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The Raspberries: Starting Over

Album Notes

Internal strife caused Raspberries vocalist Eric Carmen and guitarist Wally Bryson to part ways with bassist Dave Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti after the tour following the release of 1973's Side 3, and with the group's fourth LP, 1974's appropriately named Starting Over, Carmen and Bryson were breaking in a new rhythm section (Scott McCarl on bass and Michael McBride on drums) while pursuing a more ambitious direction in the studio. Starting Over's lead track, "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)," may be Carmen's most impressive creation, an epic-scale production number about the thrill of hearing your song on the radio (when Carmen sings "I know it sounds funny/But I'm not in it for the money," he sounds so heartfelt you almost believe the guy), and while it's the most polished piece of work on Starting Over, the album does represent a switch from the straightforward rock sound of Side 3. Starting Over does feature some potent rock & roll, especially "Party's Over" (Bryson's rollicking elegy for the band's first lineup), the superb Who pastiche "I Don't Know What I Want" and the strutting "Play On," but the production and texture are a good bit smoother and glossier than the relatively gritty Side 3, and both "Cruisin' Music" and "All Through the Night" suggest Carmen had been listening to a lot of early Beach Boys sides. Similarly, there's a sweetness to "Rose Colored Glasses" and "Cry" that recalls the melodramatic moments of the group's first two albums, and the closing title track anticipates the grandiose tone of Carmen's later solo work, though on the other end of the scale the oddball tape loops on "Hands on You" sound almost avant-garde in this context. The diversity, ambition and polish of Starting Over indicated that much like Side 3, this album was an effort to set aside the "bubblegum popmeisters" tag that had been unfairly hung on the Raspberries after their debut LP, though rather than showing how hard they could rock, this disc was supposed to demonstrate how clever and creative they were. While there's no arguing Starting Over was the work of a very smart and gifted band, anyone who had been listening to their work already knew that. Still, it's a fine farewell from one of the best American pop bands of their era, though they didn't know it would be their last album when they were making it. ~ Mark Deming


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