Released: October 1975
Chart Peak: #21
Weeks Charted: 51
Certified Gold: 10/27/77
As the former lead singer of the Raspberries, a group whose misadventures prevented them from ever seeing sales figures that compared equitably with their true worth, Eric Carmen had much to overcome and even more to live up to. That band's snow-white come-on and initial AM success saddled them with a lightweight image which they didn't begin to rectify until it was too late. Their advocates, on the other hand, pointed to the several superior mainstream rock & roll items in the Raspberries' catalog as evidence that Eric Carmen deserved recognition as one of America's best rock minds. His first solo album backs up that contention, though not exactly in the way its proponents might have expected.
"Looks like it's Ricky and the Tooth," he sings in "No Hard Feelings," and with that phrase offers the best explanation of this record. Constructed without the consideration of a band, this is the product of Carmen's isolated vision and a studio partnership with championship producer Jimmy "Tooth" Ienner. Where the Raspberries played rock & roll that revolved around Carmen's rhythm guitar, this is production pop geared to piano.
The album impresses with the latitude of that vision. "All by Myself," the seven-minute centerpiece, is a dramatic and heavily orchestrated ballad that works because it, like all Carmen's pop, delivers more passion than pretense. Along with the four numbers mentioned above, it establishes Carmen's songwriting maturity. For the first time, his songs seem bound to attract extensive coverage by other artists. "That's Rock & Roll" and "No Hard Feelings" continue the flirtation with autobiographical commentary which began with "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" and are just hard enough to hold at bay the few who'll want to attribute his new direction to a softening of the arteries.
Carmen plans to maintain the six-piece unit that accounts for the excellent harmonies and sympathetic playing. It's therefore safe to assume that greater familiarity will result in more band-oriented material on the next album, cancelling out the need for the pleasant but ultimately unnecessary studio exercises ("Great Expectations" and "On Broadway") that are this record's only flaw.
- Ben Edmonds, Rolling Stone, 12-18-75.
The problem with the Raspberries, the now defunct band that Eric Carmen fronted, was that despite a lot of very real native talent, they were locked into a stance no less rigid and ultimately self-defeating than incompetents like the New York Dolls. That is, their obvious desire to become the Next Big Thing was undercut by the fact that they looked and sounded far too much like the Last Big Thing -- in their case, the Beatles; in the case of the Dolls and everyone else, the Stones.
Carmen's solo album, not surprisingly, is afflicted with most of the same problems as his band efforts. This time out, however, we have a record that lacks even the surface sheen that made his earlier work at least palatable. There are the usual Beatle influences, running the gamut from quasi-Liverpudlianisms to Abbey Road emulations; Brian Wilson pastiches, both musical ("Sunrise") and thematic ("All By Myself" -- sample lyric: "When I was young/ I never needed anyone"); and, of course, the obligatory rock-and-roll song, this time titled "That's Rock & Roll," which sounds like an uneasy pairing of the Beach Boys and late Ian Hunter.
But where Carmen truly goes astray is in the one or two "serious" songs, in which I gather he has attempted to nudge himself into the present by mimicking his early heroes (John Lennon among them, perhaps) as they are today. One result is "No Hard Feelings," a soul-baring confessional that is simply Eric's addition to the by now utterly tedious genre of lonely-at-the-top-failed-superstar songs. "We was young and we still believed in a Hard Day's Night," he wails. Well, he may indeed have believed in it at one point, but didn't we all? I think it's time for him to realize that not only is the Dream over, but that continued discussions of it are totally unnecessary, the flogging of the deadest of dead horses. Given his rate of growth up till now, that realization is probably three or more overripe albums away.
- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 1/76.
It was the theory of those who considered Starting Over the only good Raspberries album that the secret ingredient was new bassist Scott McCarl, who played Lennon to Carmen's McCartney. Now that the man is flying solo, you have to wonder what can be expected of one secondhand Wing. Especially one who pronounced it "rach," as in Rockmaninoff. C+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Carmen achieved far greater success with his debut solo album than he ever had with his old group, the Raspberries. In part this was because, freed from the restrictions of leading a rock band, he could indulge his taste in big, lush ballads. That's what he did here, especially on the album's three Top 40 hits, one of which, "All by Myself," was a gold-selling #2 hit. * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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