Jump to content

Pop Art Live: Reviews


Recommended Posts

Spins and Reviews
By Alan Haber

Raspberries | Pop Art Live (Omnivore, 2017)

For a thrilling listening experience back in 1976, you could do worse than planting Raspberries’ Best featuring Eric Carmen on your turntable. Every one of the 10 tracks on offer was bang-zoom top-flight–“Go All the Way,” “Tonight,” “Ecstasy,” and “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” to name just four. Plus, the first few songs on side one were programmed to start a hairbreadth after the one before it, elevating the excitement level about a million percent.

Listening to Best, I always wondered what it would be like to be at a Raspberries concert. It seemed to me that nothing could quite compare to the emotional payoff experienced by people this close to the band up on a stage that probably shook wildly with every beat bounced upward and then showered down on the audience. Plus, all of that singing along…

Now, with the release of Pop Art Live, fans like me can finally feel the power of a you-are-there Raspberries performance. Recorded on November 26, 2004 at the House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio, this beautifully mixed and mastered document puts listeners in the cross hairs of a dynamic performance of 28 group classics and covers of choice songs from the Beatles and the Who. It is an invigorating experience.

The band is in fine voice and plays throughout the show like they hadn’t just gotten together for a reunion performance 30 years later. Working together as a cohesive unit on stage, they are clearly on a mission, invested in every note as they work to please every audience member, all of them hungry for a taste of Raspberries history.

Augmented by a trio of musicians called “The Overdubs” that helps to flesh out their sound, Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, David Smalley, and Jim Bonfanti work every inch of the room as they play the hits and key album tracks and just generally whoop it up, Raspberries style. The highlights are many–“Nobody Knows,” “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),” “Might as Well,” “Starting Over,” “Should I Wait,” and “Come Around and See Me” spring to mind–but the whole program is a collective highlight and delight, which is probably more to the point.

To say that Jim Bonfanti’s drums are the propulsive glue that holds these proceedings together would be an understatement; he has lost none of his power and is even more powerful than he was before. It should go without saying that the rest of the band is also performing at the height of their powers, but I’ll say it: This magical foursome was on that November night.

Kudos to Omnivore Recordings for releasing this astounding, pulse-pounding document, and kudos to you for buying it. Because, of course, you will be…right?

Pure Pop Radio, August 9, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Raspberries “Pop Art Live“

“…the house lights went down, we looked at each other and said the words that we never thought we would ever say: ‘We’re at a Raspberries concert.’ Then it began . . . ” —Ken Sharp and Bernie Hogya from the liner notes to Pop Art Live.

On November 26, 2004, the stage at Cleveland’s House of Blues was set for a reunion most thought could never happen—the Raspberries Live In Concert! It had been over 30 years since the original four members of Raspberries last played together, Pop Art Live captures the opening night as the band powers through 28 tracks of hits and a few covers. Mixed by long time Raspberries’ associate Tommy Allen, the band sounds amazing as they recreate the sound that carried the power pop torch during the early 1970’s. This performance led to the successful reunion tour in 2005.

The hits are all here from “Go All The Way,”“I Wanna Be With You,” “Let’s Pretend,” and “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),” “Tonight,” “Nobody Knows,” plus several Beatles covers and the Who’s “I Can’t Explain.” Another treat is The Choir’s “It’s Cold Outside,” which was a band most of the original Raspberries came from. Another great feature is the lesser known hits here like “I Saw The Light” and “Come Around And See Me.” Founding members Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, David Smalley, and Jim Bonfanti pull out all the stops to deliver the definitive live experience and triumphant return of these legendary power pop pioneers. My vote for best “live” album of 2017!

PowerPopAholic, August 11, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

CD Review
The Raspberries' Pop Art Live (2017)
by Rev. Keith A. Gordon

At the time, I didn’t personally agree with placing The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. As the music editor of Nashville’s Metro magazine when the choice was made in 1986, I was one of those voices that spoke loudly in favor of the Music City, where Elvis had recorded many of his early hits and where Jimi honed his axe before taking his act worldwide. There’s no denying, however, that the “mistake on the lake,” as Cleveland was known when I lived there in 1967-68, is a rock ‘n’ roll town.

Power-Pop Pioneers

Cleveland broadcasting powerhouse WMMS has a history as one of the most influential tastemakers in FM rock radio, helping break artists like Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, and Rush, among others, while the station’s long-running weekly live broadcast, The WMMS Coffee Break Concert, promoted artists as diverse as Warren Zevon, Lou Reed, Tim Buckley, and Peter Frampton, resulting in a wealth of bootleg tapes and records. Although Cleveland hasn’t spawned a rock scene as madly-hyped as, say, Athens, Seattle, or Austin through the years, how can you argue against the influence and importance of such homegrown artists as Joe Walsh and the James Gang, the Dead Boys, Pere Ubu, Peter Laughner, Rocket From The Tombs or, perhaps, the most notorious of them all – the Raspberries?

Formed in Cleveland in 1970 by members of two fondly-remembered local rock outfits – the Choir and Cyrus Erie – the Raspberries originally consisted of singer and guitarist Eric Carmen, guitarist Wally Bryson, bassist John Aleksic, and drummer Jim Bonfanti. Aleksic bolted before the group really had its feet on the ground, replaced by guitarist Dave Smalley while Carmen moved to playing bass, completing what is considered to be the “classic” line-up of the Raspberries. Influenced greatly by British Invasion bands like the Beatles, the Who, the Hollies, and the Small Faces, the foursome struck gold when their second single, “Go All The Way,” went all the way to #5 on the charts and sold over a million copies.

Coasting on the success of “Go All The Way,” the Raspberries self-titled 1972 debut virtually invented the “power pop” genre, peaking at #51 and spending a whopping 30 weeks on the charts. The band’s ‘60s-era musical roots, whipsmart songwriting, melodic instrumentation, and gorgeous vocal harmonies made fans out of fellow musicians like Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon. Carmen and Smalley switched instruments again and a quick follow-up album, Fresh, was released in November 1972. Fresh would yield two big hits with its two singles, “I Wanna Be With You” and “Let’s Pretend,” which would help push the album into the Top 40.

The Raspberries

The band’s Side 3, released in 1973, saw the Raspberries moving towards a more aggressive rock sound as creative tensions grew among the members. None of the album’s three singles performed all that well, leading to Smalley’s ejection from the band, followed by Bonfanti’s departure, the pair replaced by Scott McCarl and Michael McBride. The band’s final album, 1974’s Starting Over, produced a Top 20 hit with “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),” but it wasn’t enough to push the album up the charts and the Raspberries broke up in 1975, with Carmen moving on to enjoy a modestly-successful career as a solo artist and songwriter well into the late 1980s.
The House of Blues chain of nightclub/restaurants opened a location in Cleveland in 2004, coaxing the four members of the Raspberries to reunite for the first time in nearly 30 years. After a bit of practice to shake off the ring rust, the band’s best-known line-up – Carmen, Bryson, Smalley, and Bonfanti – climbed on stage on November 26th and ran through an inspired set that featured better than two-dozen songs and included both hits and ‘deep cuts’ alike. The well-received performance led to a ‘mini-tour’ in 2005, a VH1 Classic TV special, and a live concert broadcast on XM satellite radio. One of the band’s 2005 performances was filmed and subsequently released on CD and DVD as Live on Sunset Strip. Oddly, however, the band’s triumphant reunion at the House of Blues in 2004 remained unreleased until now, with Omnivore Recordings rescuing the performance and releasing it as Pop Art Live.

