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Eric Carmen

New Essential "Review"

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Eric Carmen: The Essential Eric Carmen
(Arista/Legacy/Sony)

by Evan Schlansky

3.5 out of 5 stars

“I’m a rocker,” Eric Carmen once sang as frontman for 70’s power poppers the Raspberries. And anyone who heard that or most of his other sexed up, adrenalized songs for that band would surely agree. There were some slow ones mixed into their albums such as the lush, lovely, Elton John styled “Starting Over,” but generally Carmen seemed most comfortable cranking out power chords and hooky choruses as on Beatles/Who rave up “Go All the Way” and “ I Wanna Be with You,” two Raspberries’ nuggets from this double disc Carmen career recap.

Yet no sooner did he go it alone in 1975 than the melancholy “All By Myself” piano based ballads dominated his output. That culminated in 1987’s Top 5 charting, sugar slick “Hungry Eyes,” a tune destined to outlive Carmen with its featured appearance in that year’s Dirty Dancing film. To their credit, the compilers of these 30 tracks mix up the vibe with enough upbeat material, much of it tapping into the singer/songwriter’s lifelong Beach Boys infatuation, to keep the momentum going.

That gets a little tough with mushy fare such as the string laden “Desperate Fools” and 1984’s soggy “The Way it Used to Be,” which sounds like a rejected demo for Barbara Streisand. A few lunk-headed rockers like the as-bland-as-its-title “Tonight You’re Mine” don’t fare much better. But anyone capable of writing a song as timeless, powerful and catchy as the classic “I just want a hit” musician tell-all “Overnight Sensation” (from ’74, with the Raspberries) deserves your attention and respect. Even if it means slogging through the extended eight minute “Run Away,” twice as long as necessary with the addition of a “MacArthur Park”-styled middle interlude. Like Billy Joel, Carmen is heavily influenced by early 60s Brill Building pop, resulting in 1980’s “It Hurts Too Much,” a tune with castanets and a honking sax break that even the great songwriter Doc Pomus would have been proud to call his own.

While 30 tracks might be pushing it for all but the most adoring fans (who probably already own nearly everything here), this covers every album Carmen released from his first garage rock outfit, 1969’s Cyrus Erie, through Raspberries highlights (including three live tracks) and five solo albums. The extra room allows for deeper cuts like “Someday,” inspired by the singer’s appreciation of Lesley Gore, to get a much deserved airing. The closing “Brand New Year,” Carmen’s first new composition in 18 years, shows there is still gas left in his melody tank even if he remains in awe of “Surfs Up” era Brian Wilson.

American Songwriter, March 21, 2014

__________

And my comment to Evan:

Do critics still write about Brian Wilson's "infatuation" with The Four Freshman, or, at some point, did a new generation just dig those beautiful harmonies, melded with the Chuck Berry instrumental approach Brian adapted? Yeah, I love a lot of what Brian did, and I used some of my friends from Brian's band to record "Brand New Year", but you might just as well talk about my "awe" for The Four Freshman, or any other great vocal group, for that matter.
 
As for the song selection, over the years I've learned that when I read "string laden" or "soggy" or "mushy," I must be reading a review by a male writer who finds it difficult, if not impossible, to say anything nice about an orchestral ballad.
 
Just for the record, I would rank "Desperate Fools" and "The Way We Used To Be" among the best songs I've ever written.
 
I'm glad you like some of the other stuff, but unless you were listening over some shitty speakers, you neglected to mention one of the most important differences between this anthology and any other compilation: Mark Wilder's BRILLIANT remastering, which makes every one of the 30 songs included sound about 300% better than they ever sounded before. The sonics on this recording put all previous versions to shame.
 
All the best,
Eric
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I'd love to know what makes this guy think he's qualified to determine that "Run Away" is "twice as long as necessary, or call "Tonight You're Mine" a "lunk-headed  rocker, that's "as bland as it's title." Makes me wonder if he even listened to the track.

And, of course, everyone knows that all of my "piano-based ballads" ( beginning with "the melancholy 'All By Myself', in 1975 ) "CULMINATED" ( Yes, that's the word he used ) "in 1987's "Hungry Eyes" ( a song I didn't write, and would find difficult to imagine categorizing as a "piano-based ballad" or the "culmination" of ALL my piano-based ballads ). 

