Carpenters’ ambitious eighth album, Passage, was a victim of its own timing: released in October 1977, while the world was going punk and Carpenters were producing the plushest of plush pop. Passage included three hit singles, “All You Get From Love Is A Love Song” (US No. 35), “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” (US No. 32), and “Sweet, Sweet Smile (US No. 44). The latter song, written by Juice Newton, was picked up by country radio and made the Billboard country chart in the spring of 1978. Yet while the album only made No. 49, it remained on the US chart for four and a half months.
Passage includes some of the Carpenters’ most ambitious productions of all time, among them their cover of Canadian band Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.” The single came out in late September 1977 and was recorded on the A&M soundstage in Los Angeles, featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, who, for contractual reasons, were referred to as the “Overbudget Philharmonic,” in Passage’s liner notes.
The orchestral arrangements for “Calling Occupants” and the other “production” number on the album, “On The Balcony Of The Casa Rosada/Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” were by British arranger and conductor Peter Knight, whose credits include The Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed album. According to Richard, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” was “submitted to us by the publisher, and I immediately felt it was perfect for Karen, though now I feel differently, as I believe the song doesn’t linger long enough in a lower register, a great area for Karen’s voice.”
Passsage was something of a first for the Carpenters in that it includes no songs written by Richard. “All You Get from Love Is A Love Song” was written by Steve Eaton, while the lovely “Two Sides,” one of the band’s lesser-known gems was written by Scott E. Davis, better known as Mac Davis. The album’s opening track, “B’wana She No Home,” is from the pen of cult jazz vocalist Michael Franks, while “Man Smart, Woman Smarter” is credited to Norman Span, better known as 40s calypso singer King Radio.
Aside from Karen and Richard, the album features regular guitarist Tony Paluso (who is also the voice of the DJ on “Calling Occupants”), along with bass player Joe Osborn, Ray Parker Jr on guitar — later to find fame with Raydio — noted Los Angeles sax player and session man Tom Scott and Elvis Presley’s drummer, Ron Tutt.
Passage entered the US charts on October 22, 1977, but while it didn’t chart as highly as expected at home, it did make No. 12 in the UK and No. 7 in Japan, and remains a much-loved album by fans, most of whom were never remotely interested in punk, anyway…