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My Own Review of "The Essential"


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James on here and several other people on various sites had asked for a review of the CD from the fans, so here is mine. I will not touch on all the songs, as I could go on for days about this record, but just wanted to interject a few thoughts, albeit, in depth, and yes, I know, I sometimes I write in fragments! Haha

 

It opens with “Get The Message†and this is a terrific remix, so much improved over the various bootleg copies of this song floating around the internet. I feel that the remix makes it sound like a new record out today, performed by a young band.  Really great job by Mark Wilder on this one.

 

We then move to the five Raspberries songs, which in all honesty, I don’t hear much difference in, but we knew that before we opened the CD. There is something that really stands out to me in “Let’s Pretendâ€, however. In different packages over the years, there is a part during the fade out, where Eric hits this great note, just as the record cuts off. Almost every version has this so low in volume, that you need to really listen hard for it. On this new mix, it is very clear and equally as loud as any part in the fade out, so clearly someone took notice of this great part. Really made me happy!

 

As we advance into Eric’s solo career, I’m kind of glad that they jumbled the songs out of the order they appear on his first solo album, even though those first four are synched together  in my brain from so many plays over the years. My favorite Eric tune, “Sunrise†gets the leadoff, just as it does on the album, but here, there is such greater clarity for all the instruments and the lead vocal sounds a skoch louder to me. I have always gotten a laugh out of Eric saying on here that Arista and Geffen often asked for “Son Of Go All The Way†or “Son Of All By Myselfâ€, because even as a teenager I used to think of “Sunrise†as “Son Of Love Lies Bleeding†in style and structure, but actually the counterpoint of it lyrically, with such uplifting words. People talk of great songs that impact them, but this one, is simply the piece de resistance to me. It’s perfect…..

 

Let’s discuss “All By Myselfâ€â€¦.with all due respect to Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, Il Divo and anyone else who has ever covered this song, NO ONE sings it with the heart, or hits the notes with feeling, the way Eric Carmen does. I’ve always felt that the writer of any song usually does the best version because they know the pain, they know the hurt, they lived it, but this is far beyond that. This song always hit home to me because as a kid, people always knew me as a “Raspberries guy†while they were flaunting Led Zeppelin and Yes and groups of that ilk. I remember being at a party and sneaking this album on the week it was out and when this song topped the charts shortly after, and it was like my own validation of “alright, bitches, I was right about this guy all along, wasn’t I?†The piano is so clean on this new remix that it makes me feel Mark has some classical background and knows how to hit that special mix of pop and classical, which very few ever accomplish. I get goosebumps thinking that one day we might get a chance to hear this song live with an orchestra playing those strings in the second movement parts. THAT would be amazing!

 

“Last Night†sounds drastically different right from the start, as there seems to be a deadening of both the drums and bass parts, which really makes the piano more dominant and brighter, launching this song into a wall of sound with incredible vocals. I still will never forgive Eric’s management team for not getting him on “the Carson show†to do this for the world to hear!

 

We then get a couple of live versions of “Starting Over†and “That’s Rock and Rollâ€. The piano sound is brilliant on the live “Starting Over†and ohhh, that modulation at the end! “That’s Rock and Rollâ€, which should have been his second single, reminds us what a great live rock and roll singer Eric is for those of us, like me, who have been fortunate to see solo shows of his over the years. So, ironic that on the very album he would pen the brilliant lyric of “caught in image prisonâ€, regarding his former band, but then his current record company tried to push him with a balladeer image, like Barry Manilow, rather than a performer like Billy Joel, who was allowed to do ballads and rock. Now, I love all three of these piano virtuosos, but I also know Eric can rock out with the best of them and the world should know that, too. One of the many solo shows of his I have seen, he did “TRNR†with a fast bluesy twinge. This was after Shaun Cassidy had the hit and on the “Boats†tour with Hall and Oates and they said on stage they were doing a “different version†of it. I wonder if Eric even remembers that? “TRNR†and “It Hurts Too Much†are just fantastic rock vocals and need to be heard on these new remixes. Clive Davis insinuates he doesn’t make mistakes, but, really (?), those weren’t pushed as singles? Clive……

