Paul Revere and the Raiders was the first beat group signed to the once rock-phobic Columbia label. This fourplay of Sundazed reissues captures all the crucial periods of the band's career and, in the process, makes a pretty compelling argument for reevaluating the musical legacy of these current-day state fair/casino-circuit dwellers.
Despite an indelible American Bandstand connection with bloopermeister Dick Clark, the Raiders were indeed great. Sure, Fabian, Chubby Checker and Bobby Rydell all took turns kissing the ass of America's Oldest Teenager, but nothing could beat having five hungry lads from Portland, Oregon, doing it in tandem. Where the Action Is, indeed!
The proof that they squandered not a minute of that massive TV exposure can be found on early albums like Midnight Ride. Listen, my children, and you shall hear the Raiders' original version of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone," which smokes the comparatively tamer one the Monkees recorded eight months later. Nothing less than the ancestral touchstone to Elvis Costello's "Lipstick Vogue," this snarling diatribe has it all: menacing Farfisa vamps, loud drums, testifying tambourines and, best of all, a growling Mark Lindsay vocal that makes a Monkee outta Micky Dolenz, Johnny Rotten and anyone else who tried to cart this song out of the Raiders' garage.
Midnight Ride also has the seeds of destruction that would tear the original set of colonists apart. Because it was still the era of the Beatles, even the drummer got to sing and write songs. Thanks for nuttin', Ringo! After this LP, the songwriting-royalty-hungry Raiders would not sign for any more deliveries from the Brill Building, the source of their top-shelf material like the aforementioned "Stone" and "Kicks." The latter song, also on Midnight Ride, was a Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil anti-drug anthem intended for the Animals and turned down by Eric Burdon (who probably scared more kids off hard drugs with his laughable acid love poems about Monterey and girls named Sandoz).
This album also boasts the first signs of the "soppy romantic" teen idol Mark Lindsay. On "Melody for an Unknown Girl," he felt it necessary to explain an instrumental to young fans in his best "caring Mark" voice: "Most songs have words, except this one . . . which has no words, because there are no words, just a melody . . ." Wow, man. Deep.
This regrettable dumbing-down trend will result in countless "Lady Jane" rewrites later on, but Stones fans will forgive the band, because Midnight Ride gives an accurate picture of what Aftermath and Out of Our Heads would've sounded like with authentic American accents.
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It's only when Mark stopped imitating Jagger imitating Muddy Waters and went straight to Joe Tex for inspiration that he came off like Micky Dolenz imitating James Brown. Even more Monkee business ensued when the Raiders were replaced by the American Recording Studio house band on the misdirected Goin' to Memphis album in 1968.
Mark Lindsay's no Dusty Springfield, that's for sure. It's hard to know what's worse, his attempts at Sambo singing or how everyone from Isaac Hayes to Rufus Thomas to a string of respected Memphis DJs shamelessly perjured themselves on the original liner notes, saying what a gas it was having the Raiders in their fair city, and worse, what a fantastic album this turd fricassee is.
Hard 'N' Heavy (with marshmallow) is exactly what it sounds like, lightweight material played with sledgehammer precision. Imagine snare shots as loud as the ones that open "Born in the U.S.A.," and then picture them ushering you into a Partridge Family song like "Mr. Sun and Mr. Moon." About the best song here is a bonus cut, the 1968 Pontiac GTO commercial they actually appeared in, donning colonial costumes for the last time. It's a classy jingle done in the style of Jan & Dean, and it's actually about the damn car. Take that, Bob Seger!
By 1969, the Raiders literally had to lie their way onto FM radio wavebands with Alias Pink Puzz, a ruse which should've worked in light of stuff like the revelatory "Down in Amsterdam," the greatest Faces song you never heard, and the psychedelic Smile hangover of "I Don't Know." But the band still had to make hit singles, which it did with the rockin' "Let Me!" Here Lindsay's "awwwllrights" and numskull lyrics ("My love is going somewhere but I'm sure it ain't been got by you") are the kind of things that have made Paul Stanley countless millions. But better now than never to give these minutemen their time in the sun once more. Just think, if you buy all four, you'll actually be spending more than the Raiders spent recording "Louie Louie."