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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS: Midnight Ride, Goin' To Memphis, Hard 'N' Heavy (With Marshmallow), and Alias Pink Puzz

My review of these Paul Revere & the Raiders reissues originally appeared in the November 3rd, 2000 issue of Goldmine.


Midnight Ride
Sundazed (SC 6135)
Goin' To Memphis
Sundazed (SC 6136)
Hard 'N' Heavy (With Marshmallow)
Sundazed (SC 6137)
Alias Pink Puzz
Sundazed (SC 6138)

This well-received series of Paul Revere & the Raiders reissues, courtesy of the good folks at Sundazed, continues with four more titles, each supplemented by non-LP bonus tracks. The label's previous Raiders reissues--Just Like Us!, Spirit Of '67, Revolution!, and Something Happening--have already proven Sundazed to be a more than worthy curator of the Raiders' legacy, and these new additions prove it all over again.

Paul Revere & the Raiders were, undeniably, a singles act. The most potent doses of Raiders magic were generally reserved for seven-inch slabs o' vinyl, designed to be played back at 45 rpm over teeny-weeny AM radio speakers. Most casual rock 'n' roll fans would be perfectly happy with just a decent collection of the Raiders' singles and would never have the merest inclination to dig more deeply into the Raiders' canon.

But--and this is not nearly as recognized as it oughtta be--the Raiders were also more than just a singles band, Maybe it was the funny uniforms or the TV exposure or the group image that seemed more goofy 'n' grinning than surly 'n' snarling, but the Raiders are too rarely credited as the kickass, punk-tinged rock 'n' roll band they really were.

Imagine if the December's Children/Aftermath-era Rolling Stones had been the house band on a daily Dick Clark pop TV show, and you can conjure up an approximation of the Raiders' dichotomy (though even that example fails to take into account singer Mark Lindsay's accomplishment as a rock 'n' roll singer to rival Mick Jagger and as the sort of charismatic, swoon-friendly pop star that Jagger may have never been interested in being). Paul Revere & the Raiders cut some truly awesome singles, among the best ever made; they also, almost incidentally, made some pretty damn good albums.

The Midnight Ride album from 1966 was the Raiders' third album, but the first to spotlight original songs rather than covers. It was also the final album by the Raiders lineup made famous on Dick Clark's Where The Action Is! TV series: singer/sax player Mark Lindsay, keyboardist Paul Revere, bassist Phil "Fang" Volk, guitarist Drake Levin, and drummer Mike "Smitty" Smith. The original liner notes billed it as "an American Rubber Soul," and while it fell far short of that particular goal, it was nonetheless a solid effort. The Sundazed disc renders a previous CD reissue by Sony permanently irrelevant, as Sundazed adds bonus tracks, improved mastering, and interesting liner note essays from Volk and Levin.

Although only two of the tunes on Midnight Ride come from outside songwriters, it must be conceded that those are also the two best tracks. Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil's "Kicks" gave the Raiders their first Top 10 hit (# 4), and it remains an eternally compelling single and the greatest anti-drug record of all time. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart's "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone," though it would ultimately become better known as a Monkees song, is as cantankerous and captivating a rock 'n' roll swagger as you're ever likely to find. (The Monkees' version came out shortly after Midnight Ride, effectively ending the Raiders' plan to release it as the follow-up single to "Kicks.")

That said, most of the original Raiders tunes on Midnight Ride are still several cuts above mere chopped liver, particularly Smith and Levin's "There's Always Tomorrow" (boppin' pop with a barely discernible country tinge), Lindsay and Revere's "There She Goes," and a remake of Lindsay and Revere's "Louie, Go Home" (not as raucous as the group's 1964 non-LP single version but subtler, more hypnotic, and arguably [to say the least--we're in the minority here!] better.)

"All I Really Need Is You" is reminiscent of a cross between The Yardbirds and The Monkees, and "Take A Look At Yourself" benefits from a dynamic guitar hook. Even the instrumental "Melody For An Unknown Girl"--replete with a Tiger Beat-demographic spoken intro from teen heartthrob Lindsay--is amiably sweet and agreeable. "Little Girl In The Fourth Row," on the other hand, is the sort of unexceptional ballad that would eventually become the hallmark of your standard Partridge Family album track.

Bonus tracks on Midnight Ride include "Shake It Up," a no-frills jam that was originally the non-LP B-side of "Kicks," an Italian language version of "Little Girl In The Fourth Row," and both sides of a Chevrolet promo 45, "SS 396"/"Corvair Baby."

Goin' To Memphis is an anomaly among Raiders albums. Although credited as a Raiders album, this is just Lindsay and producer Chips Moman's house band at American Recording Studios in Memphis, doing a mix of soul covers and new songs in a similar Memphis soul vein. By this time (1968), of course, it wasn't unusual for Lindsay (who'd become the Raiders' producer, following the departure of original producer Terry Melcher) to create Raiders records in the studio with whomever was available, whether it was the actual Raiders band or not. Still, this album stands apart from other Raiders albums, with Moman clearly calling the shots and Lindsay in a supporting role.