With interest in the Raspberries revived by the use of “Go All The Way” on the hit movie soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy during the summer of 2014, along with the following year’s reissue of all four of the band’s classic ‘70s-era albums as a reasonably-priced box set, the time seems ripe for Pop Art Live. That the band’s electrifying performance belies their three-decade layoff doesn’t hurt any – from the opening notes of the 1972 hit “I Wanna Be With You,” the listener knows that they’re about to hear something special – and the band keeps the energy crackling throughout the two-disc set’s 28 red-hot tracks. Carmen’s voice has lost a bit of resonance over the years, but what it lacks in range it makes up for in character as the singer sounds a bit more soulful. Instrumentally, the band itself still kicks ass, with Bryson’s stinging guitar and Bonfanti’s powerful drum fills providing a perfect backdrop for Carmen’s vocals and the band’s backing harmonies.

Go All The Way

Even amidst a playlist that features an abundance of hits like the aforementioned “I Wanna Be With You,” “Go All The Way,” and “Let’s Pretend,” there remain a few surprises. A cover of the Who’s “I Can’t Explain” explodes out of your speakers while “Nobody Knows,” from Fresh, is a Beatles-esque delight with vocals shared by Carmen and Smalley. A cover of the Beatles’ obscurity “Baby’s In Black” is afforded gorgeous harmonies dancing atop the song’s waltz-like tempo while “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” is drenched in grandeur. The familiar opening riff of “Tonight,” combined with the song’s passionate vocals and ramshackle instrumentation, makes one wonder why it didn’t climb higher than #69 on the charts back in 1973.

Bryson’s original “Last Dance” showcases both his underrated songwriting skills as well as his elegant fretwork. It should come as no surprise that a bunch of Beatles fans like the Raspberries would pluck more than one tune from the Lennon/McCartney songbook. The band acquits itself nicely as “Fab Four” sound-alikes on “No Reply,” falling somewhere on the spectrum between Klaatu and Badfinger, while their cover of “Ticket To Ride” is beefier than the original, with deliberate drumbeats and a solid rhythmic backbone on which the vocals ride, with flashes of brilliant guitar punctuating the arrangement. The album’s only other cover song, of the Choir’s 1966 garage-rock hit “It’s Cold Outside,” is delivered reverently but with appropriate zeal, offering jangling instrumentation and expressive gang vocals that perfectly capture the innocence of the era.

The other two unsuccessful singles from the Side 3 album (the first being the aforementioned “Tonight)” – “Ecstasy” and “I’m A Rocker” – are a pair of pure pop gems. The former offers the band’s trademark melodic sonic bluster, with an epic sound not unlike “Go All The Way” or “I Wanna Be With You,” featuring soaring vocals and rolling drumbeats, while the latter is more of a Stonesy blooze grind with Bryson’s deliciously greasy guitar licks and a foot-shuffling rhythmic track. Pop Art Live closes, of course, with “Go All The Way,” the band’s performance of their best-known song living up to the audience’s expectations, its yin/yang creative dynamic balanced by Carmen’s lofty vocals and Bryson’s raucous fretwork.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Fans of the Raspberries waited nearly 30 years for the band’s 2004 reunion show, and have suffered through almost another decade and a half waiting for the concert to receive a legit CD release. The band sounds mighty good for a bunch of aging duffers, picking up pretty much where they left off in 1975 and delivering a high-octane performance for those of us who never got to witness the band in person back in the day.

The closest most of us have come to hearing the Raspberries perform live was a 1974 bootleg album (Back Home Again) that framed the band in a more rock-oriented light with blues overtones (Omnivore, why don’t you track that disc down and reissue it?). Short of inventing a time machine and traveling back to the early ‘70s and Cleveland’s Agora club, Pop Art Live provides all the cheap thrills a fan could ask for from power-pop pioneers the Raspberries.

Grade: B+

The Devil Music, August 13, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

By Tony Peters

Finally, the live album Raspberries’ fans  have been waiting for

When Eric Carmen reunited with the Raspberries for a series of shows in 2004-2005, it gave thousands of fans a chance to see the fathers of power pop in concert for the first time in 30 years. A live disc, Live on Sunset Strip, came out in 2007, commemorating the reunion. Yet, that album was missing something. I was lucky to catch another Cleveland concert in 2005, and I can tell you, it was phenomenal. Finally, here comes Pop Art Live, a true document of what the Raspberries were capable of in concert.

There’s a definite buzz in these recordings – you can hear it in the crowd, and you can feel it in the versions of these songs. They’d been rehearsing for months. Now, after over three decades apart, it was showtime once again.

Jim Bonfanti kicks off the party with a tightly wound drum roll like it was shot out of a cannon – the band roars into “I Wanna Be With You,” and 32 years fade away. The original four-piece serves up 28 slices of rockin’ pop, covering material from all four of the group’s studio albums, along with some surprises as well.

Charting singles like the sweet balladry of “Let’s Pretend, the crunching power chords of “Tonight,” and their magnum opus, “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record),” sit alongside the Byrds-inspired, Wally Bryson-led “Last Dance,” and the Beatles ’65-infused acoustic “Nobody Knows.” In fact, the mid-period Fab Four are represented with three covers – “No Reply,” “Ticket to Ride,” and a fine duo vocal between Carmen and Bryson on “Baby’s in Black.” The other cover qualifies as possibly the very first power pop song ever, the Who’s “I Can’t Explain,” which they do with the spirit of teenagers.

They even do a pair of songs from a pre-Raspberries band called the Choir, which featured everyone but Carmen. “When You Were With Me” has a haunting quality, while the more poppy “It’s Cold Outside” was the one that actually graced the lower rungs of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.

Although the band were primarily known for their tight rock songs, they were also capable of sweeping ballads. In fact, the live rendition of “I Can Remember” actually outdoes the studio version, beginning soft, morphing into jangly power chords and descending melodies, before ending on a majestic note. There’s pretty much everything but the kitchen sink on this one.

Carmen was the primary songwriter and vocalist, but bassist Dave Smalley and lead guitarist Wally Bryson get a chance to shine as well. Smalley turns in the countryfied “Should I Wait,” and a great rocker, “Hard to Get Over a Heartbreak,” while Bryson shows off his diversity with the light pop of “Come Around and See Me,” and the blistering rocker, “Party’s Over,” which features some of his finest guitar work ever put on tape. He does create some comic relief when he changes the lyrics of “older and wiser” to “older and wider.”

At one point, a crazed fan inquires loudly “how does it feel”? To which Carmen replies, “It feels great, it feels great, man.”

