You know Paul Williams.

Depending on what generation you hail from, you may not know that you know Paul Williams, but trust me. You do. You may know him as an actor, either in the Smokey and the Bandit movies or as the “ultimate bad guy” in Phantom of the Paradise, a Brian DePalma flick mixing one part Phantom of the Opera with one part Rocky Horror Picture Show. He voiced The Penguin on Batman: The Animated Series. You may know the songs he wrote that comprised the score for The Muppet Movie. He collaborated with Daft Punk on the song “Beyond” from Random Access Memories (2013).

Or you may know him from what he’s best known for: a string of hits from the ’60s and ’70s recorded by Carpenters, Three Dog Night, Barbara Streisand, and more. He wrote the lyrics for the theme from The Love Boat, but everyone did questionable things in the 1970s. The point is, he’s probably been in your pop cultural life as long as you have, and you might never have known to what extent.

Creative compilation executive extraordinaire Andrew Curry, along with his Curry Cuts label, is prepared to draw back that curtain to reveal how much you know Paul Williams with the latest effort, White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams. This collection, much like the previous Drink A Toast To Innocence: A Tribute To Lite Rock, Here Comes The Reign Again: The Second British Invasion, and Songs. Bond Songs: The Music Of 007, offers a challenge of sorts to some of indie pop’s most notable practitioners, tackling music with a strong, umbrella proposition in whatever way feels right to the artist.

What’s unique about the latest effort is that, unlike the former collections, all the songs are created in full or in part by one creator who was not the primary artist(s). It sets up an interesting dynamic. Will the musicians find a commonality among his writer’s voice, will they lean on the voices of those who subsequently recorded the songs, or will they take the bones as given and do something completely different with them?

For example, the opening “Evergreen” from The Davenports sounds a bit like the theme from Streisand and Kris Kristoffersen’s A Star Is Born, but is also quite a departure. Cliff Hillis gets pretty close to Carpenters’ tonal territory with “Rainy Days and Mondays,” but does not attempt the vocal harmonies that identified their version so strongly. The Corner Laughers’ rendition of “Movin’ Right Along” from The Muppet Movie is generally faithful to the source. Michael Simmons sets probably the most difficult challenge for himself by doing “Let Me Be The One” which not only was a big hit for Carpenters, but was covered to stunning effect by Matthew Sweet on the If I Were A Carpenter tribute collection.

The fun of the collection comes in two forms, when you hear a song that you had no idea Williams was involved with and go, “Wait, I know that song!” and when an artist decides to fully assume the music to do his or her bidding. When the musicians are allowed to set reverence aside and assume that role, that Williams has written a song just for them, and they go nuts with the material, that’s when the collection really takes flight.

It’s not a knock to the artists who go the more respectful route, all who, by and large, do excellent work. It’s just that there are times where, of all the possible avenues they could take given that freedom to hopscotch over the recorded version, they prefer the closer homage to the original performers. It’s an interesting direction to take, and one that might elicit hours of discussion.

Overall, the collection is another extremely strong release for executive producer Curry. He has a love for the music he works with, not just here but in all of his compilations. That he has taken the time to isolate a “big idea” that unifies each – the much-maligned ’70s soft rock, the new wave burst of ’80s music from the U.K., and the legacy of James Bond movie themes – provides a greater level of interest than a typical “hits from X time period done by others” that we’ve seen since forever. White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams works on a level greater than the celebration of a creator that heavily influenced the music of a time period (although this alone would be a worthwhile effort). The collection manages to provoke the question of who is the controlling entity of this process, the singer or the song? The artists who took up that provocative idea each made their own decision. I think you’ll appreciate the many ways they manifested it.

White Lace and Promises: The Songs of Paul Williams is available December 7 at Bandcamp on CD and digital.

By Dw Dunphy

Dw. Dunphy is a writer, artist, and musician. He has contributed many articles that can be found in the MusicTAP's archives. He also writes for New Jersey Stage,, Ultimate Classic Rock, Diffuser FM, and Looper. His interview archive is available at