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Lew Bundles

“Fresh” Review

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Fresh 
Raspberries 
Capitol 11123 
Released: December 1972 
Chart Peak: #36 
Weeks Charted: 16

I always held that the next revitalization of pop music would be heralded by a resurgence of interest in the mid-'60s, but I couldn't have imagined a year ago that things would have come so fast. The old songs are not being reworked as much as I'd hoped (yet), but stylistically it might as well be 1965 as far as a large and growing number of groups are concerned.

What amazes me most is that nobody has said, "hey, knock off that corny stuff -- it sounds just like the Beatles!" The public is accepting it at face value, welcoming its enthusiasm and unabashed non-heaviness like the breath of fresh air it is to today's stale, inbred rock scene. I'll be damned, it looks as if kids really do know what's good for 'em after all.

The new Raspberries album, which should've been called Beatles '65, is the first successful LP in what has already become a new genre. Raspberries seems to have stepped into the spot left by Badfinger's mysterious withdrawal, and while the latter group had more originality and greater potential, it's actions that count and Raspberries has been doing a lot lately.

It may be only coincidence that Eric Carmen bears an uncanny resemblance to Paul McCartney (vocally, that is; he ain't nearly as cute), but it's an advantage they put to the best, and worst, possible use. At best it reinforces the listener's subconscious association of them with the Beatles, which has probably helped sell a lot of records. At worst, where he is allowed to fall into the same self-indulgent histrionics that characterized the real Paul toward the end, I am merely reminded of why I never really cared for the last four Beatles albums.

"I Reach For the Light" is the chief offender in this regard, but fortunately it's located at the end of side one and can be easily skipped. And the rest of the side is so brilliant that you can hardly complain about the inconvenience of getting up to make the rejection. It opens with their new single "I Wanna Be With You" which blends with a dash of "One Fine Day" to make perhaps their most delightfully ingenious song yet.

Ringo steps forward to sing the next one, "Goin' Nowhere Tonight," a more relaxed song with a country feel that, while kinda weak, is still enjoyable. He's not the greatest singer, but the girls all feel sorry for him. It's followed by Paul's solo number, an intense ballad with strings that builds through intricate harmonies to a soaring climax. Very effective. "Every Way I Can," Dave Smalley's only solo composition, is basically a filler, but it rocks and is fun to listen to anyway.

"Nobody Knows" is not the first song on this album to send me shuffling through Beatles albums looking for the song I was sure it sounded just like. Like all the rest, I couldn't find it. The hooks are placed so insidiously that you're never quite sure your memory isn't playing tricks. It's mostly the guitar riffs than gnaw at my mind. The next song starts with one I could swear was from one of the Vee Jay records. The only solution is to play this side between Something New and A Hard Day's Night, and not pay attention. It sounds great that way.

The last two songs are interesting. "If You Change Your Mind" delves into Paul's Abbey Road period, like the Wackers did on their last album, and "Drivin' Around" is, of all things, a Beach Boys routine straight out of Heroes and Villains. The first verse mentions getting out of school, driving in cars with tape decks blasting, and taking girls to the beach under the hot sun. When it comes to synthesizing ambience, these guys are real pros. This sort of thing opens all sorts of avenues that it would be great to see Raspberries pursue in future recordings. Why limit themselves to the Beatles, after all?

In fact, such a move may be to their benefit in more ways than one. I haven't seen any other reviews yet, but it's hard to believe the critics will sit still for an album as overly derivative as this. The fact that it's simply fun to do songs like this should not be ignored, and by fooling around with other, related styles, I think Raspberries could better put across this side of their intent. If what they are trying to do can be accepted as valid in the first place, maybe then people will listen closely enough to realize that Raspberries songs are, beyond any stylistic considerations, really quite superior by any criteria of pop songwriting, and that this album is every bit as enjoyable as the classic Beatles albums. Maybe they didn't invent the style, but their work within it has been pretty nearly equal to that of the Masters. And being as good as the Beatles is, when you think about it, quite an accomplishment.

—Greg Shaw, Phonograph Record, 11/72.

Bonus Reviews!

It is one thing to have a top-forty, teenage supercommercial hit single like "I Wanna Be with You" and follow it up with an album containing the single. But the Raspberries get to be quite another thing: their music sounds very much like the early Beatles; they wear band uniforms vaguely reminiscent of the lapel-less jackets JPG&R used to wear; they record for the same label; there are four in the group, one each for the girls to pick and adore for their own special appeal. And I am suddenly getting the feeling it is 1963.

The music here is pleasant and harmless, well done and well produced, and no messing about with any of that Art nonsense. But repeated playings of the album and intense staring at the album jacket is liable to convince foolish old men like myself what the generation who were microboppers when the Beatles first appeared have now passed puberty and are determined to bring rock-and-roll back to its senses. If this is a turn of the wheel of life, it is reassuring. It is also a bit scary. I don't want to go back.

—Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 4/73.

Nostalgia Squad loves these guys -- supposedly, they reincarnate the halycon days of the pre-psychedelic mid-'60s, when rock was simple, happy music sung by harmonizing foursomes in mod clothes. Only thing is, that music used to keep us humming all day, and after listening to this for a month all I remember is three songs: "Let's Pretend," "I Wanna Be with You," and a remarkable Beach Boys takeoff that has tape decks in it. Whatever happened to Gerry and the Pacemakers, anyway? B-

—Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981

The second best of four albums issued by the band, with "I Wanna Be With You," "If You Change Your Mind," and "Drivin' Around" as highlights amid some overall incredibly superb rock craftsmanship. The band's sound is overall more confident and more powerful. * * * *

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

 

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"Fresh" is my favorite Raspberries album even though my the best song on it doesn't match the best song on any of their other 3 LPs. (Go All the Way, Tonight and Overnight Sensation) but every song written by Eric is a gem and the songs work well together, They probably shouldn't have worn the matching suits though.

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