“…I used to keep the 'Raspberries Greatest Hits'— the
cassette — in my car. They haven't gotten the respect
they deserved in my opinion. With all of the power pop
music you hear out there, what about the Raspberries?
The Raspberries had great stuff. And they had a great
record called 'Overnight Sensation’, one of the greatest
little pop operas that anybody ever did.”
- Bruce Springsteen
“Raspberries are absolutely awesome. What they did, they
did brilliantly. Tremendous!”
– Paul Stanley - KISS
"I love the Raspberries. The show was really cool!
Eric is one of the greatest pop screamers and is such a great writer.
I've been playing Ecstasy, Play on, Tonight, I Wanna Be
With You, Partys Over, Let's Pretend, Hard To Get Over A
Heartbreak, I'm A Rocker and I Don't Know What I Want
all weekend. Great stuff. Thanks for the great music. I
forgot how much Wally sounds like Lennon too."
– Steven Van Zandt
“…Bruce gave me a copy of ‘Greatest Hits’ years ago, and
I’ve been a fan ever since. I wouldn’t miss this show. I
never got to see them perform the first time around. But
I think I wore out their greatest-hits album."
– Jon Bon Jovi
“We love those guys!”
– Joe Walsh - James Gang
“In our humble opinion, "Go All the Way" is one of the
best power pop songs ever, which makes it all the more
exciting that Raspberries are reuniting for their
first show in 31 years.”
“…their early hits, such as “Go All The Way” and “Let’s
Pretend” are right up there with the best of Cheap Trick
and Big Star in the power pop canon. The payoff:
“Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)”, the masterpiece from
1974’s Starting Over.”
– Rolling Stone
“Quick: what undersung band has been cited as a crucial
influence by Springsteen, Kurt, Courtney, Kiss, Joan
Jett, Mötley Crüe and at least two Sex Pistols? It's the
Raspberries, arguably the most influential power-pop
group ever to emerge from west of the Atlantic…”
– Entertainment Weekly
“Raspberries had the happy knack of packing more
thrills, dynamics, pinpoint harmonies and youthful lust
into three minutes than seems entirely decent…an
extraordinary quartet. Let them blow you away.”
“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.”
– Chicago Sun-Times
“It's a stunning performance, nailing both the timeless
hooks and the sexual promise that had made it a hit in
the first place.”
– Pittsburgh Post Gazette
“After 30 years, The Raspberries had a reunion this
weekend at B.B. King's, and they blew audiences away.
B.B. King's was sold out to the rafters… they rocked the
roof off of B.B. King's with their original members…
drummer Jim Bonfanti, the center of their power — which
is still impressive. At 56, he should be playing with
The Who or The Rolling Stones on tour. He's phenomenal.”
– Roger Friedman, FOX News
LA Weekly - Pick of the Week
The Raspberries at House of Blues
A Raspberries reunion is something of a wet dream for
power-pop fanatics. For a brief period in the early
’70s, the Cleveland-based band was heralded as an
American Beatles. Songs like “Go All the Way,” “I Wanna
Be With You,” “Tonight,” “Ecstasy” and “Let’s Pretend”
are as sublime a quintet of pure-pop treats as any U.S.
band has produced, and the Raspberries produced them all
within a two-year period. The sheer sophistication of
their rock-&-roll tale “Overnight Sensation (Hit
Record)” stands up with anything Brian Wilson has
attempted — and more than makes up for lead singer Eric
Carmen’s subsequent lite-rock career. The original
quartet (Carmen, guitarist Wally Bryson, bassist Dave
Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti) regrouped a few years
back, and, as demonstrated on their recently released
concert disc, Live on the Sunset Strip (recorded at this
same House of Blues), time hasn’t diminished their
Raspberries will deliver a fresh blast of power pop
Friday in Hollywood
By Bill Locey, Venture Country Star
Thursday, November 29, 2007
All four original Raspberries will deliver their purple
rain of 1970s-era power-pop hits and should've-been-hits
Friday night at the House of Blues in Hollywood.
There will be no blues in the House for this one, just
plenty of foot-tapping guitar-pop gems like "Tonight,"
"Play On," "Let's Pretend," "I Wanna Be With You,"
"Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" and the No. 5 1972
hit "Go All the Way."
Inspired by the British Invasion bands, Raspberries
started in Cleveland in 1970, lasted a few years and
made four albums, went away for a long time and then
came back. The boys in the band — Eric Carmen, Wally
Bryson, Dave Smalley and Jim Bonfanti — all went on to
have solo careers and their own elaborate Web sites
describing same. The quartet reunited for a gig at its
hometown House of Blues in 2004 and the rest is history.
Their fifth and latest CD, "Live on Sunset Strip,'' was
recorded at L.A.'s House of Blues in 2005 and was
released this summer.
Carmen discussed the latest during a recent phoner.
What's new in Raspberry world?
Well, we're getting ready to come to hopefully sunny Los
How did you guys end up as Raspberries and not
Blueberries, Boysenberries or Strawberries?
Are you familiar with the Little Rascals? There was a
character in some of the episodes names Froggy. Anyway,
in one episode, every time something would happen, he'd
say, "Aw, raspberries!'' in that froggy voice. We'd been
rehearsing for about a month and had tried to come up
with a name but we hadn't found anything we liked. Any
time anyone came up with an idea, it was met with things
thrown at them, booing and hissing or whatever. We were
really getting down to the wire — our first date was
coming up in about a week and we hadn't named the band
yet. That episode was on and I came into the rehearsal
with my latest idea and they all hated it and I said,
"Aw, raspberries!'' and that was how it happened.
That's better than a blank marquee, which never
works. OK, so Raspberries the first time and Raspberries
this time — what's different and what's the same?
Well, let's see. We sound a lot better now. Technology
is a wonderful thing. If you're good to begin with, it
can really help. We just discovered these wonderful
things called in-ear monitors, which remove the dread
wedge from your stage setup and prevent things like
squealing feedback and rotten-sounding vocals and give
you some actual fidelity. And, at the same time, they
save your hearing. So now we can actually create a mix
that actually sounds inspiring to us. The first time we
used them was a month ago and I think it was the first
time I could hear myself. And generally, the amps are
better, the guitars are better and we're playing better
and we're getting along better.
I'm holding a CD where you're all wearing white
suits. Evidently the dress code was in force. Is it
No, but those suits did predate the disco era by quite
some time. It was five or six years before John Travolta
decided to wear that outfit.
So, power pop. Why is it still popular and what is
its place in rock history?
Well, I think pop has gotten a pretty raw deal since the
Beatles. We played the music we loved. That's all we
did. We grew up on the Who, the Beatles, the Stones, the
Byrds. The Kinks and the Hollies and I simply tried to
synthesize all that stuff into my music. Then you take
advantage of the fact that Wally was sort of a Pete
Townshend-style guitar player and Jim was kind of a
Keith Moon-style drummer and, you know, you just use the
strengths of the band and that's what I wrote for.
Also, we started in 1970 which was right about the
moment when FM radio really started to take hold, and
having grown up on AM radio, all of a sudden, I was
hearing 10-minute flute solos, just really
self-indulgent prog rock stuff. And, personally, I
didn't dig it at all. Where's those slashing Pete
Townsend windmill chords? That's what I want to hear.
The Jethro Tull thing just didn't reach me, so we formed
as the alternative to prog rock. It became really
successful in our hometown but on a national level the
record label didn't do the right things. Our white suits
didn't help and we were too close to the Beatles and you
couldn't be the next Beatles.
So how does power pop fall into things?
