LC Posted February 16, 2013 Share Posted February 16, 2013 Fresh was actually the last Raspberries album I bought. I first glommed onto the debut album (but not until it had been out for around four years), then picked up Raspberries Best not too long after it came out, and then, after heading off to college as a freshman, I got Starting Over, Side 3, and, finally, Fresh (all in fairly rapid succession — not easy to do back then, when every $6.99 or $7.99 record album purchase had to be weighed against date money, late-night-pizza money, maybe a little beer money, and various sundries.... You remember. Because I got to it last, Fresh didn't get the heavy rotation on my turntable for a while, but once it did, it emerged, for me, as a near-perfect pop album. Music journalists who might have criticized it at the time for being too Beatlesque totally missed the point... and obviously missed out on the fun, because this is not only perfect pop, but... it's just a fun record. And shouldn't music be fun? So by now, I probably rank Fresh at the top, although sometimes it's Starting Over — and sometimes Side 3, and sometimes, yes, even the debut, which I'll listen to and remember how much it sucked me in back in the mid-1970s. Like I said, they're all great albums. Finding fault with them, for me, is just a matter of getting nitpicky. Anyway, here's how I rank the ten songs. My only complaint: It's too short of an album. A second Wally Bryson song and another Eric Carmen original or two would have rounded it out nicely. 1. Let's Pretend; A+ What's not to love? On "Let's Pretend,' Eric gives his best-ever vocal in a killer melody and lots of teen tension.... it's a three-minute song that was easy to relate to back when you were a "searching" teenager with (shall we say) heightening awareness of the world. "Let's Pretend" is "Wouldn't It Be Nice" all over again, to re-draw the comparison that's been made ad nauseum, but it's a totally valid comparison. Summertime classic rock radio playlists (and iPods) should put "Let's Pretend" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" back to back. PS: I love the slow version of "Let's Pretend" (as played on Don Kirschner's late-night show and various 'berries bootleg recordings from the 1970s) just as much as the mid-tempo studio version. I might even like it better. 2. I Wanna Be With You: A+ There are times where I've got this one at #1 here, and why not? That intro blast from Jim Bonfanti, Wally's killer riff, those perfect harmonies, Eric's unbelievable lead vocal... whew! I should note (again) that I love the "mature" ballad version of "IWBWY" (as played in the VH1 studios in 2007) just as much as the rockin' studio version. A great song is a great song is a great song.... 3. If You Change Your Mind: A I love songs that build up and build up and build up, and then just let loose, as on the tag of "If You Change Your Mind." This is what "power pop" is all about: killer hooks and melodies performed with some heat. Oh yeah! 4. Nobody Knows: A A rock critic somewhere in the past, if I remember correctly, said that this would have fit perfectly on the Beatles' Rubber Soul. Even if I'm making that up, it's true anyway! And could there be a more positive compliment to pay to a song? I love the unusual intro — just Eric's voice kicking in — followed by the rush of acoustic guitars and then those harmonies.... I definitely would have bought this as a hit single back in the day. And wasn't it a kick to watch and/or hear Raspberries play "Nobody Knows" live in the 2000s? This, to me, is the best of the four Carmen/Dave Smalley collaborations here. 5. I Reach for the Light: A- I know this one got jabbed by critics (and even Wally, per some quotes in a music mag) because of the Beatlesque sound. But I've always dug it because of the McCartney influence. That melody, those backup vocals, the horn, Eric's routinely great vocal, Wally's elegant riffs, the driving tag — "I Reach for the Light" has it all, at least for me. In fact, when I first bought Fresh (which would have been around four years after it came out), "I Reach for the Light" grabbed me before all the other non-singles did. 6. Might As Well: B+. It's Wally's only song here, but "Might As Well" is a great one. He made great strides from the first to the second album, which is why we can't help but wonder why there weren't at least one other Wally composition on Fresh. 7. Goin' Nowhere Tonight: B Dave, too, made strides from the first album to the second, and it's cool to know that he and Eric gave collaborative songwriting a chance. Back when Fresh was new, my sister bought the 45 rpm single of "I Wanna Be WIth You" and I'd play it often, only occasionally flipping it over to hear the B side. Back then, "Goin' Nowhere Tonight" didn't make an immediate impact, but in hindsight, this is a perfect change-up amid all the Lennon & McCartney touches on Fresh. 8. It Seemed So Easy: B This Smalley/Carmen collaboration is oft-overlooked but it's not a song I skip past --- nice country-flavored ballad with an excellent vocal and cool bridge. In fact, "It Seemed So Easy" is a solid piece within the run of songs on SIde 2 of the LP — songs that weren't chart hits but that hang together in the best possible way: "Nobody Knows," "It Seemed So Easy," "Might As Well," and "If You Change Your Mind." 9. Every Way I Can: B A rockin' Dave tune that kicks along at an energetic pace, thanks to some killer Wally licks and standout bass by the writer. I used to love the line, "It's not easy havin' just one girl." It sort of has a different meaning a few decades later. 10. Drivin' Around: B And then there's the album's closer: "Drivin' Around," which was a departure from the four numbers that preceded it (see No. 8). Its ranking at the bottom of my list belies the fact that it's an appealingly sunny summertime song that still sounds great in the car. If I were the producer, I would have dropped the baritone "Oh baby" after the first line; it seems gimmicky. Once past it, though, the song scoots right along; the bridge is especially cool. Of course, I probably liked "Drivin' Around" more back in college, when I did have a tape deck blastin' and would tend to just drive around more. It's hard to relate to it when your ride is now a minivan and the back seat is for softball equipment, boxes of CDs, and kids clothes, not romance. But that's what hindsight does, right? Besides, something has to go on the bottom; for that song to be one that made the cut on Raspberries' Best only amplifies the quality of Fresh, all the way through. 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