Before he was a lite-FM staple in the 90’s thanks to his Dirty Dancing soundtrack jem (sarcasm implied here) “Hungry Eyes,” Eric Carmen was a founding member of the influential and sadly underrated power pop band The Raspberries. The just-released 30-song collection Essential Eric Carmen serves as a perfect reminder of just how strong a pop songwriter Carmen was.
Unlikely many cash grabs disguised as “best of” albums, Legacy’s Essential series has always done a stellar job of digging deep into an artist’s catalogue to borrow enough songs to strongly demonstrate the depth and range of the musicians. This latest collection is a perfect example. Carmen’s career dates back to the late ‘60s with a short-lived project alongside Cyrus Erie (the song “Get the Message Out” kicks off this collection of songs), but he first started to get major exposure when he founded The Raspberries in the early 1970s. They only had four proper records, but like their contemporaries in Big Star, their albums went on to inspire an entire generation of bands (artists as varied as Tom Petty and Axl Rose have cited The Raspberries as a strong musical influence).
Essential includes six Raspberries tracks, including one stellar live one, but the bulk of the songs on this two-disc set focus on Carmen’s solo work, which began in 1976 and continues today (his latest album came out just months ago). While not every track here holds up decades after its release (“Make Me Lose Control” was perfect for its time in 1988, but clearly had a shelf life that didn’t carry it much past that decade). It’s the deeper tracks here, the once that didn’t spend a lot of time on the charts, that go to show just how strong a songwriter Carmen was (is).
Eric Carmen – The Essential/2 CDs/30 tracks/Arista & Legacy/2014