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Reviews: Carpenters: The Singles 1969-1981

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Reviews: 14

Review by Compression Must Die February 21, 2005 (8 of 23 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I bought this disc primarily for the WAF (wife approval factor). My wife has enjoyed the "improved" 2-channel SACD layer for what it is, a collection of soft rock tunes. Karen Carpenter's voice still sounds great, even if the material is dated.

During our listening sessions I have pretty much kept my opinions to myself though. Not even the benefits of DSD/SACD mastering can save the majority of these tracks from death by compression. This disc really could be the poster child for a "you can't make crappy source material sound better by remastering it" national campaign.

Little if any improvements are made to the sound of the backing instruments, save a couple. You CAN hear the lower register of Richard Carpenter's piano more clearly. You can also hear the drums more clearly (though whether you'd want to is subject to debate). Subtle improvements may also exist in the vocals, but the overall compression is so bad on this one that I cannot bear to listen to it without my wife.

Only the last track has any degree of fidelity. While the viability of the tune and its precepts are easily mocked, track 21 (Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft) actually does sound good. All the instruments and vocals are clear. It makes you wonder what the rest of the disc would be like sans death by compression.

Buy it for the WAF only....

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Review by Darla February 27, 2005 (9 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Well... got this SACD two weeks ago and wasn't really sure what to expect.
Didn't know many songs of the Carpenters (so I thought) except of "Close to You".

By listening to the SACD I repeating got the feeling "oh, I like that one, didn't know it was a Carpenter-Song, yai!"

But I guess most of the people know what to expect from the musical content of this CD.

Now to the SACD-Multichannel Track... IT'S BEAUTIFUL! It's clear, warm, great sonics, sounds natural and recent!
There are barely some Surround-Effects, but that wouldn't fit to that kind of Music anyway!

I didn't listen to the Stereo-Track but as a matter of principal I think that SACDs only make sense if they have a Multichannel-Track and you are able to use it! ;)

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Review by jaybird100 April 27, 2006 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
There seems to be something of a stigma to admitting you're a fan of The Carpenters. Karen was in possession of one of the finest set of pipes in popular music. Richard's genius with arranging and producing is matched only by Brian Wilson. Had Karen not been taken from us at such a young age, there would have been no limits on where she could have gone-- with or without her brother.
All of the songs on this disc were hits for The Carpenters. Some songs were originals, others were covers of songs done by other artists, but with the Carpenter flair. "Please Mr. Postman" is a great example. "This Masquerade" is a perfect song for Karen's smooth, expressive voice. Actually, there isn't a clunker on this disc! So stigma aside, I'm proud to say I'm a Carpenters fan.
As for the sonics of this disc, there's only one word to describe them...flawless! The surround mixes are tasteful and don't detract from the music. The clarity and detail in the tracks come through effortlessly. Clearly, if you own an SACD player, you MUST add this one to your collection.

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Review by StyleAndEntertainmen May 21, 2006 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have to agree with CompressionMustDie on this one. The disc is very good: great (if dated and sappy) songs, and well mixed for surround sound. But CMD is right - you can hear the compression in the upper registers. Cymbols and hi-hats suffer the most. If you can forgive a couple of flaws, and you like oldies then you will certainly like this CD.

Karen's voice IS amazingly rich and full bodied on this disc. She sounds fantastic and is not close miked so the vocal blend in nicely with the arrangements. Man can she sing! Very expressive yet reserved. On some of those love songs, I was sure she is singing to me :) The back ground vocals are placed in the rear channels along with other supporting instruments and it suits this material well. Haven't heard "Scooby dooby dooby dowhop" in while and it is kind of fun :)

The arrangements are great, piano and organ sound very clear, if slightly compressed in the bass (see above). My main gripe is some of the synth work sounds very dated and bothers me as compression bothers CMD. Be warned that on this disc you will clearly hear synthesizers trying to sound like a full orchestra... and failing miserably! But then I'm the guy who panned Tubular Bells for the same reason (I just can not take Mike Oldfield literally yelling out the sounds he was creating on his synth), just so you know where I'm coming from on that one. It may not bother you. It could be considered charming, state of the art for the time, etc, but it bugs the snott out of me because it soounds so obviously fake. This is like buying your wife a cloudy glass bead for her wedding ring and telling her how much better it is than cubic zirconia: she deserves a diamond you moron!

