As Time Goes By is being called by Richard the "final" Carpenters album. It is made up entirely of unreleased recordings, almost all of which are studio recordings. Originally released in Japan in 2001, it was finally released in the U.S. in April, 2004.
Most of the songs on this album were recorded for use in various television specials. Tracks 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8 were recorded for their final special, Music Music Music, in 1980; tracks 5 and 9 were recorded for their 1977 special Space Encounters; tracks 2 and 14 were recorded for the Carpenters' First Television Special in 1976; track 11 was recorded for a Perry Como special, and the bonus track was recorded live during the 1971 Live at the BBC broadcast.
The other songs come from various sources; two very early songs here are "Nowhere Man" and "California Dreaming," which date to the 1967 sessions in Joe Osborne's garage studio. "Leave Yesterday Behind" and "The Rainbow Connection" are the only songs on the collection that are simply left-over album work tracks, never before released.
Here are notes about the individual songs:
Track 1: "Without a Song" -- This is not exactly the same as it appeared in Music Music Music. It begins with the a cappella section (presented in a different mix than on Interpretations, by the way), and after the orchestra comes in, the song is completed by just Karen and Richard -- without Ella Fitzgerald and John Davidson. Karen sings the lines Ella sang on the TV special, and Richard sings the lines John Davidson sang.
Track 2: "Medley: Superstar/Rainy Days and Mondays" -- This was a new recording of these two songs made in 1976 for the Carpenters' first television special. However, this version here is even newer! Richard has re-recorded all the keyboard parts in stereo, re-recorded the drums and bass, and added harmonica and a larger orchestra for this album. Even though you think you've heard these songs before, hang in there to the end -- the last 20 seconds of the piece is quite different from the original "Rainy Days."
Track 3: "Nowhere Man" -- A song from the Carpenters' pre-A&M days (and from their original demo tape), this is a slowed-down version of a Beatles' tune (very much like "Ticket to Ride" in some ways). It is absolutely lovely, but it's over so quickly... The track has been augmented with some new keyboard work, harmonica, strings and oboe (in glorious stereo, contrasting with the mono piano track).
Track 4: "I Got Rhythm Medley" -- This song is presented exactly as it appeared in Music Music Music, down to the soft-shoe shuffling sounds during the little dance sequence. The instrumental middle section of this song was obviously designed to show off Karen's talent at the drums, although Richard provides some pretty nifty keyboards in there too.
Track 5: "Dancing in the Streets" -- a short (just under two minutes), somewhat unexciting take on this Motown classic. It displays a bit too much disco influence for my taste, and it sounds awfully slick, with a full orchestra accompanying it.
Track 6: "Dizzy Fingers" -- An instrumental, performed by Richard at the piano -- and other keyboards -- backed by full orchestra. This appears to be the original recording from 1980, rather than a re-recorded version (the piano is mono, so Richard didn't go back and "fix" this one like he did the 1980 recording of "From This Moment On" for Interpretations.)
Track 7: "You're Just In Love" -- This is also from the Music Music Music special, except John Davidson has again been erased. Richard sings the part of the song which had been sung by John Davidson on the TV special.
Track 8: "Karen/Ella Fitzgerald Medley" -- This is pretty much the exact song that appeared in the Music Music Music special. I can't really detect any changes whatsoever, except of course that the song is being presented in stereo here for the first time. Richard points out in the liner notes that Karen's vocal was lip-synched on the television special (pre-recorded), but Ella Fitzgerald's voice was recorded live in the TV studio. This track is also available on the box set The Essential Collection.
Track 10: "Leave Yesterday Behind" -- A song very much like "For All We Know," and written by Fred Karlin (who wrote "For All You Know"), this is a beautiful performance that sounds as if it came right from one of the Carpenters' best albums. Karen's lead is surrounded by a full orchestra and backing vocals by Richard. While this was a work lead (as there are no harmony vocals by Karen on the track), this song is remarkably complete-sounding. One of the true hidden gems in the Carpenters' collection. It was recorded in 1978, but completed in 1999. This track was also released on the U.S. collection Gold in 2004.
