This coming Tuesday, March 2nd, would have been Karen Carpenter’s 71st birthday! The Carpenters, who were on top 40 radio during the 70’s right next to Yes, Sly and the Family Stone, and the Who, somehow in the 80’s got banished to the Easy Listening section of most record stores, next to Perry Como and Mel Tormé.
But there’ve always been rock and rollers who are, possibly secretly, Carpenters fans. And an album that I consider a must for those fans is a 1994 album called If I Were a Carpenter. A bunch of 80’s and 90’s artists decided to admit that they actually liked the music of the Carpenters and performed on this compilation.
Here are some highlights:
- Top of the World – Shonen Knife – Japanese band Shonen Knife probably does the most unusual cut here, rendering the song in a punk/alternative rhythm.
- Close To You – The Cranberries – A lilting arrangement beautifully fronted by the late great Dolores O’Riordan, sounding as extremely Irish as ever.
- It’s Going to Take Some Time – Dishwalla – Known mostly for their hit “Counting Blue Cars”, Dishwalla does an excellent job on this song, giving it a slow driving rhythm that still leaves it super-recognizable.
- Solitaire – Sheryl Crow – I heard this before I ever heard the Carpenters’ version, and Sheryl does not disappoint.
- Yesterday Once More – Redd Kross – This just sounds great, and something about they way they do it makes you feel like they really love the song.
- Rainy Days and Mondays – Cracker – This song has somewhat depressing lyrics and Cracker makes it sound even more depressing than the original, and it works.
- Let Me Be the One – Matthew Sweet – Sweet does a great version of this Carpenters “deep track”. It’s especially notable because it features Richard Carpenter on electric piano and backing vocals.
- We’ve Only Just Begun – Grant Lee Buffalo – You can barely tell that this is not the original! Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
If you can find this record (or in my case, cassette), it’s definitely worth a listen! Or five.