Friday, August 25, 2017

RASPBERRIES: The "August Surprise" (2017)

The "August Surprise"

It's NEVER too late to
discover a "new" band.

As a teen, coming of age in Central Florida during the 1970s, summertime always was magical — a season filled with unlimited fun in the sun — and virtually free of rules. And those memorable experiences always were attached to amazing music — my sizzling summer soundtracks. But oddly, the most powerful music often seemed to find me when I expected it least — at the end of the season. I called it the "August Surprise."

In late summer '75, I was blindsided by the Jefferson Starship masterpiece, Red Octopus. Then, in '76, I was seduced by Fleetwood Mac's self-titled breakthrough — '77 offered KISS' Love Gun. August '78 brought me Don't Look Back, while '79 was ALL about Get the Knack. Years later, the annual "surprise" tended to be revealed more often as retro-type treasures that I'd somehow overlooked previously. In fact, I discovered the complete Runaways vinyl catalog and Nick Gilder's full body of work also during the "dog days" — 10-15 years after it all had been released originally.

Fast-forward — August 2017. I stepped out to the ol' mail box one afternoon, and I discovered a special delivery package from one of my editors at Ink 19. Slipped inside the plastic bubble-lined mailer was a CD copy of Pop Art Live — a newly-released double-live set from legendary pop powerhouse, the Raspberries.

The "August Surprise"
As an admitted early '70s-era AM radio geek, I'd been familiar with the band's fistful of infectious hits for 40+ years. However, by the time I had discovered the album oriented FM radio format, the Raspberries had come and gone — before we were ever introduced properly. And that was the end of the story — until this summer's "surprise" arrived.

Featuring the original, classic Raspberries line-up of vocalist / guitarist / pianist Eric Carmen, guitarist / vocalist Wally Bryson, bassist / vocalist David Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti, Pop Art Live was recorded more than a decade ago at Cleveland's House of Blues during a brief reunion run. And it makes for a superb showcase for a band that has influenced stylistically, far more chart-busters than most would recognize — from such veteran acts as Cheap Trick, Queen, ELO and AC/DC, to new millennium artists including Fountains of Wayne, Butch Walker and Ken Sharp. Heck, back in the day, Paul Stanley was so "freshly"-fueled, the first KISS album literally seeps raspberry juice.

But while the punchy and crunchy 28-song collection was more than personally satisfying, the tremendous "high" it offered initially was fleeting. And in short order, I found myself perusing iTunes like a crazed pop / rock junkie — purchasing the band's entire original studio catalog, including Raspberries (1972), Fresh (1972), Side 3 (1973), and Starting Over (1974). Four glorious slabs of authentic analog joy, to be sure.

Yes, it's NEVER too late to discover a "new" band, no matter how long they've been around. And if that band possesses an impressive arsenal of irresistible songs, the discovery can make for quite a "surprise" — any time of year.

-Christopher Long
(August 2017)

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  1. My husband and I have been fans since 1972, over here in Australia.

    1. Perfect - thanks for stopping by! Have you heard the new live album yet?

  2. The words you've written, Christopher, are exactly how I feel. I've only recently paid attention to the Raspberries and Eric Carmen's body of work. I grew up loving "Go All the Way" and of course ."Hungry Eyes", "All By Myself" and a couple others, but hadn't really bought anything I hate to admit. So much more to enjoy!! Haven't bought their new one but plan to. Wish Eric would sit down at the piano and write a new ballad!!

    1. Awesome - now I don't feel quite so out of the loop! LOL

      And I recommend "Pop Art Live" highly. TTYS