Song Of The Day 2/9/2016: Carpenters – “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing”

Quarterly Covers Report – It's been a while, so let me ask: How are we framing the Carpenters these days? We're over the whole anathema business, right? I know when I was growing up the division between art and schmaltz was super-stark, and the Carpenters were usually sorted into the latter bin without too much of a second thought from anyone besides your aunt. Then after the unfortunate passing of Karen, you had that still-unsettling Todd Haynes flick and one of the more self-conscious (but not bad) tribute albums in music history which reclaimed them for the denizens of Silver Lake. Now I hear them and realize they didn't really sound like anybody else. But I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to want to live in that headspace. And I think Karen was under-used as a drummer. But not too often that it distracts my train of thought about other matters, like whether Don Henley was under-used as a drummer. Anyway, so, yeah, still sorting out their legacy. I'll put Brenda on it right now. Or better yet the intern.

The Carpenters' first album in 1969 was originally titled Offering, but was later retitled Ticket to Ride. It was not an instant hit; that would have been their second album Close to You. But Offering/Ticket to Ride is kind of engrossing. Richard and Karen had full authority to do what they wanted. As suited the times they made a very fluid, abstractly connected suite that sounded like the correct application of principles handed down from Bacharach, Newley/Bricusse and other pop maximalists of the time. There were a couple of nods to light psychedelia trickery -- like Richard singing through a phaser on their cover of the Youngbloods' "Get Together." Oh, yeah -- that's the other thing: Richard sings a lot on Offering, a lot more than he did on subsequent records after Karen became the clear focal point. At the very least, this album's a lot hipper than anything coughed up by Harpers Bizarre. The Carpenters' cover of Neil Young's "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing" somehow makes total sense in my world at the moment. And I don't even have a glass of chardonnay nearby.

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