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hollies65

Smarmy Know-Nothing Music Critic

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Why the Hype? 
The Raspberries are (gulp) overrated.
By Justin F. Farrar

Cleveland, you're gonna drink a traitor's blood and barbecue his ribs after reading the next sentence: The Raspberries, those local power-pop darlings from the '70s, are totally overrated.

From Big Star to Badfinger, a Beatlesesque group that fails commercially has always been one of the rock scribe's wettest dreams. And after the Raspberries' demise in 1975, this is precisely the myth that rock critics started weaving around the group, which has developed a rabid cult following in the last 30 years.

"The Raspberries cut through the epic pretensions and pomposity of '70s-era rock to proudly reclaim the spirit and simplicity of classic pop," the All Music Guide proclaims. But they were, the guide claims, "a band that . . . never quite lived up to its commercial promise."

With the recent release of Live on the Sunset, Rykodisc's CD/DVD documenting the Raspberries' 2005 reunion in Los Angeles, the label inflates the band's myth to epic proportions. It claims the band influenced Kiss, Nirvana, Mötley Crüe, and the Sex Pistols, and the set includes endorsements from other rock deities: a mid-'70s photo of John Lennon sporting a Raspberries sweatshirt and liner notes from the Boss.

"In the late '70s, I'd drive on Sunday nights to Asbury Park to sit in with Southside Johnny with 'The Raspberries Greatest Hits' firmly stuck in the cassette player," Springsteen writes. "Dismissed at the time of their chart dominance for having 'hits' (Fools!), they are THE great underrated power-pop masters."
The band's members -- Mentor natives Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, Dave Smalley, and Jim Bonfanti -- have allowed the critical gush to go straight to their heads. On the Raspberries' official website (www.raspberriesonline.com), they now count themselves "among the most influential bands in rock-n-roll history."

From being seen as underdogs to possessing delusions of grandeur, the band and its legacy have completely severed themselves from truth. We need a double shot of ethanol, washed down with a tallboy of sodium pentothal.

Contrary to claims by Springsteen -- as well as scribes like those of the All Music Guide, who once described the band as "virtually unknown" -- the quartet was not underrated; it was actually pretty damn successful. Between '72 and '74, the Raspberries scored four top-40 singles, including the mega-classic "Go All the Way," which hit no. 5. And Capitol Records has released no fewer than five greatest-hits packages since 1976.

Most reasonable-minded rockers would label that success, but it never satisfied Capitol, the Raspberries, or their supporters in the music press. Just like Badfinger in the U.K., the band was expected to be the second coming of the Beatles. That's absurd in hindsight, but the Fab Four's breakup traumatized the pop world for years. In the early '70s, just about every label, including Capitol, the Beatles' American imprint, scoured the planet for the next John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Needless to say, the search never panned out.

First off, dudes sporting helmet perms and matching disco suits (see the cover of the Raspberries' 1973 LP Fresh) could never replace such snazzy dressers as the Fab Four.

More important, the Raspberries come off like a Vegas tribute to the British Invasion. On breezy, soft-focus pop like "Let's Pretend" and "I Wanna Be With You," Eric Carmen croons with all the hairy-chested schmaltz of a lounge singer; the dude magnifies the most saccharine tendencies of Paul McCartney's "Hello Goodbye."

The Raspberries did cultivate some chops. The layered harmonies on their best tune, the epic "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)," are worthy of the Beach Boys. The riffage underpinning "Ecstasy" and "Tonight" hammers away like vintage Mod rave-ups from the Who.

But they're no "power-pop masters." They wrote only two kinds of tunes: sappy ballads about getting it on and anthemic rockers about rocking hard, driving cars, and getting it on. The band never possessed the songwriting depth and clever edge of Badfinger and Cheap Trick. And they sure as hell couldn't touch Big Star, a band that was as good as the Beatles.

In the end, the Raspberries' modest talents achieved the fame they deserved. The band, as Springsteen unwittingly implies, wrote decent pop, perfect for cranking in the car. That's it.

Chopping down a cherished band from a town in need of heroes is coldhearted -- no doubt about it. But saddling the Raspberries with an overblown rock and roll mythology goes against what the band represented: pure fun.

Cleveland Scene, Aug 15, 2007

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Honest to GOD! I think I'm going to write another letter about that. They did it to Berries in the 70s[Not to mention other bands like Pere Ubu and The Pagans...otherwise 'influential bands'] I mean I would think after this passage of time and reflection the writers would give respect for the best band to ever come out of the city.And saying that Big Star was as good as the Beatles makes it impossible to take that guy seriously.

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Gene   

I hate rap. I have no business writing reviews on rap. You can't convince me to like rap. Sounds like he's got the same issue. It's not that it is a bad review of the disk... he just doesn't like the band. He doesn't like the music and never did and never will. I'm sure he would have written the same review about any Raspberries album no matter when it came out.

Calling the band overrated? That is simply an opinion. If it were true, at least they're in the game. It is analogous to calling someone a has-been... it's better than being a never-was.

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Ecstasy   

They don't get it because they don't want to get it. The piece admits that the band has had a following for 30 yrs --- what ELSE would that mean other than they were wonderful and so revered that they're back for the fans who never gave up! You won't see what you don't want to see regardless of the facts.

