Paul Revere & the Raiders – Midnight Ride

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Often described as America’s answer to the British Invasion, these colonial clad rockers are part Beatles, part Stones and part Dylan. Released on Columbia Records in 1966, Midnight Ride is said to be Paul Revere & the Raiders’ response to Rubber Soul. Not only are both albums influenced by the sounds of Bob Dylan and New York’s growing folk rock scene, but both albums also push the boundaries of rock ‘n’ roll even further with bold experimentation and fearless disregard for convention. However, Midnight Ride seems to take bolder steps toward a harder, faster and edgier rock sound that at times sounds like something Iggy Pop and the Stooges could have recorded years later. For example, “Louie, Go Home,” has simple and repetitive chords that break down into a chaotic cluster of clashing instruments topped off by the screaming vocals of Mark Lindsay. The song is more than just a loud and fast garage rock song; it’s a call to action. Meant as a response to the classic garage rock song “Louie, Louie,” “Louie, Go Home” takes rock ‘n’ roll to the next level––a level that we now call protopunk. In this same vein, Paul Revere & the Raiders recorded “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone.” Although The Monkees’ cover version was––and still is––the far more popular version, “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” was first recorded by Paul Revere & the Raiders. These garage rockers were the first to inject the power and attitude into this now wildly popular hard rocking anthem. Despite being masters of loud, fast and hard, Paul Revere & the Raiders show their range with great folk rock numbers like “There’s Always Tomorrow” and “There She Goes.” These songs demonstrate the band’s under-appreciated songwriting abilities and their pure musicianship. Almost every band member plays multiple instruments on the album, and they demonstrate fantastic range going from heavy and fast to scaled back and smooth. The band even tries their hand at slower love songs like “Little Girl in the 4th Row” and “Melody for an Unknown Girl.” Even these songs, while dramatically different from the garage rock sound their known for, are well arranged and written, being spaced on the album perfectly as to inject some softness into the heavy world of garage rock. All in all, this record is amazing. Not only are the individual songs fantastic, but the band’s collaboration and adaptability really shines through. This album is primarily comprised of original songs written by the band members. In fact, all five band members have individual songwriting credits on the album––a feat rarely accomplished in the mid 60s. Although some audiophiles might think it’s a stretch to compare such a little known album to a rock ‘n’ roll mammoth like Rubber SoulMidnight Ride truly proves that notoriety has nothing to do with influence. Midnight Ride played a vital role in shaping the sound of rock ‘n’ roll music. Bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who and Iggy Pop and the Stooges are deeply indebted to Paul Revere and the Raiders for trailblazing the path toward a harder, faster and edgier rock ‘n’ roll sound.  A+

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The Lettermen – Spring!

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Although spring usually indicates growth, freshness and rebirth, Spring! is anything but fresh. Released in 1967 on Capitol Records, this album is unfortunately, little more than more of the same 60s soft pop from The Lettermen. The Lettermen carved a name for themselves in the early 60s with their handsome looks and smooth harmonization; however, by the late 60s their popularity was beginning to wane and they were in need of a fresh approach. Unfortunately, instead of putting their talents together and coming up with some original material, the boys borrowed hits from the charts here and there, hoping to record something that could crack into the top 100. Despite their best intentions none of the songs took off–most were nothing more than mediocre covers of pop singles. For example, their cover of “Happy Together” is a solid tune, but it’s almost indistinguishable from the original version released by The Turtles just a few months earlier. The “5” Royales’s hit “Dedicated to the One I Love” is also featured on this album despite the fact that a cover version by The Mamas and the Papas had already charted a few months before. The one redeeming song on the album is the psychedelic pop song “Mr. Sun.” It draws heavy influences from The Beatles’s crossover into the psychedelic genre, although it still remains unique and fun. Despite being a welcome relief from the monotony of mediocre covers, “Mr. Sun” is not enough to prop up the entire album. Perhaps if The Lettermen had focused more on quality rather than quantity (this was their 14th album over a six-year period), they could have produced stronger albums and stayed together longer. (One of the three boys, Bob Engemann, would sell his interest in the group shortly after this album’s release, although The Lettermen name still lives on today after many, many lineup changes.) The only reason to pick up this album is for “Mr. Sun,” but if you can find it on a 45 somewhere, you’re better off going that route.  D