And it ain't bad. Although Lindsay is neither Sam nor Dave, his "Soul Man" is at least credible, and his take on The Fantastic Johnny C's hit "Boogaloo Down Broadway" is likewise agreeable. If the mere notion of Lindsay attempting to sing soul music gives you warts...well, it's unlikely that anything said here is going to change your opinion. But Lindsay is convincing as a Memphis soul man, on a par with Alex Chilton (Moman also produced Chilton's work with The Box Tops), if not quite Wilson Pickett. Freddy Weller's "Cry On My Shoulder" and Lindsay's "Goin' To Memphis" are appropriately soulful highlights, and the rockin' "Peace Of Mind" is included in both LP and mono single versions.

(The other bonus tracks are "Go Get It" and "How Can I Help You," two previously unissued Lindsay tunes from the Memphis sessions, the latter of which absolutely should have been included on the original LP. And Lindsay's liner-note essay reveals that the album's cover was done by the Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio, at a time when a Raiders TV cartoon series was apparently under consideration. This is roughly the same time that the H-B studio was negotiating with bubblegum kingpins Kasenetz & Katz for a Capt. Groovy And His Bubblegum Army cartoon show. Though neither the Raiders nor Capt. Groovy would ever find a Saturday morning cartoon berth, it's interesting to note that Hanna-Barbera was so actively looking to come up with an effective answer to rival studio Filmation's multimedia success with The Archies.)

The title of Hard 'N' Heavy (With Marshmallow) pokes fun at the Raiders' image, while delivering a confident set of rock 'n' roll music that largely belies that image. The sprightly pop tunes "Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon" and "Cinderella Sunshine" (each heard here in both LP and single versions) and some goofy between-song tomfoolery satisfy the sweet 'n' sticky requirements; the bulk of the album is, if not quite hard 'n' heavy, nonetheless cocksure, swaggering, aggressive, and solid as the Rock of freaking Gibraltar.

"Time After Time," "Ride On My Shoulder," and "Out On The Road" offer a consistent Stonesy groove, with the two former tunes mixing in equal parts Southern California-style pop, and the latter overtly referencing a string of Raiders singles. "Trishalana" is a ballad that could have fit on the Stones' Aftermath album, and the whole package adds up to a head-shakin' album that is a decidedly underrated part of the Raiders' legacy. Bonus tracks include a previously unissued vocal version of "Theme From It's Happening," the original version of the Pontiac promo "Judge GTO Breakaway" (based on "Time After Time"), and an unlisted commercial for a Mattel doll called "Swingy," sung to the tune of "Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon."

Finally, the story of Alias Pink Puzz is legendary among Raiders fans. Reportedly fed up with (ahem) "hipper" FM radio stations snubbing Raiders records because of the group's perceived teeny-bopper image, the group's people released a copy of the song "Let Me!" to an influential L.A. FM DJ, telling him it was a demo by a new underground group, Pink Puzz, freshly signed to Columbia. (Years later, another Columbia-associated act, The Rollers--nee The Bay City Rollers--tried a similar trick with its 1981 album Ricochet.) The on-air buzz for the Puzz was as hot as hot could be, but only for about a day; when the ruse was discovered, the humor-challenged DJ once again consigned the Raiders permanently to the discard bin.

"Let Me!," a raucous explosion of primal horniness, is the most incendiary-sounding track on Alias Pink Puzz, an album that otherwise strays much farther from the Raiders' usual Rolling Stones template; only "Down In Amsterdam" seems remotely Stonesy, while "The Original Handy Man" is earthy, Memphis-bred soul, and the rest of the album is largely concerned with a more ethereal sound and feel. It succeeds admirably on its own terms--the 5:29 "I Don't Know" is positively sway-worthy--while sounding like no other Paul Revere & the Raiders album up to that point.

In fact, Alias Pink Puzz was the final original album credited to Paul Revere & the Raiders; by the end of the '60s, the name seemed a quaint relic of a bygone period in pop music, both a mere half-decade old and a million years gone in the self-consciously hip milieu of 1970. And the just-plain Raiders they became. (The CD adds the single version of "Let Me!," plus demo versions of "Too Much Talk" and "Get Out Of My Mind," and an alternate version of "I Don't Know." There are also a couple of radio ads for the album.)

Now, Sundazed needs to rescue Here They Come! from Sony's clutches, and to get its mitts on the Indian Reservation and Country Wine albums, and maybe even a collection of the pre-Columbia single sides. Lindsay himself has already reissued the 1970 Collage album, though a more widely-available version of that would be welcome, too. For liberty! For justice! For Paul Revere & the Raiders!

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