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It just sounds to me he came in with an agenda. As many music critics do. Often times they will tear down someone to make a name for themselves. "I was the one who gave So and So a bad review!! How cool am I?!?!". It comes across as having a lack of objectivity because you're letting your personal agenda get in the way and you're not doing your job. Which is to give an unbiased review of the material. This is a hatchet job from the get go. Any music fan worth his salt will view this as the ramblings of an idiot, signifying nothing.

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It is kinda odd that the only reviews with anything negative to say happen to come out of Cleveland in free newspapers, isn't it? Hmmm…

Bernie

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"More important, the Raspberries come off like a Vegas tribute to the British Invasion. On breezy, soft-focus pop like "Let's Pretend" and "I Wanna Be With You," Eric Carmen croons with all the hairy-chested schmaltz of a lounge singer; the dude magnifies the most saccharine tendencies of Paul McCartney's "Hello Goodbye."

Whaaaaa?

This guy probably wasn't even born when they were around. I hate critics like this. Why review something you already have preconceived notions about? There's a "critic" here in Chicago that writes for the Sun-Times. His name is Jim DeRogtis. He hates anything that was remotely popular, and that's been around longer than 5 minutes. This guy reminds me of him in his writing.

Jeff

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I posted the Record Plant video of IWBWY and GATW at Music Babble...my music hipster board...The one thing EVERYONE commented on were the vocals and in particular Eric's chops.IWBWY is about as far away from lounge singer as one can get.

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Critics are those guys that you knew in high school who hated anything that was popular and they truly believed that made them cool. I knew guys like that. The Dead Heads, Hippies, "Doomers" or as they are known now, Goth Kids.

I knew one for ages I used to go back and forth with her when she used to break my stones about Cheap Trick. "They're so commercial" she used to say. So I had some fun with her one time. This is around the time her favorite band, The Cure who I don't understand how anyone can like but that's just me, had sold out Giants Stadium. I told her "What sells is commercial right?". She agreed. I then reminded her that the Cure sells more records than Cheap Trick so THEY are more commercial. She didn't take too kindly to my theory.

Unfortunately these people have a pulpit from which they can preach their misguided gospel. And I don't think anyone really pays them any mind. Royal Trux records aren't exactly flying off the shelves.

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Jay52   

"The band never possessed the songwriting depth and clever edge of Badfinger and Cheap Trick. And they sure as hell couldn't touch Big Star, a band that was as good as the Beatles"

That passage alone should tell us something. Another mis-informed, totally idiotic writer.

Why is it these "reviewers" lack the basic common knowledge and understanding of rock and roll music? Badfinger was hot for a couple of albums at best and then faded away before tragedy struck. Cheap Trick has been puttering along now since the early 80's.

The Raspberries released only FOUR albums in their early career that set the stage and yes...influenced the great bands that followed in their footsteps. The Raspberries are back together, thank God, and as far as I'm concerned have come up with a brilliant new release.

FOUR albums...and its those albums that sparked Springsteen and Lennon and countless others to refer to them as faves. FOUR albums, thats it.

Not to be nasty to Badfinger or the work they produced back then, they became somewhat boring. When they ditched Apple/Capitol and hopped over to Warner Brothers, that was about it for me and besides...when I saw our band open for them back in 73 I believe, Raspberries BLEW them off the stage and we all left halfway through Badfinger's set. We came to see The Raspberries and so did alot of others too.

It seems that when a band breaks up(Beatles,Badfinger,Big Star) they achieve this higher than mighty status.

Besides, now that I'm really ticked...Badfinger had lots of help from a band that could do no wrong..The Beatles.

Last time I checked , I believe, The Raspberries did it pretty much all by themselves.

Its so frustrating!

Ahhhhhh!

Big Star as good as The Beatles?

sigh

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You bring up a good point Jay. When a band or artist's career gets cut short they become lionized, some times unnecessarily so.

As for Badfinger, I thought some of their Warner Bros. material was quite good. Wish You Were Here was one of their better albums. And Rockford is probably one of the better Cheap Trick albums to come along in ages. Nowhere near what they were in the late 70's but it's impossible to recapture that kind of energy anymore.

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Jay52   

Captain..absolutely right about Rockford and maybe I was a bit harsh about Badfinger's WB releases but..

The Raspberries did it all with just four album releases. For the writer to make a comparison to Badfinger and Cheap Trick is just plain wrong.

Have the times changed so much that its cool and hip now to slam the Beatles or have them compared to a band like Big Star who won't be having any multi-cd volume box sets or books and movies released anytime soon?

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I LOVE Big Star...probably the biggest fan on this board[As far as I can tell] To say they were as good as the greatest band ever...[i mean I love my Hollies and Berries but the Fabs are #1] just shows musical ignorance.

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darlene   

This guy is definitely showing his ignorance. He should write about what he knows, and, from this article, I have no idea what that might be, but it certainly isn't Raspberries OR Big Star. I'm glad he thinks he knows more than Bruce Springsteen. And that Big Star is as good as the Beatles. WHERE DID THEY DIG THIS GUY UP????

They need to re-bury him. What a jackass.

:( --Darlene

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Jay52   

Hollies...Badfinger is a sad story no doubt but I think its more about the sympathy factor than their creative decline while Pete was still alive.

Meanwhile Raspberries break up after Starting Over and the Beach Boys record one of their last really good albums in 1970.

Not as tragic as Badfinger but it hurt like He--.

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