And are 30 tracks REALLY "pushing it, for all but the most adoring fans", or does this guy just prefer Ozzie Osborne? Yeesh! 

Give a guy a pencil.........!

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Don't worry kids, I learned long ago that "opinions are like a**holes, everybody's got one," so this kind of stuff is just par for the course, but honestly, once in a while, I'd just like to slap some of these guys up the side of the head!

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James   

He obviously has a personal dislike for a whole genre of pop music (piano based ballads).  Therefore the guy should recognize his
bias and adjust his writing accordingly, or even better, not write reviews for this type of music at all.

It's cool he liked (and respected) a lot of Eric Carmen stuff, but a lot of what he wrote was a joke made even worse by his sardonic manner.

P.S.  The 8 minute length of "Runaway" is what makes the song for me.  I love that song.

James

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ira   

Eric..You are SOO right...Eric...You are SOO right....You are SOO right..

Eric..I kinda think you got the gist of my post.

"I'm So Tired"..(Incredibly clever Beatles reference  :P ) of the bias that thinks Classic Rock is good....ALL pop is bad!

Maybe Iron Butterfly...Canned Heat...and Vanilla Fudge were the Mozarts of our generation..and yet somehow I didn't get it!

Ergo...(WHOO-not bad if I say so myself).. the works of Eric Carmen...Burt Bacharach...and the more emotional songs of Brian Wilson should be piled on the scrapheap along with such gems (sarcasm alert)... as "Billy Don't Be A Hero".."Seasons In The Sun" and "The Night Chicago Died"!

YUCK...like day-old  sushi...this kind of thinking gets old fast.

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E my dear,

What you and our other pals here said!

I always love to hear/read what you have to say and really, what makes this author an actual critic? 

Your response was spot on and I'm so glad you wrote back to this guy -- what's his name -- what is the rag who employs him? 

Hope you aren't going to get too deep into the weeds with some of these people who you know are going to pop up - just craving to put their miserable two cents in - those who've never written a song themselves.

xoxo
M.E.

p.s.  "A rejected demo for Streisand" -- kiss my fluffy white tail!! ;)

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MikeD   

I'd bet this guy didn't even listen to the entire compilation, probably skimmed through songs. If he had listened closely, he'd hear an eclectic artist who wasn't afraid to express himself in such a diverse manner and one who never released "filler" on his albums. Using "soggy" as an adjective to describe a song shows his mentality.

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MikeWNY   

Obviously, he doesn't like "melody" but I wonder why he even reviewed it. Presumably a melody tank means you have a reserve of talent to draw upon. The music this guy prefers probably doesn't require much.

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James   

..if he's married it ( a slap) probably won't affect him....  I'm sure he has developed callouses all over his head by now.

:)

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On 3/23/2014 at 6:57 PM, Raspbernie said:

You go, Eric! I saw that "review" and decided NOT to post it, but your retort makes it worthy of inclusion here at EC.com

Well Bernie, I was going to post the same thing but you beat me to it so I'll add "go get'm tiger" instead.

And Cayennegirl's "kiss my fluffy white tail" was pretty cute. Anyone else wanting to "slap" him upside the head, I volunteer to hold him for you.

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Kirk   

Well, that sucked...I think I'll go write a review of my own.  Oh, wait- I just did that!  Go read that one, Eric.  It will cheer you up :D

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marvin   

As far as the review goes, to each his own. I don't think any of us can honestly say that we love every song by our favourite artists. As far as the "rag" that this critic writes for, that would be "American Songwriter", a pretty well-respected and well-read mag.

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James   

There are hard hitting but fair reviews, then there are reviews like this guy's.  He clearly doesn't like ballads, this is his bias.  So he shouldn't be reviewing this type of music....or he should state his bias up front and write accordingly.  There is also no excuse for his mocking tone and demeaning adjectives.

This guy doesn't deserve our respect, regardless of his credentials.

IMHO,

James

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marvin   

I don't know who is doing all the legwork getting this "Essential" cd into the hands of those like American Songwriter, but kudos to them. This series of cd's are ubiquitous, and just about every artist has an "essential" collection. I don't think I've ever seen one receive a review (good or bad) and the press that Eric's has received.

