England may have had Badfinger, but we had The Raspberries.
Up there with Big Star and the Hollies in terms of their lasting influence and simply how tragically underrated each band ultimately was, in 2004, the Raspberries treated a hometown Cleveland audience to a remarkable reunion show to open the local House of Blues. The show, captured in this two-CD set from Omnivore, prompted a short tour the following year.
‘Pop Art Live’ captures the power pop pioneers – led by Eric Carmen – playing their first live show together in three decades. You would have to go back to the Beach Boys to find a group which can match their sublime harmonies. That trademark sound is all over these songs. There are a handful of covers mixed throughout this 28-song collection which get the full Raspberries’ treatment, like the Who’s “I Can’t Explain,” and the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride,” but it’s their own material where the brilliance of the band, from those harmonies to the strong lyrics and even stronger pop hooks, where the group is able to show off.
In addition, they’ve thrown in all of the favorites here including “Overnight Sensation,” “Let’s Pretend” and their biggest hit “Let’s Go All the Way” (a song that has found new life thanks to its inclusion on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” soundtrack).
The show, and this CD set, is everything that is great about the Raspberries. They even managed to live up to their early 1970s clean cut image; at one point, early in the show Carmen addresses the audience: “Darn nice to see you all here tonight and I must say it’s kind of nice for us to be here tonight.”