Now where was I. Overall, though this is an enjoyable album. There are so many hits from the land of pop that it's hard not to enjoy. Compression and synthesizer rants aside, it's a good album with the well done sonics and conservative mixes. Not sure I'll listen to it again and again, but it could be good for mixed parties and also for making my teens gag :)

Conditionally Recommended


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Review by Beancounter June 8, 2006 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I consider myself a very open-minded music fan, with ecclectic tastes. This SACD is so rich and clean sounding. It stirs up a lot af emotions memories. An excellent multi-channel mix! Other mixers should take note. I didn't notice the compression issue, and I usually notice stuff like that.

Too many people publicly hate the Carpenters, but are closet listeners. Now I'm out of the closet!

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Review by Brian October 6, 2006 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The whole disc is full of really well written pop compositions. The sugary sentimentality seems rather dated but this is more than made up for by the fantastic voice of Karen Carpenter. The microphone seems rather too close on some tracks but there is no hint of overload either on her voice or any of the instruments. The recording is neutral, although the very top end may be a little down. Ther is no real ambience and the sound field is rather artificial in stereo.

This disc is worth buying for Karen's voice alone and on some some tracks her vocal richness really shines. Once or twice though, I think the engineers have tweaked the graphic EQ to make her voice a little deeper but this does not spoil it. Even with modern voice enhancement techniques, few vocalists have such a wonderfully polished sound. She moves effortlessly from key to key never fluffing a note.

This is must have if you like female vocal.

Equipment used: Sony SACD Crimson 710/640 Pre/power and Living Voice Avatars.

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Review by sacd1 January 3, 2007 (0 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
the vocal is good,2 channel not too bad,i'm not impress the 5.1 surround of this sacd

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Review by esstek June 7, 2007 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
While I agree with other reviewers that this disc *could* have been better if there wasn't so much compression/limiting of individual instruments, please remember when, and how, the original source material was recorded. Considering that most of the multitrack master tapes were 16 and 24 track ANALOG recordings of over 30 years ago, this thing is an absolute GEM! Some compression was almost always required to get the performance on tape without distortion in those days of only 60 to 70 db of dynamic range. However, it is very difficult to try and "undo" compression that was recorded to tape and actually have the result sound decent. Because of this, most engineers choose not to do much expansion/delimiting when they actually get the opportunity. Go back and listen to some of the earlier CD and vinyl mixes of these titles, and you'll quickly hear the not-so-small improvement in EVERY sonic parameter possible. In particular, I think the spectral balance of this material is spot-on for POP mixes. Also noteworthy is the apparent lack of heavy mix bus compression on these tracks. Compare this stuff to most of the pop/rock/country mixes today and it will almost make you sob in appreciation of these tracks more natural dynamic range.

This may be one of the best remixes of older material I've ever heard. I'm not sure when Richard Carpenter and Al Schmidt remixed these, IIRC, the back cover indicated that it was several years ago, but I think the STEREO SACD mixes are simply stunning! I haven't even gotten to the multichannel mixes yet, but I can hardly wait!

And man, how I wish Karen was still with us! Pop music would certainly be in better shape than it is now!

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Review by localhero June 21, 2008 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Can't sat I was a fan of the Carpenters, but this disc is excellent! Found myself breaking into a smile at times while listening.

The sonics are just what one would hope for from a 70s master - clean and smooth, with just a hint of the nice kind of tape distortion. The surround mix is superb, with special kudos to the vocal spread on "Ticket to Ride".

I didn't notice any of the compression problems that others have mentioned. Sometimes a bit of that is good for pop music of this sort, anyway.

Karen sure could sing, indeed. And Richard knew his melodies, arrangements, and recording. You might wish for more variation in style. But just when it gets a bit tedious, on comes a "Masquerade" or "Calling Occupants" to demonstrate the Carpenters' ability to push beyond the usual.

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Review by wolf359 May 26, 2009 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Compilation albums are always difficult to assess simply because it is in the nature of the finalised disc to to have its tracks possibly orginate in different studios, with different engineers etc. With the Carpenters however consistency is the keyword. They have a uniformity of sound across all of the album tracks that is quite beguiling. This is helped in part By Richard Carpenters prowess as a skilled arranger and producer, though I could quite easily live without his attempts at singing.