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I think it would be a great addition to every magazine that publishes "reviews" to list, next to the writer's name, a short bio of said writer, including his favorite artists/albums, likes and dislikes, and whatever qualifies him to write music reviews

( M.A. in music from Oberlin College or The Eastman School etc., whether he's ever mastered an instrument, played in a band, written a song, or secured a recording contract ). 

That way, we could read the review knowing where the writer was coming from. For instance:

Evan's band never made it out of the garage, so, yeah, he's a little bitter. His favorite band is Pere Ubu, but he also likes alt.country. He dislikes anything melodic, and believes ballads are for "sissies." He spent two years at Tennessee State University

before dropping out to become a journalist. He would have trashed "Yesterday" by The Beatles, but he was sucking on a "binky" when it was released, and had not yet learned the art of being "snarky."

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Oh, and one more thing, Evan. The first 45 I ever bought was "Got A Girl" by The Four Preps:   

I was ten years old, at the time. So, I guess my fondness for four-part harmonies, predated my "infatuation" with Brian Wilson by about ten or eleven years.

It's kind of ironic that the lyric is about a guy who felt like he had to become a "pop star" to compete for his girl's affections, since she was crazy about "Fabian, (Frankie) Avalon, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Rydell and (Elvis) Presley."

Hmmmm....... 

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On 3/24/2014 at 1:36 AM, marvin said:

As far as the review goes, to each his own. I don't think any of us can honestly say that we love every song by our favourite artists. As far as the "rag" that this critic writes for, that would be "American Songwriter", a pretty well-respected and well-read mag.

Marv,

Always assume I'm in E's court... ;)

I've never read any music writer's work with the word "soggy" in a sentence, so my feelings for the review can best be expressed by a quote from one of my favorite authors (W. Allen):

"I heard commentary and dissent had merged and formed dysentery."

:blink:

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"As far as the review goes...."....All art is subjective, so anyone can write or say anything, and no one can actually say they're "wrong."
 
However, if you send a writer who loves AC/DC to review a Mitsuko Uchida concert, and the guy knows nothing about Mozart, or classical music, and doesn't really care for it, you're going to get a very uninformed review. I've been around for a long time, so my skin has thickened considerably since the early 70's, but when some nimrod, who wouldn't know a a great song if it bit him, writes that "Run Away" should have been half as long as it is ( a thought that never, ever occurred to me ) it makes me think that, perhaps, he should be writing a review of something he actually understands.
 
I don't expect every person on earth to love every song I've ever written. I don't love every single song I've ever written.
 
I'm glad "American Songwriter" chose to review the new release, but I had serious questions about whether Evan, or today, Hal, ( the "author" of the piece changed from Evan to Hal Horowitz, today ) really listened to it. The impression I got was that the reviewer looked at the track listing, played a bit of some of the tracks, randomly reviewed others, and had a preconceived idea about what he was going to write before he ever listened to the first track.
 
The "snarky" tone of the piece suggests that the writer was "covering his ass", so as not to appear "unhip" to his fellow writers and/or readers. If he had glanced at the booklet, and seen the quotes from Bruce Springsteen, Paul Stanley, Steve Jones, Slash and Alex Chilton, he might have been less worried about appearing "unhip." In any case, there were other far more informed reviews yesterday, and I suspect, more to come.
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Apparently, Hal's definition of "Monster Hit" is "Piano Ballad." When writing a review, why bother listening to the music? That's just so "old school." Write about what you "think" the recording is going to be, not what it actually is. 

In any case, I'm quite sure that Hal, or Evan, or whoever, has got one heck of a publishing catalogue just FILLED with all the great songs, and hit records they've written over the past forty-five years.

I can close my eyes and almost see it......"The Essential Evan Schlansky"......"The Essential Hal Horowitz." Yep.

I rest my case.

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MikeWNY   

Admittedly, somebody can be knowledgeable and not necessarily working in the industry but it is difficult to be impressed by this magazine which seems more intent on selling false hope to would-be songwriters.

As for Hal (or Evan), even the use of snark was clumsy in his review. When done adroitly, an element of snark can be entertaining but this was ignorant snark. I don't think his stale "magazine" reviews are going to outlive him, by the way!

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A critical review would have been more palatable if based on knowledge and insight or maybe after actually listening to the CD. Who actually believes that he listened to the harmonica part of Desperate Fools?

Finally, I would like to thank Eric for choosing the release date of the new CD on my birthday!

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