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From the Top (Box Set)

Carpenters

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Album Review

The Carpenters' box set retrospective From the Top is a 67-track, four-CD set running under 3 ½ hours (which means it could have fit on three CDs) that traces Richard and Karen Carpenter's musical efforts from the formation of the Richard Carpenter Trio in 1965 to Karen's final recording session in April 1982. This is Richard's compilation; he introduces it and writes a track-by-track commentary, and has also done a lot of refurbishing, remixing 40 tracks and providing "additional recording" on many. The set proceeds chronologically, and most of the 20 previously unreleased tracks date from the '60s, as the group's emerging sound can be traced in demos. The Carpenters' hitmaking period of 1970-75 is extensively covered from the last quarter of the first disc to the start of the third, with most of their big hits included, though Richard excludes a few without comment. Also included are many album tracks that sometimes match the quality of the singles. Richard includes a couple of the Carpenters' singles from the second half of the '70s, and devotes the rest of the third disc and most of the fourth to excerpts from stray projects — Christmas albums, TV specials, Karen's solo album (which Richard carefully notes went unreleased "at Karen's behest"). As such, there is necessarily a fall-off in the set's quality. But by sequencing the songs chronologically, choosing only the ones he wants, and remaking them to his satisfaction, Richard is telling his version of the Carpenters' story, chronicling his band's rise and fall, which occurred in artistic and commercial terms well before his sister's death.

Customer Reviews

The First Anthology

"From The Top" was released in October 1991 and is the first project to feature "remasters." Given the year of release, the remasters are a bit on the quiet side since the art of sonic enhancement was still in it's infancy. This boxed set featured sixty titles, forty were remixed and some of those remixes used alternate lead vocals. "Maybe It's You" and "Goodbye To Love" are two leads that are different. The set is presented chronologically beginning with the living room demos and ending with Karen's last recording session. Not all of the hits are here, nothing from Richard's 1987 solo, and two songs from Karen's solo are added along with Richard's remix of his favorite solo track from Karen, "If I Had You." "Still Crazy Afer All These Years" was released as a single from this set, Richard's remix of Karen's "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" recieved some club play. Karen's solo single from Magic Lamp, "I'll Be Yours," was featured in the 1989 movie "The Karen Carpenter Story." The song that stands out from the rest is the remix and tag addition of "Let Me Be The One." Richard strips the song of it's string production and Karen is heard "speak singing" at the end. "You figure out where the rest of the melody is, I'll sing it...bong." is the line. Two jingles from a Japanese soda company "Suntory" are here, they didn't use either song, the soda company used a fragment of "Top Of The World." The jingle from the Bell telephone company, the Carpenters version, "Good Friends Are For Keeps" is here, remixed. Richard used this format to remix songs that he felt needed tweaking so they could be presented in the best versions. Some of the best known versions were put aside so the originals could be in their place. "Merry Christmas Darling" is the original 1970 single, "Top Of The World" is the original album version. The Karen, Ella medley was intended for this boxed set but due to copyright laws could not be included. The nine minute medley from the Carpenters television special "Music, Music, Music" is beautiful. The original version of this set was a large square, it was streamlined to a narrow book style a year later. This set is spread way too thin, there is a lot of room for more, and alternate versions of the popular album tracks would have been welcome. Did Richard miss the mark? No, but this set could have been trimmed to three packed cd's.

Great Set

This box set has so many extras, it's unbelievable!!! If you've watched the Karen Carpenter Story and like some of the songs on the movie and haven't found them anywhere else, you'll find them here. Tracks 8, 4, 12, and 34 are on the movie.

If I Had You

Karen was about 10 years ahead of her time, when she chose the song (If I Had You) to sing (1979). The slow beginning to upbeat (transition) reminds me a lot of Gloria Estefan's song Cuts Both Ways (1990). Same basic song format / approach. But this pop song gave Karen a chance to show her higher vocal range - more of her natural abilities as a singer. After hearing this song, she proved to be more than just an exceptional drummer and the beautiful lead singer of the Carpenters. Bravo Karen...

Biography

Formed: 1968 in Downey, CA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

With their light, airy melodies and meticulously crafted, clean arrangements, the Carpenters stood in direct contrast with the excessive, gaudy pop/rock of the '70s; yet they became one of the most popular artists of...
Full Bio

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