By Jacob Winkler
Spanning over a 50 year period, the Carpenters have released a total of 15 albums (the most recent being a remix-compilation album, so technically 14). Comprising of brother and sister Richard (b. 1946) and Karen (1950-1983), I have been listening to the Carpenters since I was in 7th grade, and one question has always remained in my mind, which Carpenters album is my least favorite, and which is my most favorite? So, I decided to sit down and rank them. Not only will this answer my question, but it will also hopefully introduce the Carpenters to a new audience.
Now, before I begin, let me get one thing straight. In my opinion, all of their albums are great, but some are better than others. Anyways, without further-ado, let us begin. I will put a link to a play-list of each album under their respective spot on the list.
(Note: I will be ranking from my least favorite, to my most favorite.)
#14 – Ticket to Ride: Originally released in 1969 as “Offering” (Re-released in 1970)
The first album released by The Carpenters, Ticket to Ride (originally released under the name Offering) is a great first start. Obviously, it being their first album, they didn’t have a lot of experience before-hand, they didn’t quite know what worked and what didn’t. Originally released on October 9, 1969 as offering, then on November 10, 1970 as Ticket To Ride, the album features several good songs such as “Ticket to Ride”, which was originally recorded by The Beatles, and “All of My Life”. Not every song on the album is a winner, but it is still a good album, and a good first-try.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_m3stbwxNDR4Lj7GEiUHsBR9ikjCvXSIT4)
#13 – As Time Goes By: Released in 2001 (Japan)/2004 (World-wide)
As Time Goes By is a-bit of a mix-matched album. It features amazing songs but there isn’t a very organized style. Most of the songs are either songs or medleys from their three non-Christmas television specials, while all the others are previously un-completed demos, album outtakes, and work-leads. The reason I consider this album mix matched is how many of the songs were recorded so far-apart from each other (time-wise), they sound like they are sung by different people (Yes, there are different people featured on some songs, but I mean when Karen is singing). Karen’s vocals changed and developed throughout her career, so a song recorded in the 1969 to 1971 time frame sounds different from songs and medleys recorded from 1976 to the early 1980s. For example, you may be-able to tell that demos like “Nowhere Man” and “California Dreamin’” were recorded rather early-on in her career, and medleys like the “I Got Rhythm Medley” and songs like “The Rainbow Connection” were recorded in the 80s. I am not saying Karen’s vocals are bad in any of the songs, I’m just saying that there are too many jumps from the 19-20 year old Karen’s vocals to the 29-30 year old Karen’s vocals for my taste. However, the album still features several amazing songs.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kvER0MYnawiY6q2HMnxjsv9EHgvYYQa_s)
#12 – An Old Fashioned Christmas: Released in 1984
The second Christmas album released by the Carpenters, An Old Fashioned Christmas is essentially a compilation of album outtakes from their first Christmas album, the 1978 “Christmas Portrait”. The album features several classic Christmas songs, such as “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, “O Holy Night”, a version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, and two medleys including hits like “Happy Holidays”, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, “Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer”, and “Frosty The Snowman”. It is a great Christmas album and features several great classics.
(I could not find an official album-playlist on Youtube, my apologies)
#11- Christmas Portrait: Released in 1978
Recorded from 1977 to 1978, Christmas Portrait is the first Christmas album released by The Carpenters. This album features Christmas classics such as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Sleigh RIde”, “Christmas Waltz”, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, and the Carpenters hit “Merry Christmas Darling” (which was originally released in 1970 as a single). At Least 30 songs were recorded for the album, 16 of which made it onto Christmas Portrait. The other 14 (Or more, depending on how many songs were recorded) were released after Karen’s death.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mOh_Ux8w3iyhzAFVN_VUOB5qNzyCdrFxs)
#10 – Now & Then: Released in 1973
At number ten is The Carpenter’s fifth studio album, “Now & Then”. Released on May first, 1973, “Now & Then” has several interesting songs, and a rather limited b-side (atleast, for the vinyl record version). While the a-side of the record (the first 5 tracks on CDs and digital platforms) features songs like “Sing”, the Hank Williams hit “Jambalaya (On The Bayou”, and the beautifully composed jazz-ballad “This Masquerade”. Meanwhile, the b-side is a …waste. While it does include the beautiful “Yesterday Once More”, the rest of the side is just a medley of old classic songs, and a reprise of “Yesterday Once More”. The medley is great, but I feel that there could have been something else in-place of the medley. Other than that small issue, the album is amazing, from cover to record, and it truly is a must-listen.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_n4LvWPTGsGvnW56d-E7NJE8yAFnSWWeIA)
#9 – A Kind Of Hush: Released in 1976
