Paul Revere & the Raiders featuring Mark Lindsay – The Complete Columbia Singles

January 01, 1970

(Collectors’ Choice Music)

 

www.ccmusic.com

 

Paul Revere & the Raiders will return… will return… will
return.

 

Well, maybe not – while Revere and the lead singer of the ebullient
1960s pop-rock band, Mark Lindsay, are still busy on the oldies circuit
separately, they show no evidence of wanting to reunite.

 

But the band, who despite the cornball Revolutionary War
attire and generally square, audience-friendly image really could make dynamic
Top 40 singles with pop smarts and garage-rock edge, do get a much-deserved
three-disc retrospective courtesy of Collectors’ Choice Music. The Complete Columbia Singles collects
the A and B sides of every Columbia
single the band put out in the 1960s and early 1970s. That’s a worthy return to
vinyl – or whatever it is that CDs are made of.

 

Collectors’ Choice has done this before with Gary Lewis
& the Playboys, Jan & Dean and Jay & the Americans. This is
probably the best so far, since the Raiders were more of a live band than the
others, thus they weren’t as dependent on studio wizardry to sound good or
shape their sound. And Bob Irwin’s mastering job makes the singles, be they
mono or stereo, sound full-bodied and alive.

 

The Raiders weren’t a garage band, exactly. Their instinct
was to brighten rather than scuff up their songs. But they did have ones – like
“Just Like Me,” “Steppin’ Out,” “Kicks,” “Hungry” – that any garage band would
be proud to cover. At their best, they also had hits that the Rolling Stones
would have been proud to cover – “Him or Me – What’s It Gonna Be?” and “Ups and
Downs.”

 

As one of the first rock bands to be signed by Columbia
Records (maybe the first), they also
had the promotional clout to get consistent Top 40 airplay. And, while they got
some great songs from Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (“Kicks,” “Hungry”) at a
critical moment, Lindsay turned out to be a pretty good writer, especially when
working with producer Terry Melcher.

 

The group, which underwent all sorts of personnel changes
but kept organist Revere and singer Lindsay as
its focus, got its start in the same early-1960s Pacific
Northwest teen scene that produced the Sonics and Kingsmen. In
fact, the band’s version of Richard Berry’s “Louie Louie” – recorded in Portland in 1963 at virtually the same time as the
Kingsmen’s – is what brought them to Columbia’s
attention. One of their follow-ups was Berry’s
“Have Love Will Travel,” also a Sonics’ favorite. Disc One shows the early
Raiders had the chops to win many a local battle of the bands.

 

The Raiders hit their stride in 1965, when the savvy
guitarist Drake Levin and exciting bassist Phil “Fang” Volk joined Revere, Lindsay and
drummer Mike “Smitty” Smith. They got a gig on a Dick Clark teen show called Where the Action Is. And the singles
they put out – “Steppin’ Out,” “Just Like Me,” “Hungry,” “Kicks” – are
everything you wanted a good Top 40 record to be back then. Superb hooks and
guitar riffs; stomping rhythms; impassioned, attitudinal vocals that have
clarity but also forcefulness and shout-out-loud defiance; lyrics that make you
take notice. It sounded young. (“Kicks” is considered an anti-drug song, but
the way Lindsay and band scream out “kicks just keep getting harder to find”
seems a call for anti-establishment rebellion, a mate to Mann-Weil’s “We Gotta
Get Out of This Place.”) And when Levin left, Jim “Harpo” Valley came in to
keep the sound crisp and hard-edged, yet still pop.

 

This is the period that The
Complete Columbia Singles
is most valuable in spotlighting. Working with
Melcher, who sometimes used session players for recording because of the band’s
touring schedule, the Raiders put out singles that maybe were a shade less
dynamic than the 1965-1966 breakthroughs, but still had the muscularity to leap
forth from transistor and car radios when played loud.

 

One, “The Great Airplane Strike,” wasn’t much of a hit – too
weird a subject – but Lindsay’s surly, seductive talk-sing vocal, very
Jaggeresque, makes it a worthy companion to “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown.” And
“Good Thing,” which starts with what sounds like Lindsay taking a toke, marries
raucousness with Beach Boys-worthy harmonies in a way that seems liberating for
1966.

 

Disc Two collects the singles from the Raiders’
underappreciated late-1960s period, when – like Memphis’
Box Tops or New Jersey’s
Rascals – they adventurously tried different approaches to pop-rock, not intent
to clone their last hit. “I Had a Dream” has a simmering beat and Lindsay’s
voice is uncharacteristically soft, but it rises for a robust chorus. “Peace of
Mind” starts with distorted, psychedelic guitar and has a gospel-rock feel,
courtesy of back-up female singers. “Too Much Talk,” which Lindsay produced and
has a ballooning bass part and a teasing organ, is one of those late-1960s
trippy hits, like “Judy in Disguise” or “Hot Smoke and Sassafras,” that starts
off sounding off-kilter but then erupts with energy as the parts fall into
play.

 

Judging from some of the B sides and non-hits of this period
– “Rain, Sleet, Snow,” “Do Unto Others,” “It’s Happening” – the Raiders were
trading ideas with all the other singles-oriented acts writing and recording in
L.A., trying to
keep up with the changes wrought by the Beatles and the San Francisco Sound. It
was a great time to be a rock band, and it shows.

 

But the hits started to slow as the more conceptual acts –
those who thought in terms of albums – started to pull away. And as guitarist
Freddy Weller and bass player/songwriter Keith Allison joined the band, Columbia started to nudge the Raiders – who weren’t
destined to become art-rock album-sellers – toward the hard edge of bubble gum,
as the label also did with Billy Joe Royal (“Cherry Hill Park”)
and as the Grass Roots were successfully doing elsewhere. These songs are OK
and very catchy, but derivative and lyrically banal (“Let Me,” “We Gotta All
Get Together”).

 

Their fortunes were going downhill until in 1971, out of the
blue, the band had its biggest hit ever with a version of John D. Loudermilk’s
“Indian Reservation” – a song that had been recorded by others for more than a
decade. There’s no denying it’s a kitschy choice, a novelty hit that has no
connection with the band’s legacy, but you can still admire the production
values: Session player Hal Blaine’s thunderous drums, the lightning-bolt use of
strings, the ominous “will return” chant.

 

It was also the end of the band as a commercial force,
especially as Lindsay started to have solo hits. Disc Three chronicles another
couple year’s worth of singles. Some are of little import, going for a
watered-down country soul sound – including a cover of Joe South’s “Birds of a
Feather.” And Lindsay’s vocals started to get tinny and tiny amid diffident
production, as on “Powder Blue Mercedes Queen.” But there were still a few
surprises – a peppy arrangement of Jimmy Webb’s acerbic “Song Seller,” and a
roller-rink, sing-along take on Dylan’s “(If I Had It to Do All Over Again, I’d
Do It) All Over You.” (There’s also a cool party song called “The Turkey” – a B
side – that’s part Memphis-soul-stew instrumental and part deadpan comic
vocal.)

 

Still, if you add up the good singles – A and B sides – that
the Raiders made, the band has as good a case to make for Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame induction as do the Hollies, Dave Clark Five or Rascals, who all are members.
But if they ever do get in, everyone attending the ceremony should be made to
wear those uniforms and tri-corner hats. Heck, it would a kick. And, as all
know, kicks just keep getting harder to find.

 

 

 

Standout Tracks: “Just Like Me,” “Hungry,” “Good Thing.” STEVEN ROSEN

 

 

 

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