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LC

In Hindsight: Raspberries' Fresh (1972)

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LC   

Fresh was actually the last Raspberries album I bought. I first glommed onto the debut album (but not until it had been out for around four years), then picked up Raspberries Best not too long after it came out, and then, after heading off to college as a freshman, I got Starting Over, Side 3, and, finally, Fresh (all in fairly rapid succession — not easy to do back then, when every $6.99 or $7.99 record album purchase had to be weighed against date money, late-night-pizza money, maybe a little beer money, and various sundries.... You remember.

Because I got to it last, Fresh didn't get the heavy rotation on my turntable for a while, but once it did, it emerged, for me, as a near-perfect pop album. Music journalists who might have criticized it at the time for being too Beatlesque totally missed the point... and obviously missed out on the fun, because this is not only perfect pop, but... it's just a fun record. And shouldn't music be fun?

So by now, I probably rank Fresh at the top, although sometimes it's Starting Over — and sometimes Side 3, and sometimes, yes, even the debut, which I'll listen to and remember how much it sucked me in back in the mid-1970s. Like I said, they're all great albums. Finding fault with them, for me, is just a matter of getting nitpicky.

Anyway, here's how I rank the ten songs. My only complaint: It's too short of an album. A second Wally Bryson song and another Eric Carmen original or two would have rounded it out nicely.

1. Let's Pretend; A+

What's not to love? On "Let's Pretend,' Eric gives his best-ever vocal in a killer melody and lots of teen tension.... it's a three-minute song that was easy to relate to back when you were a "searching" teenager with (shall we say) heightening awareness of the world. "Let's Pretend" is "Wouldn't It Be Nice" all over again, to re-draw the comparison that's been made ad nauseum, but it's a totally valid comparison. Summertime classic rock radio playlists (and iPods) should put "Let's Pretend" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" back to back. PS: I love the slow version of "Let's Pretend" (as played on Don Kirschner's late-night show and various 'berries bootleg recordings from the 1970s) just as much as the mid-tempo studio version. I might even like it better.

2. I Wanna Be With You: A+

There are times where I've got this one at #1 here, and why not? That intro blast from Jim Bonfanti, Wally's killer riff, those perfect harmonies, Eric's unbelievable lead vocal... whew! I should note (again) that I love the "mature" ballad version of "IWBWY" (as played in the VH1 studios in 2007) just as much as the rockin' studio version. A great song is a great song is a great song....

3. If You Change Your Mind: A

I love songs that build up and build up and build up, and then just let loose, as on the tag of "If You Change Your Mind." This is what "power pop" is all about: killer hooks and melodies performed with some heat. Oh yeah!

4. Nobody Knows: A

A rock critic somewhere in the past, if I remember correctly, said that this would have fit perfectly on the Beatles' Rubber Soul. Even if I'm making that up, it's true anyway! And could there be a more positive compliment to pay to a song? I love the unusual intro — just Eric's voice kicking in — followed by the rush of acoustic guitars and then those harmonies.... I definitely would have bought this as a hit single back in the day. And wasn't it a kick to watch and/or hear Raspberries play "Nobody Knows" live in the 2000s? This, to me, is the best of the four Carmen/Dave Smalley collaborations here.

5. I Reach for the Light: A-

I know this one got jabbed by critics (and even Wally, per some quotes in a music mag) because of the Beatlesque sound. But I've always dug it because of the McCartney influence. That melody, those backup vocals, the horn, Eric's routinely great vocal, Wally's elegant riffs, the driving tag — "I Reach for the Light" has it all, at least for me. In fact, when I first bought Fresh (which would have been around four years after it came out), "I Reach for the Light" grabbed me before all the other non-singles did.

6. Might As Well: B+.

It's Wally's only song here, but "Might As Well" is a great one. He made great strides from the first to the second album, which is why we can't help but wonder why there weren't at least one other Wally composition on Fresh.

