of Richard’s stark and then sweeping arrangement around Karen’s soul-searching vocal is simply spine-tingling.
I would outright swap the relatively inane “Boat to Sail” from “A Kind of Hush” for two different songs from that album – the utterly gorgeous, heartwarming “You” and the ruminative, cinematic “One More Time.” The latter has a stark, simple arrangement that perfectly frames Karen’s intimate, cocktail hour vocal.
In addition to “Two Sides” from “Passage,” their version of “I Just Fall in Love Again” absolutely rocks the boat with a raw electric guitar solo (I believe from Tony Peluso) and Karen’s voice reaching for the heavens.
So many great picks on this list, though. I was very happy to read this and see their lesser-known work given consideration.
July 18, 2014 at 6:05 pm
Rudy, thanks for the suggestions. It’s always fun putting lists like this together as there is, in the case of the Carpenters so much to choose from. We love Boat To Sail for its Brian Wilson reference and it’s little Beach Boy harmony rip offs and Karen does sound great on it. With 100% on I Just Fall In Love Again, so much so that we’ve added it to our playlist Thanks again!
July 19, 2014 at 2:27 pm
Other favorites not mentioned above include “Maybe It’s You” from Close to You, “(A Place to) Hideaway” from their self-titled album, and “You” from A Kind of Hush. The best gems mentioned above are I Just Fall in Love Again, Happy, and I Can Dream, Can’t I? My all-time favorite Carpenters song is “You.”
I remember so well the days of waiting for the next Carpenters album to be released. I never knew what surprises it would hold, but I always knew I’d love it. Had Karen lived, she’d be in her 60s today. I never got to meet her or see her live in concert, but I will always miss her.
July 19, 2014 at 3:17 pm
Rae, a great shout for ‘You’, so great that we’ve added it!
July 20, 2014 at 2:00 am
Some of my favorite Carpenter songs were never singles or at least not the “A” side of a single. “When it’s Gone (it’s just gone)” is probably my favorite. One little typo you have on your page is the name of the song is “Crescent Noon” not “Moon”. Thanks for your webpage and keep up the good work!
July 20, 2014 at 4:15 am
I can’t believe “I’m Caught Between Goodbye And I Love You”, “Someday”, “Leave Yesterday Behind”, and “Maybe It’s You” aren’t on here. I also concur with a lot of the other comments, regarding songs like “Let Me The One” being omitted. Basically any song on any album with a slower tempo is an undiscovered gem, all the really good upbeat songs usually got lots of airplay and attention. I do agree with “I Can’t Make Music” and “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” being among the best of the lesser-known gems.
August 20, 2014 at 9:41 pm
Thanks, we’ve added some of those 🙂
Bob in Pa
July 20, 2014 at 6:16 pm
“One More time” from “A Kind of Hush” really should be on this list. It is so atypical of the output of the Carpenters in that there is no overdubbed harmony, just Karen’s sweet, heavenly voice, Richard’s piano and a couple of other instruments. I wish they had done more like that.
August 20, 2014 at 9:40 pm
Bob, great choice, we’ve added it
August 12, 2014 at 4:24 pm
I only became aware of the Carpenters after watching the Karen Carpenter Story on tv in 1989. I was 11 at the time. Since then I have been collecting everything I can get my hands on! Everyone has their own personal favourite gems from albums but if I could put an album of my “gems” the tracklist would run like this in no particular order:
Someday (From Offering/Ticket To Ride)
Baby It’s You and Crescent Noon (From Close To You)
Hideaway and Sometimes ( From Carpenters)
Road Ode and Crystal Lullaby (From A Song For You)
I Can’t Make Music (From Now and Then)
I Can Dream Can’t I, Goodbye and I Love You and Love Me For What I Am (From Horizon)
You, Boat To Sail, One More Time and I Have You (From Kind Of Hush)
Two Sides, B’Wanna She No Home and Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (From Passage)
Strength Of A Woman and Somebody’s Been Lyin’ (From Made In America)
Sailing On The Tide, You’re Enough and Two Lives (From Voice Of The Heart)
The Univited Guest and Slow Dance (From Lovelines)
Everything from the Karen Carpenter solo album including the tracks that were never finished.