The band’s last few songs are some of their finest – “Ecstasy” is hands-down the best single the band released that did not chart, while they turn in an extended take on the churning “I’m a Rocker.” The extra-special evening closed with a spirited take on their signature song, “Go All the Way,” (the one that every kid in America knows thanks to its inclusion on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack).

In direct comparison, the 2007 Live on Sunset Strip set lacked punch. The drums, which were so crucial to the Raspberries’ fury, were buried in the mix, and the whole performance sounded watery. Here, the drums are up, the harmonies and guitars are big, and the band just sounds fantastic.

The two-disc set provides almost two hours of music, and is accompanied by a booklet featuring ‘berries ephemera, along with essays by director Cameron Crowe, Fox News’ correspondent James Rosen, and Raspberries’ biographers Ken Sharp and Bernie Hogya.

This is the rare reunion album that actually captures the essence of a great band, 30 years after their heyday. Pop Art is the quintessential Raspberries live document, for devoted fans, and anyone wanting to know more about the fathers of power pop.

Icon Fetch, August 14, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Essential New Music on Display
Raspberries: Pop Art Live (Omnivore)

You might like if you enjoy: The Beatles, Badfinger, the Hollies

Anyone who wants to get fully immersed in shimmering songcraft that exudes undeniable melodies, catchy choruses and stellar songs that get stuck in your head should check out the Raspberries' glorious 2004 reunion that has just been released as a must-have 2 CD audio set. Pop Art Live (also available digitally) boasts a pristine recording of the rock quartet's reunion concert captured at House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio on Nov. 26, 2004. The material here is delivered with power pop precision and heft by the original lineup of singer-guitarist Eric Carmen, lead guitarist-vocalist Wally Bryson, bassist-vocalist David Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti. Highlights on disc one include a driving "I Wanna Be With You," a spirited take on the Who's "I Can't Explain," baroque pop-styled "Don't Wanna Say Goodbye" and harmonies-filled prize "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)." The second disc features just as many essentials, with the lush "I Saw The Light," wistful folk rocker When You Were With Me" and anthemic "Go All The Way" sure to impress. Beatles fans (and who isn't?) take note; the Raspberries kill it with incredible takes on the John Lennon/Paul McCartney classics "Baby's In Black," "No Reply" and "Ticket To Ride." As if all that great music wasn't enough, the booklet includes reflections and notes from filmmaker/rock critic Cameron Crowe, author James Rosen and other high-profile fans of the Raspberries.

Rock 'n' Roll Truth, August 15, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Raspberries | Pop Art Live (Omnivore)
by Ron Garmon

The brief prominence and fast disintegration of the Raspberries in no way hindered rise of each of their four albums to enduring cult status. Indeed, noise from fans and legatees of these Cleveland power-pop originators grows louder as the long-term influence of the subgenre they helped invent becomes ever more apparent. Everyone from Bruce to R.E.M. to the Replacements to Guns N’ Roses claim them as models and each of these worthies in turn influenced many more. Formed out of two other bands as a Cleveland “supergroup” of sorts, original members Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, Jim Bonfanti, and Dave Smalley set about manufacturing bestselling Beatle-y pop goo out of locally available materials. A demo ignited a bidding war and the quartet signed to Capitol, the Beatles’ U.S. label. “Go All the Way” went to no. 5 Billboard, lesser hits followed, Bryson and Bonfanti left after Side Three and a revised lineup learning heavily on the angel-voiced Carmen cracked the Top Twenty one last time with the still-enchanting “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” off the final LP Starting Over. Carmen went on to a measure of solo glory that did nothing to efface memory of his old band. Residual bitterness among the bandmates was slow to heal and chances of a reunion of all four original members were long thought remote until it actually happened at the Cleveland House of Blues in 2004. This two-CD, three-LP set doesn’t disappoint. A high-energy raveup from opening to encore, the show starts with “I Wanna Be With You” plus a juicy cover of the Who’s “I Can’t Explain” just to show they mean business. The setlist is crammed with covers, romantic ballads, exquisite versions of familiar tunes given new muscle and power through surprisingly forceful playing. Bonfanti in particular should be classed among rock’s great drummers and he absolutely kills it here. This is without doubt one of the all-time great reunion gigs and sounds nearly miraculous coming as it does out of high-energy teen music played by men in late middle-age. After a show-stopping pass at “I Can Remember,” Carmen is heard to muse “That was something ambitious for a bunch of twenty-two year olds, wasn’t it?” No kidding!

L.A. Record, August 15, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Album Review
Raspberries, Pop Art Live, 2017
By Henry Lipput

In the early '70s, long before he wrote and directed Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe was 15 and reviewing records for an underground newspaper. In the liner notes for Pop Art Live he remembers hearing the first Raspberries album: "'Go All The Way' opened the album, and Raspberries' career, with a sonic knock to the jaw."

Judging by Pop Art Live, a recording of Raspberries' November 26, 2004, concert at Cleveland's House of Blues, the band was still able to deliver "a sonic knock to the jaw." This time it's with the opening track "I Wanna Be With You" which kicks things off with a bang. (They followed this show with a successful reunion tour in 2005.)

Nearly thirty years after they last played together, the  founding members of the band -- Eric Carmen Wally Bryson, David Smalley, and Jim Bonfanti -- got back to perform live versions of songs from all four of their classic albums as well as covers by The Who (an "I Can't Explain" rave-up) and The Beatles (mid-period Fab Four gems like "Ticket To Ride," Baby's In Black," and "No Reply").

It was a fabulous, exciting concert and the recording sounds great (long-time Raspberries associate Tommy Allen did the mixing). Obviously, these power pop pioneers lost nothing in the intervening years. Carmen is in terrific voice, Bryson also provides fine lead vocals as well a lot of amazing guitar workouts (He pretty much set the template, didn't he?), and the Smalley and Bonfanti rhythm section rock the House.

"Don't Want To Say Goodbye" is a major live standout as is the lovely piano-driven "Starting Over;" and the wonderful, multi-part "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" owes more than a little to the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" (They even reproduce the transistor radio portion of the song). There's also Smalley's "It Seems So Easy" with some nifty Byrds-like Rickenbacker playing and the first song the band ever recorded, "Come Around And See Me." Raspberries started off their first album with "Go All The Way," and they end the concert with an absolutely blow-out version of the song.

Some of my favorite Raspberries songs have always been the ones in which Carmen channels solo Paul McCartney like "If You Change Your Mind" and, especially, "I Saw The Light." It's great to hear these live versions.

Near the end of the concert, Carmen acknowledges the reason they sound so good is because they have a little help from some friends: Paul Sidoti, Jennifer Lee, Billy Sullivan, and Derek Braunschweiger (known as The Overdubs). "They're playing all of the parts we played on our records," says Carmen, "but can't do with just four people." They help the four original members to make a marvelous sound all night.

The 2-CD / digital release of Pop Art Live is out now on Omnivore Recordings. A special-edition 3-LP set will be available later this year.

