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Matthew C. Clark

Ultimate Classic Rock Ranking

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Raspberries Albums Ranked Worst to Best
By Dave Swanson

The term “power pop” gets tossed around an awful lot these days. It’s tossed around so often in the music press and among fans of the genre, it seems to have lost all meaning. But if there’s one band that defines the term, it’s Cleveland’s Raspberries, who delivered equal parts “power” and “pop.” We rank all of their records from worst to best in the above gallery.

For the record, as great as they were, Electric Light Orchestra and R.E.M. are not, nor have they ever been, power pop. Even putting the beloved Big Star in that box is not an easy fit, truth be told.

But over the course of three albums, the Raspberries — guitarists and singers Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, bassist Dave Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti — put together the perfect hybrid of Beach Boys‘ and the Beatles‘ melodic and harmonic sense, the power and punch of the Who and the Small Faces‘ crunch and stomp. (Smalley and Bonfanti were replaced, respectively, by Scott McCarl and Michael McBride, for the band’s final record, 1974’s Starting Over.)

From the opening riff of “Go All the Way” through to the last crash, bang and wallop of “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),” you would be hard-pressed to find a better catalog of rock ‘n’ roll that combines those elements so effectively.

The Raspberries failed to hold onto their initial success, and lasted only a few years. The music has, thankfully, continued to live on. All four of their records are great, so check out our list of Raspberries Albums Ranked Worst to Best.

4. 'Raspberries' (1972)
Raspberries’ first single, "Don't Want to Say Goodbye," showcased the band's Paul McCartney-esque pop-ballad side, but it was the follow-up, "Go All the Way," that really introduced the world to their killer crunch, as it shot into the U.S. Top 5 in the summer of 1972. It remains their signature song. Though the album is somewhat patchy, it was a strong start for the band. "Come Around and See Me" and "I Saw the Light" hinted that things would only get better from here.

3. 'Fresh' (1972)
"I Wanna Be With You" proved "Go All the Way" was no fluke. One of the most brilliant and exciting singles ever recorded, it kicked off the band's second LP. 'Fresh' was a marked step forward from their debut, stocked with gems such as "Nobody Knows," "Drivin' Around" and the beautiful "Let's Pretend," possibly the greatest Brian Wilson tribute ever recorded.

2. 'Starting Over' (1974)
On Raspberries' fourth album, things had changed in the ranks. Founders Jim Bonfanti and Dave Smalley were gone, with drummer Michael McBride and bassist Scott McCarl taking their respective places. Along with the personnel, a sonic change was at play as well, with the band opting for a less overtly pop approach, directing traffic to a harder-edged style best exemplified by the powerhouse "I Don't Know What I Want," which nearly out Whos the Who and "The Party's Over," sneaking into Humble Pie territory. Pop perfection, however, was far from lost, as one spin of the single "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" proved with its Phil Spector-like production, which, legend has it, was helped a bit by John Lennon, who was recording down the hall.

1. 'Side 3' (1973)
Released in the fall of 1973, 'Side 3' is so great it's no surprise it tops our list. First off, it contains three of the band's all-time best songs: "Ecstasy," "On the Beach" and "Tonight." Songwriter Eric Carmen was at the top of his game, while the band rocks those songs harder and more confidently. Wally Bryson's "Hard to Get Over a Heartbreak" and Dave Smalley's "Last Dance" rank among the band's finest work too, showing it was far from just Carmen's band. 'Side 3' encompasses everything that was great about Raspberries, showing off their influences while proudly stamping their own identity at the same time.

Ultimate Classic Rock, April 7, 2017

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Matt  

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I think they got it right. Although I'd be hard pressed to call Raspberries first LP their "worst!" Maybe the ranking should have been "From Great to Best?"

Bernie

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James   

On the Side 3 review they mixed up Dave and Walley re: who wrote "HTGOAH" and "Last Dance", but it was a good read and I agree with Bernie, they got it pretty much right.  I may put the first album at #3 ahead of Fresh only because to me "I Can Remember" is so strong it carries a lot of weight for me.

Great find, Matt, ...and thanks for posting it up here.

P.S. I think "Overnight Sensation" is in the running for the most quintessential/greatest pure pop song ever.  How it didn´t chart I don´t know.  I´ve still never heard it played on the radio.

James

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Kirk   
On 4/8/2017 at 1:38 PM, James said:

On the Side 3 review they mixed up Dave and Walley re: who wrote "HTGOAH" and "Last Dance", but it was a good read and I agree with Bernie, they got it pretty much right.  I may put the first album at #3 ahead of Fresh only because to me "I Can Remember" is so strong it carries a lot of weight for me.

Great find, Matt, ...and thanks for posting it up here.

P.S. I think "Overnight Sensation" is in the running for the most quintessential/greatest pure pop song ever.  How it didn´t chart I don´t know.  I´ve still never heard it played on the radio.

Regarding "Overnight Sensation" radio airplay, it did get some airplay.  If you were still listening to AM radio, you probably didn't hear it.  As Raspberries switched gears on "Starting Over", airplay also switched to FM.  I heard "Overnight Sensation" played on KMET, an FM giant in the L.A. market.  Previously, they had not played any Raspberries tunes.  I'm sure Capitol's promotion was waning by this point, also...

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