I think it's a darn good medium. It requires
musicianship. You really have to sing. You actually have
to be able to play and you actually have to write
melodies. To me, that's what power pop is. Pete
Townshend coined the term to refer to the Who's music
and I think he was talking about "Can't Explain." I
think that's what we were doing: good music and
harmonies with manic drumming and crunchy guitar
So what happened with your 2004 return at the House
of Blues in Cleveland? There was no band for decades and
then suddenly there was.
We sold it out that show in four minutes.
That's a sign.
That was for a band that hadn't played a lick together
in 30 years or made a record. And half the tickets were
sold to people from other places, not Cleveland. We
actually had people that flew in from England, Japan and
the Netherlands for that one show, which we found kind
We thought it was just a one-off, something to do before
one of us died and we couldn't do it anymore with the
original guys. Then the House of Blues asked us to come
back a month later and play on New Year's Eve and since
we were rehearsed, we figured we'd do it. Then the House
of Blues in Chicago called and then it just kind of
continued to go.
Do you think one of Cleveland's favorite sons, 2008
Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich, would
wear a Raspberries T-shirt?
I don't know but I like Dennis Kucinich and I think he's
been very entertaining in the debates so far and he's
had some of the more significant opinions, actually.
It's wonderful in a way to be the guy who has so little
chance that he can actually tell the truth.
That's exactly right. Ron Paul is doing the same for
Absolutely. I like him, too. Actually, I hope Giuliani
and Hillary get the call and their disapproval rating is
so high that Mike Bloomberg will jump and we'll have the
first guy who could run his own campaign and not have to
kowtow to the National Rife Association, the tobacco
lobby and every PAC in Washington. I think that would be
a very refreshing idea.
What have you seen happen to the music biz since you
started all this?
Got about a month? There's only about three labels left
and soon they'll all be doing nothing but catalog, like
Rhino. The new paradigm is that you're gonna give your
music away and tour your ass off. I don't know how
anyone beyond the age of 20 is going to want do that. It
doesn't appeal to me too much.
The question mark is how are we going to get this music
delivered? The big labels had it for 100 years or
whatever it's been and they took advantage of the
situation and raped the acts, raped the audience and
once Napster happened that was it and people thought,
"Hey, I don't have to pay for this anymore.Spend 15
bucks to get one song on a bad album?'' You can't put
the genie back in the bottle. Some smart young guy is
going to figure out how to give people a lot of music
for a little money and it's all gonna take off again.
When did a music career begin to make sense to you?
I'd been a classical musician from an early age. I got
into the Cleveland Institute of Music by the age of
21/2. My dad's sister was a classical violinist and
violist for the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, one of the
first three women that George Zell hired. I used to get
to go to all the rehearsals with her and play on stage
and sit in the balcony and listen to the greatest
symphony orchestra in the world. That was pretty
inspiring and I had a natural bent for it.
I took violin for a while, then classical piano and by
the time I was 11, I wanted to write music for films
when I grew up but then the Beatles happened when I was
about 14 and I looked at that and thought, "Hmmmm this
is a good way to get girls. Girls like these guys.''
There was no such thing as a portable piano in those
days, so I taught myself how to play guitar.
Can you describe that elusive magical musical moment?
There are certain moments that you can listen to on a
record that are as transcendent as religion, or moreso.
It's pretty much "Won't Get Fooled Again'' by the Who
and the drum re-entrance that Max Weinberg plays against
the little synth backdrop in "Born in the U.S.A.''
before Bruce Springsteen comes in with that primal howl
— it doesn't get any better than that. If that stuff
makes the hair on your arms stand up then you know that
you're doing what you should be doing.
Any profound advice for musicians?
Find another job. It's such a new world out there, I'm
not sure what to tell them except to just do what you
love. Play what you love and don't let anyone make you
into something else. Anytime I made a mistake in the
business it's because I listened to someone else,
someone who told me they knew better than I did as to
what I should do.
Raspberries Return to LA Next Week for Two Shows
November 23, 2007
by Chuck Clayton for LAist
Toothpaste is good and so is orange juice, but it’s a
goddamn tragedy every time you try to combine them. Like
Seems like a no-brainer on paper, you know — mixing
Beatles melodic values with bigger guitars and drums —
but, in practice, power pop nearly never works. It’s
usually whiny and wimpy and often flabby, too, all the
wrong Paul McCartney moves played by, well, Beatle nerds
who sing boringly about their ineptitude with the
Oh, sure, there’s the Knack’s “My Sharona” and some
Cheap Trick, I guess, if you like Cheap Trick, and maybe
you do, and maybe you want to consider “Saturday Night”
by the Bay City Rollers power-pop, and if you do, no,
that’s fine, that’s OK. It’s your call. This is America,
you know, and I believe it was President Bush who said
if you can’t call “Saturday Night” by the Bay City
Rollers power-pop, then the terrorists win.
And then there’s the Raspberries.
And since this is America, and the terrorists do not
win, and the reunited Raspberries are playing a couple
SoCal shows, what better time to be alive (except
certainly the early ‘70s, when the Raspberries were
first together) and to celebrate what is arguably the
only fully actualized power-pop group in power-pop
Led by chief singer-songwriter Eric Carmen, the
Raspberries busted out in 1972 with their Top 5 single,
“Go All The Way,” a three-minute-something pop opera,
all Beatles-y, Who-y, Beach Boys-y (Beach Boise?) and
giddy and thrilled, and laughing and singing C’mon!
C’mon!, so anxious to get to the chorus that the verses
are literally 5 seconds long. Though the Beatles had
only broken up two years earlier, the Raspberries
treated the British Invasion as if had happened decades
before, like classic groups to be referenced and riffed
on, rather than the near-contemporaries they were.
I always thought that Big Star and the Raspberries were
kind of weird brothers, each taking similar but
divergent paths in the new pop world vacated by the
Beatles. While Big Star’s Alex Chilton and Chris Bell
went in the wearing-their-art-on-their-sleeves,
garage-acoustic, low-sucrose, critically acclaimed,
White Album kind of direction, the Raspberries did just
the opposite Beatles moves: They wore matching suits,
aimed their singles squarely and unapologetically at the
Top 40, and for it received critical disregard. They
seemed happy to be on the cover of Tiger Beat and were
musically and lyrically lusty and enthusiastic, pretty
much exclusively singing about sex and pop music and
lost love in the most grand-standing, over-the-top ways
they could muster, all without the tongue-in-cheek cheap
trickery of, say, Cheap Trick.
The Raspberries put out four albums, all of them good,
none of them as good as their greatest hits — but then,
they were that kind of band. They never hit the Top 10
again after “Go All The Way,” though how that’s possible
is a pop mystery. The Raspberries have at least 10 songs
that should’ve, including “I Wanna Be With You,”
“Ecstasy,” “Tonight” and “Let’s Pretend.” Their final
Top 40 single, 1974’s “Overnight Sensation (Hit
Record),” is a masterpiece of ironic self-awareness and
guileless sincerity about the ability of pop to save
The Raspberries broke up in 1974 and Carmen went on to
have a shall-we-say erratic solo career with high points
like ‘75’s classic “All By Myself” and then more
questionable hits like Dirty Dancing’s “Hungry Eyes.”
In 2004 the Raspberries reunited after 30 years, and
continue to have mini-tours. I typically avoid these
kinds of reunion jobs, but for some reason I can’t
resist a chance at a glimpse of a true American original
— based almost entirely on other bands’ British music —
and that is power-pop: toothpaste and orange juice, as I
believe Paul McCartney once said, living together in
Seventies Rock Candy
Rolling Stone/November 15, 2007
Hard and sweet, The Raspberries were never the second
coming of The Beatles. They were in the early 70's--and
still are--based on a show I just saw by the original
lineup--the rock candy Who, packing the perfect 60's
choruses of "Ecstasy" and "Go All The Way" with Live At
Singer-guitarist Eric Carmen still hits the mod-angel
high notes and no American band wrote better songs about
being a great pop band ("Play On,"Overnight Sensation").