 

“Run Away†is the most improved song of the entire CD. Pure brilliance in sound, performance, and quality. While I have always loved this song, the remix takes it to new heights. This song should have been the basis for a movie and the interludes of it could easily be subbed in during breaks I would love to ask Eric some day if he ever considered writing music for movies or stage?  I like that this plays first on the CD of all the “Boats†songs, as I have read Eric wanted it first on the original record. Wonder is this is a little dig at Clive? The intro is so clean in the new recording, just like "All By Myself".

 

I was amazed to learn in the packaging, which is also very slick and insanely cool in design for all of us long time fans, that “The Way We Used To Be†was sung in one take, but if I have learned anything from him as a singer, when it feels right, it’s right, whether on the first take or take number one hundred, as long as you can hear the raw emotion in your voice. This song is often a hot topic on this website from people loving it to loathing it and I don’t know why? One of my favorite Beatles songs is “For No One†and even though this record gives a positive “it’s not too late for you and me†at the end, which “For No One†does not, they both deliver a message of “what happened to us?†I just want to ask people who do not care for this song, haven’t you ever been in love with someone and one day it’s just gone? You wonder how you can remember a time when you would do anything to spend five minutes with that person and now, later, you want to push them into traffic. How did that happen? This song is for anyone who still yearns for someone and if a ballad can be an anthem, this is it.. Just a fabulous recording.

 

 

I would be remiss if I did not mention “Brand New Yearâ€. His many fans have waited patiently for new music since “Winter Dreamsâ€. It’s a perfect ending for this CD, as a retrospective of his career, but what we all help will be a jump start to further new recordings, with a positive message of “hey, we’ve all been through some stuff over the years together, haven’t we? But it’s a brand new year, so we showed them, eh? We made it†that type of thing. I love the weary sound of his voice at the start, letting us know of all he has been through and yet, he turns that sweet voice on in the chorus again that we have expected so many times over the years. Thanks for getting back in the studio, Eric, for all of us that have hoped for this moment. You were inspired by a special person and it’s a record that inspires us all. Makes me happy for you, Eric,  and hope you know, if you are reading, what it does for us.

 

There are several other great musical moments in the package, but I just wanted to touch on a few. Warm and crystal clear sounds for the piano, but yet crunch and edge to the guitars where it needs it the most. Simply, a terrific job by Eric and Mark Wilder, and kudos to those at Sony for giving us what we have long waited for. We could debate here that we wish there might have been some songs added that were not, but that is why we hope for a box set some day.

 

On a scale of 1-5, I give it a TEN! (But, you knew that!) I know it has been somewhat difficult to find so far, but what CD isn’t these days? It’s just a sign of the times. I know in my own recordings, I sell ten times the downloads that I do of the physicals CD’s, so I think it’s just a process we all need to learn to accept in this day and age. Doesn't make me happy, but it's just the way it is now.

 

If you haven’t bought this yet and you are on here reading, my only question is, WHAT are you waiting for?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for the terrific review, Pat! 

 

I'd like to weigh in on a couple of points.

 

First, the "Raspberries" tracks. 

 

Mark Wilder got to PERSONALLY transfer all the Sony owned tracks from analogue to digital. What I didn't know until last week is that, because Capitol owns the Raspberries stuff, we had to use what they gave us, which was some sort of analogue to digital transfer, done by God knows who, probably years ago. Because of the highly compressed nature of most of the tracks to begin with, AND not having the ability to have Mark do the transfers, I think there is the least difference in the "Raspberries tracks. Having said that, I know that Tim REALLY wanted to hear Wally's Rickenbacker 12 string on "IWBWY", and I hear a higher high end and a lower low end on these tracks than has ever been there before. Turn "Tonight" up really loud and Jim's drums sound like cannons!!!