As expected Karen Carpenters voice provides a lesson to other female vocalists on the pleasures of having a good strong clear dictation combined with a natural warmth. It is shown to its best advantage in these tracks.

Some may think that because these tracks are overly famililar from countless radio plays over the years that they can be safely ignored. Not so I found myself listening anew to countless little hooks and riff's that had been previously buried in the mix. In SACD stereo they come over loud and clear in Multichannel they provide a interesting insight well worth listening to.

I did not notice the compression that others have pointed out. The word that springs to mind is smooth or polished which was a hallmark of the orginal albums on vinyl.

The only comment I would make regarding the selection of tracks is that it leans rather heavily on the earlier album releases which is understandable I suppose. I cannot however understand how they came to include the track "I Belive in You" when other more worthy songs could have been used.

It is galling however to realise that back in the 70's virtually every Carpenters album was released in some form of quadraphonic/surround sound replay system be it disc or tape (except I think for the first one) I would love to hear my favourites "A song for you" and "Horzion". on SACD

I rate this album highly and often use it as an SACD demonstrator simply because so many people of all ages are familiar with the music. Its often an eye and ear opener for the masses when they realise just how good SACD can be on very famililar tracks which they know well.

It is however along with Dark Side of the Moon a decided pointer to what older material could be given the right sympathetic treatment. Aagin like Dark side of the moon it leaves you wanting more. So a successful reissue definitely

So I give it 4/5 for performance (compliations will never get 5 in my world too many variable plus Richards singing lets it down. 4.5 for stereo only to put the multichannel at 5 and show the difference

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Review by gonzostick August 16, 2009 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    

Classic hits with some GodAwful songs added that can only be characterized as drivel. The disc, when the tracks are real Carpenters Classics, is absolutely delightful BUT depressing.

It is a lovely trip into the art of one of the greatest American vocalists, ever, and her brother, who should rate as a genius arranger.

Ms. Carpenter's voice just wraps itself around these songs and the DSD mastering from analog tapes is nothing but beautiful, even in a few songs that are idiotic. When I speak of depressing, I say so with the same feeling I get when I hear Billie Holiday's LADY IN SATIN. Of course, Carpenter's voice is much, much better than Holiday's, but the singing, phrasing, vibrancy of the voice produces an effect of deep sadness, though there is ineffably beautiful singing everywhere on this recording.

The mix is not terribly imaginative in surround but it evenly spreads the lushness of Richard Carpenter's arrangements around the room and Karen's voice is brought forward INTO the room.

I think I hear an interesting instrument, a Mellotron, playing some of the layered woodwind textures in this album.

If you want a serious trip into yesteryear with wonderful singing, this disc is a MUST BUY!!!

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Review by Shakespear777 January 23, 2010 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
This is an amazing, wonderful SACD which easily tops everything else I have in terms of sonics. I realize now that Karens voice was masterful and this certainly adds to the disc tremendously but I can't think of anything I have that sounds so crisp, clean, and real. OK, the synthesizer is an issue but it grows pale by the perfection of all the other sounds from top to bottom.I'll be recommending this to my friends, but sadly, I doubt they will listen.

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Review by Discspinner February 5, 2011 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Given that this material was recorded 30 to 40 years ago, I think the SACD presentation of these is nearly miraculous. Vocals are lifelike, as are the mid ranges in general. Bass for the most part is subtle, but my guess is that was the way these were meant to be. Solo vocals tend to have a great presence to them, but on some the chorus vocals are multi tracked and tend to fall into the background a little. I have never previously owned a Carpenters album or CD, so my memory of them is at best from AM or FM, and filtered through time. Perhaps that is why this SACD seems to represent an excellent remastering effort, but I can recommend it in comparison to other "pop" SACD incarnations as well. Definitely worth the purchase.

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Review by Rhinojack November 17, 2014 (1 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Top notch, but that's what to expect from Richard Carpenter. This is so clear that you can even hear Karen's breath inhalations as she sings. The multichannel mix is worthy of showcasing. The music,...timeless. I paid about $80.00 for my copy and I don't regret it at all.

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