7. Goin' Nowhere Tonight: B

Dave, too, made strides from the first album to the second, and it's cool to know that he and Eric gave collaborative songwriting a chance. Back when Fresh was new, my sister bought the 45 rpm single of "I Wanna Be WIth You" and I'd play it often, only occasionally flipping it over to hear the B side. Back then, "Goin' Nowhere Tonight" didn't make an immediate impact, but in hindsight, this is a perfect change-up amid all the Lennon & McCartney touches on Fresh.

8. It Seemed So Easy: B

This Smalley/Carmen collaboration is oft-overlooked but it's not a song I skip past --- nice country-flavored ballad with an excellent vocal and cool bridge. In fact, "It Seemed So Easy" is a solid piece within the run of songs on SIde 2 of the LP — songs that weren't chart hits but that hang together in the best possible way: "Nobody Knows," "It Seemed So Easy," "Might As Well," and "If You Change Your Mind."

9. Every Way I Can: B

A rockin' Dave tune that kicks along at an energetic pace, thanks to some killer Wally licks and standout bass by the writer. I used to love the line, "It's not easy havin' just one girl." It sort of has a different meaning a few decades later.

:lol::lol:

10. Drivin' Around: B

And then there's the album's closer: "Drivin' Around," which was a departure from the four numbers that preceded it (see No. 8). Its ranking at the bottom of my list belies the fact that it's an appealingly sunny summertime song that still sounds great in the car. If I were the producer, I would have dropped the baritone "Oh baby" after the first line; it seems gimmicky. Once past it, though, the song scoots right along; the bridge is especially cool. Of course, I probably liked "Drivin' Around" more back in college, when I did have a tape deck blastin' and would tend to just drive around more. It's hard to relate to it when your ride is now a minivan and the back seat is for softball equipment, boxes of CDs, and kids clothes, not romance. But that's what hindsight does, right? Besides, something has to go on the bottom; for that song to be one that made the cut on Raspberries' Best only amplifies the quality of Fresh, all the way through.

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James   

If You Change Your Mind - A+

Let's Pretend - A+

I Reach For The Light - A

I Wanna Be With You - A

Might As Well - A

Nobody Knows - A-

Every Way I Can - B+

Drivin Around - B+

..don't like the other 2

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Mine is here!

I'm melody lover!!!

1. If You Change Your Mind: A++

2. Nobody Knows: A++

3. Let's Pretend: A+

4. I Reach for the Light: A

5. I Wanna Be With You: A

6. It Seemed So Easy: B

7. Drivin' Around: B

8. Might As Well: B

9. Goin' Nowhere Tonight: B

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LC   

Oops --in moving songs around, I was cutting and pasting and somehow forgot to paste "Every Way I Can" where I was intending to put it. Sorry friends. I will fix now. James and Naeko, you're one short -- my fault.

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Fresh was the first Raspberries album I got as well (got it as a gift for my 9th birthday). Had the 45 of "Go All the Way" the Christmas before that.

1. I Wanna Be with You

2. Nobody Knows (short, but nicely done!)

3. Goin' Nowhere Tonight

4. Let's Pretend

5. If You Change Your Mind

6. I Reach for the Light

7. Might as Well

8. It Seemed So Easy

9. Drivin' Around

10. Every Way I Can

Again - all great songs that I find no fault with.

BMP

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marvin   

This was actually the first 'berries album that I bought (ok my dad bought it for me ;)), so it holds a special place in my heart.

"I Wanna Be With You" blew me away from the very first listen, when I got the 45, and to this day it still ranks pretty close to the top among my favourite 'berries songs.

I have a difficulty ranking all the other songs in order of importance or 'best to worst', because this is one album where I feel that there is no weak cut here. Everything, in my opinion, is outstanding.

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Kirk   

I'm kind of Marvinesque on this one...not a weak song anywhere in sight (or sound).

Most bands who write their own songs have a dramatic drop off after the debut album. Some groups even have a dramatic drop off after their first single!

