The Carpenters' box set retrospective From the Top
is a 67-track, four-CD set running under 3 ½ hours (which means it could have fit on three CDs) that traces Richard and Karen Carpenter's musical efforts from the formation of the Richard Carpenter Trio in 1965 to Karen's final recording session in April 1982. This is Richard's compilation; he introduces it and writes a track-by-track commentary, and has also done a lot of refurbishing, remixing 40 tracks and providing "additional recording" on many. The set proceeds chronologically, and most of the 20 previously unreleased tracks date from the '60s, as the group's emerging sound can be traced in demos. The Carpenters
' hitmaking period of 1970-75 is extensively covered from the last quarter of the first disc to the start of the third, with most of their big hits included, though Richard excludes a few without comment. Also included are many album tracks that sometimes match the quality of the singles. Richard includes a couple of the Carpenters' singles from the second half of the '70s, and devotes the rest of the third disc and most of the fourth to excerpts from stray projects -- Christmas albums, TV specials, Karen's solo album (which Richard carefully notes went unreleased "at Karen's behest"). As such, there is necessarily a fall-off in the set's quality. But by sequencing the songs chronologically, choosing only the ones he wants, and remaking them to his satisfaction, Richard is telling his version of the Carpenters' story, chronicling his band's rise and fall, which occurred in artistic and commercial terms well before his sister's death.