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Lew Bundles

Starting Over Review

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Starting Over 
The Raspberries 
Capitol ST 11329 
Released: October 1974 
Chart Peak: #143 
Weeks Charted: 6

The Raspberries have at last realized their potential. They've clearly become the premier synthesizers of Sixties pop influences extant. Even more importantly, the end results of their adroit collages of musical knowledge often equal or surpass their models' original creations.

As illustrations there are two perfectly astonishing tracks on Starting Over. "I Don't Know What I Want" is the ultimate Who tribute, a superbly integrated pastiche of Who styles, 1965-71. Fragments of Townshend melodies surface here and there, and Eric Carmen's vocal is an uncanny Roger Daltrey imitation. Yet the song stands on its own merits as a modern teenage frustration classic.

 

The Raspberries - Starting Over
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.

"Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" boasts a stunning production, combining an ultra-complex Beach Boys approach with Phil Spector techniques. Lyrically it's a refreshingly frank confession of the band's number one goal. Unlike those sensitive, questing souls who profess to disdain their gold records, the Raspberries want that hit on the radio. And they know what it takes to get it off -- "If the program director don't pull it/Then it's time to get back a bullet" is a far cry from the naive "Please Mr. DJ play my record" plaints of a decade ago.

 

 

Though the Beach Boys and the Who are historically my favorite artists, I'd have to admit that "Overnight Sensation" and "I Don't Know What I Want" eclipse anything either band has done recently. They also overshadow the rest of the album, whichis almost uniformly excellent and contains three other tracks which likewise outshine most of the available product. "I Can Hardly Believe You're Mine" is a gorgeous rockaballad, "Play On" has captivating harmonies over high-voltage rocking and "Cruisin Music" is a consummately produced Beach Boys-style tribute to the car radio.

Starting Over is still not the ultimate Raspberries triumph, but its highest points are as lofty as any heights rock music '74 has scaled.

- Ken Barnes, Rolling Stone, 10/24/74.

Bonus Reviews!

I don't quite believe it myself, but this really does it -- brings the middle '60s into the middle '70s. Full of great singles for a singular time, which obviously doesn't mean this one. Two secrets. First, Scott McCarl is the big bad John they've always needed to compliment Eric Carmen's supersweet Paul. Second, a vague concept (just like Sgt. Pepper!) adds dimension to several otherwise minor tracks. Highlights: "All through the Night" (Eric as Rod the Mod), "Hands on You" (drumless John-and-Paul takeout), and "Overnight Sensation" (about being in it for hit records rather than money, which is what I call a concept). A-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The band's last album is something of a disappointment, much louder and punchier than their previous work but lacking the elegance that characterized their overall sound. None of the songs is bad, and some are quite good, but they sound like they're going through the motions at this point, and they did break up soon after. Starting Over was selected as Album of the Year in the 1974 Rolling StoneCritics Poll. * * *

- Bruce Eder, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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