The Carpenters (officially known as Carpenters)[a] were an American vocal and instrumental duo consisting of siblings Karen (1950–1983) and Richard Carpenter (born 1946). They produced a distinct soft musical style, combining Karen’s contralto vocals with Richard’s harmonizing, arranging and composition skills. During their 14-year career, the Carpenters recorded 10 albums along with numerous singles and several television specials.
The siblings were born in New Haven, Connecticut, and moved to Downey, California, in 1963. Richard took piano lessons as a child, progressing to California State University, Long Beach, while Karen learned the drums. They first performed together as a duo in 1965 and formed the jazz-oriented Richard Carpenter Trio followed by the middle-of-the-road group Spectrum.
Signing as Carpenters to A&M Records in 1969, they achieved major success the following year with the hit singles “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”. The duo’s brand of melodic pop produced a record-breaking run of hit recordings on the American Top 40 and Adult Contemporary charts, and they became leading sellers in the soft rock, easy listening and adult contemporary music genres. They had three number-one singles and five number-two singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and 15 number-one hits on the Adult Contemporary chart, in addition to 12 top-10 singles.
The duo toured continually during the 1970s, which put them under increased strain; Richard took a year off in 1979 after he had become addicted to Quaalude, while Karen suffered from anorexia nervosa. Their joint career ended in 1983 when Karen died from heart failure brought on by complications of anorexia. Extensive news coverage surrounding these circumstances increased public awareness of eating disorders. Their music continues to attract critical acclaim and commercial success. They have sold more than 90 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
If I Were a Carpenter is a 1994 tribute album to The Carpenters. It features alternative rock bands covering the songs of Richard and Karen Carpenter.
The cover is a cartoon-like drawing of Richard and Karen Carpenter listening to an LP album against an orange background. Richard Carpenter has said that he doesn’t “care for” the version of “Superstar” by Sonic Youth.
The album was the brainchild of Matt Wallace (Maroon 5, Replacements, Faith No More) and David Konjoyan.
The album, and specifically the Sonic Youth cover of “Superstar,” featured prominently in the 2007 film Juno; “Superstar” was included on the Juno soundtrack. (wikipedia)
Released among a bevy of tribute albums toasting the likes of Charles Mingus and Neil Young, If I Were a Carpenter registers as one of the best of the lot, with spot-on performances of Carpenters classics from the ’70s. Unlike many tribute collections, this CD gets it right most of the time, thanks to a lineup of artists suited to the duo’s wide-screen pop mix. Matthew Sweet, the Cranberries, Sheryl Crow, Grant Lee Buffalo, and Cracker deliver the most straightforward interpretations here, informing the likes of “Solitaire” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” with the same amount of moody tenderness that made the originals so effective. On the other end of the spectrum, Sonic Youth gives “Superstar” a nicely claustrophobic and feedback-addled turn, while Bettie Severt brings its Neil Young-inspired guitar attack to bear on “For All We Know.”
On other fronts, Shonen Knife and Babes in Toyland contribute giddy lo-fi readings and Dishwalla and 4 Non Blondes go in for brooding swagger. Finally, American Music Club and Redd Kross get special mention for their tailored-made and respective helpings of despair and dreamy ’70s sensibility on “Goodbye to Love” and “Yesterday Once More.” And, while being impressed by the sheer range and originality of these interpretations, listeners will also discover the overlooked songwriting talents of Paul Williams, Roger Nichols, Leon Russell, Neil Sedaka, and Richard Carpenter. A must for the post-punk-savvy Carpenters fan. (by Stephen Cook)
01. American Music Club: Goodbye To Love (Bettis/R.Carpenter) 3.12
02. Shonen Knife: Top of the World (Bettis/Busby) 3.56
03. Sonic Youth: Superstar (Bramlett/Russell) 4.08
04. The Cranberries: (They Long to Be) Close To You (Bacharach/David) 2.41
05. Bettie Serveert: For All We Know (Griffin/Karlin/Wilson) 3.28
06. Dishwalla: It’s Going To Take Some Time (King/Stern) 4.18
07. Sheryl Crow: Solitaire (Cody/Sedaka) 4.45
08. Marc Moreland & Johnette Napolitano: Hurting Each Other (Geld/Udell) 4.12
09. Redd Kross: Yesterday Once More (Bettis/R.Carpenter) 3.59
10. Babes In Toyland: Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft (Klaatu) 4.09
11. Cracker: Rainy Days And Mondays (Nichols/Williams) 3.46
12. Matthew Sweet: Let Me Be The One (Nichols/Williams) 3.27
13. 4 Non Blondes: Bless The Beasts And Children (Botkin, Jr./De Vorzon) 4.19
14. Grant Lee Buffalo: We’ve Only Just Begun (Nichols/Williams) 3.51
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