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Change of Heart
Eric Carmen

Arista 4184
Released: October 1978
Chart Peak: #137
Weeks Charted: 12

From the harmonic rock of the Beatles and the Beach Boys to the more heavily arranged Motown style, people have been trying to make rock & roll bands sound like orchestras for years -- and Eric Carmen has been listening all along. Though Change of Heart steps back a bit from the orchestral bombast of last year's Boats Against the Current, its music represents more of a change of emphasis than design. If the Raspberries were a crystalline clone of the best pop rock of the Sixties, it seems appropriate that Carmen has used many of the same sources to become a rock-oriented but ferociously commercial MOR singer. This guy's got his head set on being the Barry Manilow of rock & roll.

So it's unsurprising that Carmen covers the Four Tops' "Baby I Need Your Lovin'," and not only because almost every record these days appears to have at least one Sixties standard. The new album's best uptempo tunes, "Haven't We Come a Long Way" and "Change of Heart," are arranged in Motown fashion, with ringing guitars and backup vocals swaddling the funky beat in slick Sunday-night finery. Sure, the sound music here is closer to Las Vegas than Detroit, but with shimmering self-production and some expert playing (the Section, et al.), the results appease if not please the ears. Similarly, Carmen's Beach Boys-like songs, "Someday" and "Hey Deanie," catch the sound but not the spirit.

The ballads are also heavily orchestrated, and, on compositions like "End of the World," the general innocuousness of the singer's lyrics tends to add yet another dollop of molasses into the mix. But when a harmonica solo is laid gently upon a bed of strings à la a thousand movie soundtracks ("Desperate Fools" overture), I find myself adding a question mark to one of Eric Carmen's most memorable earlier songs: "That's Rock 'n' Roll?"

- John Milward, Rolling Stone, 4-5-79.

Bonus Reviews!

Eric Carmen is more a songwriter than a performer, and his singing has more technique than style. Acting as his own producer gives him control over how his material is presented, but this album amounts to no more than a demonstration of his current song catalog; he shows little ability to tie things together stylistically, so each selection is left very much on its own.

"Haven't We Come a Long Way" is the disco number, "End of the World" has its catch phrase repeated endlessly, with background vocals like the Bee Gees' nasal harmonies, and "Heaven Can Wait" is just a very pleasant ballad. "Baby I Need Your Lovin'" is, of course, the Holland/Dozier/Holland warhorse from early Motown days. Why Carmen has recorded it isn't clear; perhaps he just had fun with the tune. "Change of Heart" is a hit single, but the song isn't much, with the production carrying the music instead of the other way around. "Hey Deanie" and "Someday" are both teen-pop items (Shaun Cassidy had a hit with the former), but they are well constructed and cleverly presented. Carmen's own favorite of the batch appears to be "Desperate Fools," since the album opens with a string ensemble playing a "Desperate Fools Overture" and closes with the song itself. It has nice modulations and reminds me somewhat of "Heliotrope Bouquet," the piano rag begun by Louis Chauvin and completed by Scott Joplin; but although Carmen sings it with grace and restraint, it is still more a demonstration of material than a performance. Change of Heart might make you feel you're being shortchanged, unless demos are your thing.

You would certainly have a right to feel shortchanged when it comes to the album's playing time -- slightly more than twenty-eight minutes total. The album can't even be sold at the normal price in Scandinavia (and maybe in some other European countries), since there are laws there that records must be at least forty minutes long in order to retail at the standard album price (about $12 American).

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 2/79.

Carmen's third album for the label, following his 1976 breakthrough set Eric Carmen, and last year's commercial setback Boats Against The Current, is a near-perfect mix of bouncy rockers and heavily orchestrated ballads. Two standout cuts on the album are "Hey Deanie," Carmen's ultra-effervescent rocker which was a gold hit for Shaun Cassidy earlier this year, and a remake of Holland/Dozier/Holland's "Baby I Need Your Lovin'." A classy overture opens the album, with strings arranged and conducted by David Campbell. Best cuts: "Hey Deanie," "Change Of Heart," "Baby I Need Your Lovin'," "Desperate Fools," "End Of The World."

- Billboard, 1979.

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