Track 11: "Carpenters/Perry Como Medley" -- this medley appeared, in a significantly different form, on a Perry Como TV special. This new album version of the medley contains several extra songs at the beginning of the medley, starting with what sounds like the original album-version vocal of "Yesterday Once More." "Magic Moments" is just a small snippet of a song, as is "Catch a Falling Star." Then the medley enters familiar territory -- after the first line of "Close to You" (which is Richard doing a Perry Como imitation), the lead vocal switches over to the original Perry Como vocal. Again, as with the Ella Fitzgerald medley, this track was pre-recorded by Karen and Richard, but Perry Como sang his part live in the TV studio, which is why his voice sounds so different than Karen and Richard's. The first four songs were originally included as part of the medley, but it proved to be too long for the TV special, so those songs were cut and the medley was faded in at "Close to You." It was due to the added audience applause on that section of Perry Como's vocal that Richard had to dub the first line in himself.
Track 12: "California Dreamin'" -- Another pre-A&M recording, this song starts deceptively slow and ballad-like, but suddenly picks up tempo and really takes off. Some aggressive keyboards from Richard remind me of Close to You-era songs (think "Another Song"). The only thing original about this recording is the lead vocal; every other instrument was re-recorded in 1999, including Richard's electric piano solo. The thing I find odd about this track, however, is that there are no harmony vocals -- the Mamas & the Papas version of the song, of course, is a work of vocal genius, but Karen and Richard apparently never laid down any vocals besides the lead, giving the song a totally different sound from the original. As with "Leave Yesterday Behind," this track can be found on the U.S. version of Gold.
Track 13: "The Rainbow Connection" -- This is the one song I've wanted to hear more than any other of the unreleased songs, and I was definitely not disappointed! It is a work lead that has been more recently completed by Richard, but it is a beautiful and somewhat playful reading by Karen of a great song. Richard has added full orchestra, backing vocals by a chorus, and even a toy piano at the beginning and end of the song. This song would fit right in on Voice of the Heart, and is a work lead from the era of Made In America, dating to 1980. This is another track that can be found on the U.S. version of Gold.
Track 14: "Karen Medley" -- This medley was used on the Carpenters' first TV special. It is very similar to the medley of hits on Live at the Palladium. The piano and drums were re-recorded in stereo in 1999.
Track 15: "And When He Smiles (Live 1971) -- This is taken from the "Live at the BBC" television broadcast. Some minor studio enhancements have been made (it sounds to me like Richard added some synthesized strings in places, which gives some "stereo" effect to the mono track), but this song is all about the absolutely flawless performance Karen gave on the air in 1971.
The U.S. version of this CD is mostly identical to the original Japanese release. The songs are all exactly the same; the only difference between the U.S. CD and the Japanese CD is that the final track, "And When He Smiles," is a hidden bonus track on the Japanese version, but is a regular track on the U.S. version (although with a 20-second gap of silence leading into it). The liner notes have been slightly updated for the U.S. release, and the CD booklet is laid out a little differently. Otherwise, it's the same album.
. Of course, seeing this track list has gotten me asking the question, "What about...?" There are a number of other songs that I know of that aren't being included here, such as "Can't Buy Me Love," "Cinderella Rockafella," "I Fell In Love Again," "And When I Die," "Strangers in the Night," "Thank You For the Music," the John Davidson/Karen duet from Space Encounters (including portions of "Boogie Nights" and "I Could Have Danced All Night"), "Alphabet Christmas" (with Christy McNichol), "Stille Nacht," "Adeste Fidelis," the medley from Make Your Own Kind of Music ("Good Day Sunshine," "Wishing and Hoping" et al)...
Granted, most of these songs I name here are not of the studio quality that the songs on As Time Goes By will be, but I see potential for a future release...
Produced by Richard Carpenter
Return to the Carpenters Album Index.