Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Midnight Ride - Paul Revere and the Raiders

Midnight Ride
Paul Revere and the Raiders
Columbia  CL 2508

This was Paul Revere and the Raiders' third album for Columbia and along with "The Spirit of '67" it represents the high point of the band's career for me.  I don't think any of the band's studio albums are essential, the majority of their best songs were singles so most people can get by with any of their numerous comps.  Nonetheless I'm enough of a fan that I like just about all of their Columbia albums and I play this one quite a bit.  It starts off with the group's classic single "Kicks" which was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.  It is a hard rocking anti-drug song with a memorable guitar riff, a propulsive bass line and a strong, gritty vocal from Mark Lindsay.  It may not have gone down so well with the hippies, but I like the lyrics and think it is one of their best songs ever.  The only other song not penned by the band is "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" which was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and would later be a hit single for the Monkees, but I prefer the Raiders' version which rocks harder and has a more urgent vocal.  If there was ever any question about these guys' garage band credentials, this song answers it convincingly.  The remaining songs are all originals and every member contributes to the songwriting.  The team of Paul Revere and Mark Lindsay has the most compositions but lead guitarist Drake Levin comes up with the best original song on the album, "Ballad of a Useless Man."  It has a great riff, another fine Lindsay vocal and unusual lyrics written from the perspective of a homeless guy.  Levin and drummer Mike Smith wrote the hard rocking "There's Always Tomorrow" which features a lead vocal from Smith who is no match for Mark Lindsay in that regard.  It is a really good song though and I like the raga-like solo.  Bassist Phil Volk and Levin wrote the punchy "Get It On" which has a compelling organ riff, a sizzling guitar solo and a rough but effective lead vocal from Volk.  Revere and Lindsay's contributions are more eclectic.  They include the sappy "Melody for an Unknown Girl" which features an awful Davy Jones type recitation by Lindsay which he follows up with a lengthy sax instrumental that reminds me of Mr. Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore" - that is not a compliment.  "Little Girl in the 4th Row" is another sappy tune directed at the teeny-bopper fan base.  It is pretty embarrassing.  Aside from those two duds the other Lindsay/Revere songs are all really good.  "There She Goes" has a country feeling that is better than you'd expect.  I think "Louie, Go Home" is inspired by "Louie, Louie" which the band released as a single earlier in their career.  It has a simple staccato riff and seems like a conventional pop song until the break which features a raga rock guitar solo.  "All I Really Need Is You" has another passionate vocal from Lindsay and more raga rock in the verses which gives way to a catchy pop chorus.  "Take A Look At Yourself" is a hard-driving putdown song with nice folk-rock style guitar licks.  The liner notes for this album compare it to "Rubber Soul" and quote Time magazine comparing the Raiders to Dylan and the Rolling Stones, which is ludicrous, but as far as mid-1960s commercial rock goes, the Raiders are about as good as it gets.  Mark Lindsay was one of the most talented vocalists in mid-1960s American rock and these guys came up with more good songs than almost any of their peers.  Recommended for snooty garage aficionados, if you think some teenage punks playing the high school dance circuit were better than these guys just because of their commercial attitude, you are kidding yourselves.  This is the real deal.

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