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Eric interview in Solon Herald Sun


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From The Solon Herald Sun (Sun Newspapers, Cleveland), December 6, 2007:

Carmen loving second wind
By Jeff Piorkowski

Eric Carmen seems to be having a good time fronting the Raspberries these days, as the Cleveland-bred band, formed in the early 1970s, plays select dates around the country to much adulation.

"When we start a show and I sing, 'If we were older, we wouldn't have to be worried tonight . . .' in 'I Wanna Be With You,' I think, 'If we were any older, we'd be in wheelchairs,' " Carmen said with a laugh.

In other words, things seem to be going a little lighter than in the Raspberries' past.

In its 1972-74 heyday, the band didn't always get along. That fact, along with reviews that chastised the group for its pop sound and hit-making ways during an era of album-oriented rock, led to the group's early and rancorous demise.

After decades, however, fans were rewarded with a reunion most thought would never happen. It was on Thanksgiving weekend, 2004, that the original foursome including guitarist Wally Bryson, drummer Jim Bonfanti and bassist David Smalley finally regrouped before two sellout crowds.

Next came a mini-tour to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and rave reviews and star-studded audiences.

"It's nice to see in the audience Paul Stanley of Kiss and to hear that he was a Rasperries fan and saw us perform in New York at Carnegie Hall in 1973," Carmen said.

The two-CD set "The Raspberries on Sunset Strip," a live set recorded at the West Hollywood House of Blues and released this summer, features in its liner notes an appreciation from Bruce Springsteen, who tells of listening to a cassette of "The Raspberries Greatest Hits" to fire him up in the late 1970s while driving every Sunday night to play in Asbury Park, N.J., with Southside Johnny, and a picture of John Lennon wearing his Raspberries sweatshirt while in San Francisco.

"We've had a lot of people in their 20s at our shows, so that's been nice to see, and fans our age," Carmen said. "When we played our first show at the (Cleveland) House of Blues, it sold out immediately. We had people from England, Japan and the Netherlands who flew in for that show. It's amazing."

The Raspberries, world-renowned as power-pop originators, used the crunch of The Who with harmonies and pop melodies inspired by The Beatles and Beach Boys in songs such as "Go All the Way" and "I Wanna Be With You."

Bryson's guitar drove the band's tough-but-sweet sound.

"Wally is a terrific musician," said Carmen, the lead vocalist who also supplied an added dimension to the group with his classically trained piano playing, used to good effect on songs such as "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" and "Don't Want to Say Goodbye."

Carmen, who plays guitar on many Raspberries' songs, was known in the late '70s for such piano-based middle-of-the-road songs such as "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again" and "All By Myself."

Three years ago, when the Raspberries performed again for the first time, he said, "I probably hadn't played guitar in 10 years. But, luckily, playing a guitar is like riding a bike."

When asked if he missed being a rocker during his solo period, he said, "Sure. Every time I'd see Billy Joel on TV, I'd say, 'I want to be doing that.' But I'm a band guy and I didn't want to put together another band."

As for the future and the possibility of new Raspberries' songs, Carmen said, "It's a strange time in the music business. There's been a paradigm shift. I think CD sales are a thing of the past. You don't just look for a song to be a radio hit anymore."

In other words, Carmen is not quite sure what form a Raspberries song would take in 2007, and how that music would be sold to its audience.

For now, though, the band is enjoying playing its handful of dates for appreciative fans.

And, as for the band rows of the past, Carmen said, "It's still not perfect when you have four individuals working together. It's like a marriage. But we're all a little less hot-headed now."

The Raspberries perform at 8 p.m. Dec. 14 at the State Theater at Playhouse Square. Tickets are $10-$45. Go to playhousesquare.org, or call (216) 241-6000.

—Solon Herald Sun, Thursday, December 06, 2007

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Don Krider :)

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