In the new collection, “Carpenters with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,” Richard Carpenter gave new string arrangements to many of the duo’s classic recordings. (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In the new collection, “Carpenters with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,” Richard Carpenter gave new string arrangements to many of the duo’s classic recordings. (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Symphonic touches give new spin to old Carpenters records

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Karen Carpenter has now been gone longer than she was alive.

Yet her best work may have just been released, at least according to her brother, arranger and performing partner, Richard, who has made it his mission to keep her singing voice resonant and relevant since her death 35 years ago.

In the new collection, “Carpenters with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,” Richard Carpenter gave new string arrangements to many of the duo’s classic recordings from the late 1960s through the early 1980s, including “Close to You” and “Superstar,” and pushed his sister’s unmistakable voice even more to the fore than it already was.

“I think it’s the best album we’ve ever made,” Carpenter, 72, told The Associated Press in an interview at his Southern California home this week.

Longtime fans are enthused by the collection, which includes the holiday touch of “Merry Christmas Darling,” the December staple that Carpenter says was “one of our best records” regardless of season.

The album debuted at No. 52 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. after its Dec. 7 release by A&M/UMe and shot straight to the Top 10 in the United Kingdom and Japan, both Carpenters’ strongholds from the start. A vinyl release will follow in February.

Carpenter wasn’t immediately gung-ho when Universal Music asked if he wanted to create an album for the “Royal Philharmonic” series, whose previous editions have included Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin.

But as he considered it, he realized he could make small changes to the duo’s already largely orchestral recordings that would make a big difference.

“It gave me a chance to change a couple of arrangements a certain way that I pretty much wanted to do for many a year,” he said. “They’re just either augmentations to already existing parts — just more players playing the parts — or different little things that I heard to an existing arrangement.”

Carpenter conducted the 80-piece London-based symphony himself at Abbey Road Studios, and he oversaw the mixing, giving him another chance to play his natural background role in support of the unforgettable alto voice of his sister, who died of complications from anorexia in 1983 at age 32.

“I feel Karen and I were born with talents to complement the other,” Carpenter said.

In some cases — like an angelic new piccolo trumpet solo on “Goodbye To Love” — his changes leap out to the listener. But most of them might even go unnoticed, and that was a deliberate choice.

“The last thing I wanted to do was overdo it,” Carpenter said.

He also got to fix old quirks, the result of having to rush out albums at the height of the group’s popularity.

“Some things were done in a bigger hurry than I would have preferred. There are certain little oddball things that made their way through. It’s small, but if you have the ear to hear it, you hear it. Like the air-conditioning rumble in the opening lines of ‘Yesterday Once More,’” Carpenter said. “All that’s gone now.”

He also took away some of the noise and reverb around his sister’s voice, and made her louder and clearer.

“I pushed her up even more in the mix than in the original,” he said. “And it was already pretty up there in the original. She sounds, of course, better than she ever did.”

The overall result is much more than a mere collection of singles, it’s a legitimate studio album, with newly composed overture, interludes and introductions, a carefully chosen sequence and songs that flow together.

“That’s how it’s meant to be listened to,” Carpenter said. “If a person has 66 minutes to set aside.”

The new versions are meant to be works in their own right, not to displace the old ones.

“I realize there are people who aren’t going to want anything, purists, and I understand,” Carpenter said, “but I thought about it, and I thought, ‘Well, if they don’t care for this, the originals are still out there.’”

By The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lacombe city council rescinded many policies and bylaws on Jan. 25, 2021. (File photo)
Lacombe gets rid of outdated policies and bylaws

Data integrity project underway since 2016

Police have charged two men after they allegedly tried to break into the Bentley post office with a semi. (Photo courtesy of RCMP)
Red Deer men charged in Bentley post office destruction

Police have charged a pair of Red Deer men after an attempted… Continue reading

Red Deer Fire Chief Ken McMullen remains concerned about “inconsistencies” in the province’s new way of dispatching local ambulances. (Advocate file photo).
A few glitches are already noticed in Red Deer’s new ambulance dispatch system

Local fire-medics need more data about ambulance arrival times

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the province still hopes to bring the hospitalization number down before relaxing restrictions. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
14 new deaths, 366 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta

Province nearing 100K COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, left, makes a save on Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

Mitch Marner scores game winner for Maple Leafs in 4-3 win over Flames

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2007, file photo, Boston Red Sox's Curt Schilling pitches against the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the baseball World Series at Fenway Park in Boston. Like many baseball writers, C. Trent Rosecrans viewed the Hall of Fame vote as a labor of love. The results of the 2021 vote will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, and Rosecrans was not alone in finding the task particularly agonizing this time around. With Schilling's candidacy now front and center — and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens still on the ballot as well — voters have had to consider how much a player’s off-field behavior should affect his Hall of Fame chances. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Baseball Hall gets no new members; Schilling 16 votes shy

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Prince Edward Island’s Birt is bubble-bound but first wants provincial title

Toronto Arrows await word on where they can play, with Plan B going to the U.S.

Toronto Arrows await word on where they can play, with Plan B going to the U.S.

Former CFL player,-coach Brady understands historical significance of NFL promotion

Former CFL player,-coach Brady understands historical significance of NFL promotion

James Hinchcliffe, of Canada, watches during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Darron Cummings
Canadian James Hinchcliffe inks full-time ride with Andretti for 2021 IndyCar season

Canadian James Hinchcliffe inks full-time ride with Andretti for 2021 IndyCar season

Toronto Six down Boston Pride 2-1 for first NWHL victory in franchise history

Toronto Six down Boston Pride 2-1 for first NWHL victory in franchise history

Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Copp (9) celebrates his goal against the Edmonton Oilers during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Nikolaj Ehlers leads the way, Jets storm back to beat Oilers 6-4

Nikolaj Ehlers leads the way, Jets storm back to beat Oilers 6-4

Most Read