There is no live album from the group's '72-74 hit
streak, which is okay. On Live on Sunset Strip, a CD/DVD
set of a 2005 show, they play every hit and those that
should have been with the power and shine of their first
- David Fricke
Live on Sunset Strip
The Raspberries were the greatest power-pop band whose
name didn’t start with a B. In ’05, the original quartet
reunited for the tour captured here, after a near-record
30-year hiatus. Eric Carmen’s choirboy tenor has
acquired a slight husk, but only a good look at the
faces on the deluxe-edition bonus DVD belies the vintage
of still-glorious teen-lust anthems like “Go All the
Way.” A cover of the Who’s “I Can’t Explain” makes the
point that these supposed bubblegummers mined that
band’s thunderous riffs and drums as effectively as the
Fab Four’s harmonic sense. Grade: A
Melodic rock legends reunite to show us they can
really shake it down.
Scott Homewood - CDreviews.com
As much as the title of this CD/DVD set of the
Raspberries performing all their hits live may make you
think of a '70's glam-rock concert featuring skinny
rockers with flared trousers, platform shoes (with or
without live fish swimming in them), long poodle-hair
coiffures, and bared hairy chests (uggh - I am glad
those days are gone) what this set actually contains is
pretty much the opposite of that visual. What we have
here is a reunion of the original band (at least they
got that part right compared to most other acts deciding
to reunite), all of whom pretty much look the worse for
wear excepting lead singer Eric Carmen, who has held up
pretty well considering it's been close to 35 years
since the band last recorded or toured. Soundwise,
though, all are fine as the band turns in a hell of a
set and reminds their fans what made them one of the
hottest rock bands of the '70's.
But who cares about such superficialities? Even though I
brought them up for comparison's sake, I have long since
stopped caring what artists look like as long as the
music is good. Which is the whole point anyway, isn't
it? I mean, the one good thing about Empty-V not playing
videos anymore is that musicians can get back to making
music and not have to worry so much about their look
anymore. I mean, if Neil Young or even The Rolling
Stones would have started in the '80's (and even if they
played their good songs, and not their later output) no
one would have given them a chance. Too ugly. Now, since
radio isn't playing anyone with any talent anyway and
the only ways to see these acts are live or as "extra
content" on CDs, the playing field is once again
surprisingly level. And, as everyone knows by now, age
has nothing to do with how hard you can rock out. And
rock out they do, as they always have.
Forming in the wake of The Beatles' break-up in the
early '70's, the bandmembers had an overwhelming desire
to keep tuneful rock music in the public eye, which was
needed as sappy singers/songwriters began to take over
the AM airwaves and the pre-metal of Black Sabbath and
Led Zeppelin were grabbing all of the hipsters. Through
four albums full of melodic pop bliss and a handful of
hit singles, the band managed to meld hard rock guitars
with sunshine pop to create something unique. In fact,
the band begat tons of bands who worship their use of
melody while still playing balls-out rock.
The olny question regarding this CD is......why?
Why should a long-dead band get back together and,
better yet, why record a live album? For once, the
answer "because we felt like it" is perfect. One of the
few reunions not inspired by greed or a delusion of
re-claiming some imaginary spot on the charts, The
Raspberries have gotten back together to give their
legacy one last bit of closure. So many power pop bands
have been inspired by the group, it was simply an act of
going out for their fans one last time and giving them
one last look at a band that had broken up long before
most of their fans were old enough to see them. All the
hits are here, and, surprisingly, they don't sound too
much different than they did in their heyday. Though
looks change with age, guitar licks do not and the band
can play with the best of them and manage to bring the
rock to this show.
The relatively small coterie of power pop geeks (of
which I am one) are going to go apeshit over this CD.
Not only are the Raspberries considered the archetypal
power pop band (along with Badfinger), the band is,
along with Big Star, the one most of the power pop bands
that have come along since have based their songs and
attitude on. There wouldn't have been a Jellyfish (or
any of their numerous spawn) without the Raspberries.
There wouldn't have been a Maroon 5, for that matter.
Whenever a band plugs in their guitars and plays
something catchy The Raspberries have played a part.
Sure, everyone will say they've been inspired by the
Beatles. Who hasn't? But a couple bands away, you'll
always find The Raspberries and their glorious
sugary-sweet rock songs. A great album.
Raspberries are back in all their power (pop) and
by Dan MacIntosh, Pop Matters
It’s a little strange to hear Eric Carmen sing once
again about teenage lust via songs like “I Wanna Be With
You” and “Go All The Way”—especially after all these
years. It’s been three-plus decades since the
Raspberries last recorded together, and unlike many
other classic rock bands from that era, this is only
their first such reunion. But the good news is they
don’t sound like they’ve aged at all.
Lead singer Carmen is backed by Wally Bryson on guitar,
Jim Bonfanti at the drums, and Dave Smalley on rhythm
guitar. This live document contains 21 songs, most of
which are original material. The group also covers the
Who’s “I Can’t Explain” and the Searchers’ “Needles And
Pins”. The band only released four CDs during its short
half-decade together, so they had to throw in a few
favorite outside songs just to keep their sanity.
Sadly, the Raspberries broke up because their power-pop
sounds were quickly being drowned out by all the
progressive junk released in the ‘70s. But Bruce
Springsteen’s liner notes for this two-disc package
reveal that musician-fans saw the group as more than
just a lightweight power-pop outfit. Springsteen notes:
“Soaring choruses, Beach Boy harmonies over crunchy Who
guitars, lyrics simultaneously innocent, lascivious, and
all about sex, sex, sex continue to make for an
unbeatable combination.” Another fan at the time, John
Lennon, is also pictured wearing a Raspberries
sweatshirt. Had there been more average fans that got
it, perhaps the Raspberries back catalogue for this
reunion tour might have been much bigger. Such are the
It’s easy to lump the Raspberries in with other
pioneering power-pop acts like Badfinger and Big Star.
But unlike those two cult acts, the Raspberries
experienced a brief life on the top of the charts.
Still, power-pop fans don’t hold Raspberries’ big hits
against them. The group combined memorable melodies with
great rock guitar better than most. So they deserved to
have hits, God bless ‘em.
I can remember loving “Go All The Way” back in junior
high school, even though I didn’t really realize how
sexual it was at the time. It was played on the school
bus radio in between Elton John and Kiss songs. But
there was an urgency, a passion to it; one that I would
later also relate to in Clash and Springsteen songs.
There was also that great Wally Bryson guitar riff that
couldn’t be beat.
“Go All The Way” is included on Disc 2, along with the
cream of the Raspberries’ crop. This second disc begins
with “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)”, which Carmen
introduces by describing the transistor radio he
listened to under his pillow as a child. “Overnight
Sensation” features Carmen’s piano and layered vocals.
It’s probably outlines a music fan’s dream, and every
music journalist’s fantasy—let’s be honest—too. Ah, to
hear your music on the radio.
With “Ecstasy”, also on this second CD, the Raspberries
get all the inner Who out of their system. It features a
Keith Moon-esque wild drum intro and a Pete Townshend
riff. Rodger Daltrey will never sing nearly as smoothly
as Carmen can, and that’s the one factor that keeps the
tune from nearly being a Who imitation song. “I’m A
Rocker” is a Stones-y, piano-colored boogie song, which
sounds a little ironic out of Carmen’s mouth; especially
since Mr. Carmen became famous for power ballads like
“All By Myself” later in his solo career.