 

"Run Away" was sung in one take. "The Way We Used To Be" was my one-take piano/ voice demo. All we did was overdub the strings, because I honestly didn't think I could sing it any better than that if I had done 50 takes. There's something about singing a song when it's just finished and brand new, and you don't really KNOW how to sing it, yet. More often than not, those are my best vocal performances. Actually all three of the ballads on the Geffen album were my one take piano/ voice demos.

 

And now for the "fun" part! I was speaking with Tim, yesterday, and he told me that there is an even HIGHER QUALITY format for digital remastering, quite a bit higher, actually. And he tossed out the idea that, perhaps, we should start with my first solo album, and remaster the whole album using that HD format. Then we could do each of my solo albums that way. Sounds like fun to me!

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I was speaking with Tim, yesterday, and he told me that there is an even HIGHER QUALITY format for digital remastering, quite a bit higher, actually. And he tossed out the idea that, perhaps, we should start with my first solo, and remaster the whole album using that HD format. Then we could do each of my solo albums that way. Sounds like fun to me!

 

YES to all of that!!!

 

Bernie

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Pat,

 

From one inspired person to another - BRAVO!!  You have such a stellar writing technique with clear attention to detail.  What a great read!!

(Just FYI the 1976 tickets aren't mine. :) )

 

Eric and Bernie,

 

Definitely lots more fun in 2014 so far than 1974!!

 

More of Eric's music being remastered...here we go again...so exciting!!! :spin:  :heartpump:

 

M.E.

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This is the greatest website because you get insights/ responses from the actual artist! Just wondering, was the first Raspberries LP recorded on 16 track? Was Starting Over 24 track? Would love to have your entire catalogue remastered! Spoke recently to Harry Maslin (via Facebook) who said how much he enjoyed working with you.

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Harry is  great guy and a terrific producer AND a wonderful human being. We were both going through a lot of craziness in our personal lives when the "Tonight You're Mine" album was recorded, but , somehow, we got through it, and "It Hurts Too Much" and "Tonight You're Mine" sound better than ever on "The Essential....". I've communicated with Harry, recently, via Facebook, and it's really great to know that the stuff we did together has turned out so well.  He's a class act.

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By the way, Raspberries first three albums, I believe were 16 track, recorded at 15 IPS. HORRIFIC!!!!!! State of the art in 1972 was 24 tracks at 30 IPS. I think the only Raspberries album recorded with a 24 track recorder was "Starting Over," and, if I'm not mistaken, even that was recorded at 15 IPS. Just awful!!!!!

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Thamks for the technical info. Always interested in the recording process. Interesting that they used a 16-track at 15 Inches Per Second when they could have given you 24 @30. Slighted again! There was a noticable progression among the four albums, each one sounded better and better. Wasn't the great Shelly Yakus involved as engineer? To these ears, Side 3 and Starting Over sound phenomenal, especially the drums. Amazing that Band on the Run was done on 8 tracks!

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In the "old days" of recording on tape, you ran the tape speed at 15 IPS ( inches per second ) or 30 IPS. At 30 IPS you got twice as much signal to noise, hence better sound quality. A lot of what we used to do when I worked with Val Garay and Greg Ladanyi at Sound Factory was about trying to eliminate "noise." We would wait until the last possible nanosecond to cue in the vocal mic, because if you had it in, say, during the intro of "Boats", you would hear an unnecessary "hiss" ( noise ) before the vocal started.

 

We did the same thing with every instrument, because each track with an open mic would contribute more noise. Running the tape at 15 IPS, you would get twice as much noise to signal. The only upshot of 15 IPS was that you could get more "takes" on a reel of tape. At 30 IPS, you might get four takes, at 15, you might get eight. 

 

And, yes, Shelly Yakus was the lead engineer on all four Raspberries albums.

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I am the undisputed "Tangent King"....

It goes without saying how much I love this gift.."The Essential"...

BUT it's tangent time....

Technology...AND TIME move so fast that certain references in lyrics....("If I should call you up invest a DIME"....OR "Western Union".dit-da- dit) etc. make me wonder where did the time go when these references to prices..activities and technology were my world when I was in college.

