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The Carpenters In 20 Songs

A special playlist to celebrate the masterful song craft and recording brilliance of Richard and Karen Carpenter.

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Photo: A&M Records archives

Even though they were only able to record together for some 14 years before the sad death of Karen Carpenter, age does not dim the timeless contribution of the Carpenters.

There was almost three and a half years’ difference in their ages, Richard born on 15 October 1946 and Karen on 2 March 1950. But the sibling act from New Haven, Connecticut practically invented the modern idiom of mature, beautifully constructed soft pop, with one ear for the music they grew up with and another for winning melodies, sympathetic instrumentation and, of course, those gorgeous harmonies. Spotlighting their legacy, we at uDiscover Music have put together this special 20-song playlist.

Ticket_to_RideWe’ll all have ideas of the Carpenters’ perfect 20 tracks; as ever we make no grand claims for this to be a definitive list in any way, and we want to hear from you about your own favourites. This selection features most, but not all, of their classic hits, because we also wanted to find space for a handful of the Carpenters’ lesser-played album gems.

Broadly chronological, the list draws from all of Karen and Richard’s studio albums released during her lifetime, with the exception of 1978’s festive Christmas Portrait. We begin with the early cover of ‘Ticket To Ride,’ from the 1969 debut first released as Offering and then renamed after the Beatles’ number. It was our first notice of their depth of imagination and song craft, which they applied both to classic material, new works by top writers such as Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, Richard’s collaborations with John Bettis and other sources.

A Kind Of Hush Carpenters Soon, they were underlining that again with their revival of Bacharach & David’s ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You,’ which became the definitive rendition and gave them a glorious four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1970. It set in motion a sequence of superb singles and albums, including 11 more US top ten hits, two of them No. 1s.

Other highlights include album tracks such as ‘Crescent Noon,’ from Close To You, the Bacharach-David medley from Carpenters, their sultry take on Leon Russell’s ‘This Masquerade’ and elegant later singles such as ‘I Need To Be In Love.’ Enjoy this pure musical sophistication.

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Follow the official Carpenters Best Of playlist.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. lee vincent

    October 27, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    karen’s voice remains timeless even after all these years hard choice to choose one song im going for i need to be in love a song as i’ve aged grown to love more

  2. Karen McLaughlin

    October 28, 2015 at 12:38 am

    I don’t think anyone will ever be able to replace the sound of Karen’s voice. It was beautiful!! I love hearing the songs now just as much if not more than I did in the 70’s. My favourite song is still “I know I need to be in love”. This song has more meaning for me the older I get!! Best harmony between brother and sister ever!!

    • Don Lombardi

      March 26, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Karen, I couldn’t agree with more. Her voice was what we men only dream of, and since her death, it’s all we can do. She had the finest female voice I’d ever heard, both then and now. “I need to be in love” remains my 2nd favorite, but it does mean more as I age too; “Superstar” is my favorite, probably because I build and play guitars, and at times they have been played sadly. Anyway, guess I just needed to express how I felt about Karen Carpenters voice to another fan.

  3. rich lane

    October 28, 2015 at 1:34 am

    there is no replacing “the voice” ever, so many vocal artists today…so many that sell millions of records and when you compare their efforts to what Karen belted out with the backing and production of her brother Richard and wonder how and why? Its so unfortunate she had emotional issues with the whole anorexia nervosa business as it cost her her life in the end. Still nobody has or will probably come close to the wonderful sounds produced by the voice..the best female vocalist of our generation.

  4. joseph ott

    October 28, 2015 at 3:36 am

    favorite is rainy days and Mondays her VOICE IS ONE OF THE TOP BEST OF THE 20TH CENTURY and Richard was a master at arranging songs to fit his sister I never get tired of listening to the carpenters yesterday once more to go back and hear KAREN CARPENTER SING LIVE ONE LAST TIME

  5. Vanessa

    October 28, 2015 at 9:11 am

    I think that Karen Carpenter is THE No1 female vocalist this century and the last one, and probably for longer. She had a way of injecting feeling and poignancy into her songs which is matchless. My favourites – hard to say, but I loved Superstar, Solitaire, I need to be in love, On top of the World, to name but a few!

  6. George Smith

    October 28, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    With the enormous wealth of their “regular” recordings, it is interesting to note that some early beautiful recitals by Karen were recorded when she sang with the Long Beach State University choral group “pre-Carpenters.” Maybe the most beautiful of these was Karen’s gorgeous interpretation (at 17!) of John Lennon’s memorable lullaby, “Good Night.” She also did a captivating duet of Blood, Sweat & Tears “And When I Die” with a talented gospel singer girl in the choir. They can be found on YouTube or on the “From the Top” box CD set. The acoustics on these are a bit primitive, but Karen’s amazing young voice comes through nonetheless.

  7. Mayuram V. Sankaran

    October 28, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    They were on the ‘top of the world’ charts for sometime!

  8. Srinivasa Rao P

    March 26, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Top of the World, and Sweet Sweet Smile are best one

  9. Carolyn Harris

    March 26, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I loved Rainy Days and Monday – Solitaire – Close to you – Top of the World but the quality and pureness of her voice was haunting. Nowadays no-one comes near her even though a few are close.

  10. Gary Poole

    March 26, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Her voice is perfection even, but even more so, I find todays female artists schreechy and shrill, unpleasant on the ear. Her voice is so beautiful and so many examples, I love their version of Ticket to Ride, but Close to you, is iconic with that opening line.

  11. Julie Rothwell

    March 26, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    I love ALL The Carpenters songs but there are two numbers we don’t get to hear. The best for me is Ave Maria. Second place goes to Don’t Cry For Me Argentina. They are beautiful.

  12. Marilyn

    March 26, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    There really has never been a voice like hers. Just shows what hurtful thoughtless words can do. Never forgotten. My favourite Carpenters song is “I know I need to be in love”.

  13. victoria stovold

    March 27, 2016 at 12:09 am

    We’ve only just begun, song for you & for all we know are my favourite songs..Karen was undoubtedly the best female vocalist by far. Sadly she isn’t here anymore, but like all great legends..there work & legacy LIVE ON.

  14. Rogelio Esangga

    March 27, 2016 at 12:35 am

    Only Karen Carpenter can sing SUPERSTAR. Her voice can not be forgotten. This song is my favorite. I usually play this on youtube at work several times a week. Such a great song. Rest in peace Karen. Your star still shining bright at night.

  15. Michael D. Mason

    March 27, 2016 at 3:32 am

    I was in a car heading to Perth, Western Australia, when I first hear “Close to You”- it sent shivers up my spine……I just had to find out who had made this beautiful recording. Loving harmonies, as I do, all of their music had the same effect, and there isn’t one that I could possibly pick out as a favourite – they were ALL brilliant.

  16. Harshida

    March 27, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Top of the world is my all time favourite from the carpenters.. love Karen’s voice, the drums everything about the song!

  17. malcolm porter

    March 27, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    when they recorded voice of the heart that certainly hits the spot nearly as if Karen knew she d be with us no longer but what a legacy was left her and Richard where very close to the greatest

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