Monday, June 30, 2008

Paul Revere and the Raiders-Here They Come!

Paul Revere and the Raiders did not stop the British Invasion. It was a valiant attempt to push Made in the U.S.A. Rock-n-Roll to American audiences, but they just could not halt the flow of music being shipped over from Blighty. Of course, at the time of this release, a lot of British-produced electric music was really good, and frankly the Raiders were as slickly marketed as anything crossing the Atlantic in search of music-generated greenbacks and pussy. That said, for Independence Day, I'd like to tip my tricorn to a great American Rock-n-Roll Band.
Paul Revere was, is, and shall remain a band leader of great strength. Compared to other early Marquee Name rockers, he really does seem to care about how the constituent players in the band sound together. I doubt that even at this late date (July, 2008) Mr. Revere would not care about his band sounding tight and together. Compare this to the willful slop of Chuck Berry or the minstrel show decadence of Jerry Lee Lewis. Unlike those two, Paul wants a band that will kick ass as a band, not as some background rattle to prop up The Name. His economical piano style provides melodic structure on these tunes, but never goes into ersatz "jazziness" or phony honky tonkin'. The fact that this kind of playing is pulled off by a pianist leading a Rock band is amazing. It's beautiful and comparable to someone like Count Basie in it's conception and execution. Listen to You Can't Sit Down or Big Boy Pete for fine examples of Revere's cool, laid back keyboard leadership.
More up front than Mr. Revere is Mark Lindsey. Obviously he was a great choice as lead singer for this band. His voice on the more rocking material (You Can't Sit Down, Money, Oo Poo Pah Doo) is controlled, powerful and effective. His signature "stomp and shout/work it on out!" is just as cool as James Brown's grunt and just as weirdly infectious as Robert Plant's "baby, baby, baby". On the ballads and slower songs he uses a crooner's tenderness of approach. I'm sure that many of the co-eds he crooned to could forget the mop tops from across the pond as he sang. As a plus, he never sounds as if he's putting his ego above the band. Lead singers everywhere, please listen to and learn from Mark Lindsey! His sax on Louie Louie and You Can't Sit Down is raw and wild, a great unleashed sound, riding hot atop of Revere's restraint. This band would have sounded a lot less great, had Mark Lindsey not participated.
At first I was tempted to say that the guitar is not the lead voice in most Raiders tunes. Drake Levin never plays the guitar hero part here, but instead he generally sticks to playing within the melodies. He does step up on occasion, playing really freaky, Dick Dale-like twang on You Can't Sit Down, reverb-ey on Sometimes, or just purely magical on Louie Louie. All of this action happens within the discipline of the tunes, though, and it's both rockin' and sophisticated. Yeah, it's a lead instrument all right. And how!
The Raiders must have felt like Phil Volk was their secret weapon. It's amazing, the way his pulsing bass chords beef up and move the tunes. Here you have a precursor to Felix Pappalardi and possibly Paul McCartney's playing post 1965, in that he lays down thick, swooping chords that the other players can move around on top of. It's a kind of deep melodic voice within the songs, and it's very effective.
If Volk is the Raiders' secret weapon, then Mike Smith is their infantry. His drumming is so tight, so swinging and powerful. Listen to and marvel at his control as he blasts his way through the rockin' numbers, then turns around and just floats the ballads and slower tunes. Why is this man not listed along with all of the other drum monsters of his, or any, era? Take just example from this disc, that being the way he swings through the potentially corny Do You Love Me. That he can make a rather tepid song rock so hard is miraculous. His big beat drives the song to unexpected heights as it's syncopated magic takes hold, especially during the middle call and response rave up. His style is one of those unheralded yet widely copied ones. R.I.P, Smitty, and THANK YOU!
Here They Come! is a fun record. There is no "deep" angst or "meaningful" social critique coming from Paul Revere and the Raiders. Just pure, Red White and Blue colored American good times, juiced by amazing Rock-n-Roll musicianship and hearty irreverence. C'mon, you know that's cool, especially in Summer, especially on Independence Day!
God Bless America. I mean it, man.

4 comments:

Michael said...

Was this before or after he recorded "Kicks"? Best garage rocker by a non-garage rocker, hands down.

Did you see him play recently? Is he still alive? Would be cool to see his sound live in 2008.

Disaster Amnesiac said...

Before Kicks by a few years. Yes, the Raiders are playing in Missouri this weekend! They were listed as playing the Fillmore in SF a few years ago, but then, sadly, the billing disappeared. Certainly not Garage, but, seriously, check out any Greatest Hits package, or Here They Come!, or their re-release CD. Levin KILLS on guitar, Smitty is amazing, too. It's just great stuff. I'd have to add Just Like Me to the best Gargage Rocker list. The guitar solo on that one will give you goosebumps!

Michael said...

The perfect soundtrack to ring in tomorrow's holiday. Stoke up the BBQ and start step-step-steppin' out!

Disaster Amnesiac said...

That's what I'm TALKIN' about. Stomp and Shout!