Cool Dad Music, August 18, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Astoundingly great 2004 reunion
Raspberries: Pop Art Live

Reunions are often laden with compromise in service of nostalgia. But three decades after their last performance, this 2004 reunion of the original quartet makes no concession to the passage of time, changing tastes in popular music, nor the yearning for one’s glorious youth. This was a rock ‘n’ roll show as vital and stirring as it would have been in 1974. The band played hard and tight, the vocal harmonies were spot-on and the songs shined with the vibrant colors of photos that had sat undisturbed in a drawer for 30 years. Eric Carmen gave it his all out front, Wally Bryson’s guitars had the perfect tone and touch, and the rhythm section – particularly Jim Bonfanti’s drumming – was as muscular as ever. Nostalgia might have been a spice, but it wasn’t the main course.

The group’s hits – “I Wanna Be With You,” “Let’s Pretend,” “Tonight,” “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” and especially the set closing “Go All the Way” – are as thrilling today as they were blasting out of the radio in the 1970s. And hearing them performed live adds a dimension that many latter-day Raspberries fans missed from the band’s hey day. These are killer songs for live performance, and the band’s even more powerful on stage than they were in the studio. And beyond the hits, the band reminds listeners that they made four incredibly strong albums.

Highlights include the ambitiously epic “I Can Remember” from the group’s debut, the country-styled “Should I Wait,” the harmony-rich “Hard to Get Over a Heartbreak” and Carmen’s declaratory “I’m a Rocker.” The band’s influences are heard in the Who’s “Can’t Explain” and a trio of finely selected Beatles’ covers. The latter includes an extraordinary version of 1964’s “Baby’s in Black” that affirmatively answers James Rosen’s rhetorical liner notes question “is this really as good as I think it is?” It is. Together with four extra singer/musicians (“The Overdubs”), the group is able to reproduce the lushness of their studio recordings without sacrificing the energy of live performance.

As on record, Eric Carmen provides most of the lead vocals, though Dave Smalley and Wally Bryson get significant leads of their own, and their pre-Raspberries band, The Choir, is celebrated with “When You Were With Me” and “It’s Cold Outside.” This is a long, satisfying set, and though Carmen’s voice must have been weary by the time they closed with “Go All the Way,” he’s solid in reaching for the song’s highest notes. Initially planned as a one-off to open Cleveland’s House of Blues, the fan response led to nine more dates, including a tour-ending Los Angeles gig. They did a few shows in 2007, and capped their reunion activities with a 2009 show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Omnivore’s first-ever issue of this show is spread across two discs, and presented in a tri-fold digipak with a 12-panel booklet that includes liner notes by Cameron Crowe (who reviewed the Raspberries’ first album for the San Diego Door at the age of 15), author James Rosen, and Raspberry biographers Ken Sharp and Bernie Hogya. The band’s joy in performing for their loyal (and incredibly patient!) fans is evident throughout the set, and the renewed relationship as a working unit was savoured by all. The confluence of people, places and times that forge a band is difficult to sustain, and nearly impossible to recreate, but the sparks that first ignited the Raspberries were still firing thirty years later, and lit up one of the best reunion shows in pop music history.

Hyperbolium, August 19, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

American Pop Legends Give New Life To Old Classics
Raspberries | POP ART LIVE (Omnivore Records)

FAO my American readers; please forgive me if I know next to nothing about the Raspberries ‘back story’; but within reason their ‘Sound of Young America’ didn’t really travel across the Atlantic as in the early 1970’s we had our own thing going on GLAM ROCK!

But; hey…..the name The Raspberries did hit my radar later so this ‘legendary’ reformation concert in 2004 made for a fascinating few hours earlier this week.

The concert (and double album) opens with an electrifying version of I Wanna Be With You; full of Beach Boys style harmonies and Framptonesque shimmering electric guitar…..so far; so good!

Track #3 took my by surprise with a note perfect, but anger free copy of Can’t Explain. It fits in perfectly well; but ….come on……nothing will ever better the ‘Oo.

Obviously 30 years after disbanding means that the raw energy that must have fuelled songs like Party’s Over, It Seemed So Easy and Tonight is long gone; but the passion and musicianship is still there and makes them (and others) still relevant in the 21st Century.

Of course The Raspberries were forerunners of the Power-Pop Generation (which did make it’s way into several UK record collections) but now; I hear a lot of ‘s Merseybeat in songs like Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye and I Saw The Light; with more than a nod to the Manchester sound of The Hollies on “one of the first songs they ever recorded” Come Around and See Me and Hard To Get Over a Heartbreak; to name but two.

Funnily enough two of the ‘stand out songs’ here are covers from a local band called The Choir; #5 When You Were With Me and It’s Cold Outside; both having catchy hooks and melodies that were just made for AM radio.

Favourite track….or indeed tracks would probably have to be I Can Remember and definitely Let’s Pretend with the tongue in cheek Overnight Sensation (Hit Record) being a contender too.

The concert wraps up nicely with the fist pumping I’m A Rocker and finally Go All The Way which sounds like a Heavy Metal version of the Beach Boys to these untrained ears ears, and judging by the reaction; a perfect way to close a Raspberries show.

Even I can hear why The Raspberries are still held in such high esteem and why the band members themselves went on to highly successful careers; while managing to influence a whole generation of American bands in the 80’s too.

The Rocking Magpie, August 24, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The "August Surprise"
It's NEVER too late to discover a "new" band.

As a teen, coming of age in Central Florida during the 1970s, summertime always was magical — a season filled with unlimited fun in the sun — and virtually free of rules. And those memorable experiences always were attached to amazing music — my sizzling summer soundtracks. But oddly, the most powerful music often seemed to find me when I expected it least — at the end of the season. I called it the "August Surprise."

In late summer '75, I was blindsided by the Jefferson Starship masterpiece, Red Octopus. Then, in '76, I was seduced by Fleetwood Mac's self-titled breakthrough — '77 offered KISS' Love Gun. August '78 brought me Don't Look Back, while '79 was ALL about Get the Knack. Years later, the annual "surprise" tended to be revealed more often as retro-type treasures that I'd somehow overlooked previously. In fact, I discovered the complete Runaways vinyl catalog and Nick Gilder's full body of work also during the "dog days" — 10-15 years after it all had been released originally.

Fast-forward — August 2017. I stepped out to the ol' mail box one afternoon, and I discovered a special delivery package from one of my editors at Ink 19. Slipped inside the plastic bubble-lined mailer was a CD copy of Pop Art Live — a newly-released double-live set from legendary pop powerhouse, the Raspberries.

As an admitted early '70s-era AM radio geek, I'd been familiar with the band's fistful of infectious hits for 40+ years. However, by the time I had discovered the album oriented FM radio format, the Raspberries had come and gone — before we were ever introduced properly. And that was the end of the story — until this summer's "surprise" arrived.

Featuring the original, classic Raspberries line-up of vocalist / guitarist / pianist Eric Carmen, guitarist / vocalist Wally Bryson, bassist / vocalist David Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti, Pop Art Live was recorded more than a decade ago at Cleveland's House of Blues during a brief reunion run. And it makes for a superb showcase for a band that has influenced stylistically, far more chart-busters than most would recognize — from such veteran acts as Cheap Trick, Queen, ELO and AC/DC, to new millennium artists including Fountains of Wayne, Butch Walker and Ken Sharp. Heck, back in the day, Paul Stanley was so "freshly"-fueled, the first KISS album literally seeps raspberry juice.