What a surprise to hear "Fresh" sounding stronger than Raspberries debut album! Incredible!!

I Wanna Be With You

Let's Pretend

If You Change Your Mind

Nobody Knows

I Reach For The Light

Drivin Around

Might As Well

It Seemed So Easy

Goin Nowhere Tonight

Every Way I Can

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PaulMaul   

My favorite of the 4 'berries releases:

Let's Pretend

If You Change Your Mind

I Wanna Be With You

Nobody Knows

I Reach For The Light

Might As Well

Drivin'Around

It Seemed So Easy

Goin Nowhere Tonight

Every Way I Can

I'm a big "If You Change Your Mind" guy. I don't think anything underscores the writing talent of Eric and the playing talent of Wally like the guitar parts on this song. Genius!

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marvin   
PaulMaul said:

My favorite of the 4 'berries releases:

Let's Pretend

If You Change Your Mind

I Wanna Be With You

Nobody Knows

I Reach For The Light

Might As Well

Drivin'Around

It Seemed So Easy

Goin Nowhere Tonight

Every Way I Can

I'm a big "If You Change Your Mind" guy. I don't think anything underscores the writing talent of Eric and the playing talent of Wally like the guitar parts on this song. Genius!

Totally agree about "IYCYM"!! From the singing to the playing, this song is an undeniable classic.

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LC   

PaulMaul, Aventurine (A++!) and others:

I'm getting a little weak in the knees re: "IYCYM." I think I grandfathered "Let's Pretend" and especially "I Wanna Be With You" ahead of it on my own list, but... lists are made to be changed. It's perfecto!

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Billy K.   

It was kind of an interesting contrast between the first three albums. On the debut, it had a bit more classical-influence(i.e. "I Can Remember"/"Waiting") thrown in, while the third album was more "album rock FM"........"Fresh" on the other hand, was virtually all "radio-ready" hit music throughout the album.

Like all the other albums, the lead-off track came off very strong. Can't argue with that. My personal favorites from this album, are the Smalley tunes "It Seemed So Easy" and "Goin' Nowhere Tonight"........"Might As Well" didn't grab me, initially, but it grew on me with repeated listenings. The closing chord of "Nobody Knows" has that nice harmonic ringing sound sound to it. (And if you like that kind of sound, it is strongly suggested you listen to the closing chord of Badfinger's "Your So Fine", too).

The end section "I Reach For the Light" gets on my nerves sometimes. There was some quote from Eric, someplace, describing his own singing is "sounding like a sick dog", or something like that-----I could not disagree with the man himself. Actually, the song isn't bad......and in fact, there is a cover version I like better.

Although the presence of Jimmy Ienner's bass vocals are obvious on "Drivin' Around", Wally's fills rounds out the song quite nicely. I think it would not sound right without these fills, done "authoritively" in the right spots.

(1) I Wanna Be With You (2) It Seems so Easy (3) Goin' Nowhere Tonight (4)Might As Well (5) Let's Pretend (6) Nobody Knows
(7) If You Change Your Mind (8) Drivin' Around (9) I Reach For The Light (10) Every Way I Can
        

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LC   

My revisit to Fresh yielded some changes in preference: 

1. Let's Pretend: A+. A teen favorite, it's still a sweet treat. 

2. If You Change Your Mind: A+. Elevated from 3rd to 2nd.  

3. Nobody Knows: A+. A most perfect pop song, this one goes down easy, still. Elevated from 4th to 3rd.

4. I Wanna Be With You: A+. Dropped from 2nd to 4th, for no particular reason—but with the same grade. I have come to love the ballad version from VH1 (2007) even more than this power-pop classic.  

5. I Reach for the Light: A-: The perfect marriage of Beatles and Raspberries. It's usually a target of critics (that Penny Lane-is fluegelhorn!), but man, this is a sweet bit of teenage pop lament, with some nice riffing in the tag. he Beatlesque sound. But I've always dug it because of the McCartney influence.  

