Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Story of the Raspberries, The Rebirth Of The Cool & Reviews of first 2 albums

"...Who are they? The inspired combination of two of Cleveland's finest unsung rock bands of the late '60s – Cyrus Erie & The Choir – this gleefully anachronistic quartet formed in 1970 & included Eric Carmen (bass), Wally Bryson (guitar), David Smalley (guitar) & Jim Bonfanti (drums). Following a brief 1973 break-up, Carmen, Bryson, & new members Scott McCarl & Michael McBride recorded the band's fourth & final album, the tragically mistitled Starting Over..."


The Story of the Raspberries
Metal Mike Saunders, Phonograph Record, October 1972

"I couldn’t say what I wanted to say till she whispered 'I Love You', so please, baby, go all the way..."

I'VE HEARD the disc jockies turn blue on the air from the embarrassment of stating the title of the song 'Go All The Way', and the name of the group... the Raspberries. Now what sort of a dorky name is that? Just at a time when the Revolution had cleaned up all our music, made it fit for human consumption, along came groups like Grand Funk to corrupt the kids. And then their progeny! Not only that, but now from the other side of the fence, the Raspberries – no regard for vibes, no menowness, none of the things that made our counter-culture what it is today. What's a respectable 1972 DJ to do. Just when you're getting hip, so making dope on the job, learning how to talk slower than the speed of sound... Shit.

Besides, it's obvious that these Raspberries are out-and-out reactionaires, utilizing Beatles riffs from the dark ages back before the Grateful Starship discovered rock in 1967.

Another early sign, and a good one, was that rock critics by and large hated the Raspberries. The sticker affixed to the group's LP seemed to be the problem – yes, that sticker...Now really. You have to remember, there were people who hated the Troggs. Spoilsports beyond conception of the imagination.

Among the confusion (and the reaction that this group might be lame cuz they sounded awfully commercial and might have Top 40 hits and stuff), one thing got lost: the Raspberries are really, really good. Ask any aficionado of lightweight English pop, and they'll inform you that the Raspberries' two and three-part harmonies are near-perfect for the genre, and secondly that the group's songwriting shows a thorough assimilation of Beatles derived rock in all its many forms. Plus, in Eric Carmen the Raspberries possess one of the finest lead voices ever heard in the style. Add everything up, and you've got a Top 10 single and hit album the first time out, and quite possibly the most promising group to emerge in the vein since Badfinger.

Ask the Raspberries what’s going on and you learn the following:

PRM: How long have you been together?

Eric: Two years. I was in only one band before the Raspberries, and that was Cyrus Erie...we recorded two or three terrible singles for Epic. Wally, Dave, and Jim were all in The Choir, who had a semi-hit with 'It's Cold Outside'.

Dave: Forming the Raspberries was a logical outgrowth of our previous experiences. If you don't count the James Gang, the Outsiders were the only group to ever make it out of Cleveland, and sometime shortly after that the local rock and roll scene died.

PRM: How much original material had each of you written before your first album?

Wally: About 50-100 songs each; Eric, Dave, and myself. Some of the tunes on the album were written just a week or two before it was recorded. AS a bar band we couldn't play original material, we had to do Beatles and Stones stuff. So it was a big thing getting to record our own material.

PRM: How did you (Eric) learn to sing like that?

Eric: From having sung in groups 6 or 7 years, with my first obsession having been trying to sound like Paul McCartney. There were times in my singing career when I was Roger Daltrey, at times I was Steve Marriott, and for one brief period I was Robert Plant. But Paul McCartney was the biggest influence, and my own style developed out of that.

PRM: When will there be a second Raspberries album out?

Wally: We just finished recording it. We do much more rock and roll on our new album because we're much more of a R&R group than our first LP indicated.

Eric: With the first album, we wanted to demonstrate a variance of styles. Some songs wound up orchestrated, and we had trouble reproducing them on stage. Because we don't want to wind up like the Bee Gees, toting a 30-piece orchestra around, this time we wanted to have more songs that would be good stage numbers.

PRM: What do you think of Badfinger?