But while the punchy and crunchy 28-song collection was more than personally satisfying, the tremendous "high" it offered initially was fleeting. And in short order, I found myself perusing iTunes like a crazed pop / rock junkie — purchasing the band's entire original studio catalog, including Raspberries (1972), Fresh (1972), Side 3 (1973), and Starting Over (1974). Four glorious slabs of authentic analog joy, to be sure.

Yes, it's NEVER too late to discover a "new" band, no matter how long they've been around. And if that band possesses an impressive arsenal of irresistible songs, the discovery can make for quite a "surprise" — any time of year.

Christopher Long, August 25, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

(Omnivore Recordings)
By Eleni P. Austin

If you want to make a perfect pie or cake, all you need is a recipe and the right ingredients. Follow the instructions and voila. That’s basically all it takes. Creating the perfect song is a trickier proposition.

You certainly know a perfect song when you hear it. It’s difficult to quantify why, to break down the details, you just know. Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw The Light,” the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” those are perfect songs. More recent examples include “No Rain” from Blind Melon, “Hey Ya” from Outkast, “Single Ladies” from Beyonce and “Happy” from Pharrell Williams. Undoubtedly the most perennially, all-time pluperfect song ever is “Go All The Way” by the Raspberries. This is a fact, and it’s not up for debate.

The Raspberries originated in Cleveland, Ohio in 1970. They rose from the ashes of two popular local bands, the Cyrus Erie and the Choir. Eric Carmen was lead vocalist for Cyrus Erie, which had a huge live following. Guitarist Wally Bryson, drummer Jim Bonfanti and bassist Dave Smalley anchored the sound of the Choir, which actually accrued a few hit singles on local radio. Very briefly, Eric even persuaded Wally to join the Cyrus Erie too.

In 1970 Eric, Wally and Jim recruited John Aleksic for bass duties, (Dave Smalley was serving in Vietnam). John played with the nascent four-piece until Dave returned. At that point, Eric shifted from rhythm guitar to bass and Dave took up rhythm guitar. Although Eric the nominal lead singer, Wally and Dave also took turns fronting the band.

They spent considerable time woodshedding and playing local clubs. Their demo caught the ear of producer Jimmy Ienner and after an intense bidding war the Raspberries were signed to Capitol Records. Their music drew on the seminal sounds of British Invasion bands, especially the Beatles and the Who.

Their self-titled debut arrived in the Spring of 1972 and included a scratch n’ sniff sticker that actually smelled like raspberries. (Ahh, the ‘70s!) The album peaked at #51 on the Billboard chart, but the Second single, “Go All The Way” managed to climb to #5 on the singles chart. A remarkable feat, for an unknown mid-western band.

For the next three albums, the band refined their sound. Sticking to the style Pete Townshend referred to as “Power Pop,” catchy and wildly melodic, it was accented by crunchy guitars and thundering drums. Not six months after their debut, the follow-up, Fresh, arrived. But by the time their third album, Side 3 was recorded in late 1973, inter-band tensions fueled a more raw and aggressive sound.

Tensions soon escalated and Dave Smalley was booted from the band. Not long after Jim Bonfanti quit and bassist Scott McCarl and ex-Cyrus Erie drummer Michael McBride stepped in for what would be the Raspberries’ fourth and final album, 1974’s Starting Over. Although it wasn’t as popular as its predecessors, the album had some high-profile fans like John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen.

Not long after, the band called it quits. Eric Carmen went on to have a moderately successful solo career, writing and singing the lachrymose ballad “All By Myself,” (which he took to #2 on the charts and was later made even more lugubrious by Celine Dion), as well as the song “Hungry Eyes” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. He also wrote the douche-tastic Ann Wilson-Mike Reno duet, “Almost Paradise,” which was featured on the Footloose soundtrack.

Jim Bonfanti and Dave Smalley formed their own short-lived band, Dynamite. Wally Bryson resurfaced in Tattoo and then joined Fotomaker for three albums in the late ‘70s.

Fast forward to 30 years after the Raspberries’ break up and the impossible happened. After years of rumors and stalled reconciliations, the Carmen/Bryson/Bonfanti/Smalley line-up reconvened. Coincidently, House Of Blues was opening a club in the band’s home town, Cleveland. It seemed like the perfect place for a reunion concert.

The show went so well, a nationwide tour followed, along with a VH1 special and Capitol Records even issued a new Greatest Hits compilation. Now the fine folks at Omnivore Recordings have released Pop Art Live, that legendary Cleveland concert in its entirety for the very first time.

The album crashes through the speakers with the classic track “I Wanna Be With You.” A fusillade of drums and ringing guitar cushion Eric’s yearning tenor as he is joined by the remarkably tight harmonies of Wally, Dave and Jim. The packed audience roars with delight as the song limns the limits of teenage sexual frustration.

Each of the band’s four albums is represented on this two-disc set, but the lion’s share of songs come from the second record, Fresh, and the third, Side 3. Released six months after their debut, Fresh confirmed that these Cleveland kids were more than one-hit-wonders. Wally Bryson takes the lead on “Nobody Knows,” and “Might As Well.” The former is a gritty treatise on teenage alienation and unrequited love featuring rippling guitar riffs. The latter blends mandolin and banjo accents that are crisp and countrified. Portraying a beleaguered commitment-phobe, Wally offers mock exasperation as he admits his feelings; “might as well give in and say I love you.”

Meanwhile, “Let’s Pretend” pivots from tender to angsty to melodramatic. Eric’s falsetto vocals are as sharp and crystalline as they were 32 years earlier. “It Seemed So Easy” frames a break up post-mortem in a Merseybeat melody that echoes British antecedents like the Hollies and the Kinks. Jangly acoustic guitars and beatific high harmonies nearly belie the slightly masochistic groveling of “If You Change Your Mind”

Side 3 songs include the candy-coated crunch of “Tonight.” On “Last Dance” the arrangement opens with ringing, Byrdsy guitar before downshifting into a rollicking Hee-Haw hoedown. Dave Smalley handles lead vocals on two of his compositions, the rock solid groove of “Makin’ It Easy” and the prickly “Hard To Get Over A Heartbreak.”

Although “Ecstasy” and “I’m A Rocker” are ostensibly Eric Carmen’s songs, they both showcase the titanic talent of drummer Jim Bonfanti. “Ecstasy” crackles with authority as Jim pounds his kit with a Keith Moon-like abandon. That said, his percussive assault never overpowers the winsome melody. A whip-crack rhythm drives the action on “…Rocker,” as Eric insists “Back beat boogie got a hold on me, make me wanna jump and shout.”

Playing a two and a half hour concert on their home turf allowed the band to spread their wings creatively and honor musical heroes as well as their humble beginnings. Three Beatles tracks pop up, the see-saw, sad sack waltz of “Baby’s In Black,” the rippling samba of “No Reply,” and the ringing Rickenbacker riffs and jagged off-kilter rhythms of “Ticket To Ride.” The third song of the first set is a note perfect rendition of the Who’s “Can’t Explain.” A three chord stomp, it features phased guitars and a pile-driver beat.