The ninth album on the list is the 1976 album A Kind of Hush. Although labeled sub-par by both Richard himself and fans, I do enjoy the album. Obviously, there are several way better albums, but this album does feature some solid hits. Tracks like “Sandy”, “Boat to Sail”, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”, and “There’s A Kind of Hush (All Over The World)” (Which reached number 1 on the “US Billboard Easy Listening” chart), are great songs in my opinion. Meanwhile, other songs like “One More Time”, “I Have You”, and “You” could have been much better. Many people blame this album’s 1976 single “Goofus” on the Carpenter’s decline in popularity. I do agree with them, but I also think that it is a great song. I just think it shouldn’t have been released as a single. The rest of the album is fine. It isn’t horrible, but it also isn’t number one hit material.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lNv3EgqifNkc12uTwR86li5poZKX0zciU)
#8 – Lovelines: Released in 1989
The second of three Carpenters albums released after Karen Carpenter’s death, Lovelines features songs from their television specials, album outtakes, and (a special treat for super-fans), four songs from Karen’s (at the time, unreleased) solo album, which were remixed by Richard. This album’s wonderful track-list includes the beautifully written title-track “Lovelines”, which was recorded by Karen for her solo album, the hauntingly-beautiful “The Uninvited Guest”, and the enchanting “Little Girl Blue”, which was featured on their 1978 television special, “The Carpenters…..Space Encounters!”. The album is a great example of Richard’s talent as a composer, and it has a-little something for everyone.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kXBNYO_EjMCwOL02nULBJNQ_64LQLphoE)
#7- Carpenters: Released in 1971
Coming in at number seven is the Carpenter’s third album, simply titled Carpenters. Recorded from 1970 to 1971, Carpenters was a certified hit, and their most successful album to-date. This might be due to the album’s great track-listing, including songs like “Rainy Days and Mondays”,”Superstar”, and “For All We Know”. The other tracks on the album are great too, but are overshadowed by those three great tracks. Another thing, the original album cover was simply and oversized tan-colored envelope with “Carpenters” written on it. Basically, the (original) album cover is ugly and all the tracks are overshadowed by the three great tracks (all of which were on the a-side of the vinyl record).
#6 – Close To You: Released in 1970
Close to You is the second album recorded by The Carpenters, which was released on August 19, 1970. Although it was only certified platinum in the US, the album features the two hit singles, the smash-hit “(They Long To Be Close to You”, and the 1970s’ wedding-anthem “We’ve Only Just Begun”, as-well as several other great songs like “Love is Surrender”, “Baby It’s You”, and “Mr. Guder”. The album truly is great, and it is the album that really catapulted their career and cemented them as music legends and icons for the decade.
#5 – A Song For You: Released in 1973
Charting at number 5 on the list and number 5 on both the Canadian RPM Album Chart and Japanese Oricon LP Chart is 1973’s A Song For You. This LP is a great work of art. Featuring great tracks like “A Song For You”, “I Won’t Last A Day Without You”, and “Top of the World”, “A Song For You” is a great album and I believe you will enjoy it just as-much as I do.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_k-i_cYJKmQ_atfhxneKT11mjXPjvM0iWU)
#4 – Horizon: Released in 1975
At number four is Horizon, the Carpenter’s sixth studio album. Released on June sixth, 1975, Horizon features several amazing tracks, including the hit single “Please Mr. Postman” ( a cover of the Marveleete’s 1961 hit), the melodic rock-pop ballad “Solitaire” originated by Neil Sedaka in 1972, and the up-beat love song “Only Yesterday” (which was written and composed by RIchard Carpenter and John Bettis). This album is a very good example of an album gone right, and features multiple beautifully-written songs.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_k4NXXAxWzGgi1CphOr-Iqc9rNjJRehKPY)
#3 – Made in America: Released in 1981
After a brief two year hiatus, during which Richard went to rehab for his Quaalude addiction and Karen recorded her solo album in New York City, Made in America was released on June 16, 1981. Recorded from June of 1978 to September of 1980, the album features ten tracks of different varieties. From the slow-dancing tune “Touch Me When We’re Dancing” to the 1962 hit “Beechwood 4-5789”, “Made In America” is a great album with several great songs.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_miuEKQCOehL5sjss-XWqCmFRnnqz0-7LU)
#2 – Passage: Released in 1977
Our number two album is 1977’s Passage, the last non-christmas album released by the Carpenters in the 70s. Featuring only eight tracks, opposed to the usual ten or twelve, this LP is nothing short of a masterpiece. Featuring tunes such as “All You Get From Love Is A Love Song”, “Two Lives”, “Sweet Sweet Smile”, and a cover of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from the 1978 Andrew Lloyd Webber hit-musical “Evita” (the song was originally recorded in 1976 by Julie Covington for a concept-album and later used in the musical). Although not receiving massive success in the United States, it was certified Gold in the United Kingdom. I consider this album one of the greatest albums they recorded, but not the absolute best.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lKO3LRCSHU3FzEEEmGr8q-0IkVy5_yXW4)
Karen and Richard didn’t just make music together, but they also did separately. With Karen’s amazing vocal power and Richard’s amazing arranging and composing skills, they were great as a duo, and great as individual artists. Obviously, people saw this. So, combined, they made 3 solo albums. Richard made 2, and Karen made one. Before I reveal the number one pick (aka my favorite Carpenter’s album), here are the 3 solo albums, in a non-specific order).