Dave: They're really good. They sort of have an advantage, being from Liverpool and being on the Beatles' label.

Eric: I love their albums, because they sound just like the Beatles. We played on the bottom of a local bill featuring Badfinger about two years ago, when we'd just been together three months, and they were really trying then – I thought they were just about the best rock and roll band I had ever heard.

Wally: It floored us that you mentioned the Left Banke before we started the interview. Although they only had two hits, they were a heavy influence on both Eric's group and the one Dave, Jim, and I came out of.

PRM: What were you saying about the Hollies earlier?

Wally: That I liked the old Hollies best, back when Graham Nash was with them. Blaring harmonica's and stuff.

PRM: Can you reproduce your recorded vocals outside of the studio?

Dave: Yes. We really sing like that.

PRM: As far as vocals go, what did you think of the mid-60s Beach Boys?

Eric: Tremendous. Now there was a group.

Wally: You can't say enough about some of the things Brian Wilson did. Really. Our own *** is a tremendous producer. But Brian Wilson...he was both a one-man group and a superproducer all in one.

PRM: What sort of stage act do you want to have?

Dave: We don’t like audiences that sit on their asses stoned...Ideally, we'd like to help bring hysteria back to rock and roll shows.

PRM: Finally, do you see your success as symbolizing anything in particular?

Eric: That a tender teenage sex-oriented song can still make it...if it has a good melody.

The Raspberries' success also attests to the durability of Beatles influenced rock, a phenomenon with a diverse and fascinating history. It all started in 1964 with the Beatles, of course, who like the Hollies had patterned their group harmonies largely after the Everly Brothers. The main effect was that group vocals were brought into white rock in a way never before really tapped – the Fab Four proved that their vocal harmonies could be just as exciting and inspiring as the buzz-bomb instrumental work of, say, the Yardbirds or Who. The excellence of the Beatles' early albums through Rubber Soul hardly needs to be reiterated here, and the Hollies' early work (particularly such LPs as In the Hollies Style and Hear! Here!) has been hugely underrated.

The rather uningeniously-dubbed Mersey Sound of groups like the Searchers, Gerry & The Pacemakers. Billy J. Kramer, and Peter & Gordon was almost wholly Beatles sound-alike stuff (Lennon-McCartney songs having in fact launched the careers of the latter two artists), but it proved to be short-lived. What eventually evolved into the music described by the term lightweight English rock proved to be a much more refined style.

Countless groups following the English Invasion were indirectly or otherwise influenced by the Beatles, naturally, but when groups like the Merry-Go-Round and Left Banke (who left a fine album before Mike Brown and Steve Martin split) emerged in 1966-1967, it marked a new event American groups whose overriding inspiration was the Beatles.

Then came the Bee Gees from Australia, the most blatant Beatles sound-alikes to date, hitting the U.S. in 1967 during the second English wave (The Who, Hendrix, Cream, Procol Harum, etc.) with instant commercial success and an extremely promising debut album. Their specialty turned out to be over-orchestrated ballads, though and the Bee Gees have tumbled down the road to a very uneven career ever since – fine singles on occasions, but the bulk of their albums contained alleged merits that seem discernible only to staunch bee Gees fans. It's interesting though, to see groups like Tin Tin and the Marbles record in a style some would call Bee Gee derived rock, although little of worth has come of it yet.

The late '60s saw many groups turn with great success to a Beatles sound at one time or another: The Herd, early Move, Idle Race, the Marmalade, Grapefruit, among others. The Beatles' own white album/Abbey Road period seems to have had huge effect on the course of lightweight rock: later groups frequently mixed an early Beatles influence with a large helping of the later Beatles style (with the instrumental sound of the white album serving almost as a prototype for many groups). Eventually, the music evolved into numerous off-shoots, encompassing even one shots like Edison Lighthouse and the Flying Machine – it was no longer so much a matter of Beatles sound-alike vocals as it was now a distinct musical genre, with characteristic types of songs and chord changes. Which, when scrutiny was applied, usually traced back to the Beatles.