They even manage to excavate a triad of songs from the late ‘60s Choir era. “When You’re With Me is lush and yearning, echoing both the Beach Boys and Chad And Jeremy. “It’s Cold Outside” is almost too perfect and polished for Garage Rock, and the mid-tempo “Should I Wait” simply shimmers.

Even though Dave and Jim weren’t on board for the Starting Over record they acquit themselves beautifully on the title track, “Play On,” “Party’s Over,” and “Overnight Sensation.” “Starting Over” is a majestic, piano-driven ballad that has as much gravitas as any early ‘70s Elton John song.

Wally handles lead vocals on the sinewy “Play On,” (which he dedicates to bassist Scott McCarl), the tune blends a driving rhythm and walking bass lines with a lush chorus and wicked guitar work. He also nails the Psychedelic Soul of “The Party’s Over.” Muscular guitar licks wash over tinkly piano, serpentine bass fills and thwoking percussion.

“Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” is the Raspberries’ magnum opus, matching the sonic ambitions of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. It loses none of its grandeur live. Ethereal piano chords cascade over spiky guitar, rippling castanets and a walloping backbeat.

A precis on the vagaries of Rock N Roll songcraft, its equal parts wide-eyed and cynical. Eric insists he’s not “in it for the money,” but confides “I’ve been trying to write the lyric, not offensive but satiric too.” Pretty soon the monster hook kicks into overdrive and Bonfanti unleashes a tsunami of crashing percussion as celestial harmonies chant “hit record yeah, want a hit record yeah, (number one).”

Although the debut is allotted only five cuts, they’re all potent entries. “Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye” shapeshifts from a lachrymose piano ballad, quickly building to a crescendo before the instrumentation retreats and then roars back for a bluesy climax. The song closes with a spitfire guitar solo. “I Can’t Remember” feels as Cinematic as a Rock Opera overture. “I Saw The Light” ping-pongs between choir-boy sweet and yowly sourness. “Come Around And See Me” fuses Latin percussion to a twangy Country Rock song.

27 songs in, the band wraps it up with their ne plus ultra hit, “Go All The Way.” The distorto opening riffs still growl with authority, boomerang bass and pummeling backbeat feel equally thrilling. Eric’s vocals crackle with intensity as he revels in that magic moment of concupiscence. What seemed sexually suggestive in ’72, (the BBC banned the tune because of risqué lyrics), seems rather sweet and innocent in retrospect.

Amazingly, the song still resonates, which is why it shot back into the Top 10 when it was featured in the 2014 movie, Guardians Of The Galaxy. Here it serves as a victory lap for a band whose musical prowess will never go out of style.

To replicate the sounds the Raspberries created in the studio all those years ago, on stage, the four-piece enlisted a quartet of musicians they christened The Overdubs. Paul Sidoti added guitar, keyboards and vocals, Billy Sullivan provided more guitar, harmonica and vocals, Jennifer Lee also played keys and sang back-up and Derek Braunschweiger supplied additional percussion.

This live set gives the Raspberries their final moment in the sun. On stage, the band struts and swaggers, but they also display a level of hometown humility that is shot through with sincerity and grace.

The album provides an excellent introduction for millennials who got hooked via Guardians Of The Galaxy. (In fact, a three-record vinyl set of Pop Art Live will be released on Black Friday-Record Store Day in November). For anyone who came of age in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, weaned on the golden age of AM Pop radio, the record is a potent reminder that the Raspberries had the goods. In fact, they still do.

Coachella Valley Weekly, August 30, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Raspberries: Pop Art Live
by Robert Baird

In football there's a saying to describe an unexpected outcome: "That why they play the games."

The recorded music equivalent might be "That's why you have to listen to the records." Much as you might be tempted to gaze at the cover art, remember a band's last record or think about the one time you saw them live and they really blew it, prejudging can be dangerous. In the end, you still gotta listen.

So there I was, waving around a CD copy of Pop Art Live, by 1970s power pop band, The Raspberries about to launch into a tirade about how most bands from the '70s should just stop. Just stop taking the money of poor souls who by seeing them today (or buying "new" records) are desperately trying to grasp at the ghostly threads of their long departed youth. After a number of demoralizing experiences seeing acts that were great in 1975 and are much less so now, I have sworn off seeing older acts. As pathetically obvious as it sounds, it's just never the same.

But back to the Raspberries, that anglophile/mod quartet from Cleveland, masters of the two minute pop tune, who were together for all of five years (1970-75), had a blockbuster single, "Go All The Way," released a debut album with a scratch'n'sniff sticker (that smelled like candied raspberries), and finally imploded when frontman Eric Carmen and his razor shag haircut departed for a solo career that was marked by maudlin tales of victimhood like "All By Myself."

Much to the delight of their power-pop loving fans, about half of whom are or were music writers, the band reformed in 2004, and played a bunch of shows of which Pop Art Live was the very first. Recorded in their hometown, at the House of Blues in front of rabid crowd (who you don't actually hear much on the recording), this show has been released on CD and MP3 download by Omnivore Records. An earlier 2007 CD on Rykodisc, Live on Sunset Strip, is the only other show from the 2004 reunion tour that has yet been released.

According to Omnivore, the show was recorded "professionally" at the time (ie, not a radio show or a tape from the soundboard or the audience) and was recently mixed for the first time. While Carmen's falsetto ain't quite as strong as it used to be, and the dynamic range of this recording is merely acceptable like a lot of live recordings, it's great to hear one of the 1970s' greatest band playing with this much joy. More joy in fact than they had when originally together. They are emotionally present and alive in the extreme throughout this 28-song set.

For this tour, the band wisely decided to supplement their sound with four additional musicians, two guitars, keyboards and percussion. Called "The Overdubs," these four really flesh out the overall sound and what pop tune doesn't benefit from more harmony vocalists.

Thankfully, as reunion tours go this was one for which the band clearly rehearsed and prepared for. Jim Bonfanti's drumming (which the "Mighty" Max Weinberg has cited as an influence) is superb throughout, as is Wally Bryson's guitar work. And the band's three-part harmonies (supplemented by those three extra voices) are remarkably intact for a band that's been apart for 30 years. Everything here is played with refreshing gusto. Nothing drags or has that pitiful "they really need to quit" stench that dogs so many '70s bands who make ill-advised comebacks. Best of all, Carmen and Co. made the right decision by deciding one comeback tour was enough. So far there have not been any more shows or worse, any new Raspberries records, which in my experience is always a bad idea.

And when the foursome (plus four) launch into convincing covers of The Beatles' "No Reply" and "Baby's In Black," and Pete Townsend's "I Can't Explain," it's easy to remember why these guys, who were praised while together By Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon, are so beloved. And why every scrap of their shimmery, soaring pop, which admittedly owes much to John and Paul, will always be prized by the Raspberries faithful.

Stereophile, September 1, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Underrated Raspberries and Big Star members impress on new releases
By Scott Smith

Perched at the top of what is referred to as Power Pop Mountain are bands like The Raspberries and Big Star.

