It's been a long time since Eric Carmen has had his body of work compiled -- 1997's Definitive Collection, to be exact, which had 18 hits on a single disc. Legacy's 2014 The Essential Eric Carmen easily trumps that set by offering 30 tracks from every phase of Carmen's career, beginning with the little-heard 1969 single "Get the Message" from his first band Cyrus Eri, and ending with the pretty good brand-new "Brand New Year." Carmen's professional career spans over four decades, but there aren't that many studio albums to draw upon: four albums from the Raspberries, six solo albums, plus the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, which provided him with some of his biggest hits (so big, he effectively stopped recording afterward, cutting only one album in the years since). That means that this collection does indeed have almost everything of note, from the big Raspberries hits "Go All the Way" and "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)," through the '70s solo smashes "All by Myself" and "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again," through those late-'80s sensations "Hungry Eyes" and "Make Me Lose Control." Inevitably, there are a handful of songs missing -- most regrettably, the superb 1985 single is absent, but so is 1979's minor "Baby, I Need Your Lovin'," and anything from the 2000 comeback -- but these are ultimately minor omissions, with The Essential Eric Carmen offering a thorough retrospective of a pop singer/songwriter who, at his best, could splice Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, and Phil Spector, sometimes spiking it with some power chords borrowed from the Who. This collection makes it plain that Carmen always worked in this vein -- it's fascinating to hear the "Please Please Me" "come on, come on" refrain repeat back to back on the opening "Get the Message" and "Go All the Way" -- and just found ways to appealingly refine his craft as the years rolled by.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2