If you only own the Raspberries’ greatest hits CD, this
new live CD might seem to be a long stretch of
unfamiliar music. Only about half of these songs are
recognizable to most average rock fans. But even so,
Carmen sounds like he’s having a blast, and the band is
clearly enjoying this experience of playing together
again. So you may just learn to like a few new (to you)
When you compare “Go All The Way” with some of the sexed
up stuff on modern radio, it sounds relatively innocent
now. But there’s a reason why they call classic rock
classic. It makes perfect sense that many of today’s
teens are gobbling up AC/DC and Doors’ songs; they hold
up extremely well over time. Let’s hope some of these
retro teens also pick on the Raspberries because
experiencing the ecstasy of “Go All The Way” all over
again is simply heavenly.
Raspberries Still Ripe
Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News
August 14, 2007
Better late than never. Thirty years after the
Raspberries blazed new trails in power pop and concise
songwriting, they're back with a package that pulls it
all together and gives their legacy its due.
It's not just the fine musical performances on the
discs; it's also the liner notes by Bruce Springsteen
(noting that Overnight Sensation (Hit Record) "should go
down as one of the great mini-rock-opera masterpieces of
all time") and a photo inside the package of John Lennon
in a Raspberries shirt.
The Cleveland band regrouped in 2005 for a small run of
reunion shows (including one in Denver) that's lovingly
preserved on Live on Sunset Strip, a concert album
produced by Mark Linnett, the Beach Boys engineer who
knows a thing or two about mixing harmonies.
Those harmonies are here with the reunion of the classic
lineup - Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, Dave Smalley and Jim
Bonfanti - augmented by enough backing musicians to give
the songs their due. The radio classics are here - Let's
Pretend, Go All the Way, I Wanna Be With You and more -
along with album tracks and covers that perfectly fit
the band, including a cover of The Who's I Can't Explain
that should have Roger Daltrey worrying about job
With the band's breakup and Carmen's solo career, these
songs never got driven into the ground like those of so
many groups from the '70s, so both the band and the
ecstatic audience are eager to make the most of them.
The deluxe package has a bonus DVD with footage that,
oddly, contains only five songs from the show. Fans
certainly would have loved to see more. But as the DVD
notes, "They said it would never happen," and it has.
One hopes the band uses this as a springboard for more
"Live on Sunset Strip"
Recorded in October 2005 at the House of Blues in Los
Angeles, this two-CD set captures Cleveland's
Raspberries on the tail end of a triumphant reunion
tour. Thirty-plus years after the band's heyday, "I
Wanna Be with You," "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)"
and the immortal "Go All the Way" continue to be a
source of civic pride. A bonus DVD features vigorous
performances of those hits (plus "Tonight" and
"Ecstasy") by Eric Carmen and friends, hailed in Bruce
Springsteen's liner notes as "THE great underrated power
pop masters." Sweet! Now would a new studio album be
asking too much? A-
Plain Dealer Pop Music Critic
Goldmine Extra Review: The Raspberries — Live on
A 33-year absence made hearts grow fonder for the
In 2005, the band that practically drew up the
blueprints for power-pop — along with Big Star, of
course — and influenced everybody from KISS to Cheap
Trick to Teenage Fanclub to Joan Jett and Bruce
Springsteen reunited for a brief series of shows, a VH-1
special and a concert broadcast on XM Satellite Radio,
and what a welcome return to form it was.
Channeling Beach Boys' harmonies and the '60s British
Invasion guitar rock of the Who and the Hollies through
a colorful prism of classic pop, the Raspberries were
critics' darlings and scored a string of hits in the
'70s, before an acrimonious split in 1975.
From the initial splash of their debut record in 1972,
which birthed the tear-stained balled "Don't Want to Say
Goodbye" and the fan favorite "Go All The Way," through
1974's Starting Over, the Raspberries produced
bittersweet, seamless pop-rock with just enough bite to
There was heartache in their gorgeous vocal harmonies
and hooks that proved irresistible even to tin ears.
Over the years, the Raspberries' legend grew, and calls
for a return grew louder. Answering the bell, the
Raspberries' original lineup of guitarist/keyboardist
Eric Carmen, drummer Jim Bonfanti, guitarist Wally
Bryson and bassist Dave Smalley put aside past
differences and rocked the House of Blues on Los
Angeles' Sunset Strip on Oct. 21, 2005, with an
energetic, raucous performance that was captured by
producer and Grammy-winning engineer Mark Linett.
And now, those who weren't there can experience it for
themselves with Rykodisc's Live on Sunset Strip.
Available in two versions — a deluxe digipak with 21
tracks spread across two CDS, plus a bonus five-song
DVD, and a 13-song CD of the band's best-known songs —
Live on Sunset Strip shows time hasn't rusted the
"I Wanna Be With You," with its chiming guitars and
tender verses, kicks off the set with "snap, crackle,
pop" drumming and '50s-style vocal harmonizing, and it's
followed by a tough, sharp cover of the Who's "Can't
Explain." Later, the Raspberries play a flawless version
of "Needles And Pins" that rings so true it sounds like
their own creation.
Getting back to Raspberries' originals, the band
launches headlong into the swaggering rocker "Play On"
and a rollicking version of "Tonight," with Bryson
spinning off barbed snarls of slightly distorted guitar
that leave the crowd chanting his name.
The touching, country-rock swing of "Should I Wait"
folds heartache into the jangle-pop of the Byrds, and
"Let's Pretend" swoons so perfectly it magnetically
draws lovers together. A highlight of Disc 2, obviously,
is "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)," with Carmen at
the piano, pounding it and suavely massaging the ivories
to fit his mood. Other gems include Carmen's "love
letter to the Who," a scorching hot "I Don't Know What I
Want," and the spirited closer "Go All The Way," still a
marvel of pop construction that aches with sexual
desperation and longing.
Hopefully, the Raspberries won't stop here.
The Return of The Raspberries
FMQB Retro-Active: Ken Sharp
July 26, 2007
SWEETER THAN EVER… THE RASPBERRIES RETURN… More than
three decades since they released their last record,
1974’s acclaimed Starting Over (voted by Rolling Stone
as one of the best albums of the year), Cleveland’s
seminal power pop titans The Raspberries return with a
terrific new CD, Raspberries Live On Sunset Strip (Rykodisc).
Recorded live at L.A.’s House Of Blues in October of
2005, the CD is available in two configurations: a
13-track greatest hits collection and 21-song set with
bonus DVD containing five cuts filmed at the L.A. show -
“I Wanna Be With You,” “Tonight,” “Ecstasy,” "Overnight
Sensation (Hit Record)” and "Go All The Way.”
Raspberries Live On Sunset Strip delivers on all fronts.
It’s a marvelous primer of timeless power pop,
picture-perfect songs boasting sweeping melodies, lush
harmonies, and fiery musicianship.
Produced by Eric Carmen and Mark Linett, renowned for
his work on Brian Wilson’s Grammy nominated Smile album,
Live On Sunset Strip is crammed with all the essential
Raspberries gems - “Go All The Way,” "I Wanna Be With
You,” “Tonight,” “Ecstasy,” “Overnight Sensation (Hit
Record),” “If You Change Your Mind,” “Let’s Pretend,”
“Nobody Knows,” “Last Dance,” “Hard To Get Over a
Heartbreak,” “Party’s Over,” “Should I Wait,” “I Can
Remember” and countless others. What’s most impressive
about the CD is how good these songs sound 30 years on.
Whether tackling the Small Faces fueled incendiary
pop/rock aggression of “Tonight”, country-rock stylings
of “Should I Wait” and “Last Dance” or more complex,
orchestrated fare like “Overnight Sensation (Hit
Record)” or “I Can Remember,” the band nails it. Perhaps
even more surprisingly, many of these live reworkings,
benefiting from current technology and the band’s
seasoned musicianship, sound more full-bodied and
explosive than the original Capitol recordings. And
that’s no mean feat.
