Saturday, December 21, 2013

Review: Paul Revere and the Raiders Featuring Mark Lindsay 'Something Has Happened! 1967-1969'

When we last left Paul Revere and the Raiders they were hitting their creative peak and passing their commercial one with 1967’s Revolution!, the final album represented on Raven Records’ Evolution to Revolution: 5 Classic Albums. After that the group recorded a numb-skulled Christmas album, prepared to part with producer Terry Melcher, and made their already unwieldy name unwieldier when they started going by “Paul Revere and the Raiders Featuring Mark Lindsay.” That unofficial new name was more than a way to cash-in on lead singer Lindsay’s heartthrob status. From this point on, they’d really be his band. Nowhere else would this be clearer than on Goin’ to Memphis, essentially a solo album on which Revere and the Raiders supported him on just one track, “Peace of Mind”. The albums that followed weren’t exactly one-man shows, but Lindsay’s compositions continued to dominate and he took over production duties for good.

This is the period represented on Raven’s follow up double-disc set, Something Has Happened! 1967-1969, which collects 1968’s Goin’ to Memphis and Something Happening and 1969’s Hard ‘N” Heavy (with Marshmallow) and Alias Pink Puzz. None of these records are as straight-through strong as Revolution!, and none of the hits are as huge as “Kicks”, “Good Thing” , and “Him or Me—What’s It Gonna Be?” There are still good things to hear on all of them, and Hard ‘N’ Heavy more than holds its own in comparison to the band’s hot streak from Midnight Ride through Revolution!

Probably the weakest of the bunch is that record Lindsay cut with a bunch of Memphis session men, mostly because the songs aren’t a particularly distinguished lot and the covers of the absolute classics “Boogaloo Down Broadway” and “Soul Man” won’t make anyone forget the formidable originals. Still, Lindsay was one of the more expressive white soul singers of the sixties, and he makes good use of his chops by spreading a soul vibe over an entire record. With its underlying twang, Goin’ to Memphis is sometimes reminiscent of Mike Nesmith’s legendary 1969 Nashville sessions, which yielded that landmark of country soul, “Listen to the Band”. There are some good songs too. “One Night Stand” recaptures some of the feel of Midnight Ride’s “All I Really Need Is You” by tripping from 4/4 time to an exaggerated 3/4. “My Way” draws power from a heavy horn arrangement, and “Peace of Mind” does the same from the support of Darlene Love and the Blossoms. As a song, “Peace of Mind” isn’t as memorable as the Raiders’ earlier hits, and its poor performance on the charts wasn’t undeserved.

Paul Revere and the Raiders got back a bit of their chart mojo with Something Happening, and with the actual band backing Lindsay this time on the hard garage and light psych material that was their forte, this sounds more like a proper Raiders record. The problem is that it’s their most uneven one since Just Like Us. The frustrating thing is that the poor cuts could have been whipped into shape with a producer less given to self-indulgence than Lindsay. “Happens Every Day” and “Love Makes the World Go Round” aren’t bad songs, but overly cutesy touches sink them. “Communication” is presented in two parts when one would have been plenty, and no one needs to hear that minute-and-a-half of obnoxious drag racing noise at the start of the otherwise decent “Get Out of My Mind”. The rest of the record is quite good, though, as the guys work it out on the near acid rock of “Too Much Talk” and the classic Raiders raver “Don’t Take It So Hard” and the pretty light psych pieces “Observation from Flight 285 (in ¾ Time)” and “Burn Like a Candle”.

The two albums on disc two of Something Has Happened almost bring the Raiders back to their ’66-’67 fighting weight. Hard ‘N” Heavy (with Marshmallow) is a minor classic with only a couple of slight (though not necessarily bad) tracks and a good deal of phenomenal ones: the bubblegum sing-a-long “Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon”, the Stonesy hard rockers “Money Can’t Buy Me” and “Time After Time”, and Lindsay’s ultimate production labor of love, “Cinderella Sunshine”, which is one of the greatest things his band ever did. A bit of indulgence mars this record too, as the guys use stupid comedy bits as a misguided way to unify their varied songs. I was actually hoping there might not be enough room on this disc for that nonsense and we’d just get the unadulterated songs—or that the CD would at least be divided so the comedy bits were included at the ends of tracks instead of the beginnings, making them easier to skip. No luck. Great album though.

Alias Pink Puzz doesn’t have anything as splendid as “Cinderella Sunshine”, though “Let Me!” is a screamy slab of soul more exciting than anything on Goin’ to Memphis. Dominated by funky, greasy soul, Pink Puzz often sounds like the record Memphis aspired to be. Evocative bits of psychedelic balladry (“Frankfort Side Street”, “Here Comes the Pain”) and bubblegum (“Hey Babro”, which missed its calling by not playing over a chase scene on “Scooby Doo”) mix up the mood a bit. The album only misses the boat a couple of times—“Louisiana Redbone” is too cute by half and the purposelessly lengthy “I Don’t Know” should have been halved—but these tracks aren’t egregious. Really the only straight-up bad song on disc two of Something Has Happened! is a bonus track pulled from A Christmas Present… and Past. On “A Heavy Christmas Message” the guys mumble some nonsense about keeping the “Christ” in “Christmas” before breaking out a choir of kazoos. The bonus Christmas songs on disc one are slightly better, the best being the fuzzed-up “Rain, Sleet, Snow”, which is about the USPS. Raven’s hearts were in the right place when they included bonus tracks on this CD, but singles such as “Do unto Others” and the shorter, more garagey version of “Cinderella Sunshine” would have been preferable.

One area that should elicit no complaints is the sound. I tested Something Has Happened against my old copy of Hard ‘N” Heavy (with Marshmallow) released on Sundazed Records in 2000. Sundazed is renowned for their superb mastering jobs, and much to my surprise, Raven’s new job sounds even better, revealing nuances on the piano of “Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon” I never heard before.

Get Something Has Happened! 1967-1969 on here:
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