In recent years we’ve had Emmitt Rhodes, who achieved repute for a while through his Paul McCartney emulations; Marvin, Welch & Farrar, who had a fine debut album only to sputter with Second Opinion, an uneven second LP that wasn't even released in the States: the Flame; regularly periodic comebacks by the Hollies; and current American groups like Stories and the Family Tree-Roxy evolved Wackers (strong Abbey Road influence on Hot Wacks).

By the most successful group though, both commercially and aesthetically has been Badfinger – No Dice is widely regarded as a classic album of the genre. Certainly the group with the most raw talent to burn Badfinger remain a total enigma in so far as Straight Up wallowed in the solemnity and mock profundity that was the ultimate undoing to the Beatles themselves; where Badfinger goes from here is anyone's guess.

Anyway, that's a very sketchy outline of the heritage the Raspberries are heir to. One of the most encouraging things about the continued existence of Beatles-influenced groups, to me anyway, is that the charisma of the early Beatles is still seen as something worthy of total emulation. And it’s not just the music, you know: it’s the whole image. The Beatles were not nearly so much a cleaned-up antithesis of the Stones as they were a reflection of innocence and youthful exuberance – in this respect the Beatles certainly triggered strong identification ties in their audience.

The sort of innocence common to the air of Beatles rock groups is hardly a substantial alternative to the punk-ish or otherwise commandeeringly authoritative swagger common to almost every great hard rock group, but its' a proposition I would hate to see lost. You'd have to be a total jade to disapprove of the idea of joyousness in rock, and the same goes for the irresistible melodies Beatles-influenced groups have specialized in over the years. Oh, I know how Progressive rock snobs can't stand the idea of music being catchy, but us less loftily-minded fans sure do like those pretty ballads. As for the Raspberries' place in all of this, their music admittedly may be ephemeral to an almost unprecedented degree at times, but they still carry a bit of that magic. And the stuff that they do well, they've got down letter perfect.

Where the big question lies for the Raspberries at present is in developing a consistent rock and roll-ish side although guitarist Dave Smalley wrote two reasonably good rockers on their debut album, the group's forte so far remains ballads. This is really ironic, too, because what made 'Go All The Way' a big hit, and indirectly the album, were those raunchy opening chords. Can the Raspberries make it on Top 40 with more balladic numbers? Or in an attempt to guess what's expected of them, will they try and come up with some more rocky stuff? Oughta be interesting.

Lastly, I've got to mention the thing that knocks me out most of all about this group. The Raspberries' songs, any of them, would sound great on a car radio. And that's really all there is to it.

© Metal Mike Saunders, 1972

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The Raspberries: Raspberries (Review of first album)
Metal Mike Saunders, Rolling Stone, 6 July 1972

RASPBERRIES opens with the finest burst of lightweight English rock I've heard all year, a raunchy 16-bar guitar intro, and followed by a verse that sounds like a cross between ‘Reflections Of My Mind’ and early Badfinger. The rest of the album is just as ephemeral, and just as good.

The funny thing is that the Raspberries aren't English at all – they're from Cleveland, Ohio. Just like the Wackers, though that hasn't stopped them in cultivating a perfect three-part English group harmony, and the Raspberries go one further by even looking strikingly English. When you're dealing with groups whose aim is to do energetic, melodic rock, nationality simply seems to be no deterrent.

What makes this album easy to recommend is the fact that there really isn't a bad cut on it. With the exception of ‘Rock & Roll Mama’, an only slightly above-average rocker, and ‘With You In My Life’ (a nice uptempo good-timey number), Raspberries is composed in toto of potential hit singles, all with excellent vocals and terrific production. Even the eight-minute piece ‘I Can Remember’ works superbly, flowing through several sequences and ending with an irresistable chorus.

And if you've heard either of the Raspberries' two singles on the radio, ‘Don't Want To Say Goodbye’ and the aforementioned album opener ‘Go All The Way’, you already know how infectious their music is. With the original material quite impressive and the filler cuts all adequate, Raspberries is much more impressive than Badfinger's debut album, and I find myself already looking forward to the group's second.

