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"The Essential" Review - Part 1


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Arista/Legacy Recordings




1. Get The Message (w/ The Cyrus Erie) - Remastered


I guess it should come as no surprise that the first song on this much anticipated 2-CD set from Arista/Legacy Recordings sounds spectacular. I mean, “Get The Message” (along with the rest of Eric’s pre-Raspberries tunes) have never been on any big label release. So, unless you're spinning an old beat-up vinyl 45 or have one of the local Cleveland CDs that included it, the only place you could hear "Get The Message" is on YouTube where somebody who had one of those sources posted it. The production on this single (originally recorded for Epic Records in 1969) actually surpasses the production on Raspberries first LP. Michael McBride’s drums, Wally Bryson’s scorching guitar, the group's impeccable backing vocals (including Mike’s brother Bob McBride) are all present in full-fidelity splendor. In fact, the remastering is so crisp and clear that you can hear Eric doubling his lead vocal (Beatles style). This one comes from an Epic vault master recording, so it’s got to be good, right? Well, it is.


2. Go All the Way (w/ Raspberries) - Remastered


Considering that Raspberries’ masters from this first album are still AWOL, the improvements in this recording are even more amazing. If someone could find those master tapes you could give Jim Bonfanti’s drums the true bottom they richly deserve! In lieu of that, more low and high end has somehow magically been sprinkled over the band’s signature track, making it sound as good as it ever has without sacrificing the crunchy super-compressed power chords of Wally Bryson’s signature guitar riffs. But man, hearing the rest of this song sounding so good makes me long to feel Jim’s snare drum kick me in the breadbasket every time he pounds it. Hey Capitol…find those tapes!


3. I Wanna Be With You (w/ Raspberries) - Remastered


Yessssssss! Jim’s drums. My breadbasket. Ouch! Heck, that opening is spectacular!  How’d they do that? Are they only missing the first album? It sounds that good. Why didn’t these guys conquer the world and why aren’t they rulers of everything? Sigh. By the way, some of you “audiophiles” might be wondering how these new remastered tracks stack up to an A/B test against earlier releases. Well, trust me when I tell you that as soon as you hear these newly minted gems, you’ll just know there’d be no point to comparing them to anything that came before them.


4. Let's Pretend (w/ Raspberries) - Remastered


Beautiful, just beautiful. Eric’s voice is crisp and clear and the backing vocals are angelic. On first listen I felt like I had died and gone to power pop heaven. You can actually hear Wally’s 12-string separately and distinctly from Eric’s acoustic guitar strumming. Just magnificent. Magnificent! And Dave Smalley’s bass tone is exactly right. Perfect. And the bridge? It soars! With chords and vocals ringing out all over the friggin’ mix. A little surprise at the end of the track is something I’ve never noticed before—no doubt due to the great remastering job. As the tune fades out you can hear Eric start singing an incredible falsetto part—that I’m sure is buried in every other version of this song that’s been released—only here stands out. If only there were a couple more bars of that! Wow!


5. Tonight (w/ Raspberries) - Remastered


To my ear it sounds like the dynamics have been adjusted a bit, giving this powerful tune even more power. One noticeable difference for me is that Eric’s count-in at the intro seems a touch lower in volume than on previous mixes so that when the band crashes in, it EXPLODES! And Jim’s outdo packs a bit more punch. C’mon! This is one of the greatest rockers of all time. I would have bought this entire package just to hear this one tune in all of its remastered glory!


6. Overnight Sensation (Hit Record) (w/ Raspberries) - Remastered


It bears mentioning that Eric himself sat in on the remastering of these tracks and personally approved everything. Now, I don’t know if Paul McCartney took the time to give a “thumbs up” to the Beatles catalog when it was remastered a couple of years ago, but the fact that Eric did, should speak volumes for what these tracks sound like. And “Overnight Sensation” is no exception. Every bit of this seemingly 150-layer cake tastes better than its ever tasted before. The castanets, each tambourine shake, the triangle (Triangle!) sound like they’re being played in the same room you’re sitting in as you listen. I had to shift positions at one point because I thought the sax player was bumping into me. Plus, for the first time to my ears, you can easily hear the difference between Scott McCarl’s voice and Wally’s when they’re harmonizing with Eric. And Mike McBride’s drums sound like he’s hitting them with sledgehammers. Knowing how much Bruce Springsteen loves this tune, I’m thinking he’s just gonna flip over this remaster! Tim Smith! Shoot a copy over to “The Boss,” pronto!