6. Might As Well: A. Kicked up from B+ to A. For me, it's sort of a George Harrison-y break on a very Lennon-McCartney-inflenced album. I wish there were more Wally works on this album... with only 10 tracks, there was definitely room. 

7. It Seemed So Easy: B+. Kicked up from B to B+, and from 8th to 7th. I thought Eric and Dave as as team showed promise on Fresh; too bad this album seemed to mark the end of their collaborative efforts, songwriting-wise.

8. Goin' Nowhere Tonight: B. On a par with the "It Seemed So Easy"—country-rocker that was highly regarded enough to land at the 2nd spot on Side A of the album.

9. Every Way I Can: B. The most rockin' number on a truly great pop album. 

10. Drivin' Around: C. Dropped down from a B. Well-placed at the end of the LP. To me, "Cruisin' Music" is what "Drivin' Around" might have wanted to me.

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James   
On 16/2/2013 at 8:46 AM, James said:

If You Change Your Mind - A+

Let's Pretend - A+

I Reach For The Light - A

I Wanna Be With You - A

Might As Well - A

Nobody Knows - A-

Every Way I Can - B+

Drivin Around - B+

..don't like the other 2

The only change I'd make is to jump " Drivin Around "  ahead of NK and up its grade to A.

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James   

I state I don't like the 2 Dave songs, but ISSE is pretty good on the live album.

PS great stuff as always LC. It's a treat for us having you writing and managing threads here. 

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James   

Interesting, IYCYM has always been my fave from Fresh, but because I bought the Best Of, featuring EC first, and got hooked on the Raspberries from that exquisite selection of songs, I always (against my druthers) thought of IYCYM as a " 2nd class" song, only cuz it didn't make it onto that great Best Of album. Funny how the mind can work sometimes and be manipulated.

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Kirk   

1. I Wanna Be With You

2. Let's Pretend

3. If You Change Your Mind  (the Live on Sunset Strip album gave this song a promotion)

4. Nobody Knows

5. I Reach For The Light

6. Drivin' Around

7. Might As Well

8. It Seemed So Easy

9. Goin' Nowhere Tonight

10. Every Way I Can

The first 6 are 'A' songs. 7 is a B+. 8 is a B. 9 & 10 a B-. 

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LC   

We got some nice weather in New England today, and this whole record fit perfectly. 

Dave's songs typically are at the bottom of Fresh rankings, but usually with decent grades. Dave did well on this album, working with Eric.Their styles are so different that I can see why they'd drift back to their separate ways after their collaborations here. But it's not lost on me that Dave's songs add variety to the Fresh song lineup.

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I always thought in retrospect that if Raspberries were to survive, they would have done so with an “Eagles lite” hit penned by Dave and Eric in the vein of Should I Wait. Dave, I think, knew that to survive, they would have to adapt their talents away, at least for a while, from Beatles/SmallFaces/Classic Who/Beach Boys stylings and concentrate on up to the minute desires of programmers. “Tonight” was so dated and as incredible as Overnight Sensation was, it simply was not 1974 material. Think BTO, John Denver, etc. Come to think of it, maybe Wally’s Last Dance was such an attempt.

I veered from the topic, I know.

 

 

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Kirk   

I think Makin' It Easy was Dave's best- could have been done by the Eagles...

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As great as as Let’s Pretend and If You Can Change Your Mind are, these are some of the main reasons that the Raspberries failed...EC’s voice is too pretty and these arrangements/songs definitely didn’t fit the times...I wonder if Raspathens is correct that if they had followed the “Eagles lite” formula, maybe more success would have followed...

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James   

"Let´s Pretend" and "If you change your mind" are the apex of Eric Carmen´s melody genius. It´s something you don´t mess with.

Those songs would have sold if marketed correctly. Melody sold in the early 70s, as really, it always has. Those 2 songs (and many others) of Eric´s are timeless in their genius, and are the types of songs that will still be listened to 100 years from now. Because they are so timelessly great.

IMHO:

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