There've been several other entries in the lightweight rock sweepstakes this season, things like Stories (ex-Left Banke leader Michael Brown's new group), Chesapeake Juke Box Band, and so on. Forget them: this is the one any true lightweight rock fan shouldn't be without for an instant.

© Metal Mike Saunders, 1972

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Raspberries: Starting Over (Review of second album)
Ron Ross, Phonograph Record, September 1974

IT'S A TEEN-CLUB midsummer Saturday night at Papa Joe'sParlour-pizza, pinball, pretzels, and pop-available without I.D. Raspberries, with no fewer than three Top Forty hits in less than two years, are rocking smooth as brushed steel for a buncha kidz who just won't dance, give it a chance, try a romance. You get the picture? Yes, we see. As the Buckinghams, pop pride of the Windy City, would've said, it's kind of a drag.

But like the survivors from the wreck of a supposedly unsinkable ship, the Razz rock on, more sure of themselves than their audience, more into playing than posing, more mod than they are marketable. They've returned to the Midwest teen scene, 'cause it's rent money, jack; not that they don't appreciate the thirty flirty pre-pubescent punkettes who storm their hotbox beerless dressing room to Demand, rather than request, autographs, souvenirs, anything pop, anything to prove they were there when the Raspberries were. Even to the point of pressuring the visiting rock writers who all at once understand what it's like to be Maureen Starr, let alone Eric Carmen.

But Papa Joe's is more a place to smoke menthol cigarettes and rack up free games than an au-go-go haven, so the better than ever big beat band of today and tomorrow anticipates the release of their fourth album Starting Over. Hoping for that "Hit Record," they wanna hear it on the ray-Dee-oh, so that a million at least can get the picture and learn to dance.

Starting Over is the beginning of yet another hard day's night for Raspberries, who have been underestimated by so many that we almost don't deserve them. It comes down to a matter of attitude: theirs and ours.

Theirs is that they had a Concept – to be clear, tight, sharp, familiar, dynamic, positive, but most of all Pop. A band with a sound as natural and as thrilling as holding her hand. I don't thing Raspberries ever worried much at first about who they'd reach; if their music and material came up to their own high standards, then the message and magic would just feel right to whomever watched, listened, and (crossed fingers) screamed. It wasn't a question of what would sell in the Seventies, though simplicity and salesmanship were part of it.

What the Raspberries were out to prove was that they were as gear as any guys that ever worked a Liverpool cellar into a sweat. Groups like the Who, Small, Faces, and Stones, not to mention the Fabs, provided the most basic kind of challenge. Girls are only as impressed with you as you are with yourself, and four very self-impressed young mods could be very impressive.

Pop gave the emerging mods of the Midwest something to master, to get down letter perfect – as essentially pointless a goal, perhaps, as memorizing the Bible, but undeniably a kind of code that only a few could speak as it was meant to be spoken.

It's especially sweet and particularly important for the Raspberries to stay in touch with each other and audiences as living proof that neat can be nice and still have a heavy backbeat. But as much as they're practicing popstars, they're also accomplished record people. Thus, Starting Over, the first record by the reformed Razz is a deliberate extention of the image directly responsible for the original band's personal and musical split late last year.

Wally Bryson and Eric Carmen are one of the great ambivalent couples of rock, along with Mick J. and Brian J., Ray D, and Dave D., David J. and Johnny T., Pete T. and Roger D. Eric knew that Wally was "his" guitarist the first time he heard him years ago, while Wally is one of those rare students of the medium who can notice the size of another guitarist's bands before they've met and still like lyrics. When just about every other raver in Cleveland had defaulted on his original mid'-60s promise of pop Potential, Wally and Eric agreed that theirs was no longer a marriage of convenience, but if simple sexy songs were to be "preserved", one of necessity.

So Wally, a rebel to the last, came a full circle from when he was the first kid to be kicked out of school for shoulder length hair: he cut his mane thrice to become a Raspberry, no small sacrifice and definite declaration of spiffy intentions distinctly out of time in the late acid-laced sixties. One imagines the individual members of the Nazz subjecting themselves to similar soul searches at about the same time.