Showcasing liner notes penned by long-time fan Bruce
Springsteen who enthuses, “Dismissed at the time of
their chart dominance for having 'hits' (Fools!), they
are THE great underrated power pop masters." the music
legend firepower doesn’t stop there. Inside the booklet
is a 1974 photo of fellow fan John Lennon proudly
wearing a Raspberries sweatshirt. In the summer of 1974,
while recording their final album at New York’s Record
Plant, the group shared the studio with Lennon who was
working in an adjacent studio producing Harry Nilsson’s
Pussycats. Lennon popped into a few sessions and loved
what he heard.
Embarking on a 10-date reunion trek in 2004-2005, the
original lineup of the Raspberries - lead singer/
guitarist/ keyboardist Eric Carmen, lead guitarist Wally
Bryson, bassist Dave Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti -
wowed audiences by sounding better than ever.
For this listener, perhaps the highlight of the live set
is the group’s spectacular rendition of “Overnight
Sensation (Hit Record),” a song selected by Rolling
Stone as one of the top 100 singles of all time. Lauded
in concert by Springsteen as “one of the best pop
symphonies you’ll ever hear,” the live version of this
classic is breathtaking; from the intricate classical
motifs that grace the song’s beginning to the uncanny AM
radio speaker sound effect that seamlessly merges into
the song’s climactic and cinematic “Wall Of Sound”
kitchen-sink ending, it’s an aural knockout. Also
noteworthy is the band's foray into the harder rock
echelon of their catalog. "Tonight" and "Ecstacy" both
sizzle with incandescent energy and DNA altering kinetic
power. Carmen introduces another live powerhouse, "I
Don't Know What I Want" as "my love letter to the Who"
and he ain't kiddin'. With an affectionate tip of the
hat to Who signature classics "Won't Get Fooled Again"
and "I'm A Boy," "I Don't Know What I Want" proves the
Raspberries could rock with the best of them. Opening
with the sound of a boxing bell, Carmen's spectacular
vocal and Bryson's slammin' guitar fireworks dropkick
this track into aural heaven.
Rounding up such heavyweight fans as Elton John, Tom
Petty, Paul Stanley of KISS, The Ramones, The Sex
Pistols, Cheap Trick, Nirvana, Jon Bon Jovi, Motley Crue
and others, the Raspberries are also cited as a pivotal
influence on contemporary acts like Fountains of Wayne
and Rooney. Lead guitarist Bryson touches on the band’s
appeal to a younger generation, saying, “It’s a great
feeling to know that young people are into our music.
While doing their research and their homework they’ve
somehow hit upon us. They find us melodic and musically
valid and that’s really great to know."
Hardcore fans may also want to investigate a special
edition package made available exclusively through the
group’s Web site, www.raspberriesonline.com. The limited
edition includes a DVD of the full 21-song show filmed
by Jim Bullotta and Kent Hagen, the pre-concert video, a
documentary tracing the reunion packed with backstage,
soundcheck and rehearsal footage, fan testimonials, plus
a live clip of “I Wanna Be With You,” the first song
performed at the group’s kickoff reunion show at
Cleveland’s House Of Blues taped in November 2004. Audio
of a 1973 Armed Forces Network live radio broadcast in
Frankfurt, Germany including a spirited run through of
Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" and unreleased
instrumental track, "Raspberry Jam," vintage unreleased
demos (“Please Let Me Home Back Home” and “Oh Tonight),”
'70s era home movies of the group in the States and
Europe, including footage of the band in the studio
recording their 1973 album, Side 3, unseen interviews
taped for the band’s VH1 “Hanging with Raspberries” TV
special and much more make this an essential purchase
for any self-respecting music fan.
As for any new Raspberries music, Bonfanti reveals, “I’d
like us to go back into the studio. It would be so much
fun to do that. I’m always being asked, ‘What about the
future?’ Who knows? This thing seems to have a mind of
its own. In a funny sense it seems to be taking us where
it wants to take us and we almost have no say in it
Music views, news and reviews
By Ken Barnes
Raspberries, Live on Sunset Strip (out July 31): This
fell into my
hands like manna from rock 'n' roll heaven -- a double
CD from the
legendary Cleveland power-popsters' recent reunion tour
DVD), with the original band present and accounted for
storming good form, give or take a couple notes at the
top of Eric
Carmen's vocal range. Most anything you could ask for is
performed faithfully (even the complex Overnight
Sensation) yet with
a raw live edge. My fave? The power-packed Small Faces
— USAToday.com, July 19, 2007
Bruce Eder, All Music Guide
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.
Raspberries At HOB
By Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter, October 22, 2005
Carmen's sitting as his keyboard. And he starts
telling this story. Of lying in bed every night with his
transistor glued to his ear. Listening to the Beatles,
the Stones, everybody on the radio. And then his fingers
start waltzing over the keys.
"Well I know it sounds funny
But I'm not in it for the money, no"
"Rolling Stone" was my bible. I read every issue. It
took HOURS! I MEMORIZED IT! And I TRUSTED IT! When
Lester Bangs said "Killer" was the record of the year, I
purchased it and when the first notes of "Under My
Wheels" emanated from my stereo, I was instantly
converted. I'm STILL an Alice Cooper fan. And when, in
the spring of '74, the same magazine said that
"Overnight Sensation" was one of the best records of the
year, I took another risk. I thought the Raspberries
were AM fodder. But when I put this record on my Dual
turntable and I heard that piano part Eric played last
night, my ticket was taken, I was cashiered, I was IN!
They say the biggest non-hit of all time is "River Deep,
Mountain High". I had to track that Phil Spector record
down, and when I heard it I said HUH? My life wasn't
changed, this didn't DESERVE to be a hit. If you want to
discover a record radio missed, a true classic, one that
will change your life just as much as any of the hits of
yore embedded in your brain, THEN you've got to hear
It's a secret club. Of people who know the track, and
those who don't. No handshake is involved, you just look
at each other and thinly smile, like you just screwed
the girl of your dreams. Like you ALL did. Your life is
complete. Everybody else is still searching.
But I didn't expect the rendition last night to be
"Bohemian Rhapsody", to lift me out of my seat and float
me high above the band, doing cartwheels in the sky,
mesmerized and elated by this SOUND!
They get no respect, these Raspberries. Or, at least
they didn't USED to. You see they just weren't hip. They
made singles in an era of albums. And Eric referenced
this. He thought it would be REVOLUTIONARY to cut three
and a half minute singles in an era of extended prog
rock solos. But FM didn't get the joke. Oh, hipsters
would understand today. AFTER the Ramones. When
everybody got a sense of humor. Unfortunately, no bands
with such a sense of melody, who could play hit
delicious power pop, have ever walked the earth again.
The Raspberries were the last iteration. In the early
But really, the Raspberries are a sixties band. When you
saw the Vox amps littering the stage you realized you
You see that's what the Beatles used. We all knew. We
knew EVERYTHING about the Beatles. That's why we all
picked up guitars and formed bands. We wanted not only
to be the Beatles, but to be INVOLVED! In this music
As they're running through their hits, and there are
quite a few, everything from "Tonight" to "Let's
Pretend" to "I Wanna Be With You", I felt like I was at
a high school sock hop. My life was flashing before my
eyes. Somehow I was visualizing all the ski areas in
Western Massachusetts. Most of which don't exist
anymore. Like Jug End Barn. You see I was a believer
back then, in music, skiing and LIFE! There was endless
opportunity, and the tunes provided the grease, as we
tried to discover and become who we wanted to be.
