Paul Revere & the Raiders – Just Like Us!

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There’s nothing quite like an album from a band that is right on the verge of making it. In early 1966, Paul Revere & the Raiders were such a band. Although their previous three albums had been commercially unsuccessful, Paul Revere & the Raiders had just scored a gig on Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is, a spinoff of the wildly popular American Bandstand. Released on Columbia Records in January 1966, hot on the heels of this rise to fame, Just Like Us! was set to boost the Raiders all the way to the top. Although it never made it as high as the band had hoped, this album helped certify Paul Revere & the Raiders as American rockers to be reckoned with. This album serves as a transition album away from the cookie cutter pop and early garage rock songs the band released on their first three albums to the harder garage rock and protopunk sound they would later become known for on albums like Midnight Ride. While the album still has some tunes similar to songs on their previous albums, even these pop-laden numbers are enjoyable. Songs like “Action” and “Doggone” run with familiar, radio-friendly melodies that evoke pop-rock numbers from the early- to mid-60s, such as songs that propelled The Beach Boys to the top of the charts. While these songs are done with great musicianship, they are nowhere near as powerful as edgier rock songs like “Steppin’ Out” and “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” “Steppin’ Out” opens the album with an intense, bluesy rhythm certain to raise a few hairs on the back of listeners’ necks. These songs are much heavier and more raw than much of the band’s earlier work. These tracks are loud and unforgiving, ultimately falling somewhere between garage rock and protopunk. Out of this same vein, Paul Revere & the Raiders also cover The Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction).” Although this song has been covered by numerous musicians, this song seems to fit particularly well on this album given its edgier disposition. Although the album has a plethora of great hard rock numbers that would help define Paul Revere & the Raiders for years to come, it also contains a surprisingly eclectic array of sounds. For instance, a cover of Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” is quite folk-rocksy, almost something off of an album by The Byrds. The song “New Orleans” also sets itself apart from the rest of the album by evoking the sound of the city famous for the blues and partying. This song captures both elements and has a fantastic saxophone part. Ultimately, this album captures the launching point of the band’s career. It’s an album of crossroads and pushing further into a new, harder sound. With albums like this, it’s almost impossible to believe that Paul Revere & the Raiders are still not in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Any fan of 60s underground music in general, especially fans of garage rock and protopunk in particular, will definitely enjoy this album.  A+

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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+

Paul Revere & the Raiders – A Christmas Present… and Past

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Okay, so with later hits like their 1971 song “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian),” Paul Revere & the Raiders are not really an underground band per se; however, with their early songs like “Kicks” (1966) and “Steppin’ Out” (1966), they had an enormous influence on garage rock and protopunk, and it would be a shame not to include them in a blog like this. That being said, I stumbled across this album a few weeks ago and thought “what the hell.” I’m not really a Christmas music enthusiast, but the album looked fun and ’tis the season. This 1967 Columbia album comes after a major lineup shuffle in early 1967 that saw three members leave the band and songwriter Mark Lindsay seize control of the direction of the band. From this point on Paul Revere & the Raiders would move away from their garage rock beginnings towards a more radio friendly style; however, A Christmas Present… and Past still contains that raw sound of 60s garage rock. The first track, “Introduction,” is a humorous way to set the mood for a fun and eccentric rest of the album. The first original Christmas recording, “Wear a Christmas Smile,” is a solid pop rock number. Really nothing special, but it’s a decent tune. The only traditional Christmas song on the album, “Jingle Bells,” follows as the best rendition of “Jingle Bells” I’ve ever heard. After a couple verses, the chorus is repeated faster and harder each time in a more raw and powerful way. It’s one of the best tracks on the album. “Brotherly Love” is a soft melodic original that helps transition into the fifth and best track of the album: “Rain, Sleet, Snow.” This song is heavy and stripped down and makes for an excellent underground 60s tune. This song carries the rest of the album without a doubt. “Peace” closes side one with a Christmas-like instrumental. Side two opens with “Valley Forge,” a Vietnam-era protest song hidden under a Christmas mask. This song grows on you the more you listen to it. “Dear Mr. Claus” is one of the more traditional-sounding Christmas songs of the album. It seems to be there as a filler to give the album a more universal Christmas appeal. “Macy’s Window” follows as another song that seems to have been written for the radio. It doesn’t have any of the garage rock sound that some of the better songs of the album do. “Christmas Spirit” is the worst song on the album and takes the spirit out of the album. The album closes with “A Heavy Christmas Message,” which is exactly what it says it is, but then leads into an amazing fast and heavy instrumental featuring a soloing kazoo. The album ends on a high note. Overall, this album seems to be stuck between two audiences: the garage rock fan who is seeking a little Christmas fun and the traditional Christmas music enthusiast. If you’re willing to put up with a little junk in order to find some true seasonal gems, then this album is well worth picking up.  C+