You can imagine as easily, then, how Eric and Wally felt when original Razz David Smalley told them he still loved the Beatles, but his thus far closeted Colorado tendencies were getting the better of his songwriting, and couldn't they go back to wearing jeans on stage? Kee-Rist! And then, to really aggravate the jam Raspberries found themselves in, Jim Bonfanti, the powerhouse lunatic behind 'Ecstasy' and 'Tonight' on Side 3, refused to accept the need to present himself as anything but a Drummah. "His idea of a good time after a show," Eric recalled with rueful regret, "was to go back to the motel and do the band's books. He was really happy adding columns of figures in his head.

"I was writing all these Beach Boys and piano-based tunes, and Jim just stubbornly stuck to his perfect Ringo. He looked the youngest of us all and he'd been married the longest." When Wally and Eric, David and Jim, all comprehended that the rhythm section of 18 was going on 40, the time had come for a mutually desirable change.

To patch up the berry-basket came Mike McBride, a nonstop drummer with lungs like Jagger's, who had worked in Cyrus Erie with Eric and Wally, as well as fronting Wally's Stones Copy-band, Target. McBride is strikingly strong, physically and percussively, and it's unusual for a blond to be so imposing as a rock Face. He's got all the butch charisma of Sweet's Brian Connolly, without the responsibility of carrying the group. Mike wears white coveralls when the rest of Raspberries wears black, and everything he plays looks as good as it sounds.

Scott McCarl, newly recruited bassist and writer, provides a balance for the teenego energy of the others. From Omaha, Nebraska, Scott's "Beatle band" experiences (as he himself calls them) led to nought until he sent tapes to Todd Rundgren and Eric Carmen, in hopes of getting himself produced. McCarl's days as a roadie with an all-girl group had evidently lent him a modesty and romanticism Eric admired, as well as his ability to write and sing just like "1965 John Lennon."

This is expressed in most masterful fashion by Raspberries; new single, 'Hit Record (Overnight Sensation)'. A record about records that says straight out that records aren't records unless somebody hears them, 'Hit Record' is full of words like "bullet", "Extra", "demos", and "program Director" instead of "beach", "dance", and "mother" which were staples of the previous Razz vocabulary. The song has the best production any hard rock band has benefited from in years, and that includes the best "sound" per se to come from the Stones or the Who.

Jimmy Ienner has taken the Spector Wall of Sound one step further. Like Tony Visconti, he's in a class by himself for crating impenetrable density from perfectly distinct elements mixed in layers. His dynamic sense is unmatched as the shifts easily from Eric's Left Banke piano intro to the thunder of Drifters-type percussion in the chorus. Throwing 'Yeah – Number One' at us in a million different ways, 'Hit Record' acts subliminally at the same time as it is campishly over-obvious, ending with the faintest echo of 'Go All the Way' in the segue groove to the Carmen-McCarl collaboration 'Play On'.

'Play On' is perhaps the most significant song on Starting Over, because as one of the first Eric/Scott compositions it indicates most clearly the direction Raspberries are going in. "Side 3, as happy as I might have been with it at the time," Eric explained, "was our 'white album'. Things had gotten to the point where we could play together but we couldn't write together." Eric had every interest in ending this state of affairs by bringing Scott into the group.

Scott sings with surprising assurance of the torn fingers and throats endured when you spend "every night in a different bed". The youthful sexual intensity of 'Play On' is underscored by a jangling John Lennon guitar riff countered by a beautifully harmonized chorus that is a ray of idealism bursting through clouds of fatigue. Scott sounds jaded before he's even had that Hit Record; coo, huh? You oughta see him sing it; shy and sure, all at once.

'Party's Over' is as delightfully dumb and right on as 'Play On' is satirically subtle. Wally, its punk purveyor, had the reputation as the "Baddest guy" in town 'cause all the birds thought he left eggs in every nest, but "I was a virgin, believe me," Wally can say years after the fact.

