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THE RASPBERRIES

Live on Sunset Strip

Released: July, 31, 2007

Record Label: Rykodisc

Album Review

The Raspberries' history was a study in joy mixed with frustration -- a well-nigh perfect power-pop band who, through a combination of bad timing, record label lethargy and personnel and personality conflicts, never quite lived up to their commercial promise, leaving behind three great albums and a fourth that was not as good, for a total of about three-dozen stunningly worthwhile songs. And one thing that they never did do at the time was a live album, this despite the sterling accounts of their concerts, which were borne out in some of their surviving television clips. The ex-members must've looked on with astonishment as the band started getting written about as one of the most lamented losses of the 1970's, and their albums (especially the first three) soared in value on the collectors' market. Musical and personal differences, coupled with singer/principal composer Eric Carmen's successful post-band pop career, all conspired to rule out any kind of serious reunion until the end of the 1990's, and then that was delayed a while longer. And it's taken till 2007 -- from a 2005 gig at the House of Blues in Los Angeles -- to get this long-awaited document of the group in concert released to the public. This reviewer's heart literally skipped a beat when he saw it, tempered by the fact that a lot of latter-day reunions of this type don't amount to much more than going through the motions of impersonating their youth for the participants. But the right participants are here, Jim Bonfanti on drums, Wally Bryson on lead guitar, and Dave Smalley on bass joining Carmen (playing rhythm guitar and some piano) with a minimum of the usual extra help you often see in shows like this -- one female harmony singer and a very unobtrusive keyboard man, but the core of the sound and all of the leads are the quartet's work. The voices may have darkened in tone ever so slightly but these guys can still sing their hearts out and play their asses off (and that goes double for Bonfanti on the drums); and whether it's "I Wanna Be With You", "Tonight", "Nobody Knows" or any of the other band originals that they must've played a thousand times, or renditions of the Who's "I Can't Explain" or the Searchers hit "Needles And Pins", they sound like they're putting 102% into it. The harmonies are all there, with no studio retraces or overdubs that are obvious, and everyone gets represented well -- the crowd can heard chanting "Wally Bryson" at one point, and he and Dave Smalley get their songs in; indeed, Smalley's "Should I Wait" and Bryson's "Come Around And See Me" and "Last Dance" are all unexpected highlights of a set that is pretty much filled with great moments -- the only place where the band fails in what it does is on the harder rocking numbers such as "Party's Over"; an artifact from their flawed fourth album, in which they tried to toughen up their sound, this and one or two other numbers show the Raspberries trying to be a hard rock band, something they never really were very good at. But those lapses don't detract from the overall value of the 21 song double-CD set. This reviewer would still love it if, say, a professionally recorded 1971-vintage Raspberries live show were to surface someday, but it's unlikely that such a live recording would capture the playing as well as this double-CD set does, the power and impact of the bass as well as the two guitars, Bonfanti's drumming, and those still-superb harmonies. The set is accompanied by a booklet that's mostly devoted to song lyrics, and therein lay the only flaw that this review found, small stray ink-blotches over some of the words. ~Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

—Billboard.com

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Quote:
... leaving behind three great albums and a fourth that was not as good,...
I read this and assumed he was referring to the 1st album. It's a very good album but not quite as strong as the other three. I think thats the general consensus opinion. But then I read this:

Quote:
... and their albums (especially the first three) soared in value on the collectors' market.
I'm guessing the reviewer is again showing his preference. I never noticed the first three being valued more than "Starting Over". "Side 3" seemed to be the most scarce so I would guess that one fetched the highest prices in spite of the fact that it was the least succesful (in regards to singles charting). It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine when a journalist distorts things to favor his own personal opinion and that's how this review rubbed me. "Flawed fourth album" my $#%&$#!!!
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I love the review, except for the remark that the fourth album was flawed... it's my favorite album; without it I probably would never have remained so loyal and eager for this over the years.

My remark is not intended to impune anybody, had the original band stayed together and performed I'm sure their fourth album would have been as solid as Starting Over... though they were writing individually, they had all hit their stride as songwriters. I'd have loved to see them hang in... had they done that we might have seen something totally different over the past 30 years.

Of course had they stayed together, there might not have been any All By Myself or Boats Against The Current for us to love... but one still wonders "what if?"...

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Ditto for me. Starting Over - flawed?? No way!

That one is my favorite too! I have it in my car cd player almost all of the time.

I can only imagine what the 5th album would have been like - even stronger IMHO.

The smudged ink on the lyrics - that would be the least of my concerns - besides all of know the lyrics to all of the songs don't we??

Good review otherwise.

HT

wink

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A pretty good review overall... but I don't agree on the band falling short on the harder numbers. I think the performances (and resulting CD) were better than what was on the original album. It wasn't like they were pretending to be a harder edged band... they just didn't have the 70's in-studio Ienner sound. But, it's all in what you like, I guess. Even us fans will have widely varying opinions on all this.

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It's a good review but I have to strongly disagree with the reviewer's assesment of "Starting Over" as a flawed album.

Like Paulie, I too feel it was their best. It was how I always imagined the Raspberries needed to sound (from the time I heard their first album in 1972) to be taken seriously. I could hear all the ingredients, back then. I just wasn't sure if they would be able to 'bake the cake.' They surely did, but it was too late to ice it.

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I gotta say (and I speak from experience, having edited tons of CD reviews in a past position, and having written a lot myself):

Most reviewers --- even when composing a total rave-up of a record --- will try to find something negative, any little tidbit they can muster, to toss in. It's probably due to a subconscious desire (or maybe a conscious one, in some cases) to avoid looking too "soft." Or too complimentary.

If you always rave and you never rip, you might come off like, say, Paula Abdul on American Idol . Simon Cowell is taken more seriously as a "critic" on that show (right?) because he's fastidious and precise and picky....

It's the same with music (and movie) reviews. "Critics" don't want their readers to see them as pushovers. So even if they absolutely love a recording, they'll nitpick something. Heck, most music critics will find something wrong with the Mona Lisa! I just came to see it as human nature. No, it's not always fair -- it's just the way it is.

And BH Pat, you're absolutely right. The Raspberries were "never really good" at rock'n'roll? What the...? They were GREAT at it. Actually, I should say " are great at it." Isn't it nice to refer to Raspberries in present tense? Who'd have thunk it? (For 30 years, not me!)

(PS: I slipped in phrases from Queen and Bruce Hornsby songs.... Anyone notice 'em?)

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Actually, I didn't even think of that, Billy. I was thinking of the phrase "fastidious and precise," from "Killer Queen":

"Perfume came naturally from Paris (naturally)

For cars she couldn't care less, fastidious and precise

She's a killer queen gunpowder gelatine

Dynamite with a lazer beam, guaranteed to blow your mind (anytime)"

The Hornsby reference, of course, was "The Way It Is"....

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