And back then there were no tapes. You slung your guitar
around your neck and wailed. It was all about technique.
And this guitar player in the Raspberries, this Wally
Bryson, he didn't miss a note. He had the EXACT SOUND OF
And Dave Smalley still has his pure voice. Actually, all
three of them sang. And played. You see in the sixties
it was about your talent, not your looks.
And then, we hit the piece de resistance.
"Overnight Sensation" starts with Eric's paean, sung to
simple notes. But then the band comes in... It's Phil
Spector's wall of sound, but a decade later. And, now
it's being re-created LIVE!
What can I compare it to... The Tubes performing "White
Punks On Dope"? When they'd troop fifteen people on
stage to be the choir?
But that was comedy rock. That was about intellect more
than sound. This was about sound. The guitars were
wailing, the drums were pounding, and sitting on top of
it all was the pure angelic voice of Eric Carmen.
They trucked all the equipment from Cleveland. Where
they still live. They rehearsed at SIR. All to deliver,
to show us, those who still believe, that it wasn't a
mirage, that they could rock with the best of them.
You can go see Paul McCartney. You can see him mug as he
plugs Fidelity Investments and Lexus. You can try to
party like it's 1969.
But it won't work. You'll only be reminded of how old
you really are. As a sexagenarian clinging to his fame
tries to re-convince you, when you're already convinced.
Rock wasn't made for the arena. It only went there when
the bands got greedy, when they wanted more money.
And rock wasn't hyped on TV. It wasn't covered endlessly
in the press.
Rock was something that happened in your bedroom. Or
between you and a girl. And if you saw it live, it was a
sacred ritual, including only members of the tribe.
Last night was a religious experience. A forgotten band
from a derided era went all the way, and we were along
for the ride.
Just imagine it. If you were alive back then you know
the riff. You're only a few feet away. And Wally slaps
that sound out of his axe and it's like you're back in
your car in 1972. Feeling that you've got this life
thing nailed, that you're gonna make it work, that just
like the song says, you're ready to GO ALL THE WAY!
Maybe you got sidetracked. Maybe life's just too
unwieldy. But for two hours last night, the flame was
rekindled. The assembled multitude not only had hope,
they had faith. But really, it was the precious moment
of being there. Listening to guys from our era, who we
never got to see, knocking us dead.
Finally, I've got to tell you, "Overnight Sensation" was
the best live performance I've heard all year. It was
Remember the Raspberries? They're back!
By Chris Willman, Entertainment Weekly, October 24, 2005
The great power-pop band the Raspberries (left) is
currently out playing together for the first time in
more than 30 years. (I was thinking that might be some
kind of a record for a gap between tours, till I
remembered that Cream is getting back together for the
first time since the '60s.) At one point in an otherwise
explosively wonderful show at L.A.’s House of Blues on
Friday, I began to worry that we might see the
Raspberries break up again right on stage. Introducing
“I Can Remember,” from the quartet’s first album in
1972, Eric Carmen said, “Wally and I wrote this together
on the phone. He had some lyrics and I had some music,
and whaddya know, they fit together!” Countered
guitarist Wally Bryson, briefly resurrecting an old
beef, “I think I had the lyrics and SOME music… Oh,
s---, here we go again!” Would this real-time credits
dispute end in an alley fight, like the band’s last gig
in 1975 had?
Fortunately, any such old flare-ups aside, these four
guys seem committed to burying the hatchets that kept
fans waiting an unconscionable three decades. And the
fact that all four members are not only alive but in
fighting trim is rare indeed; think of fellow power-pop
legends like Big Star, which now blends half of the
original lineup with half of the Posies, or Badfinger,
who had yet another member pass on this month. The
miracle reconcilation means most attendees were getting
their first-ever live renditions of “Tonight” and “Go
All the Way,” which should both go on anybody’s short
list of The Most Perfect Rock Singles Ever -- the
former, in particular, is as if Paul McCartney fronted a
particularly horny incarnation of the Who. Jim Bonfanti
still hits those tom-toms like Keith Moon, belying the
group’s then-wimpy image. Between songs, Carmen tried to
explain where their reputation went off-track,
explaining that they wanted to create short, mostly
solo-less songs as a reaction to bloated prog-rock. (No
wonder they were a model -- of sorts -- for fellow prog-haters
the Sex Pistols, whose Steve Jones regularly plays the
group on his L.A. radio show.) “We thought that we were
being radical,” Carmen told the audience, “but FM radio
thought we were being reactionary.”
Three decades hence, can we just settle on heavenly?
A Hard-and-Sweet Repeat The Raspberries adeptly
revisit their quintessential ’70s power-pop hits
by Bill Holdship, L.A. City Beat, October 27, 2005
In 1972, nothing sounded quite like the Raspberries’ “Go
All the Way” and “I Wanna Be With You” when they came
roaring out of mono car radios. Of course, it’s now
obvious that the Cleveland quartet sounded like a lot of
things that came before it, merging the Who’s power
chords with the Beach Boys’ sweet melodies and vocal
harmonies and delivering it all with a decidedly
Beatlesque rhythm and feel. Lead singer Eric Carmen even
sounded uncannily like Paul McCartney on those two
These days, if you listen closely enough, you might
distinguish that the band’s “Let’s Pretend” is a close
relative of Brian Wilson’s “Don’t Worry, Baby.” Or that
Wally Bryson’s opening guitar riff on the aforementioned
“I Wanna Be With You” is Carole King’s piano riff from
“One Fine Day” if it had been played by Pete Townshend.
Like all the greatest rock, the Raspberries transformed
what already existed into something new and sometimes
At the time, none of that mattered to typical Midwestern
teens hearing those songs on 8-track. What mattered was
the sound, which was as big and dynamic as some of those
early Phil Spector records – orgasmic and full of
possibilities, offering up that feeling that life and
love and sex were so good that, hell, you could live
forever. With time, the Raspberries would become
regarded as the quintessential power-pop band – but back
then it all posed a dilemma for the group. Too hard for
bubblegum but too sweet for hard rock, their music was
such that no one (including their own label) was certain
whether they belonged in 16 magazine or Rolling Stone.
Three decades after the band’s bitter demise, the
original Raspberries have reunited for a handful of
shows, finally arriving in L.A. for a much-anticipated
House of Blues performance last Friday (October 21).
Things got off to a rocky start, due to a
career-retrospective film that malfunctioned about
halfway through. But the Raspberries grabbed the bull by
the horns and delivered two solid hours of delicious
sound and fun.
Part of the appeal was certainly the element of
surprise. More than 30 years later, these guys haven’t
lost a thing in the way of musical chops. Yes, they were
augmented by three additional musicians – cleverly named
the Overdubs – which meant there were sometimes three,
and even four, guitars playing behind those six-part
vocal harmonies. (Uncle Phil would’ve approved.)
Nevertheless, the core of the sound came from the four
original members. Bryson was incredible on his solos.
Bassist Dave Smalley offered up several of the band’s
more obscure tunes, featuring a country-rock vibe that
might make the Eagles green. Drummer Jim Bonfanti
demonstrated that he should’ve been Keith Moon’s
replacement in the Who – he’s that good. And Carmen
could still hit most of those high, extremely difficult
I generally hate when critics review what a band didn’t
do, but the absence of “It’s Cold Outside” (a classic
track by the Choir, a Cleveland band featuring Bryson,
Smalley, and Bonfanti) was extremely disappointing,
especially since it’s been performed during most of the
other stops. It was also a letdown that, unlike other
nights, the band played only two covers – the Who’s “I
Can’t Explain” (the song Townshend was addressing when
he coined the term “power-pop”) and a brilliantly
dramatic version of the Searchers’ “Needles and Pins.”
