It's taken time, but Richard Carpenter has found another alto singer and yesterday, on his 62nd birthday, the survivor of legendary 1970s pop duo the Carpenters relaunched his recording career. The newfound singer, whom Carpenter declined to identify at this stage, will grace his Christmas album next year. But he insists she is not meant to replace his sister Karen, whose death at the age of 32, 25 years ago, finally ended the on-off attempts to revive their formerly stellar career as the Carpenters. "I don't want anyone who remotely sounds like Karen other than her being an alto and being able to sing," he said.
As with the Carpenters, he is the "behind the scenes guy": he does the composition, arrangement, music and background vocals, but no lead singing. "So I've been looking for one who could inspire me, who would be able to cut these things; I've been looking for years, so now I think I'm ready to go." Following Karen's death in February 1983 of complications from her long struggle with anorexia nervosa, her brother finished one solo album in 1987.
The Carpenters, who produced 11 albums and 15 No1 hits including Close to You, We've Only Just Begun, Yesterday Once More and Top of the World, had hit the skids in the late 1970s. Alongside Karen's mounting problems, Richard had sought treatment for sedative addiction.
These days, ruddy-featured and fit, looking and sounding like a cheerful veteran golf pro, Carpenter says he believes Karen, who was his best friend and musical supporter, would be happy he's writing songs again.
And she would have been happy that he was relaunching on his birthday in Japan, "the most loyal, the most supportive" market for Carpenters music. "Once they like you here, they like you forever. Karen was, and I am, honoured," Carpenter said.
Backed by a Japanese team led by producer Naoki Tachikawa, Carpenter plans to produce and release in the second half of 2009 an album, Carpenters Around the World, covers of Carpenters songs mostly by Asian pop stars.
Next December he will release the Richard Carpenter Solo Christmas Album, featuring mostly his new songs, in a traditional pop vein, and his mystery alto singer.
Having spent the second part of his life with the family he and wife Mary Rudolph began in 1984 and tending to Carpenters legacy projects and the back catalogue, Richard Carpenter says he leads a happy life, needing only to work for enjoyment.
But he doesn't expect ever to fully overcome Karen's loss. "I miss her in any number of ways and I've always been in awe of her talent but I soldier forth, you know. "I have a terrific life and a lovely family and she would have loved to have seen the kids."