7. Sunrise - Remastered


Now the fun begins. Every single bit of this masterpiece is captured in perfect fidelity. This recording is so rich and expressive that it’s beyond explanation. I just love how what sounds like a dozen acoustic guitars strumming crashes in on the verse. I’m gonna need to pull out the Thesaurus to start finding words I haven’t used to extoll this CDs treasure-filled grooves…er, ah, ones and zeros…um, you know what I mean. It’s got everything: highs, lows, middles, sides, tops and bottoms. Needless to say, when I first heard this remastered opus I had to wipe the drool from my face.


8. My Girl - Remastered


You guys know I love Eric’s music, right? So it shouldn’t come as any real surprise that I’m loving everything about this new collection. Well, this one above all of the previously glorious tracks is even better. I mean it. Seriously. Turn it up! Loud! Excessively loud. I know what you’re saying, “Loud. Sure. ‘Tonight.’ ‘Ecstacy.’ ‘Tonight You’re Mine,’ even. But ‘My Girl?’” YES. “My Girl!” Play it loud and proud! Hahahaha! It simply rocks. 'Nuff said.


9. All By Myself - Remastered


I’ve gotta admit, this is a track that I’ll bet each and every one of us has heard more than any of Eric’s recordings. It’s hard to beat perfection. And the folks at Arista/Legacy Recordings have treated this one (rightfully) with kid gloves. It sounds like you want it to sound. Like the way you hear it in your heard. Only clearer and more succinct. I think Eric’s vocals have a little more snap to them. But the strings are what really stood out for me on this one. Especially during the guitar solo, where the violins and cellos respond with little staccato stabs in and out as Hugh McCracken plays. And the same goes for the strings that accompany Eric’s lush piano solo. The audio is so clean and precise. This section in particular really shines due to the reduction in background noise as Eric’s piano gets really quiet and is rather sparse in places. Just staggeringly beautiful. Throw away every other CD you have featuring this signature tune. This is the version to keep and to play.


10. Never Gonna Fall in Love Again - Remastered


Time for this song to come out from behind its bigger brother and shout proudly, “I’m a GREAT ballad, too!” or “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Wait, that was something else. Anyway, I digress. “All By Myself” THIS, and “All By Myself” THAT! Well, “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again,” is a really great song, too. There, I said it! It just so happened that it was released right after “All By Myself” and therefore got buried by the extraordinary success of its higher-charting predecessor. Imagine how different Eric’s trajectory had been if Arista released a tune like “That’s Rock ’N’ Roll” after “ABM?” Or “My Girl?” I think it would have given Eric more latitude to change up his formula rather than be stuck in a label-induced “groove.” As to how this one sounds on the new collection? It sounds every bit as good as “All By Myself.” Damn! Did it again. I guess it’s hard to separate the two. Maybe they should have sequenced another track in between to soften the blow, eh? Ah, well. I love you, “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again,” and I’m not ashamed to admit it.


11. Last Night - Remastered


Quick, where’s my Thesaurus? Did anyone know that the second verse of “Last Night” has Eric doubling his voice, but the first verse doesn’t? Neither did I, until I heard this remastered track. Everything—and I mean EVERYTHING—about this recording SOARS! More than any other, this one really opened my ears to the massive talent Eric had in the studio. Hell, dissecting the backing vocal arrangement alone couldn’t be covered in a single semester of “Advanced Pop Songwriting.” I was literally blown out of my seat by the low-end of the horn section. Especially when Eric shouts, “Well, that’s the last ni-i-i-i-ight. Well, that’s the la-a-a-et ni-i-i-i-ight!” Just incredible!


12. Starting Over (Live 1976 - Previously Unreleased)


When this new and previously unreleased recording starts, you would swear that it was a long-lost studio recording. It sounds anything but a live track. So perfect, so accomplished, so wonderfully performed. Time for a shout out to the excellent stylings of the Eric Carmen Band: Richard Reising on rhythm guitar, George Sipl on synthesizers, Dan Hrdlicka on lead guitar, Steve Knll on bass, Michael McBride on drums, D. Dwight Krueger also on drums and percussion, and literally EVERYONE on backing vocals. Those guys were just incredible—in the studio and on stage. Just an outstanding performance! If you think, “Heck I think I have an old cassette tape of that Bottom Line show somewhere in my sock drawer," stop looking for it. Nothing can prepare you for how good Eric and his band sound in this recording. Why wasn’t a full album released from this show? Hmmm...


