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Close To You

A&M 4271
Released: August 1970
Chart Peak: #2
Weeks Charted: 87
Certified Gold: 11/13/70

Richard CarpenterKaren CarpenterSqueaky-clean, that's what the Carpenters are. They look just like your average young pop-music-millionaire kids next door, and they sing just about the way you'd expect a smooth commercial entity would. That is, not too loud, not too fast, not too funky -- and not too interesting. For instance, their version of Bacharach's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" is so arch that it might tempt even a Doris Day to utter a few rude noises. Five of the songs were written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis, and even the best of them, "Maybe It's You," seems quite contrived. I know that there is a huge audience for this sort of middle-America hokum and that every few years a new set of juveniles and ingenues come along to persuade the old folks that young folks are just as upstanding as ever. So, even as many prefer these tours of marshmallow factories, I remain content in my cynical conviction that Shirley Temple was a midget, Deanna Durbin a forty-five-year-old castrato, the New Christy Minstrels the Stern Gang, June Allyson a notorious Mexican gun moll, John Davidson a Haitian vice king -- and Debbie Reynolds wears Army shoes. I should have the lowdown on the Carpenters for you any day now.

- Peter Reilly, Stereo Review, 9/71.

Bonus Reviews!

Karen and Richard Carpenter have taken the music world by storm with their beautiful "Close to You" million seller, and they are on their way to repeating that success with their current "We've Only Just Begun." Their smooth blend of voices is evident throughout this LP, which includes both those hits and they should skyrocket up the best selling album charts. Another gem is their treatment of "Baby It's You."

- Billboard, 1970.

This was the Carpenters' breakthrough album. Its title track was their first major hit, and it spawned the followup "We've Only Just Begun," which has been used in countless weddings since. The album also contained various pop covers of '60s hits like "Help!" and "Baby It's You," reinforcing the group's implied ties to rock while fostering the birth of a new generation of easy listening music. This album won the Carpenters a Best New Artist Grammy for 1970. * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Close to You (1970), with "We've Only Just Begun" and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," and A Song for You (1972), with "Hurting Each Other" and the great "Goodbye to Love," with its brilliant outro of fuzz guitar solo over massed oohs-n-aahs, have the same dewy freshness as Carpenters (1971), though with less consistent material. * * * 1/2

- Steve Holtje, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Karen Carpenter sang and drummed; her brother Richard arranged their lushly melodic music. Both contributed to their thoroughly wholesome image. "It's like we're Pat Boone, only a little cleaner," Richard lamented to Rolling Stone in 1974. "As if all we do all day is drink milk, eat apple pie and take showers. I don't even like milk." Close to You, their second album, has two of their best ballads: "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun." In the early Seventies, the Carpenters epitomized the mainstream, but now their influence is audible in cooler, slightly less-clean indie bands: the Cardigans, Stereolab and "chamber pop" acts such as Belle and Sebastian.

Close to You was chosen as the 175th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

Pop culture's romantic view of early 1970s U.S. teen culture is of radicalized, long-haired youths listening to The Stooges and fighting the Nixon administration. In reality, most looked like, and listened to, The Carpenters.

Close To You was The Carpenters' second album, but the first to be a hit. Their recording of the Bacharach/David song "(They Long To Be) Close To You" had topped the U.S. charts for four weeks, going on to become a huge international success. Close To You was assembled quickly thereafter, drawing largely on songs that Karen (vocals and drums) and Richard (piano) had played in clubs and cocktail bars over the previous four years. Karen's assured, bell-like voice invests covers of classics by Tim Hardin and Bacharach/David with a timeless innocence, complemented by her brother's clean, inventive arrangements. "We've Only Just Begun," another pop gem, soared to No. 2 Stateside (bizarrely, this wide-eyed love song was originally written for a bank's TV ad). The album spent more than a year in the U.S. charts; Carpenter-mania was born.

The Carpenters' albums have always sold well, putting them in the exclusive club of artists who have sold more than 100 million units. Beneath the pop sheen though, melancholy pervades much of their work (made all the more poignant by Karen Carpenter's death in 1983, from a heart attack brought on by years of anorexia). Critics tended to ignore The Carpenters. Not that this mattered. Their fans were not the types who bothered with the fashion-oriented music press.

- Garth Cartwright, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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