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Lew Bundles

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Eric Carmen Capsule Reviews

By Matthew Weiner

Raspberries, Side 3 (1973) **** 1/2
Unlike powerpop contemporaries, Badfinger, Carmen's Raspberries made both consistent albums as well as irresistable singles Side 3, the band's third album, is the place where the teenybopper image of their classic "Go All the Way" begins to recede but the onslaught of hooks continues Like their aforementioned British counterparts, the band makes use of the multiple songwriters in the band, but in contrast to the 'Finger, all of the Raspberries are actually good at writing them.

Slathered in British Invasion melodies and West Coast harmonies, Side 3 is the sound of Summer Love in the Rust Belt: tuneful, young and full of hormonal longing, but with a tough veneer that makes it clear we're talking Cleveland, not California. From Carmen's taut opener, "Tonight," to bassist Dave Smalley's Eagles-with-a-reason, "Hard to Get Over a Heartbreak," every track is a winner. If there's anything to complain about, it's the record at times sounds a bit too stylistically varied. When the conceit works, as on Carmen's teen epic, "On the Beach," it's brilliant: mixing a goofy chorus about "wooing" a girl all night on the you-know-what with a middle eight that is pure "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." When it doesn't, like on the fiddle hoedown bridge of Wally Bryson's enjoyable "Last Dance,"it just seems a bit trite. But only in the post-Beatles era of the early seventies was ambition regarded as a liability.

Raspberries, Starting Over(1974) *** 1/2
Concluding Raspberries' run of critical, if not commercial, success, Starting Over is in many respects the group's raison d'etre. Trading Glen Frey soundalike Dave Smalley for Scott McCarl's Lennon-esque nostalgia ("Rose-Coloured Glasses"), Raspberries' final record rolls the group's fusion of sixties melodicism and blue-blooded American rock 'n roll into a vague concept not-coincidentally reminiscent in tone of a certain Liverpudlian group's most famous album from 1967. And much lik that record, you don't really care that the concept is so thinly realized.

But despite featuring some of their best songs, Starting Over sounds strangely not like a group's last album, but a promising debut, most apparent in the record's sophomoric tendency to hew a bit too closely to their heroes (as on "Cruisin' Music" and "All Through the Night, which sound too similar to the Beach Boys and "Won't Get Fooled Again" for comfort). In retrospect, the concept seems less a stylistic advance than a device to hold a fragmenting band together.

Still, it's a shame Starting Over ultimately turned out to be their swan song. "Play On" perfectly chronicles the joy of being onstage (and backstage). And Carmen's personal statement of purpose, "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)," really should've been a monster hit. But even here that song's sweet sincerity ("Well I know it sounds funny, but I'm not it for the money ... ") seems to acknowledge that the band knew its optimism was too dearly held to endure the gamesmanship of early Seventies corporate radio. Sad, really.

Eric Carmen, Eric Carmen(1975) ****1/2
Carmen's debut is so bursting with confidence, that it hardly sounds like his first stab at solo stardom. The moment the Spectorian opener "Sunrise" kicks off, it's clear that Carmen's talent far exceeds what the best moments of four Raspberries albums had even hinted at; the song's coda, announced with a stunning solo piano sequence, is positively thrilling. The ubiquitous AM hits, "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again" and "All By Myself" forever seal Carmen's reputation as a monster-ballad writer; elsewhere, on tracks like "Last Night" and "My Girl," Carmen achieves a sound that delicately balances a Wilson-esque melodic innovation with a contemporary, yet timeless production. Only a stab at "On Broadway" sounds a little forced, as if the label thought the entertainer in him required him to wear blackface. A classic of its time.


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Don't remember reading those anywhere before- where they all from the same publication? Who was the author?

Seems like 'Starting Over' should have had at least one more * after reading what was written, otherwise, decent reviews with less errors than most. One exception was the reviewer classifying ABM and NGFILA as 'AM hits'.

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