So far as Starting Over is concerned, Wally Bryson is a man of contrasts. His co-penning with Scott, 'Hands On You', is the Beatles Fan Club Christmas record of 1974, with a 'Do It in the Road' Liverpudlian tongue in cheek complete with hee-haws from the other boise. Wally's solo on 'Cry' is also as metallic and methodical as any you'd want to hear in this day and age.

The first side of Starting Over is conceptual in the sense that all the Raspberry writers had been thinking along the same thematic lines in the past year and it seemed smart to sequence the tunes that dealt with their creeping disillusionment. In the midst of 'Hit Record', 'Play On', 'Party's Over', and 'Rose Coloured Glasses', is Eric's 'I Don't Know What I Want (But I Want It NOW!!)'. 'I Don't Know' is the meatiest beatiest Who-snatch since the Move's early singles, John's Children's first; you name it, Raspberries got it on this one in Happy Jacks.

"It sounds awfully realistic," said one blindfold listener, afraid to guess it wasn't the Who, too smart to think it was. How hypocritical that we should be breathless with expectation about a film version of Tommy when the Raspberries can compress Quadrophenia into three minutes, besting Bowie's better than alright cover of 'I Can't Explain' in the process. Wally's been known to break four strings at once with his birdman wrist action on this one, kids, so bear with us. The Raspberries' new manager says he likes to think of the new band as "mature", but if their idea of mature is to sound like a Shepherd's Bush Saturday Night, then 'I Don't Know' is my idea of a rock dream.

'Cruisin' Music', Carmen's blockbuster on side two, should have been the anthem for the Endless Summer that has seen the Beach Boys become chart-toppers once again. Sleigh-bell sleek, 'Cruisin' Music' is better than Columbian coffee to wake up to. The Raspberries sing together as one, "We could use a little sunshine", and "more of that good good music, cruisin' music" on the radio. Promoting good vibrations 'til Daddy takes the T-Bird away, Eric was long on striped T-shirts, tennis sneakers, and white Levis in his teens, and even today, his bouffant-banged shag can't hide the Surf City gleam in his eye. Two girls for every boy, and twenty for every rockstar, right?

I think Carmen's eclecticism gets the better of him on the album's title track; 'Starting Over' would make the same kind of sentimental soppy single as Elton John's 'Your Song', and could be just as big for the Razz. But if it's pulled as a hit and makes it, then all of the disbelievers' prejudices against Raspberries will be confirmed and good fight they've fought for years unwon.

Chances are that won't happen as long as Wally can steal your heart away with buzzer-Berry leads that breathe fire into 'Oh Carol'. And as long as the Raspberries can whip up a rocker like 'All Through the Night', as if Rod Stewart were singing in Keith Richard's lap, they'll be on top and in touch. Like Bowie, they'll try everything once, hoping to carch our eye and ears by their sheer audacity. But the Raspberries have an even more illuminating insight into their place in the pop picture: "We hope the Dolls make it huge," Wally told me, "because right now we're the Only Ones."

If it makes it easier for you to swallow the Raspberries, though, don't think of them in the same situation as the Dolls, who were apparently too much too soon for their own good. Think of the Raspberries as the band breathing right down the neck of fastbreathing piece of hot manufactured goods like Bad Company. If a band that sounds like the seventies Stones, had they never met Brian Jones or Andrew Oldham, can break overnight as the group everybody dislikes least, then the Raspberries should be underwritten by a philanthropic organization as a positive force in American education. They're the most accessible band around performing and writing on the same scale as any of the Invasion era greats. They aren't snide or snobbish, true, just guys with guitars who want to "woo you, ooh ooh you, all night." But you just got to learn to dance if it takes you all night, and day-time, too.

© Ron Ross, 1974

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The Raspberries: Rebirth Of The Cool
Dave DiMartino, Mojo, November 2002

Who are they? The inspired combination of two of Cleveland's finest unsung rock bands of the late '60s – Cyrus Erie and The Choir – this gleefully anachronistic quartet formed in 1970 and included Eric Carmen (bass), Wally Bryson (guitar), David Smalley (guitar) and Jim Bonfanti (drums). Following a brief 1973 break-up, Carmen, Bryson, and new members Scott McCarl and Michael McBride recorded the band's fourth and final album, the tragically mistitled Starting Over.

What did they do? Blew a raspberry in the face of hippy excess and Tarkus-era prog rock via short sharp pop hooks, divine harmonies and contextually inappropriate songs about cars and girls. With conspicuous lookalike outfits, radio-friendly pop hits such as 'Go All The Way', 'I Wanna Be With You' and 'Tonight', they became the progenitors of powerpop: pioneers in a pantheon soon to include Big Star, Dwight Twilley, Shoes and even Badfinger.

Why are they hot now? Between relative newcomers like Ben Kweller, Brendan Benson and Arlo, back through Teenage Fanclub, the Pooh Sticks and the Posies, the immense appeal of perfect pop-energised guitars, heart-stopping harmonies, and teenage boy/girl lyrics hasn't faded, but grown stronger. In the same manner that The Strokes once stood apart for feeling so different from the now, The Raspberries were misfits by design. The pay-off? Plop the records on and they sound as contemporary as the day they were made.

But haven't they always been cool? Not really. With the wealth of late '70s monosyllabically-monikered powerpop bands, their sartorial similarities to the simply not-as-cool, later Knack, and Carmen's post-Raspberries solo career as a Manilow-style crooner, The Raspberries' look and feel seemed too studied and showy by the mid-'80s. That Carmen re-emerged via the Dirty Dancing and Footloose soundtracks – and even had his solo hit 'All By Myself' covered by Celine Dion – didn't help either. But in 2002, doesn't that seem godlike?

What's the story? Boasting a raspberry-scented scratch-and-sniff sticker and the prophetic opening track 'Go All The Way', the matching-suited foursome's 1972 debut album was a hit – and its follow-up, Fresh, was even bigger. But a dual dilemma would take its toll: though critics loved the band, their unique image put off 'serious' record buyers who regarded them as cutesy. Sales suffered. And though Bryson and Smalley penned material, only Carmen's tracks were hits. Bryson stuck around, Smalley and Bonfanti split after album number three, and Starting Over was the Raspberries final souffle. Carmen went on to late '70s solo success; Bryson played in groups Tattoo and Fotomaker; their former group was canonised by legions of skinny-tied Poptopians to come.

The music? Echoes of Beatles, Beach Boys, Kinks, Who, Zombies and Left Banke can be heard on the first three albums, each of which rocks progressively harder. Carmen's songs stand head-and-shoulders above his bandmates' and reach an enthralling peak via the autobiographical, Spectorian 'Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)' on the last album.

Where best to check it out? All albums are available as imports, but 1991's Capitol Collectors Series compilation is the definitive place to start. It's the Raspberries!

© Dave DiMartino, 2002

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MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2009

First off I gotta say that when this record arrived in the mail on Saturday I listened to it five times in a row at wall rattling volume. I don't want to tell you what to do, but it was practically a religious experience for me.

This band was formed in Cleveland in 1967, and Eric Carmen joined later in the year when he was turned down to be a member of (other huge local band) The Choir. Eric also snagged guitarist Wally Bryson (fresh out of the Choir) to join Cyrus Erie, and Cyrus Erie became a local phenomenon, covering the likes of the Who and Small Faces in addition to their originals.

The band was scooped up by Epic records who tried to squeeze a more commercial and polished sound out of the band ("a" side of this single is the result, 'Sparrow" which is OK but not the MONSTER cut that this is). Legend has it this song was cut in hastily in very little time. Shows how incredible they must have been as a live band, as this track is on the same level as the best of the British r&b (they were aping) of the Pretty Things, Who and Small Faces.

Thanks a million to my friend in Chicago, eric Colin, for hipping me to this one.

from 1968...

Posted by Derek See at 8:33 AM


1 comment:

  1. i remember being surprised when mike h. told me that these guys were a touchstone for the nervebreakers early on, but now it makes sense.