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Eric Carmen

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Review of The Essential Eric Carmen
Released March 25, 2014
Arista/Legacy/Sony Records

Review By Don Hurley

On March 25, 2014 Arista/Legacy/Sony Records released the two CD package entitled “The Essential Eric Carmen.” It is a set that encompasses all of the facets of Carmen’s career from his first garage band in Ohio named “Cyrus Erie”, through many of his greatest hits with his power pop band of the 1970’s Raspberries, many of his solo masterpieces, his work on the film “Dirty Dancing” and others that perhaps have been under-appreciated until now.

This is not just one of your run of the mill recapitulation of material or greatest hits collections. In the case of this treatment each track has been painstakingly re-mastered from the original masters to produce the purest presentation of Carmen’s music ever obtained.

The CD set concludes on disc two with a brand new Eric Carmen composition, appropriately entitled “Brand New Year.”  It is a beautifully written piece that is certain to become a January 1st favorite…but it is more than just that. It is a song of hope reinforcing the idea that it’s never too late to start anew at any time of the year. The chorus of this song will be in your head for days once you’ve listened to it.  Eric is accompanied by Jeffrey Foskett and many others from Brian Wilson’s own band on this great new tune, the first new song that Carmen has written in 18 years.

Ed Hurst, the legendary broadcaster of The Steel Pier Radio Show (who is broadcasting in his 70th year on the air) played “Brand New Year” on this weeks program and said that the reaction to the new song has been sensational. “It’s a great record that Eric Carmen has created. It might initially seem like a holiday cut…but it’s a tremendous recording that  will play just fine at any time of the year,” concluded Hurst. 

Eric Carmen released a statement on EricCarmen.com with regard to the release of the new album wherein he gave much credit to the genius of mixing and engineering by Producer/Engineer Mark Wilder.

“Every record I’ve ever made, prior to “Brand New Year” was recorded on tape, and mixed down to 1/4 inch tape. That is called “analogue.”

 In order to enhance “The Essential…”, all of the original analogue two track mixes had to be carefully transferred to the digital format. That was Mark Wilder’s first job. After that we had some control of the original stereo mixes. Nothing was remixed from the original 24 track master tapes. We never had them.

 What we DID have is the original two track- quarter inch stereo masters. That’s what we worked from.

 Mark Wilder deserves fan letters from everyone. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me since Tim Smith.

 Mark is without a doubt the most brilliant engineer I have ever worked with. He is the sole reason why “The Essential…” is incomparable to any other compilation.

 I would compare Mark’s “golden ears” to Sir George Martin’s. That is the highest praise I could ever attribute to anyone. He and Tim Smith are the reason that this collection sound nothing like any other compilation of my music before.

 In the recording studio, you must rely on the ears of your producer and engineer. If they hear the same things you do, all is well. If they don’t, the results of your efforts are disappointing. It is the difference between a great song becoming “the first single” or simply an album track that has little impact. Such is life.

 When I walked into the studio to record my first solo album, I would have bet you that “My Girl” was the first single. It didn’t work out that way. It ended up sounding small and thin, and not at all the way I imagined. Until now.

 Mark Wilder’s ears have made the newly re-mastered “My Girl” sound the way I imagined it in 1975. God bless him.

 There is not a single song on this 30 song, double CD, that has not benefitted GREATLY from Mark Wilder’s involvement,” said Carmen.

The packaging of this new collection is well assembled, with extensive liner notes from Eric Carmen himself commenting on each and every song in the set. They have also supplied a reproduction of Eric’s own original handwritten music and lyric sheet to “I Wanna Be With You” in the bottom of the CD tray, a nice collector piece in it’s own right.

By virtue of this superior marvel of engineering Eric Carmen’s voice, accompanying band members, vocalists and musicians have never sounded more clearly and crisp. No matter how many times you have heard these songs it is truly like hearing them for the first time when you listen to The Essential Eric Carmen.

Eric Carmen seems to write best from a position of original sadness…while always leading to a point of optimism and a hope for the future in his carefully constructed words and music, i.e “All By Myself,” Never Gonna’ Fall in Love Again” to name a few. These hauntingly beautiful messages come through loud and clear with this well produced new set in their fully and originally intended long versions. 

In “Let’s Pretend” the gorgeous ballad from his Raspberries days you will hear notes that Eric hits that I’m not quite sure have never been heard before this new collection had been remastered with such tender loving care.

There are also some live gems to enjoy from the new set including the popular Raspberries tune “Starting Over”, his solo hit from 1976 “That’s Rock & Roll” and a rocking version of “Ecstasy” from the 2005 Reunion tour of Raspberries.

It has to be an agonizing task when artists and record companies seek to put out a proper and complete retrospective of an entire career. While I am sure that Carmen fans everywhere will be missing one of their favorites, (in my case the masterpiece “I Can Remember”), but this is just about as fine a cross section as any fan or musical aficionado could hope for to expose yourself to the genius of Eric Carmen and his craft.

This collection illustrates that Eric Carmen can write, sing and perform across the musical spectrum with the best of them. His material is truly that good.

Eric Carmen remarked on EricCarmen.com that with “thanks to Tim Smith and Mark Wilder, you are going to get to hear what I imagined when I wrote these songs. I cannot begin to express how happy I am about this release.

 Honestly, if it sounded anything like any other compilation, I would never encourage anyone to buy it. I never have in the past. This is the ONE and ONLY version you’ll ever need to hear. It is as close to what I imagined as it could possibly be, without re-mixing the 24 track master tapes,” Carmen concluded. 
 With the quality of the new song in this set and the reaction that the release as a whole is already receiving in less than one week, it is hoped that Arista will see fit to reach even more deeply into Carmen’s impressive catalog and treat the music world to more nuggets of gold from this prolific artist.

Be on the look out later this year when Arista will be releasing a volume of Carmen’s earliest works that will include never before heard tracks, demos and other hidden treasures for not only Raspberries fans, but for all true music fans every where too.

Eric Carmen has been creating beautiful music and lyrics for more than 45 years. With the proper attention “The Essential Eric Carmen” could point Carmen well into creating more new music for the 21st century. Let’s hope that it comes to pass.

Eric Carmen has proven once again that he still has something to say…and a “Brand New Year” to say it in.

Credit: EricCarmen.com for quotes from Eric Carmen.

The Steel Pier Show Blog, March 17, 2014

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