The Essential Collection [1965-1997]
The Carpenters' 2002 box set, The Essential Collection (1965-1997) is a revised version of their 1991 box set, From the Top. This time, Richard Carpenter has aimed more at a comprehensive treatment of the Carpenters' career, including all of their Top 40 hits (some with grudging remarks in the liner notes) in an expansion that adds 45 and a half minutes to the running time. There are also some more album cuts and rarities, though the only previously unreleased tracks are a commercial and a medley of standards by Karen Carpenter and Ella Fitzgerald from a television special. In total, he has added 17 tracks, while deleting four: a cover of the Beatles' "Goodnight"; a Spanish-language version of "Sing" (replaced by the English-language hit version that had been left off From the Top); and two songs from his sister's solo album (which he no longer describes as having been shelved in 1980 "at Karen's behest," but now "for reasons that are well-chronicled elsewhere," presumably in Ray Coleman's 1994 authorized biography), "My Body Keeps Changing My Mind" and "Still Crazy After All These Years." Since that album finally saw release in 1996, he may have thought it was no longer necessary to represent so much of it. The result of the changes is a big improvement. From the Top didn't really justify its four discs; it could have fit on three. And it was a compromise between an all-out rarities set and a thorough career overview. This version uses its greater length to satisfy the latter goal. It is worth noting, too, that like From the Top, The Essential Collection (1965-1997) is a retouched version of the Carpenters' story. Richard Carpenter has not hesitated to remix, overdub, and otherwise spiff up the band's recordings. Purists may object, but the sound justifies the changes.