Okay, if you still believe you don't like the Carpenters OR have no interest whatsoever in the music industry or what stardom and its pressure means or in the creation and arrangements and production of recording itself, why are you even reading this review?
Now that we've cleared a few people from the room, Schmidt's Yesterday Once More (and there are some minor caveats below) is absolutely essential reading. Schmidt's brilliant and honest penning of Little Girl Blue: The Life Of Karen Carpenter has already been well established - through sales, through critical claim, and the author's meticulous approach to the subject.
This volume, with only the briefest of editorializing, takes a different tact altogether -- namely, it's a compendium of previously published reviews, interviews, op/ed pieces - even a musicologst's analysis of the arrangement of Richard's Superstar. There are many crucial pieces here -- the Rolling Stone pieces (Lester Bangs, and in particular. Tom Nolan's invaluable, revelatory "Up From Downey" piece, along with writings from Robert Hilburn of the LA Times, Digby Diehl, and Ray Coleman (Coleman, writing truthfullly and analytically before the Carpenter Family Monster buried him with their control over him in the first Carpenters biography). Schmidt's choices, time-line wise, run very much from the start to finish of the Carpenters' career. What's important here, and which bears out the not-pretty lives of the Carpenters (yes, Agnes, as always, does everything yet wield an ax with her quotes, is that the realities of Karen and Richard's incredibly complicated relationship comes through like a beacon, much of it in subtext (i.e., what they truly mean and yet won't say is a potent as what their actual quotes are). Even in the PR-arranged "puff pieces", the underlying competitiveness, jealousies, and hurt is incredibly palpable (and, as mentioned, there is Agnes hovering throughout like an older Mommie Dearest -- Harold must have been mowing the lawn a lot). Many things become apparent, but not the least of which is how incredibly young Karen was, singing with that incredible voice, creating hit after hit at age 20, 21, 22, 23, and then you hit an article where she's 26 and there's already this sense of where are we going wrong, this total fatalism, this sense of perfection that was impossible to handle with a jealous (yet crucially important and talented) brother. These same themes resonate throughout, and it's not one biographer's take on the duo, but many different perspectives. It's the perfect companion to LITTLE GIRL BLUE and, if you're focus is on the music, perhaps even more necessary.
Okay, the caveats -- there are some missing pieces to the puzzle, perhaps because of not being to get the republication rights. Robert Hilburn's review of PASSAGE (and similarly, Stereo Review's review of PASSAGE, where (I think it was) Peter Reilly actually made PASSAGE a "Recommended Album of the Month". Missing is the New York Times Magazine's article about Karen's Solo album upon its final release - a long, truthful piece which, with credence, demonstrated that Alpert's and Richard's reaction to Karen's solo release was essentially ripping the IV nourishing drip from her arm. I believe Paul Grein of Billboard wrote a wonderful piece on Karen, not present here. And, because, it's what interests me the most, I wanted more "the making of" x or y or z album (followed by thoughtful - pro or con - articles about the work. Perhaps that's the next installment, but then there's Richard, and so many crucial players/production team have been dying off, so that's unlikely and not the focus of this volume
The stickler of course are those music rights -- but this is a story for the big screen and if done truthfully and well, whomever is cast as Karen could make room on her mantlepiece for the Oscar (the tv movie, well, it just doesn't even count).