Other noteable tracks from various compilations would include Trying To Get The Feeling Again, the Karen and Ella Fitzgerald Medley and Rainbow Connection.
Thanks for reading!
August 20, 2014 at 9:39 pm
Mathew, thank you, a lot of your excellent choices were already on the list but we’ve added more of your suggestions
August 21, 2014 at 7:08 pm
Of course– “I Can’t Make Music” which yet another from the underrated “Now and Then” A-side.
August 21, 2014 at 5:21 pm
Why won’t Richard Carpenter allow the Carpenters Christmas Specials to air. Very selfish of him. Jealous that he did not get all of the attention that he wanted.
August 21, 2014 at 5:36 pm
I had the honor of meeting Richard and Karen in 1971 while on tour in Roanoke, VA. The picture taken, Karen had her eyes shut. We were wearing red, white and blue. How coincidental. A moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.
August 21, 2014 at 5:40 pm
I love all The Carpenters music. I think my most favourite has to be ‘Ave Maria’. She is amazing on this & I have never heard it played on any radio show or tv show. Such a shame because it really emphasises Karen’s vocal ability.
October 29, 2014 at 3:53 am
Hi Julie, I have to agree about “Ave Maria.” Try listening to that and “Silent Night” back to back. Just from the beauty of her voice, I usually end up with a tear or two.
Marcele[o] Castro Da Veiga
August 21, 2014 at 5:58 pm
RAINBOW CONNECTION DO YOU REMEMBER MY MARVELOUS LOVE:
August 21, 2014 at 7:01 pm
No list would be complete without “One More Time,” a gorgeous jewel from Now and Then. Same with its predecessor “Masquerade” on the same side. Spine-tinglers indeed!
August 21, 2014 at 7:20 pm
“Sorry, we’re not available where you are. Leave your email to stay tuned for good news.”
How can I follow if I got this message when I try to listen/view/read the news????? Too bad!!!!!
August 21, 2014 at 11:19 pm
I will know some day to Karen in the haven……………….! i waitting this.
August 22, 2014 at 12:04 am
I’ve know all of these “undiscovered gems” since way back in the 70s with the possible exception of Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing
August 23, 2014 at 7:30 pm
This is a very very good list! For all those who think that Carpenters were pretty much a “singles band” they made very good efforts that deserve a lot of respect about what they already have.
Just some suggestions, I think that the excellent cover of Leon Russell’s This Masquerade is beautiful. The musicianship on that song is incredible: Karen’s vocals, the flute solo, and the musical direction and the piano of Richard. Superb!
Another great track from Loveliness is the soft, and warm If We Try. Lovely one.
And well, if you want one who has Richard as a protagonist, “I Kept On Loving You” is a song that is up there with Piano Picker (without talking about instrumentals), the folk sense on that pop song and Richard vocals are great. Pure early 70s.
September 8, 2014 at 10:25 am
All of the above. “And When He Smiles” is a song that should have found its way onto an album. It is from the BBC special. Somehow it seems perfect.
The biggest “miss” of all the album tracks was surely the title track of “A Song For You”. That and another Leon Russell composition, “This Masquerade”.
October 28, 2014 at 8:12 pm
CARPENTERS VERY,VERY,VERY GOOD!!!!
October 31, 2014 at 12:16 pm
hail the carpenters, karen was the nightingale that sang for the hurtful world
November 27, 2014 at 10:59 am
“”Someday” ( from the 1969 Offeriing/Ticket to ride album) should be more known. I once heard that Richard wanted to re-record the song as there are some minor technical imperfections and Karen wasn`t quite satisfied too. The song has a haunting melody. It is a real gem.
December 10, 2016 at 8:09 pm
I must inform you that you’ve got something totally wrong, Scott E. Davis who wrote Two Sides for The Carpenters is NOT the same guy as Mac Davis, it is two different persons, I know because I use to know Scott E. Davis, when he was a singersongwriter in LA in the 70ties, he wrote other great songs like “Carnival”.