Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kicks just keep getting harder to find

If I went through my collection and figured how many artists I was introduced to by Jack Rabid's reviews in his brilliant 'zine The Big Takeover, I have no doubt it would be a number in the triple figures. There's so much punk, post-punk, shoegazer and other sounds that the eloquent and tasteful scribe has turned me onto over the years.

Of course, I don't agree with him on everything. And there's one artist in particular who I have now thrown in the towel on (i.e., not going to spend more than a few bucks on). That artist? Paul Revere and the Raiders.

I can think of no greater champion for these Pacific Northwestern rockers than Mr. Rabid (though I'm thinking that someone else, like Gary Pig Gold, has probably waxed eloquent about these guys). I think Jack has them almost up with the upper echelon of '60s rock -- what I like to call the second tier.

The first tier has mostly obvious selections -- The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Sonics, The Beach Boys, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Bee Gees, Sly and the Family Stone, The Byrds (and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few).

The second tier is pretty amazing too. Or should I say my second tier. It would include The Hollies, The Move, The Easybeats, The Equals, The Yardbirds (who many would kick up to the first), The Small Faces, The Pretty Things, The Zombies, and others.

I wouldn't put Paul Revere and the Raiders in the second tier. Now I'm not saying that they suck. Far from it. They had a some great singles and a lot of good ones. But, for the most part, based on the albums I own by them, that's about it.

And what do I own by Paul Revere and the Raiders? The Spirit of '67, Something Happening, Goin' To Memphis, Alias Pink Puzz and Just Like Us!. I picked up Just Like Us! today and wish I hadn't paid $9 for it. While the album includes the awesome "Just Like Me", which is still great garage rock snarl, the LP is undermined by Terry Melcher's timid production.

The bulk of the record is covers of contemporary favorites such as "(I Can't Get No) Satifaction" and "I'll Be Doggone". With a great vocalist like Mark Lindsay and a hot band, things should be cooking, right? Wrong. The studio was a straitjacket for this talented band, and the playing is tepid. And I think this problem comes through on the other studio sets that I own. While the band's own songwriting improved, the band rarely played to its strengths.

Of all of the studio albums I own, I suppose Goin' Back to Memphis is my favorite, as the mix of R & B covers and originals blends better than on the other albums. Still, it's spotty.

Now, I'm not saying these discs are worthless. They all have cuts I enjoy. But not enough to put these guys up there amongst the best the '60s had to offer.

Yet, I do think that Paul Revere and the Raiders were a great rock 'n' roll band. And that was before they became national stars.

This is reflected on the other disc I own by the band, Mojo Workout. This is a two-CD compilation on Sundazed that captures the band before it was polished into a hit machine. Before that happened, Paul Revere and the Raiders were a frat house party band, playing full throttle rock 'n' roll, fitting somewhere between the grooving Wailers and the psycho Sonics.

The first disc of the set was recorded in 1964. It's the Raiders doing a live set. Columbia Records didn't know what to do with the band, so the label decided to capture the guys doing what they did best. The only bad thing about this disc is that this performance wasn't filmed to show the boys in their costumes going wild. The band takes on everything from "Louie Louie" (they had a regional hit with it before The Kingsmen) to "Don't Be Cruel" to "Do You Love Me" and more. This disc simply smokes.

The second disc isn't quite up to that level. It mixes in early singles, outtakes and more live recordings. And the band is still fairly untamed. This collection shows what this band could do.

So don't take this as a hit piece on Paul Revere and the Raiders. I'm just trying to put them in (my) perspective.

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