They have yet to reach the popularity levels of artists like U2, Beyonce and Jason Isbell, yet the recordings of The Raspberries and Big Star continue to inspire listeners and, at many times, move critics. Like Badfinger, The Raspberries and Big Star excelled at marrying driving electric guitars with melodies and harmonized vocals that were every bit as good as any other group.

Go All the Way

The Raspberries singer-guitarist Eric Carmen would go on to have bigger hit singles as a solo artist like 1975′s “All By Myself” and 1988′s “Make Me Lose Control,” but it was the songs he co-created while in The Raspberries that made the greatest artistic impact, according to the group’s fans. It’s nearly impossible to argue with those fans when one hears The Raspberries’ latest release, “Pop Art Live.”

Recorded inside Cleveland’s House of Blues during The Raspberries’ 2004 reunion tour, “Pop Art Live” does a wonderful job of encapsulating the original quartet’s energy and playing skills. “I Wanna Be With You” rushes out of the gate, with lead guitarist Wally Bryson, bassist David Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti sounding just as invigorated as Carmen. Their playing and singing are tight, especially considering that three decades had passed since their final studio recordings.

While the faithful covers of The Beatles (“No Reply,” “Baby’s in Black”) and The Who (“I Can’t Explain”) are worthy of respect, it’s the originals on “Pop Art Live” that sizzle the hottest. The excellent “Play On” features a glorious half-time tempo at each chorus, while “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” digs a lot deeper than the lyrics found in other run-of-the-mill pop songs.

And who could forget the paint-peeling, Humble Pie-esque rock sound that decorates a healthy portion of The Raspberries’ signature cut, “Go All the Way”? On “Pop Art Live,” The Raspberries recreate that guitar-forged grit without losing the mellow passages that move the song’s chorus forward. Play on, indeed.

Life After Big Star

Big Star are a lot like The Ramones. They didn’t sell millions of records, but everyone who bought their albums seemingly became a musician or music scholar.

Somewhat ironically, guitarist-singer Chris Bell left Big Star just after the quartet’s first album, 1972′s ”#1 Record,” leaving former band members Alex Chilton (guitar, vocals), Jody Stephens (drums, vocals) and Andy Hummel (bass) to carry on under the Big Star flag. (Bell, sadly, died on Dec. 27, 1978; Bell is one of numerous rock singers and musicians who died at the age of 27.)

Like Big Star albums, Bell’s solo album, “I Am the Cosmos,” didn’t sell a lot of copies when it was posthumously released in 1992, but it sure influenced many of Big Star’s fans and peers. R.E.M., The Posies, The Flaming Lips and Beck are among those who metaphorically wrestle each other to get in the front of the line to brag about Bell and Big Star.

Omnivore Recordings’ new, expanded CD version of “I Am the Cosmos” shows that Bell wasn’t heading in an entirely different direction that his former Big Star band mates. The album’s title track is a standout moment, with Bell’s lead vocals and guitar work awash in studio reverb sound. On paper it sounds like a disaster, but the sonic results are powerful.

Also striking are “Look Up,” “Speed of Sound” and “Get Away.” Many of the songs are presented inside a hazy, dream-like production, while an alternate, acoustic-based version of the title track serves crisper sounds. Followers of Bell and Big Star will want to add both this expanded “I Am the Cosmos” CD and the new Big Star CD and vinyl compilations, “The Best of Big Star,” to their shopping carts ASAP.

Times Record, September 3, 2017

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Doing some housekeeping and realized I haven't posted any reviews of Pop Art Live yet, so got down to business and uploaded a bunch of them this morning. The rather remarkable thing about all of them is whether they're written by long-time fans or new listeners, there's nary a negative comment in any of them!

In other words,  if you haven't picked up a copy of Pop Art Live yet, what are you waiting for?

Bernie :cool:

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Four Live Raspberries Come Alive
By Mark Smotroff

The first thing I noticed when I put on the fine new live album by power pop legends The Raspberries was just how immediately amazing they sounded.  Both the fidelity and performances on this two-CD set -- recorded at the start of their reunion run at Cleveland's House of Blues, November 26th, 2004, the tour continuing for several years --  sound pretty stellar as CDs go.

Perhaps too stellar, I wondered initially. Of course, in defense of the recording, I never got to see the Raspberries on these reunion tours so I recognize that I didn't really have a point of reference other than their studio recordings to judge this fine new release against. Up until now I had I'd never really bothered to look for live recordings of the band from their original early 1970s ascent.  My excuse (if you will) is that having heard early '70s live recordings by the The Raspberries' power pop peers such as Badfinger and Big Star, I just assumed that their live sound would be about the same -- thin and not representative of the grandiose sound they created in the studio.  I suppose I wasn't really expecting much...

Which is perhaps why this CD packed such a wallop from the get go.  I've subsequently been poking around on YouTube and checking out live recordings of the band from back in the day and they indeed were pulling off this stuff live with multi-part harmonies and such!   Couple that experience with the dramatic technological changes since the 1970s in terms of what a band can easily deliver on stage today --  take a listen to the spectacular live recordings of Brian Wilson's band doing Pet Sounds and SMiLE live in concert, for example -- and it suddenly makes total sense that this new Raspberries recording would sound so great.  

Lead singer Eric Carmen's voice can still reach the stars and the harmonies from the other band members are spot on. These 21st Century Raspberries shows were indeed done -- like Brian Wilson's band -- with live support from backing musicians charmingly named (in the album's credits) "The Overdubs."  So, there is no doubt the band knew that they would need some support beyond the original four members to pull off that big Phil Spector-Meets-Brian Wilson-Meets-Pete Townshend power pop studio sound on stage.  The result is wonderful! Kudos must also go out to Tommy Allen who mixed this recording.

Much like the recent live Big Star Third concerts (which I reviewed here on Audiophilereview), Pop Art Live will probably become a great first step for a new generation of fans curious to hear what all the fuss is about surrounding The Raspberries. Older fans will certainly love the album which features all the expected hits, lots of deeper album cuts and many note-perfect covers (including three by The Beatles -- "Baby's In Black," "Ticket To Ride," and "No Reply" -- as well as The Who's "I Can't Explain").  They also do an early gem by The Choir, an Ohio band which became the core of The Raspberries when singer Eric Carmen joined forces with them; I first heard "Its Cold Outside" when it was covered by Stiv Bators in the late '70s!

Anyhow, I guess the only question remaining really is why it took so long to put this out?  There was a live album previously issued from later shows on the reunion tour, but that is quite out of print and commanding collectors prices on places like Discogs and eBay. Pop Art Live is thus especially timely for those of us who want to hear this great band performing live in high fidelity (courtesy of the good folks at Omnivore Recordings).  

If you are a fan of The Raspberries or just great melody-drenched rock 'n roll in general, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Its a great overview of the band and its roots, casting equal light on the other super talented band members -- especially lead guitarist / singer Wally Bryson -- as well as frontman Eric Carmen.  

A special three-LP vinyl edition of Pop Art Live will be out in the Fall, initially on limited edition colored vinyl (as well as standard black).  As soon as I get my hands on that edition, I'll be sure to write up a follow on review of this fine album from that vantage point. Until then, this two CD set is going to have a happy home spinning on my mobile devices, in the car as well as on my regular home stereo.

