"I just don't get the polarized reviews regarding this pleasant little tribute album. The haters are either neurotic Carpenters-worshipers who seem to have insider info on the "cynical" nature of this compilation made by some talented artists of the mid-90s, or they are simply haters of the Carpenters as a concept. Look people, this album has some great music on it. The interpretations are respectful and are not pure rip-off copies of the originals, which would have been foolish. No one sounds like Karen Carpenter. What they are is worthy interpretations that show off the talents of the artists while keeping the melodic pop of the classic songs in question as their backbone. Japanese ladies Shonen Knife do a great indie power pop version of Top of the World, Sonic Youth's under water sounding Superstar is mesmerizing, Sheryl Crow and the Cranberries do sturdy renditions of Solitaire and Close To You, and all the other artists do credible jobs. This is simply a tuneful tribute album and a pleasant musical experience, for both Carpenters and non-Carpenters fans alike, for fans of classic pop melodies or 90s indie music."
This is a very good compilation!
FloozyFlapper1926 | Somewhere in the 20's | 02/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I heard so many mixed reviews on this cd but I had heard the incredible Sonic Youth version of "Superstar" which happened to be a part of my decision to purchase this cd. Not to mention all of the artists on here are ones I like anyways. And yes, I'm a Carpenter fan as well. This is a very difficult thing to cover but I thought the artists all did a great job. There wasn't a bad song on this one, in my opinion. All of them did a great job covering these songs in their own particular way.The very best of this cd are Sonic Youth, Sheryl Crow, Shonen Knife, Matthew Sweet and 4 non blondes but I enjoyed every song on here. A really, interesting version of Carpenter's songs. I loved it."
10 years old and still goin' strong!
Bonnie Gee | Brooklyn, NY | 12/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There was a rush of tribute albums in the 90s-after all the "alternative" sound was a money-maker; kitsch was in full glory; and the 70s were BACK.
However, as an actual fan of the Carpenters, I truly enjoy this compilation. I agree with other reviewers that it should be listened to as an album. There are, without a doubt, some weak songs here, but the intro song "Goodbye to Love" flows beautifully into the ending song "We've Only Just Begun"-despair to hope-the very opposite of Karen Carpenter's life!
I bought this CD in my teens (like when it ACTUALLY came out) and I just pulled out tonight to listen to during some painful exam studying. Its hard for me to describe what it is I like so much about this CD, so I'll take it song by song.
American Music Club "Goodbye to Love" With its heavy organ, almost church-like ambience, a very somber take on a pop melody. The male singer almost intones the lyrics rather than sings, adding to the spiritual despair of the track.
Shonen Knife "Top of the World" Then BAM! Next song by the Japanese lady trio Knife takes on the world! Such incredible energy with a bizaree almost country guitar twang, it has a riot mosh pit feel mixed with Beach Boys California vibrations.
Sonic Youth "Superstar" I really prefer this Alt-Gods' take on this song. They extended the song to over 4 minutes (the original sounds like Chipmunks compared to this version). The atmospheric feedback and sonic layers add to the grand feeling of fanaticism and extreme lonliness. One of their best songs.
The Cranberries "Close to You" The Crans play it safe with their version-very light, fluffy, with an almost folk-like vocal thanks to the non-American female lead singer. The crashing drums add some urgency. A tie between this version and the original.
Bettie Serveet "For All We Know" Bettie plays it a little TOO safe on this track. Rather bland, without the change ups and revving guitars she's known for on her own material.
Diswalla "It's going to Take Some Time" UGH! Lets say that I burned this CD-this track would never EVER make it. But other reviewers seem to enjoy it! So to each their own. Yuck.
Sheryl Crow "Solitaire" Crow has a more alto range like Karen did, and her expert guitar playing and re-arrangement is amazing. Crow somehow makes it totally her song-a real sun-soaked Western feel permeates this song-but totally stays true to the melancholy Karen portrayed in the original. Amazing.
Johnette Napoliton "Hurting Each Other" This is probably one of the songs that you are most likely to sing out in cheesy way while driving to a concert. A deep raspy voiced duet, it is almost earnest (like early Dolly Parton), but somehow... it works?
Red Kross "Yesterday Once More" The use of trumpets and vinyl sound effects truly echoes the super-pop feeling of the 70s. I alternate between this one being my favorite...and not. The piano makes the sugary sweetness go down with ease.