“Karen Carpenter: The Unreleased Solo Sessions”: released posthumously in 1996
Originally recorded from May of 1979 to January of 1980, the self-titled solo album is truly something special. This solo album includes several amazing songs like the disco-style track “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind”, the rock-pop love song “Still In Love With You” and the jazzy ballad “If I Had You”, which features a saxophone solo by the late great jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker (1949-2007). The album was shelved before it’s original 1980 release. However, it was eventually released on October 8, 1996, over 13 years after Karen’s death. It truly is an amazing album, and it shows just how talented Karen is when it comes to singing different genres of music.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nZpiFUs4b_rlopRYOKzrYLIhV8hxk8yOk)
“Richard Carpenter: Time”: Released in 1987
Released on October 11th, 1987, Time is the first of currently two solo albums released by Richard Carpenter. The album features appearances from singers such as Dusty Springfield, Dionne Worwick, and Scott Grimes. The album features several great songs including “Say Yeah!”, “Something In Your Eyes”, “When Time Was All We Had” (which is dedicated to Karen), and the title-track “Time”. This is a great first attempt at a solo album, but fails to reach the same quality of Karen’s solo album (in my opinion).
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_l8Pwq9FAKVLr9FSVQNQ0l7RgYS6MIZgvU)
“Richard Carpenter: Pianist, Arranger, Composer, Conductor” released in 1998
Released 12 years after Time, Pianist, Arranger, Composer, Conductor is the second of two solo albums released by Richard Carpenter. The album features songs recorded with Karen as “The Carpenters” as-well as a brand new instrumental prelude and a musical piece titled “Karen’s Theme”. It’s a good album, but it really is more of a compilation album, since it mainly features songs that he and Karen recorded together.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_kZTl1GKFaQKwnYkh57nRVqDRLDoJoNx94)
#1- Voice of The Heart: Released in 1983
At number one on the list is the first album released after singer Karen Carpenter’s (pictured on the album cover) death. Titled Voice of The Heart, this ten track LP has many beautiful songs, including Karen’s last two recordings “Now” and “You’re Enough”, more melancholy songs like “Two Lives”, “You’re Baby Doesn’t Love You Anymore”, and “At The End of A Song”, and more upbeat tracks such as “Sailing on the Tide” and “Prime Time Love”. All tracks were recorded between 1976 and April of 1982, and remixed by Richard mere months after Karen’s death. It was officially released on October 18, 1983 and was certified Gold in both the United States and Canada. This is an absolutely amazing album and I love it with all of my heart (get it, because heart is in the title? Sorry, that was really corny). Anyways, Voice of The Heart is my favorite Carpenters album to-date, and I think it might become your favorite too.
(Click here to listen to the album on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nmB3oQBXbIJgGOtiTw46UAOUIBDKjPW1c)
So, there you have it. After lots of deep thought, hard decisions, and multiple album re-listens, I have finally ranked the Carpenters albums (Not including 2018’s Carpenters w/ The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, since it is a compilation album of remixed previously-released songs) from my least favorite to my most favorite. It really was hard to choose what album made it to which spot, but I think I finally have it down. I hope you enjoyed this article and I hope you now know more about the Carpenters then you did just a-few minutes ago. Now, go out and get yourself a Carpenters album.