Audiophile, August 28, 2017


Another GREAT review! Tommy Allen must be blushing by now... :blush:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Omnivore Recordings (2-CD Set) 
by John M. Borack

In their all-too-brief but musically fruitful career, Raspberries were progenitors of an enduring musical genre that came to be known as "power pop." On their four albums from 1972-1974, Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, 0ave Smalley and Jim Bonfanti (and on their final record, Scott Mccarl and Mi­chael McBride) fashioned a number of classic tunes that assimilated a myriad of influences ranging from The Beatles, Small Faces, and The Who to classical music and country rock.

Most thrilling were the Carmen-penned songs that featured guitars (courte­sy of six-string titan Bryson) that were alternately jangly and crunchy, topped with pleading vocals and Beatlesque harmonies, all wrapped in delectable melodies—the blueprint for power pop. The band's signature sides—"Go All the Way, "I Wanna Be With You," "Ecstasy," "Tonight" and "Let's Pretend" 
among them—are the sonic centerpieces of "Pop Art Live," a lively document of the band's first reunion show after a mere 30 year hiatus. recorded at the House of Blues in Cleveland (Raspberries· hometown) in late 2004.

Augmented by four additional instrumentalists/backing vocalists to help replicate the full sound of the original records, Raspberries more than deliver the goods on "Pop Art Live": the two-disc set is 28 tracks worth of unparalleled melodic splendor from four guys who have lost next to nothing vocally or instrumentally over the course of three decades. Eric Carmen in particular sings with the warmth. passion and spirit of a man half his age, while Wally Bryson still slashes and burns on lead guitar, Dave Smalley anchors the proceedings with always-solid bass, and Jim Bonfanti either plays it straight on the drums or deftly channels Keith Moon, depending upon the needs of the song.

The partisan House of Blues crowd enjoyed not only the full complement of power pop classics. but also deeper cuts such as the Brian Wilson-influenced mini pop opera "I Can Remember" ("just a bit ambitious for a bunch of 22-year-olds," Carmen admits at the close of the song), Dave Smalley's Eagles-like, country-poppin' "Should I Wait" and "Makin' It Easy," the rough and ready, Bryson-sung stamper "Party's Over," the stately ballad "Don't Want to Say Goodbye," and two songs from the pre-Raspberries combo The Choir, including the minor 1967 hit "It's Cold Outside," which definitely wowed the Ohio audience.

Four reverent covers showcase Raspberries' British Invasion roots and love of vocal harmony: The Who's "I Can't Explain" is appropriately fiery, while the band's versions of The Beatles' "No Reply," "Baby's in Black" and "Ticket to Ride" find Bryson and Carmen channeling their inner John and Paul. respectively.

Although Raspberries released a limited edition live collection ("Live on Sunset Strip," recorded in Los Angeles in 2005) a decade ago, the depth and breadth of the song selection on "Pop Art Live" -as well as the incendiary, adrenalin-fueled performances -make the new collection the definitive live Raspberries document. Note for completists: the new collection features nine songs not included on "Live on Sunset Strip," while two of the tunes on that 2007 collection ("I Don't Know What I Want'' and a cover of "Needles and Pins") do not appear on "Pop Art Live." 

Goldmine, October 2017

Link to comment
Share on other sites

England may have had Badfinger, but we had The Raspberries.
The Raspberries – Pop Art Live (CD)
by John B. Moore

Up there with Big Star and The Hollies in terms of their lasting influence and simply how tragically underrated each band ultimately was, in 2004, The Raspberries treated a hometown Cleveland audience to a remarkable reunion show to open the local House of Blues. The show, captured in this two-CD set from Omnivore, prompted a short tour the following year.

“Pop Art Live,” captures the power pop pioneers – led by Eric Carmen – playing their first live show together in three decades. You’d to go back to The Beach Boys to find a group that can match their sublime harmonies; that trademark sound is slathered all over these songs. There are a handful of covers mixed throughout this 28-song collection that get the full Raspberries’ treatment, like The Who’s “I Can’t Explain,” and The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride,” but it’s their own material where the brilliance of the band, from those aforementioned harmonies to the strong lyrics and even stronger pop hooks, where the group is really able to show off; and they’ve thrown in all of the favorites here including “Overnight Sensation,” “Let’s Pretend” and their biggest hit “Let’s Go All the Way” (a song that has found new life thanks to its inclusion on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack).

The show, and this CD set, is everything that is great about this band. They even managed to live up to their early 1970s clean cut image; at one point early in the show Carmen addresses the audience: “Darn nice to see you all here tonight and I must say it’s kind of nice for us to be here tonight.”


NeuFutur Magazine, September 6, 2017

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

(Omnivore) 2-CD 

by David Laing

The Raspberries were the gold­en children of the 'pop revival'—a movement that may or may not have really existed but which was es­poused anyway by the likes of Greg Shaw, Ken Barnes and even Metal Mike Saunders in the early '70s. The Cleveland band loved their early-to­mid Beatles of course, and in Eric Carmen had a writer who could in­corporate occasional baroque flour­ishes, not unlike Michael Brown of the Left Banke. Unlike many other 'pop revival' bands however they also combined strong elements of the Who and the Beach Boys and thus were the perfect representation of Pete Townsend's original defini­tion of power pop. They could also rip out a blistering guitar tone when they wanted and had an influence on the hard rock side of things al the time too, particularly those closet power pop fans Kiss. More than any band of the era-other than perhaps Apple-associated Bad finger—the Raspberries remain a touchstone for lovers of a range of classic pop and rock in both '60s and '70s stylings.

Pop Art is the second live album to come out of the band's low-key small venue reunion lour of 2004 and it supersedes the first one Live on Sunset Strip by sheer wealth of material (although it loses the great cover of "Needles & Pins"' and a ver­sion of Carmen's powerhouse love letter to the Who, "I Don't Know What I Want"). If you've heard the earlier album you'll know that the band sounded pretty damn close to their original records on this tour, meaning the 28-track Pop Art serves almost as an ersatz greatest bits col­lection. It includes a bit of schlock—­"I Can Remember" is as overblown as Eric Carmen's bouffant back in the day—but the rockers rock, the early Beatles-style numbers like "Should I Wait" and "'Nobody Knows" sound as perfectly weighted as ever, and you get some fab covers, including "I Can't Explain" (more guitar than on U1e Sunset Strip album ), "Baby's In Black," "No Reply," "Ticket To Ride" and a couple from Raspberries pre­cursors the Choir (including "It's Cold Outside"). And boy can these guys still sing and play. If you've already got the band's four original albums—classics one and all—this is your next purchase for sure. (David Laing) 

Ugly Things, September 22, 2017

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That was a schlocking review!  The guy is obviously a fan; I think he probably fell into the trap the most 'critics' fall into- he digs ICR, but he can't write a totally positive review of the double album or he looks like too big of a fan and not enough of a rock writer and critic.  So he bashes ICR to keep up his cred.  Where's Reid to defend his song?!?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...