05/09/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT
Karen and Richard Carpenter recorded 11 albums, including 10 gold singles, but were never really able to shake their reputation as a white-bread-soaked-in-milk act. Karen's death has inevitably led to reevaluation, and there's plenty of evidence that some fresh assessment is in order. All 11 albums are still in print, and A&M plans to bring out another in the summer, too, so a second look won't be hard to take. There is, for instance, the Carpenters' version of Leon Russell's This Masquerade on Now and Then, recorded three years before George Benson's huge hit version. Karen's vocal is typically restrained—she'll never be remembered as history's most passionate singer—but it's rendered with a straightforward attention to the sense of the words and music that can't be as easy as it sounds or more performers would be doing it. While some of the duo's hits still ooze saccharine, or seem stiff—the Bacharach-David tune (They Long to Be) Close to You is a notable example—the Carpenters were, at least, consistently musical and intelligent.