Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Country Wine - The Raiders

Country Wine
The Raiders
Columbia KC 31106

This album marks the end of Paul Revere and the Raiders' long ride with Columbia Records aside from a few more unsuccessful singles.  It is also essentially the end of the group as a relevant band.  Mark Lindsay would never make another album with the group, although Paul Revere would hire a new bunch of Raiders and continue as an oldies act for decades to come, kind of a sad end to one of the best commercial American bands of its era.  I wish I could report that the band's final album was a worthy finish to a fine career, but alas it is nothing of the sort.  It is not terrible, just ordinary and dull, easily the worst of their Columbia albums.  Even the cover art is boring (although Mark's moustache on the front cover is kind of funny.)  Side one (entitled "upside") is the only part of this record that I listen to much.  The album begins with "Country Wine" which was a flop single.  The song was written by Edmund Villareal and Wanda Watkins who were in the 1960s group The Joint Effort who released a great psych-pop single "The Third Eye."  "Country Wine" sounds nothing like that song, it is very commercial pop bordering on bubblegum, you could imagine the Grassroots doing the song.  It is catchy and fun but as lightweight as a feather.   Mark Lindsay's "Powder Blue Mercedes Queen" was the other flop single off the album.  It is heavier, driven by a big rocking riff.  It sounds like a lighter version of Mountain.  It could be an ode to a hot car or a groupie, it works either way.  Bob Siller's "Hungry For Some Lovin'" features a notable resemblance to the band's classic single "Hungry" from their glory days which may be what attracted Lindsay to the song.  It is a hooky rocker punched up with some brass, it reminds me of the Guess Who.  John D'Andrea and John Porter wrote "Baby Make Up Your Mind."  D'Andrea was the group's musical arranger and he's given the song an elaborate arrangement with prominent brass.  It is more catchy commercial pop, very enjoyable if you are into that sort of thing.  Lindsay and bassist Keith Allison wrote "Take A Stand" which is my favorite song on the album, really the only song on the album that lives up to the standards of their classic work.  It is in the heavy, hard rock style the band began to explore in the latter part of their career with a nice growling, get-down vocal from Lindsay.  It features a modest political theme urging the listeners to get involved and stand up for what they believe in.  The song provides some hope that the Raiders still have something to offer, but side two (aptly entitled "downside") proves otherwise.  It opens with "Where Are Your Children."  It is a sappy song criticizing neglectful parents, it reminds me of Lindsay's solo work.  The sappiness continues with Scott English and Larry Weiss' "Ballad of the Unloved."  They also wrote the American Breed's "Bend Me Shape Me" but the song is more like another song English co-wrote, Barry Manilow's "Mandy."  That is not a compliment.  It gets worse with Alan O'Day's "American Family."  It veers pretty close to easy listening in style with banal lyrics about domestic turmoil and staying together despite it all.  John D'Andrea arranges up a storm so the song sounds kind of pretty but I still hate it.  Things improve with Allison and Lindsay's "Golden Girls Sometimes."  It is still kind of sappy but at least it is about a woman rather than some pretentious statement about loneliness or the decline of the American family.  Also it features a return to rock (albeit soft rock) it even has some cowbell.  The album ends with Lindsay's "Farewell to a Golden Girl" which is a lot like his 1966 song "Melody for an Unknown Girl," an instrumental with some recitation only instead of a sax the melody is played on what I think is a glockenspiel or something like that.  It is definitely different and sounds lovely but it makes for a lackluster finish to the album as it just sort of peters out, kind of like the Raiders' career I suppose.  So one side is pretty good and one side is pretty bad which basically adds up to zero.  It is a depressing finish to a band that made a lot of terrific music.  I like side one enough to feel okay about having the record, but I'm a big fan.  I imagine most non-fans will feel differently.   Recommended to Paul Revere and the Raiders completists.

No comments:

Post a Comment