Pop Art Live
I took my chick to see a recent live concert event starring an iconic 1970s-era rock act – one with an impressive, platinum-selling album catalog. Upon returning home, she absconded gleefully with all of my CDs by said band. Although she’d been familiar with the group’s “popular” songs for many years, she was unfamiliar with the deep cuts. “Wow!” she exclaimed, upon finally returning my discs, some days later. “It’s like discovering a brand new band!” Likewise, the latest release from pop powerhouse, the Raspberries, reflects “today” as effectively as it celebrates “yesterday.”
Recorded live at Cleveland’s House of Blues, over a decade ago, Pop Art Live was released only this summer. And for longtime fans, the two-disc treasure makes for an authentic audio scrapbook packed with prized “Polaroids” from the golden days of Casey’s weekly countdown. However, for newbies, the 28-song set is a glorious gateway drug – one that’s guaranteed to leave ya also craving the band’s vintage four-record body of studio work. (The Raspberries 1972, Fresh 1972, Side 3 1973, Starting Over 1974)
Featuring the beloved original line-up – vocalist / guitarist / pianist Eric Carmen, guitarist / vocalist Wally Bryson, bassist / vocalist David Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti, this fresh-sounding collection boasts some of the band’s biggest and best signature hits – from the chart-busting opening track, “I Wanna be with You” to the magically irresistible, “Let’s Pretend” to the masterful, “Overnight Sensation” to the chilling record-closing smash, “Go all the Way.”
Along the way, the band also carves out numerous other chunks of impeccable pop craftsmanship, including “Nobody Knows” (1972), “Tonight” (1973) and “Starting Over” (1974) – as well as the entire string of other Side 3 pearls – “Makin’ it Easy,” “Hard to Get Over a Heartbreak,” “Ecstasy” and “I’m a Rocker.”
But the bunch-o-Beatles covers is gratuitous, and actually distracts from the Raspberries’ own unique “awe-factor.” Perhaps a more interesting clock-milking option might have been to point to the array of legendary bands inspired by the Raspberries, rather than the other way around. And speaking of influencing legends, I’m curious – are “Big Gene” and “Little Gene” required to pay the Raspberries a royalty every time KISS plays anything from its first album?
Raspberries members connect with the adoring crowd easily throughout – delivering engaging, unscripted, yet slightly awkward in-between-song banter. The enclosed 11-page booklet contains fascinating liner notes from award-winning director Cameron Crowe, journalist James Rosen and music authors, Ken Sharp and Bernie Hogya, while the record’s colorful packaging is eye-catching and fun.
In sum, the Raspberries’ music has been tested, and proven timeless. And to borrow my chick’s recent eloquent observation, discovering Pop Art Live just might be “like discovering a brand new band!”