Babes in Toyland "Calling Occupants" WOW. It is fitting that an alto voiced female singer that also plays the drum while singing would do this OUT of this world track (no pun intended). I have no idea why the Carpenters did this song in the first place. It is truly unique and bizarre song complete with alien and human dialouge. The heavy drums and creepy wailing guitars flesh out this track-you may find this on repeat for a while to try to understand it. Awesome.
Cracker "Rainy Days and Mondays" Now, Cracker is bland. And so 90s. But here he does good. Nice sweet, swelling arrangements and a beautiful mix of melancholy and fragile hope in his vocals. I find myself singing this while doing dishes?
Matthew Sweet "Let Me Be the One" Now, this song was absolutely perfect for Matthew to perform. He is the epitomy of 90s alterna-rock infused and directly influenced by 70s power pop (like what Lenny Kravitz is to 70s guitar rock). His incredibly sweet smooth voice has an urgency in it with some great guitar change-ups. A great little melody.
4 Non Blondes "Bless the Beasts ..." I really REALLY don't care for this song. BUt I also don't like the original song either and I don't think 4 Non Blondes do anything interesting with it. Blah.
Grant Lee Buffalo "We've ONly Just Begun" This is the kind of song that you wish Elliot Smith could have covered. Or Lou Reed. Either post-modern heartache or tounge-in-cheek earnesty would have been great. BUT this version does the original a GREAT justice. His voice is perfect-and he avoids the wedding/lounge singer potential with grace. A popular wedding song, it is so earnest and beautiful and yet still has that finger snapping 70s swing. Its hope is so overwhelming that my cold heart melts. All I can thing of are happy couples smiling running into a sunset after leaving a ski lodge-yet it works~truly respectful cover.
H3@+h | VT | 07/13/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This should appeal to those who either enjoy "The Carpenters", or the mid-90's alternative scene, and especially to those who like both. I'm one of those people. While I'm not a "Carpenters" fanatic, I do know all the originals enough to really like the covers. Almost all of these are good, but the covers by "Shonen Knife", "Sonic Youth", and "Grant Lee Buffalo" are great. My favorite might actually be from "Sheryl Crow". Her rendition of "Solitaire" is excellent. So basically, it's just a great "Carpenters" flavored alterna-sampler that most anyone should love playing on "Rainy Days and Mondays"."
Green Andy Reviews: various artists - If I Were a Carpenter
A. ZIATS | New York, NY, USA | 10/04/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Why does everyone hate this album? On more lists than I can count, it's been included as one of the worst records of all time, the most annoying records of the 90's, the top guilty pleasures of all time...but that last one is very telling, I think. Despite its intentions to expose the Carpenters' work to a modern (1990's alt-rock) audience, this record has always been notoriously unhip, and no one wanted to cop to owning or enjoying it, despite the fact that many did, and still do. Well, I have no such qualms.
As tribute albums go, this is one of the better ones available. It's not perfect; some of the artists play it a little too straight, and deliver performances that are more-or-less indistinguishable from the Carpenters' recordings, such as the Cranberries and Grant Lee Buffalo, but most take a left-field route and really take the time to focus on a new angle to the composition. American Music Club and Cracker both deliver overly moody, downcast renditions of "Goodbye to Love" and "Rainy Days and Mondays", respectively, with a completely different kind of poignancy than what Richard and Karen delivered. Sonic Youth (with "Superstar"), Shonen Knife (with "Top of the World") and Redd Kross (with "Yesterday Once More") transform their songs into rockers specifically suited for their individual styles. And even Sheryl Crow turns in a good recording of "Solitaire", reinterpreting the tune as one of the endless pleading, countrified rock songs that she takes to the bank on a regular basis.
There are other misses as well: Dishwalla turn "It's Going to Take Some Time" into a typically bad Dishwalla song, and while Johnette Napolitano and Marc Moreland's version of "Hurting Each Other" seems to be moving in the right direction, the end result is atonal and kind of an endurance test. But the pros far outweigh the cons on this album: 4 Non Blondes' bombastic version of "Bless the Beasts and Children", Bettie Serveert's fried electric take on "For All We Know", and more. So if you've seen this disc haunting the used CD bin for $1.99, go buy it on a day when your friends aren't around, ignore the creepy album cover with the cartoon Carpenters glaring at you, and enjoy. Possibly the best thing about this record is that the performances are so different, yet so respectful to the Carpenters' versions, that you'll want to go out and rediscover their recordings as well. Win win."