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SunTimes Review 1/17


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After 30 years,Raspberries may be back to harvest fame.(Dave Hoekstra/ Staff reporter)

The Raspberries are one of the more remarkable stories in the history of American pop music, a notion they reaffirmed in a brilliant two-hour show Saturday night at the House of Blues

The kinetic Cleveland-based quartet formed in 1972 and dished out power-pop hits like "Go All the Way,""I Wanna Be With You," and "Let's Pretend." The band broke up in 1975, never realizing their ripe potential, and Saturday's show was the original line-up's first outside Cleveland in 30 years.(In November and December they played two gigs at the new HOB in that city.)This one-off Chicago show served as a trial to see if the Raspberries would consider a tour of HOB, and judging from the tight set and the warm crowd response,I'd say they'll be hitting the road soon.

I can't think of any American rock band from the mid-1970's currently performingwith it's original members-unless it's Chicago's Ides of March(and Jim Peterik was in the house taking on all the Raspberries splendor). The original quartet's sound was filled out by a female background singer,guitarist,pecussionist and second keyboardist.

Lead singer Eric Carmen is in fine shape,hitting all the dramatic notes throughout innocent ballads like 1973's "Ectasy"- back when the word was amorous and not an amphetimine- and "Let's Pretend," a track influenced by "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys.

Carmen's foil, guitarist Waly Bryson, chipped in with his hard driving industrial rock on "Party's Over," which he wrote in 1974, a year before he got into a fistfight with Carmen that broke up the band for good.On Saturday, the two stood together. Bryson chewed gum as his long gray hair flowed over his black t-shirt, and the well coiffed Carmen stood to his right in perfectly polished shoes and a tropical shirt. Conflict always makes for a good song'

By throwing in personalized covers, the Raspberries on Saturday offered alesson on how they first coalesced in the 1960's. Before launching into a jangly version of the Beatle's "Ticket to Ride," Carmen said," This was back before we recorded and began our illustrious downfall-and had our hit." The band still seems to end half of their songs on those endless Beatles chords. A version of "I Can't Explain" showed how the mod-era Who served as another influence on Carmen's windmill guitar playing.

The band reached back to it's pre-Raspberries days for 1965's "It;s Cold Outside," a song full of cresting pop hooks that was recorded in Chicago for Roulette records. Bryson and Raspberries drummer Jim Bonfanti covered "It's Cold Outside" as members of the Choir, and the song was a huge period hit in Cleveland.

Of course , the moment with the most pathos was the Raspberries' revisiting of their prophetic hit "Overnight Sensation"(Hit Record)." Perched on an arena rock riser behind his Roland XB keyboard,Carmen sang,"Well I know it sounds funny/but I'm not in it for the money/amazing hoqw success has been ignoring me for so long."

"Overnight Sensation" is a classic Carmen composition, full of engaging twists and turns, stopping for a moment of silence and retooling with Bonfanti's drums that sound straight out of a Phil Spector session."Overnight Sensation" illustrates just how ambitious the Raspberries were.

The last time I ran into Carmen was when he was along for the ride on the 1988 "Dirty Dancing" musical tour(Raspberries producer Jimmy Ienner was the music supervisor of the the "Dirty Dancing" film.)He said,"From the age of 12, all I wanted to be was Henry Mancini or Leonard Bernstein," and went on to boast how he had seen "West Side Story" 12 times before he left junior high school. No wonder it was difficult for him to keep arock band together.

Good stuff. Enjoy.

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