More than a few bands have spent their entire careers trying to achieve the pure pop perfection of “Go All the Way” by the Raspberries — and that was just the first three minutes and 22 seconds of the Raspberries’ first album. Raspberries never quite reaches the transcendent glory of its first cut again, but as a synthesis of British Invasion-era pop influences and ’70s rock crunch and drive, it’s all but faultless. While the Beatles, Who, and Hollies influences are pretty hard to miss, Eric Carmen and Wally Bryson could write songs strong enough to stand proudly beside their influences, and while Carmen was already beginning to display his penchant for treacle on tunes like “Waiting” and “I Can Remember,” producer Jimmy Ienner and the other bandmembers are able to reel him in when he gets too mushy. Even better, some solid rockers like “Rock & Roll Mama” and “Get It Moving” are on hand to kick things back into gear when needed, and this was one power pop band that wasn’t afraid to crank up the amps when the occasion called for it. A cracking debut from one of the great “guilty pleasure” bands of the 1970s, though there’s not a single good reason why anyone should feel bad about liking music this great.
Fresh, the second album from Ohio power pop wunderkinds the Raspberries, managed the rather remarkable accomplishment of improving on their rock-solid debut. Like Raspberries, Fresh opens with a work-of-genius pop single, “I Wanna Be With You,” but the remainder of the album is made of stronger stuff than the debut; while Eric Carmen was always the group’s sentimentalist, “Let’s Pretend” is gush that’s seasoned with a solid undertow of lust, and “If You Change Your Mind” represents heartache at its best. And while Carmen’s partners didn’t get as many songwriting credits on this second album, the Beatlesque shuffle of “Goin’ Nowhere Tonight” and the swaggering rock of “Every Way I Can” allowed Dave Smalley to show he also had the goods as a tunesmith. The band is in even more solid form here than on its first set, with gorgeous harmonies and air-tight arrangements, and there’s a potent rock & roll undertow in the performances that gives this collection a very solid backbone. Pre-new wave 1970s pop doesn’t get a whole lot better than this, and this just edges out the debut as the best of the four albums the Raspberries made in their lifetime.
-Mark Deming, allmusic.com