LOS ANGELES (AP) – “Every sha-la-la-la, every wo-o-wo-o still shines,” sang the Carpenters in “Yesterday Once More,” their successful 1973 tribute to songs from the past.
That could be the tagline for a new book about the work of Richard and Karen Carpenter, which seeks to put aside the noise that surrounds the duo and focus on their harmonic creations.
“Carpenters: The Musical Legacy” (Princeton University Press), 50 years after the duo’s first successes, was co-written by Richard Carpenter, with Associated Press reporter Mike Cidoni Lennox and Chris May.
Carpenter passed on many retrospective projects, having faced decades of questions about her sister’s inner life and her 1983 death from heart failure, a complication of anorexia, at the age of 32. It was the opportunity to do something different.
“It was the emphasis on the music itself, that’s mostly it,” Carpenter told the AP as he sat at his piano in his Southern California home. “This touches on things that we had not addressed before or that if we had, it would have been ignored.”
It has the weight and visual history of a tabletop book, but it’s also an almost note-for-note musical biography of the couple dating back to their childhood lives in New Haven, Connecticut, where Richard Carpenter found the group seeds. sound in his father’s records and a toy jukebox.
He cites unexpected influences, including another male-female duo, Les Paul and Mary Ford, whose early experiences with vocal overdubs and layered harmonies electrified him.
“It left a mark on me, this ooh-ah, ooh-ah. I was maybe 5 or 6 years old,” Carpenter said. “I had no idea how it was all done. I just knew. that it was different and that I really liked it. And many years later, of course, it occurred to me as I was arranging a lot of things that I wrote the harmonies for.
He gives a less famous name to a well-known sound, choral arranger Judd Conlon, whose work appeared in Disney’s “Peter Pan” and “Alice in Wonderland”.
“His arrangement style for multiple voices was tight,” Carpenter said. “They were very close harmonies, which had a great effect on me.”
The book makes it clear that their elaborate, multi-layered recordings were made while the young duo maintained an impressive schedule of tours and television appearances.
He reports on almost every rainy day and Monday they spent in a turbulent 1970s, the year “(They Long to Be) Close to You” became their breakthrough success. Somehow, in the midst of it all, they recorded their second album, “Carpenters” from 1971, known to fans as the Tanned Album and considered by many to be their best.
The Carpenters have often been ridiculed as makers of schmaltzy disposable tubes. But the book argues that they were great fully-trained album makers, with an incredible run of records between 1970s “Close to You” and 1973 “Now & Then”, the concept album that solidified their stardom. global.
“We had so many hit singles, and usually in a row, that we tended to be rejected by our critics again as a group of singles,” Carpenter said. “We have sold millions of albums.
Carpenter’s ear for finding hits, often in unlikely places, was as essential as his ear for making them.
He found “Superstar”, probably the most beloved Carpenters song among younger generations, when he heard Bette Midler perform it on “The Tonight Show”. He stumbled across “We’ve Only Just Begun” in a bank ad before they made it a hit.
When he heard them, he knew exactly what to do with them.
If the song struck me, whether it was one of my own or a song I had heard, like ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, or ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ or ‘Superstar’, if the song l ‘had, my arrangement just happened immediately, ”Carpenter said.
And he knew a song was useless if it didn’t match his sister’s beautiful viola voice.
“I could give you a list of songs that I heard on the radio that I bought right away and that I knew wouldn’t work for Karen and me,” he said. “The fact that we are brother and sister has a lot to do with it. “
He also reviewed his music catalog on the upcoming “Richard Carpenter’s Piano Songbook”. He reinvents several of the group’s greatest hits for solo piano on the album due for release in January.
Amid all the flashbacks, Carpenter recently made his first visit in over 30 years to what was once A&M Records Studios in Hollywood. It is now owned by Jim Henson Company and the Muppets, who have changed it very little.
It was a moving journey.
“We spent so much of our life there it was like coming home,” he said.
Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton