Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Raspberries

  • Raspberries [Capitol, 1972] C+
  • Fresh [Capitol, 1972] B-
  • Side 3 [Capitol, 1973] B
  • Starting Over [Capitol, 1974] A-
  • Raspberries Best Featuring Eric Carmen [Capitol, 1976] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Raspberries [Capitol, 1972]
A clever label on the shrink-wrap smells the way people who make stickum labels think raspberries should smell, and the clever music inside sounds the way people who make stickum music think the Raspberries should sound--that is, the way people who go to music school think the Beatles should have sounded, with rough edges elided and lots of Chopinesque white-album flourishes. Worse still, the conservatory-trained goo lovers are apparently the Raspberries themselves. "Go All the Way" does so, and better pop-tight than country-tight, but not that much better. C+

Fresh [Capitol, 1972]
The Nostalgia Squad loves these guys--supposedly, they reincarnate the halcyon days of the pre-psychedelic mid-'60s, when rock was simple, happy music sung by harmonizing foursomes in mod clothes. Only thing is, that music used to keep us humming all day, and after listening to this for a month all I remember is three songs: "Let's Pretend," "I Wanna Be With You," and a remarkable Beach Boys takeoff that has tape decks in it. Whatever happened to Gerry and the Pacemakers, anyway? B-

Side 3 [Capitol, 1973]
I admit that I like all four Eric Carmen songs here, especially the atypically guitar-tough "I'm a Rocker," but I swear if there were more than four I'd like every one less. Wally Bryson's and David Smalley's more conversational timbres and subtle ruralisms provide welcome relief. Now if only Wally and David could write good songs, too. After all, Eric had to learn. B

Starting Over [Capitol, 1974]
I don't quite believe it myself, but this really does it--brings the middle '60s into the middle '70s. Full of great singles for a singular time, which obviously doesn't mean this one. Two secrets. First, Scott McCarl is the big bad John they've always needed to complement Eric Carmen's supersweet Paul. Second, a vague concept (just like Sgt. Pepper!) adds dimension to several otherwise minor tracks. Highlights: "All Through the Night" (Eric as Rod the Mod), "Hands on You" (drumless John-and-Paul takeout), and "Overnight Sensation" (about being in it for hit records rather than money, which is what I call a concept). A-

Raspberries Best Featuring Eric Carmen [Capitol, 1976]
Packaged with dozens of reprints and newly commissioned pieces, several of which promulgate the absurd saw that they were as good "musically" as the you-know-who--as if they ever came close to the Beatles' delicacy or insane enthusiasm or melodic inspiration--this is an Eric Carmen showcase, just like it says. Carmen's taste for mawk is documented revoltingly on his solo debut, but on this compilation it finds only one outlet, the eight-minute "I Can Remember." Otherwise, here are all his good tunes with none of Wally Bryson's or Scott McCarl's, reminding me that the silly love songs I love the most tell me something more about the artist than that he or she loves silly love songs. A-