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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The Kingsmen – Up and Away

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Although they once dominated the airwaves with their single “Louie, Louie,” by 1966 the Kingsmen were struggling to maintain relevancy in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of rock ‘n’ roll music. Numerous line-up changes combined with the waning popularity of garage rock forced The Kingsmen to venture beyond their garage rock style. Released in 1966 on Wand Records, Up and Away would be the Kingsmen’s final studio album. While this album definitely contains some strong garage rock numbers like those that fans of the group have come to cherish, the driving force behind the album is covers of rock, pop and R&B singles that were popular at the time. For example, two of the most well-known songs on the album are “If I Needed Someone” and “Under My Thumb,” songs written and recorded by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones respectively. While both covers are decent, neither does anything to really separate the covers from the originals. Unfortunately, this theme is a little too common on this album. The Kingsmen also recorded covers of “Wild Thing,” “Shake a Tail Feather” and “Mustang Sally,” all of which already had popular versions by other artists that were dominating the charts. Some critics have blamed new producers––Paul Tannen and Mark Wildey––for pushing the band toward these covers and toward a more pop rock sound all together. This theory seems very plausible as these covers lack any resemblance of that classic Kingsmen garage sound. Although these covers do make up most of the album, there are several hidden gems on the album including the opening track, “Trouble” and the hard-driving number, “Little Sally Tease.” Both songs are much more raw and genuine than most of the tracks on the album. Fans of early Kingsmen albums will definitely appreciate these tunes, and the album as a whole is still worth picking up for garage rock fans. As a whole package, the album is fairly decent. While not oozing with originality or surprises, the covers are solid and the original material is quite enjoyable. This album is typical of a great underground band on its last legs––perhaps it could be better, but at least it’s not worse.  B-

Terry Knight and the Pack – Reflections

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When I picked up this album, I can honestly say that I had never heard a single song by Terry Knight and the Pack. I bought it because I remembered their name from an article I had read on 60s garage rock. Reflections is the second (and last) studio album Terry Knight and the Pack would record. It was originally released in 1967 on the Lucky Eleven label. It was rereleased by Cameo (the copy I own) the same year. Terry Knight and the Pack may have faded into complete obscurity if Don Brewer and Mark Farner of the Pack had not gone on to form Grand Funk Railroad in the early 70s. (Terry Knight was the original manager of GFR.) This being true, don’t let your opinions of Grand Funk Railroad affect your opinions of Terry Knight and the Pack; they sound nothing alike. In fact, the opening track, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” sounds more like something off an album The Kink’s could have put out in the mid-60s. It has that silly, fun garage rock sound that came to define an era. It’s really a great song to open the album with. The next song, “Love, Love, Love, Love, Love” is a bluesy garage jam that really gets your soul shaking. It’s a little harder than the other songs––almost protopunk. It would later be covered by Brownsville Station, reaching a much wider audience. “Come With Me” mellows out the album a little bit, but it’s still a solid tune. “Got to Find My Baby” injects a faster honky-tonk rhythm into the album. It’s perhaps the most catchy tune on the album. The fifth song, “This Precious Time,” is a psychedelic pop song. I like that they try to keep things fresh, but they are much better at the faster, heavy sounds of garage rock. Nevertheless, it’s worth a listen. Side one closes with “Anybody’s Apple Tree,” a sweet piano tune. It’s good, but still not as strong as the first four songs of the album. If you thought the album was losing steam, “The Train,” starts off with a piercing scream and a fast tempo with a blazing organ. It reenergizes the album and sets up side two for success. The next song, “Dimestore Debutante,” gets a zero for originality but a 10 for quality. That is, from the arrangement to Terry Knight’s voice to everything else, it sounds exactly like Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” with different words. You cannot listen to the song and not think about Dylan; it’s that obvious of a rip off. However, what an amazing song to rip off. “Dirty Lady” follows as an slow, rhythmic, vocal-driven number that sounds like it would come from a hacienda in a Mexican-gangster movie. It’s strange but kind of cool. The next song, “Love Goddess of the Sunset Strip,” is a psychedelic rock tune that could only come out of the 60s. Like the previous song: it’s strange but kind of cool. “Forever and a Day” is one of the most far out psychedelic songs I’ve ever heard. It is so weird, that the only explanation seems to be hallucinogenic drugs. All that being said, I absolutely love it! I can’t explain it; it’s just fun. The album closes with a cover of The Rolling Stones’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Don’t expect the radio-friendly version we all know and love. This cover is much harder, and the emotion is much stronger. It’s hard to compare the two, but in some ways this version seems to fit the words better than the radio-friendly version by The Stones. Overall, this album is very 60s underground. It has some tunes that you will kick yourself for never having heard before. It also has a couple songs that may push your boundaries of weirdness in music. The variety in this album is enough of a reason to buy the album in and of itself. It’s garage rock; it’s psychedelic rock; it’s Bob Dylan; it’s weird; it’s good. I guarantee you’ll find something you’ll love on it. You’ll probably also find something you don’t care for on it, but it’s uniqueness makes it worth picking up.  B+