Thus the show was not, as Rodney Bingenheimer might say,
total godhead. But when it was good (which was most of
the time), it was damn terrific. And during tunes like
the opening “I Wanna Be With You,” “Overnight Sensation
(Hit Record),” “Ecstasy,” “Tonight,” and the closing “Go
All the Way,” I was suddenly a 16-year-old high school
junior in love with Pam Bucholz all over again. When
Carmen sat down behind the piano to deliver a
transplendid “Do You Remember,” with all its musical and
emotional movements and variations intact, it not only
transported many of us back to the summer of ’76 – when
The Best of the Raspberries was essential listening –
but also affirmed that this band could deliver material
as sophisticated, ambitious, and “progressive” as Brian
Wilson or Ray Davies at their best.
The Raspberries, October 21, 2005, House of Blues,
by Dan Wall, Classic Rock Revisited
Set List: I Wanna Be With You, I Can’t Explain, Play On,
Tonight, Should I Wait, Nobody Knows, Making It Easy,
Come Around and See Me, If You Change Your Mind, It
Seemed So Easy, Let’s Pretend, Last Dance, Needles and
Pins, I Can Remember, The Party’s Over, Don’t Want to
Say Goodbye, Overnight Sensation, Hard to Get Over a
Heartbreak, I Don’t Know What I Want, Ecstasy. Encore: I
Saw the Light, Starting Over, I’m a Rocker, Go All the
Way. 2 hours.
It was another magical night of music for classic rock
fans in Los Angeles as America’s greatest power pop
band, the Raspberries, returned to California for the
first time in 32 years last Friday at the House of Blues
on the Sunset Strip.
Of all of the bands that I never thought would get back
together, the Raspberries were right at the top of the
list (gosh, last year the New York Dolls, this year the
Raspberries). For years, there were rumors that the band
would reunite, but the dream that the band’s fans held
onto didn’t materialize until the new House of Blues in
Cleveland (the group’s hometown) damn near demanded an
appearance when it opened last November. That show went
down so well that the group made the reformation
permanent and added more dates, including this historic
return to the Left Coast.
This is the real thing, folks. The classic line-up of
Eric Carmen (guitar, piano, vocals), Wally Bryson
(guitar, vocals), Dave Smalley (bass, vocals) and Jim
Bonfanti (drums) is back together for the first time
since 1973, when Smalley and Bonfanti left the group
after the making of the band’s third record, Side 3.
Never a huge draw on the West Coast, the group was still
able to sell-out this beautiful nightclub, with a
collection of friends, longtime fans (like me, who never
saw the band in its heyday and traveled down Friday
morning from Northern California to see the show) and
industry bigwigs who have a history with the band. As a
matter of fact, like all of the gigs that have been
reported on the band’s website, the group was treated
like conquering heroes on its return to L.A. Must have
something to do with Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and
members of Motley Crue and Guns N Roses all talking up
the band during recent interviews. (Kiss frontman Paul
Stanley and Rick Springfield were seen in attendance at
The quartet didn’t disappoint, performing a lengthy set
of 22 Raspberry favorites and a couple of well-placed
covers. The group sounded magnificent, with able support
from three backing musicians known to the group as the
Overdubs, who helped re-create the studio magic that
made the Raspberries a cult favorite back in the day.
For those of you who only know Raspberries from the jam
you spread on your toast every morning, the band
combined the jangly guitars and songwriting
sensibilities of The Beatles, the breezy melodic
tendencies of the Beach Boys, the power chords and drum
rolls of the Who and virtually every riff the Small
Faces ever wrote (according to Carmen) into a sound that
sold millions but never broke the group nationwide.
That might be due to the fact that the record company
didn’t support the band, that the group was mis-managed
or that the rock star egos got into the way. Whatever
the reason, it all came crashing down in 1975, as Carmen
explained recently: “the first single from our fourth
album, “Overnight Sensation” was picked as the best
single of the year by Rolling Stone and the album
Starting Over was picked as one of the top seven records
of the year, and subsequently we sold fewer records than
we had before. We were playing toilets all over the East
Coast for no money and beating our brains out every
night while driving in a car 500 miles to get to the
next show.” It’s hard to believe that a band that had
written two of the best singles ever released (Go All
the Way” and “Overnight Sensation,”), had a sting of
great records and a potent live act would be treated
like this, but there are many stories like this all over
the industry, many starting (and ending) just blocks
from where this show took place.
Carmen was always the Raspberry, a great singer and
musician who simply had a knack for writing catchy
tunes. It’s no secret that the band’s absolute classic
tunes (“Go All the Way,” “I Wanna Be With You,” “Let’s
Pretend,” “Tonight,” “Ecstasy,” “Overnight Sensation”)
were written and sung by Carmen. The 56-year old is a
great singer (although he does struggle at times now to
reach the high notes), band leader and musician, and
it’s not hard to figure out why he had the most
successful career once the band broke up (he had big
solo hits with “All By Myself” and tunes such as “Hungry
Eyes” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack).
Bryson, his partner in crime back in the day, is a solid
player who adds harmony vocals to most songs and can
play a mean guitar solo when he wants to. He brought out
a number of vintage guitars, including the double-neck
he played back in the 70’s, to help re-create the guitar
sound that sounded so good on the radio back then.
Bryson is the one Raspberry who has really changed over
the years, trading in his shaggy locks for long, gray
hair, all the while retaining his legendary sense of
humor. Smalley and Bonfanti are an excellent rhythm
section, with Smalley driving each and every song on
bass and Bonfanti adding the trademark rolls the band
was so well known for (think Keith Moon without the
manic behavior). Smalley can also sing a bit, as he and
Bryson gave Carmen a break from the marathon set with a
couple of well-received vocals.
The set played here was similar to those performed over
the past year on the road, with a couple of exceptions.
This time out, the band added two gems, “I Saw the
Light” and “Starting Over,” to the encore, much to the
chagrin of the band’s fans who have seen the show
previously (on message boards, these were often the most
requested songs that the band didn’t play, so maybe all
those posts are good for something). “I Can Remember,”
the band’s only eight-minute song ever, was included,
and the lengthy tune was a highlight. The band did mix
up the set list from previous shows, but rocked hard
towards the end of the show with “I Don’t Know What I
Want,” “Ecstasy” and “I’m a Rocker” rattling the
cavernous club with heavy guitar, big drums and the
bands’ trademark vocals.
The real highlights for me were those six classics
listed above, all sung by Carmen, that brought
goosebumps and perhaps a few tears to those in
The band sounded absolutely fantastic throughout, with
the seven musicians onstage effortlessly re-creating the
band’s three-and-a-half minute power pop masterpieces.
There were often times six vocalists, four guitarists
and even a few songs with three keyboards, as the band
took meticulous care to make sure it sounded as good as
it could on its return to Southern California.
I’d have to say this just might have been the highlight
of my year-there were times when I caught myself smiling
in wonderment at a site I never though I’d see, at an
event I never thought I would attend. Having this band
back probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of you, but I
was always a big fan and couldn’t believe what I was
seeing in good old L.A. Let’s hope the group stays
together for a few years, makes one more record, and
gets its due as one of the 70’s greatest unfound
Raspberries Still in Season 30 Years Later
By Roger Friedman, FOX NEWS, Hollywood, CA. July 25,
After 30 years, The Raspberries had a reunion this
weekend at B.B. King's, and they blew audiences away.
The cult rock power-pop group had a short run at stardom
from 1973-76, and left behind four influential albums
and a bunch of memorable singles still played on the
Their leader, Eric Carmen, went on to have a pretty nice
solo career with songs like "All By Myself" and "Hungry
Eyes." But The Raspberries, whose hits included "Go All
the Way," "Let's Pretend" and "Overnight Sensation,"
became a footnote in rock history.
