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The Essential Collection (1965-1997) [Box Set]

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Album Review

The Carpenters' 2002 box set, The Essential Collection (1965-1997) is a revised version of their 1991 box set, From the Top. This time, Richard Carpenter has aimed more at a comprehensive treatment of the Carpenters' career, including all of their Top 40 hits (some with grudging remarks in the liner notes) in an expansion that adds 45 and a half minutes to the running time. There are also some more album cuts and rarities, though the only previously unreleased tracks are a commercial and a medley of standards by Karen Carpenter and Ella Fitzgerald from a television special. In total, he has added 17 tracks, while deleting four: a cover of the Beatles' "Goodnight"; a Spanish-language version of "Sing" (replaced by the English-language hit version that had been left off From the Top); and two songs from his sister's solo album (which he no longer describes as having been shelved in 1980 "at Karen's behest," but now "for reasons that are well-chronicled elsewhere," presumably in Ray Coleman's 1994 authorized biography), "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" and "Still Crazy After All These Years." Since that album finally saw release in 1996, he may have thought it was no longer necessary to represent so much of it. The result of the changes is a big improvement. From the Top didn't really justify its four discs; it could have fit on three. And it was a compromise between an all-out rarities set and a thorough career overview. This version uses its greater length to satisfy the latter goal. It is worth noting, too, that like From the Top, The Essential Collection (1965-1997) is a retouched version of the Carpenters' story. Richard Carpenter has not hesitated to remix, overdub, and otherwise spiff up the band's recordings. Purists may object, but the sound justifies the changes.

Customer Reviews

The Boxed Set Overhaul

"From The Top" is still in print and that's a good thing regarding the tracks from that set that have been dropped here, those titles are listed on the opening review. All of the Carpenters hits are here, though not all are in their hit form, some are album cuts, and the overall sound is incredible. Richard added a lot of album cuts, "A Song For You" was intended for "From The Top" but for some odd reason this strong album cut didn't make it, this remixed version is from the 1987 version of "A Song For You" album remixed in it's entirity. "All Of My Life" and "Eve" were remixed for the 1987 project "Treasures" released in the U.K.. When this set was released the album "As Time Goes By" was a Japanese only release completed in 1999 and released in 2000. The Karen/Ella Medley is from that album and for the first time was made available here, as is the chocolate commercial. The only song included from Karen's solo is Richard's remix of "If I Had You" which was culled as a single in 1989. Still, nothing from Richard's moderately successful solo "Time" in 1987 is here, but this set does close with Richard's "Karen's Theme" recorded for the 1989 tele-biopic and included on his second solo "Pianist, Composer, Conductor" released in 1997. This boxed set is the most comprehensive of the Carpenters recording to date.

Truly the Essential Collection

This 73 track, 4 disc box set has some of the really rare recordings of the Carpenters before 1969 (tracks 1-8 and 10). Lots of these songs have the 1991 remixes, too. It also features a rare appearance on "Your Navy Presents," a national radio show in 1970. The song was "Get Together," followed by an interview (the interview actually followed the Bacharach Medley they performed on "Your Navy Presents"). It features the single versions of "Merry Christmas, Darling" (1970), "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" (1974), and not a well known song "Tryin' To Get The Feelin' Again" (1975). The oldies medley on this album is outstanding. The vocals and instruments were remastered and remixed to its fullest extent. The reprise for "Yesterday Once More" has its echoes taken out. If you compare the "Now & Then" version and this version of the "Yesterday Once More" reprise, the "Now & Then" version sounds like it has a lot of reverberation and the sound is pushed back, while this version is clear and crisp. This album also features "Ave Maria" without the lead-in from the song before it on "Christmas Portrait." It includes some of the Carpenters' later songs from 1978-1980 on here, such as "If I Had You," "Little Girl Blue," and "Because We Are In Love (The Wedding Song)." I think "Now" is a true masterpiece, because Karen's vocals are perfect, and she did it all in one take. It was also her last recording before her unexpected death on February 4, 1983. The four disc box set closes with Richard's composition for "The Karen Carpenter Story," called "Karen's Theme." It's a wonderful, grieving song that expresses all of the emotions of Karen's death into one song. It's a truly beautiful album, and I think it's worth the money. Go out and either buy the box set itself, or buy it right here on iTunes.

I love this~In loving Memory

I love this album b/c it brings back good memories. These are great classic songs. Rest in PEACE Karen.


Formed: 1968 in Downey, CA

Genre: Pop

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

With their light, airy melodies and meticulously crafted, clean arrangements that appealed to a variety of audiences, 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 the decade, scoring 12 Top Ten hits, including three number one singles. Karen Carpenter's calm, pretty voice was the most distinctive element of their music, settling in perfectly amidst the precise, lush arrangements provided by her brother Richard....
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The Essential Collection (1965-1997) [Box Set], Carpenters
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