This is it. The ultimate collection for Carpenters' fans. 20 previously unreleased recordings, several extremely rare songs that had not appeared on CD before, dozens of remixes, many of the hits and some favorite album tracks. Just amazing!
This collection delved deep into Richard Carpenter's vaults, and it includes recordings from each part of their career up until 1982. Sadly, none of Richard's solo work is included here.
From the Top begins in 1965 in the Carpenters' living room, recording "Caravan." What follows are a number of pre-A&M recordings. "The Parting of Our Ways," "Looking for Love" and "I'll Be Yours" are Karen Carpenter recordings from 1966 (the last two having been released as a single that same year) -- Karen Carpenter was considered the artist, even though Richard wrote, arranged and played piano on all three. "Iced Tea" is performed by the Richard Carpenter Trio (Richard, Karen and Wes Jacobs). "You'll Love Me" is a recording by the Summerchimes (Karen, Richard and friends formed this group in 1967), and "All I Can Do (demo)" is Spectrum (same group, different name).
The songs "Don't Be Afraid (demo)," "Invocation (demo)" and "Your Wonderful Parade (demo)" were part of the tape Richard and Karen used to try to get a record deal. "Goodnight" is a lovely performance of the Beatles tune, recorded on a record of the California State University Long Beach (which was a project of Richard's; he arranged all the songs, and Karen sings lead on three of the songs on that album).
Everything is pretty standard up until "Get Together" and "Interview," both from the radio show "Your Navy Presents." The Carpenters recorded 12 songs live-in-the-studio for this show, and "Get Together" is one of them. It's terribly unfortunate that Richard did not choose to include some of the other songs from that radio show, such as "Can't Buy Me Love," "Cinderella Rockafella" or "I Fell In Love Again," but perhaps these will surface on some future collection...
The next song of note on the album is "Merry Christmas Darling." The version here is the original 1970 version, never before released on CD (Karen had re-recorded the lead vocal in 1978). "Let Me Be the One" is also VERY different from the original; not only is it remixed (with new keyboards), but Richard included a little "outtake" at the end -- Karen singing about "figure out where the rest of the melody is, I'll sing it." The Spanish version of "Sing" had not been released on CD before, and the "Radio Contest Outtakes" are selected flubs from the DJ radio contest recording session (the radio contest heard during the "Yesterday Once More" oldies medley).
BIG suprise on the track "Maybe It's You." This was a new remix for this collection, and not only was the track remixed with new keyboards (different from the 1987 remix, by the way), it contains an ALTERNATE VOCAL TAKE on verse one -- Karen actually sings the phrase "that I've never been the kind who can pass a lucky penny by" differently (both in terms of timing of the phrase and one of the notes she sings) than the 1970 original release or the 1987 remix. Unfortunately, the liner notes don't say anything about this change, so I don't know if this was an alternate lead vocal track (work lead or other take) recorded at the time, or if this was re-recorded later (like the re-recorded lead vocals for "Ticket to Ride," "Top of the World" and a few others). If anyone knows the answer to this, please let me know!
Disc Three has only three previously unreleased tracks, all of which are commercial jingles. The first, "Good Friends Are For Keeps," was a Bell Telephone commercial. The two Suntory Pop jingles were for a grapefruit-flavored Japanese soda.
Disc four has two more tracks from the then-unreleased Karen Carpenter solo album (four tracks had been released the year before on Lovelines. Both new tracks were remixed by Richard, making them different from the versions that appear on the solo album itself.
And on disc four is my favorite part of the collection, the medley from Music Music Music. It opens with a bit of "Sing," but then continues with pretty much full-length studio recordings of "Knowing When to Leave" and "Make It Easy On Yourself." After that is a re-recording of "Someday," which is absolutely stunning, and the medley closes with a bit of "We've Only Just Begun." This medley alone is worth the price of the 4-CD set!
Aside from these previously-unreleased tracks, there are a number of remixes which appear here for the first time, including new remixes of Christmas songs. The version of "Top of the World" here is the original album version, which had not appeared on a CD before this collection.
Another little oddity about this set is "Ave Maria." Not only is it separated from its preceding track (something rarely heard), but it has been sped up to effectively raise the pitch a 1/2 step. Richard Carpenter has acknowledged that the sped-up recording was a mastering error, and it was corrected for the re-working of the set into the book form.
Of note about From the Top is that this was the first "new" Carpenters release in the U.S. to NOT be released on vinyl. (The Christmas Portrait: Special Edition and A&M Classics Vol. 2 had not been issued on vinyl, either, but they were both collections of material that had been issued on vinyl before.)
The set was re-released in 1994 with new packaging, using a "book-form" package to hold the discs and booklet. This package was about half the width of the original 12"x12" box, and did not use the individual jewel cases to hold the discs; rather, each disc fits into a spot inside the covers of the book. All the information and photos from the original booklet are reproduced in the smaller "pages" of the interior of the book. The track listing is identical in both versions.
From the Top is no longer in print, but used copies are available and the entire album is available as a digital download from most major download retailers, including Amazon and iTunes.
Produced by Richard Carpenter, Karen Carpenter and Jack Daugherty
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