With Beatle-esque bass lines, Beach Boys-type harmonies
and witty lyrics, The Raspberries turned out to be
several years ahead of their time. If only they had
appeared around 1978, the group would have fit in with
the brisk, punchy pop of the New Wave movement.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. But you would never
have known it last night. B.B. King's was sold out to
the rafters. I'm told the same was true on Saturday
night as well.
The Raspberries, who hailed from Cleveland, were always
on the verge of being huge. But they were always also a
little off. You couldn't tell if they were being edgy or
Last night they rocked the roof off of B.B. King's with
their original members: a blond and gray Eric Carmen,
guitarists Wally Bryson and Dave Smalley and drummer Jim
Bonfanti, the center of their power — which is still
impressive. He told me he dropped out of music
completely from 1978 to 1992 and didn't even touch the
drums. At 56, he should be playing with The Who or The
Rolling Stones on tour. He's phenomenal.
The audience, which covered a wide age range, sang along
with a lot of the songs. People are so starved at this
point for melodies and musicianship that The
Raspberries, having avoided the "oldies" circuit all
these years, could easily stage a comeback.
Jon Bon Jovi and legendary songwriter and producer
Desmond Child occupied a center booth Sunday night — and
were largely ignored.
"I never got to see them perform the first time around.
But I think I wore out their greatest-hits album," Bon
Jovi told me.
Bruce Springsteen was the first to turn him on to
Raspberries' records, he added.
I think Cameron Crowe would have especially loved the
show. He's been a big fan of the band since his days as
a young Rolling Stone writer, and The Raspberries are a
lot like Stillwater, the fictional music group from his
movie "Almost Famous."
A new album is being talked about. So is a small tour.
When The Raspberries hit Los Angeles, I expect Crowe to
be front and center. He had good taste three decades
ago, and he will be happy to hear that nothing's
The Raspberries Blossom Once More
by Greg Prato.
By Jonathan Cohen. February 09, 2005
With a smattering of recent live shows receiving rave
reviews, reunited power pop quartet the Raspberries have
fans clamoring for a full-fledged tour. It may very well
happen, but before committing to such an endeavor,
singer/guitarist Eric Carmen, guitarist Wally Bryson,
bassist David Smalley, and drummer Jim Bonfanti want to
make sure things are just right. "We are discussing it,"
Carmen tells Billboard.com. "There are a number of ways
we can go about doing this. We've played three shows so
far, and they've all turned out great, and I want to be
able to keep that quality level where it is. We're
talking to a number of different people; we've got a
bunch of offers from agents, managers. Over the next few
weeks, we will be discussing all those possibilities,
and what we can do."
It also turns out that the shows have put Carmen back
into a "power pop frame of mind," songwriting-wise.
"Playing with the band has certainly rekindled some of
the rock 'n' roll thoughts that I used to have," he
admits. "I think if I were to do anything now, I would
think about writing something for this band, which would
be fun to do.
Raspberries to Reunite
Edited by Barry A. Jeckell.
Excerpt from Billboard.com, October 4, 2004
The original members of Cleveland-based pop rock act the
Raspberries will reunite next month as the doors open on
a new House of Blues venue in the city. There are plans
to film and record the Nov. 26 concert, the band's first
in 31 years. The Raspberries formed in 1970 and
solidified the lineup of singer/bassist Eric Carmen,
guitarists Wally Bryson and Dave Smalley and drummer Jim
Bonfanti the next year. In 1972, the band scored a No. 5
hit on Billboard's Hot 100 with "Go All the Way" and a
No. 16 placing with "I Wanna Be With You." After a few
other minor hits, the group underwent lineup changes and
took "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" to No. 18 on the
chart in 1974, the year before disbanding.
Prep Their Return
by Melinda Newman.
Excerpt from Billboard, October 30, 2004
In our humble opinion, "Go All the Way" is one of the
best power pop songs ever, which makes it all the more
exciting that the Raspberries are reuniting for their
first show in 31 years. And Carmen tells Billboard that
there may be more shows coming, given the tremendous
response to the 1,200-seat HOB date, which sold out in
less than an hour. The Raspberries first considered a
reunion four years ago, but Carmen says the offer from
promoters would not have allowed the band to put on a
show with the production values it felt its fans
deserved. "My caveat has always been that there's a
mythology about the band, and I don't want to burst that
bubble. If we couldn't put on a good concert, I didn't
want to do it." But Carmen says they've all kept their
chops. "Thanks to good attitudes and new technology, we
sound better than we ever did!"
Carmen admits he loves the idea of a group from the '70s
that actually features all original members instead of a
front man and fill-in players. "But the best part is
that for the first time in 30 years, here are these old
dear friends who can be friends again."
Raspberries Get Together
- Seventies pop band reunites
By Greg Prato.
Excerpt from RollingStone.com, December 30, 2004
The original lineup of Seventies power pop band the
Raspberries -- singer Eric Carmen, guitarist Wally
Bryson, bassist David Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti
-- are set to reunite for a handful of live gigs and,
quite possibly, a full tour in 2005.
Before their 1975 split, the Raspberries scored a number
of sizeable hits with their Beatles-meet-the-Who sound,
including "Go All the Way," "I Wanna Be With You" and
"Overnight Sensation." And while Carmen made his mark as
a solo artist in the ensuing years ("All By Myself,"
"Hungry Eyes"), the Raspberries' shadow continued to
loom large. So large that Carmen became squeamish about
"Over thirty-plus years, a certain myth has grown up
around the band. And the last thing I ever wanted to do
was put us on a stage somewhere, in less than the best
circumstances, and pop the bubble, have the fans come in
and say, 'Gee, they weren't that good,'" admits Carmen.
"It's your responsibility to give them something to be
"But it went absolutely beautifully," says Carmen of the
group's experimental reunion gig at Cleveland's House of
Blues the day after Thanksgiving. "We sold the date out
in about four minutes, and everybody who was there had a
phenomenal time." The show was such a success that the
Raspberries decided to return for a New Year's set
As far as the set list, Carmen and company decided to
play the classics -- from both the Raspberries
repertoire and others. "We threw in a peppering of
things we used to play before we recorded our own
stuff," he says. "We threw in a few Beatles songs, 'I
Can't Explain' by the Who, 'Baby's in Black' -- I loved
the bridge of that song, so we said, 'Let's do that one
just because we want to.'" Other covers in the set
include the Searchers' "Needles and Pins" (off the first
LP Carmen ever bought) and Smokey Robinson's "You Really
Got a Hold on Me."
After 30 years: Raspberries May Be Back to Harvest Fame
By Dave Hoekstra Excerpt from Chicago Sun-Times, January 17, 2005
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 lineup's first outside
of Cleveland in 30 years. (In November and December they
played two gigs at the new House of Blues in that city.)
This one-off Chicago show served as a trial to see if
the Raspberries would consider a tour of Houses of
Blues, and judging from the tight set and the warm crowd
response, I'd say they'll be hitting the road soon.
Lead singer Eric Carmen is in fine shape, hitting all
the dramatic notes throughout innocent ballads like
1973's "Ecstasy" -- back when the word was amorous and
not an amphetamine -- and "Let's Pretend," a track
influenced by "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys.
Carmen's foil, guitarist Wally Bryson, chipped in with
his harder-driving industrial rock on "Party's Over,"
which he wrote in 1974, a year before he got into the
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.
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 keyboards, Carmen sang,
"Well I know it sounds funny/but I'm not in it for the
money/amazing how success has been ignoring me 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 arsenal of
drums that sound straight out of a Phil Spector session.
"Overnight Sensation" illustrates just how ambitious the