Why Raspberries’ Second Album ‘Fresh’ Should’ve Been a Bigger Hit
Raspberries cemented their reputation as the prime movers of the power-pop movement with the release of their second album Fresh on Nov. 13, 1972.
The band played the local Cleveland circuit before finding a home that year on Capitol Records, where they released a self-titled debut album that included the Top 5 hit "Go All the Way." The song burst out of AM radio across the country, a perfect blend of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Small Faces that struck a chord during an era of the more complex musical adventures by Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
"Go All the Way" was no fluke; the follow-up single, "I Wanna Be With You," was issued in the fall of 1972 and reached the Top 20 just as Fresh arrived in stores. Jim Bonfanti's machine-gun drumming kicks it all off as Wally Bryson's guitar shimmers on top of it all.
Fresh picks up where the debut album left off, adding more direct punches to their sound. But where the first LP included a handful of Paul McCartney-style ballads, Fresh focused on more upbeat rock songs. The album's second single, the Brian Wilson-like "Let's Pretend," brought the Beach Boys' summer sound to a new era. The song peaked at No. 35.
Raspberries once again teamed up with producer Jimmy Ienner, who gave them a sonic punch that retained their melodic pop side. And even though neither single charted as high as "Go All the Way," Fresh outsold the debut and made it to No. 16.
Listen to the Raspberries Perform 'I Wanna Be With You'
"Comparisons to Badfinger are out, because the Raspberries are already better than Badfinger," critic Mike Saunders said in Rolling Stone. "This is the best album I've heard in a long time, and it looks like we have an important group on our hands." He called the album "so good, almost on a Rubber Soul level."
Producer Ienner was a bit more critical of the album, but that mostly had to do with its lack of commercial success. "It's hard to look back," he told writer Ken Sharp in the book Overnight Sensation: The Story of the Raspberries. "If an album is not successful, even if I may like it, I am not completely convinced I've done my job. Neither of [the two singles] was successful to me, but they're still great songs."
There's more to Fresh, however, than those two songs. Tracks such as "Nobody Knows" and "Drivin' Around," both written by singer Eric Carmen and bassist Dave Smalley, are great rockers, while "It Seemed So Easy," with its Byrds-ian jangle, and the jaunty Beatles-esque "I Reach for the Light" highlight the band's '60s pop styles.
Nevertheless, the album simply wasn't as big as it should have been. "Rock critics seemed to get what we were about," Carmen told Pop Matters in 2007. "The 16-year-old girls seemed to get it, but their 18-year-old album-buying brothers, who were listening to Jethro Tull, didn't get it [and] didn't want it."