13. That's Rock N Roll (Live 1976 - Previously Unreleased)


I started seeing concerts a year before, and this show was right in my back-effing-yard, but did I beg my parents to drive me to New York in April 1976 so I could see Eric Carmen play at the Bottom Line? No. Why? I have no idea. But I have decided to devote the rest of my life to building a working time machine so I can go back in time and see Eric and the “band playing way too loud!” This live version smokes! I know Clive Davis was at this show. I’ve seen the pictures. So why? Why did he still maintain that Eric was solely a writer of ballads after seeing him literally tear the rood off the joint that night? C’mon Clive, get down and get with it! THAT’S rock and roll. Oh, and by now if you haven’t gotten the message that this new collection needs to be played LOUD, turn it up on this one and tell me you didn’t get up and shake that thing along with Eric and the lucky crowd that night in New York City.


14. Run Away - Remastered


Seriously, I NEED that Thesaurus. Amazing. Astonishing. Awesome. Incredible. Prodigious? Stunning. Wonderful. Boss. Fab. Outstanding. Phenomenal. Remarkable. Singular. Stupendous. Unimaginable. Unprecedented. Groovy. Mind-blowing. Out-of-sight. Fantastical. Legendary. And, kudos to Eric for starting his “Boats” block on this collection with the song he originally intended to be the first song on the LP—until Clive changed his sequencing. Eric explains: “When I sequenced the Boats Against The Current album, it STARTED with 'Run Away' and ENDED with 'Boats Against The Current.' It was sequenced chronologically, like life. Clive didn't like starting with 'Run Away' because traditionally labels like to lead off with the 'single.' You know, back before 'concept albums' when all of us artists started taking ourselves too seriously. I told Clive the sequence had to remain as is and that I really wanted it to start with 'Run Away' but, if he insisted, he could start with 'Boats' and run the sequence backwards. That, of course, was his choice. 'Boats' was always supposed to be the album 'closer.' That's the way I planned it, but heck, what do I know, It was just my life story and I only wrote the damn thing. It tracked my life from 1967 (the year I graduated from high school) through 1977.”  Oh, and by the way, it sounds AMAZEBALLS (that’s an adjective I didn’t need the Thesaurus to come up with!)


15. Love Is All That Matters - Remastered


People of the Philippines take notice. There’s a new sheriff in town. Unless you’re Filipino, you probably don’t know that “Love Is All That Matters” is considered the unofficial anthem of the Philippines. True. Admired by an entire country. And by Eric Carmen fans throughout the world, as well. Needless to say, this is one of my favorite EC tunes. “Prisoner of illusion, sentence is suspended. Loneliness has ended, love has set me free,” may be the best lyric Eric has written. Period. Poetry, I say. POETRY! This track has been remastered with the loving care it deserves. Is that an acoustic guitar picking out notes while Eric plays piano during the chorus? It is! I really can’t spend another hour or so writing more right now. I gotta get back to listening.


End of Part 1. I need a cold shower. Part 2 coming soon…



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Bernie, Bernie, BERNIE!

There is no need for a Thesaurus by any means. Greatly enjoyed reading your post & looking forward to the next one. Can fully understand if you may need to 'regroup' :) I'm feeling quite emotional too!

Your enthusiasm is contagious! Will reread this now and again, also AFTER the CD release. Thank you for taking the time to compose this.


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"4. Let's Pretend (w/ Raspberries) - Remastered 

A little surprise at the end of the track is something I’ve never noticed before—no doubt due to the great remastering job. As the tune fades out you can hear Eric start singing an incredible falsetto part—that I’m sure is buried in every other version of this song that’s been released—only here stands out. If only there were a couple more bars of that! Wow!"
I know it well. I heard it the first time I ever listened to the song on a CD and not on Youtube. I had my head phones on and I "cranked it up"...and I listened until it just...faded...out....


After all...it is "Let's Pretend." :) 

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