I'm listening to the Carpenters' second album, Close to You (1970), right now, which I checked out from the library. (By the by, why isn't the RIAA taking on libraries in court? They're music-pirating enablers. But only if you can get your computer to actually recognize and load their scratched CDs, of course.) You know what? The Carpenters are no Bread.
Bread has songs like "Baby I'm-a Want You," "Make It With You," and "Sweet Surrender" that make me nostalgic for a time I never knew: the early '70s. And Beatlesque songs like "Daughter" make me realize how smart and reliable David Gates, James Griffin, and company were as musical craftsmen, while tracks like "Fancy Dancer" show that Bread could eliminate the soft from soft rock on occasion and deliver on that front as well. It's not their fault the heavier numbers didn't make it onto the radio. They were studio musicians, songwriters for hire, and producers before they came together to form Bread in the late '60s, and their experience and earned confidence come through in their music. You're in good hands with Bread.
Just as the Carpenters are no Bread, Chicago is no Bread, either, although Chicago would probably be offended by that statement, because I bet they think they rock much harder than they actually do. "Hard Habit to Break" almost rocks at one point, but that's because Bill Champlin sounds like he's popping a few capillaries when he sings "I'm addicted to you, baby!!!!" From what I've heard, most of the guys in Chicago were addicted to something that resembles baby powder. But not Peter Cetera. He was too mellow and blond for that. But if he was surrounded by cokeheads on endless tours throughout the late '60s, all of the '70s, and the early '80s, can you blame him for finally leaving after 18 years to pursue "The Glory of Love" and the glory of a paycheck that didn't have to be split a dozen ways? Children generally leave home at 18. Cetera had earned the right to grow up, move away, and pursue an adult (contemporary) education.
The Carpenters didn't do themselves any favors on Close to You covering songs like "Help!" and "Baby It's You" in the most Muzak-y way possible. The songs on the 1994 tribute album If I Were a Carpenter, which my ex-girlfriend had in college, are ten times better than any song on Close to You, especially Matthew Sweet's cover of "Let Me Be the One." Actually, I do like "(They Long to Be) Close to You," but that's partly because singing the waaaaaah-ah-ah-ah-aaaaahs in the song with a complete lack of subtlety is too much fun to pass up.
I'm not going to make an anorexia joke here, but I do think it's safe to say that both Karen and Richard Carpenter would've been wise to add Bread to their musical diet.