Man..."Last Night" is an amazing sounding song and an amazing song...

It made me wistful 'cause it doesn't seem so long ago that on a night following a breakup..I too woulda been smoking....playing records...and watching Carson...:)

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Thanks for the technical aspect regarding IPS and how it affects tape. I think you mentioned that "Brand New Year" was recorded digitally. Just curious of your opinion between recording to tape vs. the digital realm. "Convenience" comes to mind for digital, specifically the ease of editing/ splicing. Always noticed the bad edit on B. Joel's "My Life" single! To me, (older dude!), you just can't beat the sound of 2 inch tape, recorded, engineered, and mixed well. Just wonder how long hard drives will hold up 25 years from now as a source of a master.

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I love "Last Night, because of those '70s references. They kind of make me feel like I'm in on a private joke. And the "Tonight" drums — I was driving when I first heard them on "Essential," and I seriously looked around to see if there had been a crash or something outside!

Cheryl

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Cheryl...I don't really long for the old days...

 

Guess I'm lucky...because for me...

 

"These Are The Good Old Days"- ;) C.Simon

 

But I love the 70's references too..

 

MANY rewards for us all..in the digital age...

 

(THIS site for one..)

 

BUT 45's...eatin' things that weren't good for you...and not knowin' it..

 

...our naivete in nearly EVERY aspect of life that we thought we had mastered....

 

And prayin' for songs by Eric and your other  favorites to climb the charts on your local Top 40 Station...not bad memories.. :D

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BNY does sound great. Love the production. As for tape vs. digital, the people involved really make the difference, too. We've all heard terrible recordings done at reputable studios. It's getting difficult to get parts for my old Tascam reel deck & tape costs a fortune. My digital setup is much easier to use. Also bought a Tascam DP-08, about the size of an Ipad. Built in condenser mics, effects, EQ, runs on batteries, etc...incredible the technology these days. Great for demos. Getting back to Harry Maslin, his drum sounds on Carmine's kit (on TYM) were so great. So powerful. Also loved the piano on "You Need Some Lovin' ".

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Tape may be a little warmer sounding, but digital is so CLEAN!!!!!!  I never noticed any lack of warmth recording "Brand New Year." The bass sounds rich. The highs sound higher. I don't know if I'd want to go back to tape again.

 

I'm not a musician, but I'd love to know more about the Bass used for "Brand New Year" - The sound is awesome! It almost sounds like a stand-up Bass like Leland Sklar uses sometimes, or maybe a fretless Bass?

 

As to tape speed, I remember trying to convince people that the sound from my 8-Track player in my car sounded better than the cassette player they had since the tape traveled faster in 8-Track Tapes? I thought 8-Track Tapes were great besides the fact that songs would get cut in half, you could only fast forward the tape, and the loud "clunk" as the player switched tracks!

 

Tim

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Ira, no way would I go back to 1974! I was a geeky, shy kid who totally didn't fit in with my peers. Still geeky, more outspoken than I should be, and with the Internet and communications what they are, it's easier to find a place to fit — or perhaps it doesn't matter as much. ;)

Either way, if there had been mention of my mom's Harvest Gold appliances in "Last Night," it would be EXACTLY as I remember the '70s.

And on another, somewhat related tangent, have you noticed that Fallon comes through the curtains for his monologue on "The Tonight Show"? Just like Carson. :)

Cheryl

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Jimmy Fallon is the first rightful heir to the Johnny Carson show, that I have ever seen.

My prediction is that he will be the guy that everyone who follows him will be compared to. Just a hunch. He's smart, talented, likeable, quick as a whip, and, I can only judge him by my own instincts, the guy that people will look back on,

in twenty -five years, to compare the "new" guy to.

He's the first guy, I think, that could really inhabit Johnny Carson's late-night spot, for years to come. Excellent choice, NBC!  I love Colbert, too, but it's apples and oranges.

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