March 13, 2000 12:00 PM

Eric Carmen (Pyramid)

It is wrong, of course, to judge a CD by its cover, even its back cover. But this collection, which features a photo of Carmen staring into the camera with a cheesy come-hither squint, sounds as smarmy as his expression appears. Fans of the immensely talented, classically trained leader of the Raspberries, who composed the band’s 1970s bubblegum gems “Go All the Way” and “I Wanna Be with You” (as well as his own guilty-pleasure hits “All by Myself” and “Hungry Eyes”), will be saddened to find that Carmen, at 50, has gone Vegas with a vengeance. With a few exceptions, these synthesizer-soaked tracks are bombastic yet limp love ballads. Only on a deft homage to the Beach Boys, “Top Down Summer,” the witty “Cartoon World” and the jangly, guitar-driven “I Could Really Love You” does Carmen offer hints of the pop craftsmanship of which he is capable. He commits his worst sin on the final track, where he renders the Left Banke’s 1968 classic “Walk Away Renee” suitable for elevator play.

Bottom Line: Schlocking

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