How Carpenters’ Self-Titled Album Defined 70s Pop Music

The duo’s self-titled third album is a superb piece of work, with hand-picked covers and equally striking originals.

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'Carpenters' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Cover: Courtesy of A&M Records

When Karen and Richard Carpenter had such phenomenal success with their Close to You album in 1970 – it made No.2 on the US charts, No.1 in Canada and the UK Top 30 – there were those that thought it all may have been something of a fluke. Just nine months later, on May 14, 1971, they released their self-titled follow-up, CarpentersNot long afterwards, it first entered the Billboard 200 chart on June 5 at No.15, quickly moving its way up to No.2 on the Billboard bestsellers and No.12 in the UK.

Listen to Carpenters.

The duo’s self-titled third album is a superb piece of work, with hand-picked covers and originals from Richard and John Bettis along with a couple from Roger Nichols and Paul Williams. They include one of their best-loved songs, “Rainy Days and Mondays,” the album’s opening track.

Another Nichols/Williams tune is “Let Me Be The One,” a song that despite never being a single, has long been a favorite with fans everywhere. A further standout is “For All We Know,” written for the film, Lovers and Other Strangers. It was composed by Robb Royer and James Griffin, two members of the band Bread, but they did so under pseudonyms.

Carpenters - Rainy Days And Mondays

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The opening track on Side 2 is “Superstar,” written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell in 1969. This was a song that had a good deal of history even before Richard and Karen recorded their version in early 1971. Delaney & Bonnie had recorded the first reading of the song in late 1969, with Eric Clapton adding subtle guitar detail. It was released as the B-side of their single “Comin’ Home,” which peaked at No.84 in the US but reached No.16 in the UK, credited to Delaney & Bonnie and Friends featuring Eric Clapton. At that time, the Bramlett/Russell song was called “Groupie (Superstar).”

In 1970, when Joe Cocker embarked on his famous Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, Russell was his bandleader, and Rita Coolidge was given the vocal spotlight to interpret the song that by now was known as “Superstar.” When the Carpenters made it their own, it was with the help of Earl Dumler’s plaintive oboe, Joe Osborn on bass and the prolific session drummer Hal Blaine.

Richard Carpenter wasn’t aware of the Delaney & Bonnie or Mad Dogs versions, but was attracted to “Superstar” when he heard Bette Midler performing it on The Tonight Show, on American television, before she had ever charted, then included it on her debut album The Divine Miss M. It is one of the outstanding highlights on Carpenters.

Carpenters, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Superstar

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Richard was a big fan of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s songwriting and the duo’s tribute medley breathes fresh life into their much-loved songs such as “Make It Easy On Yourself” and “Walk On By.” The album closes with a song written by Felice and Henry Mancini, the sumptuous “Sometimes,” one of the lesser-known gems of the Carpenters catalog.

Some may still dismiss Carpenters as “easy listening,” but that is clearly missing the point. The brilliance of the arrangements, the beauty of Karen’s voice and the skill with which Richard puts all of that together makes this a timeless record.

Carpenters can be bought here.



  1. Dee Jay

    June 6, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    “Let Me Be The One” is Williams/Nichols, not Carpenter/Bettis.

    • uDiscover

      June 7, 2015 at 8:24 am

      Dee Jay…thanks a slip of the keyboard there. We were thinking of another song when writing about Let me be the one. Thanks for pointing it out

  2. LUCY

    June 7, 2015 at 3:36 am

    THE CARPENTERS, is my the singers favorite, his song is very greats.
    the ticket to ride, close to you, this masquerade, superstar, the sing a song

  3. Joanna Jean Q. Perez

    June 16, 2015 at 12:51 am

    I knew the “Carpenters” when i was in my early years… And until now they’re one of my fav band.. I really love their songs..also the songs of Richard himself?!… Oh my….
    “talagang natutunaw ang puso. Ko”…so, soooo lovely!!!.. Im really a balladeer….
    Thankz for the music! 🙂

  4. Linda

    July 31, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    When I got marred our song was WE ONLY JUST BEGUN. That song will be forever my one and only number one song ….RIP KAREN

  5. Randy Darling

    August 1, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    When I put on the Carpenters CD I always put All we know on repeat and listen to it twice.

  6. TC Kirkham

    October 13, 2021 at 3:47 pm

    My memory may be faulty, but I seem to remember “Let Me Be The One” being released on a cassette single around the time “From The Top” came out in 1990-91. Unfortunately I don’t have access to them, they’re in storage…heh heh…

  7. Gary Alford

    April 20, 2024 at 6:55 pm

    “Top of the World” one of my many favorites from The Carpenters.

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