Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Paul Revere and the Raiders – Greatest Hits

The Raiders were one of the great garage groups of the 60’s who managed to hit the big time (unlike their local cohorts the Sonics and the Wailers) with a string of Top Forty singles and plenty of TV coverage as the house band for Where the Action Is, a Dick Clark presentation.

This set opens with their take on the ubiquitous “Louie Louie”. While the Kingsmen were able to wrest the hit for this song, the Raiders had the last laugh with their long-running, chart-topping career. This sounds a bit less like the kegger-party that the Kingsmen hosted but is still tougher than the average Raiders tune.

But this is followed with the amazing “Louie – Go Home”. Wow! Rhythmic keyboards, ultra-cool guitar lick, harmonies, then, with a scream, the band launches into a raga-rock section before returning to the main theme! Creative as hell and still a remarkably catchy tune.

Their stomper, “Steppin’ Out”, is a garage monster – edgy vocals, group chorus, double time break, anti-war/anti-unfaithful-chick lyrics and a Yardbirds-styled rave-up ending! And then they pump it up another notch with the fantastic “Just Like Me”! A super 4 chord progression with Marc Lindsay practically breathless on the verses and almost screaming on the choruses that features a rockin’ guitar solo from Mike Smith and a frantic call and answer ending.

We’re given a breather on “Melody For An Unknown Girl”, basically an old-fashioned sax instrumental with unbearably corny opening (and closing) recitation by heart-throb Lindsay. But then they smash back in with the incredible “Kicks”! An unfashionably anti-drug themed tune, this is still a superb garage-pop song with a groovy 12 string guitar lick and memorable, sing-along choruses.

“Hungry” is in the same vein – a simple, pounding progression not unlike “Just Like Me”, but with intricate instrumental coloring, positively dirty-sounding lyrics that builds into a loud bridge/solo section before the repeated ending. Excellent hit song!

The band goes off on a tangent for “The Great Airplane Strike”, apparently their attempt at a Dylan-esque tune. Fun and funny, but not super special. But then they are back with a vengeance with “Good Thing”! This is pure Raiders once again – fine, full backup vocals (this time giving a nod to the Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”), simple, rockin’ progression and a super catchy melody.

“Ups and Downs” is fairly pedestrian and unmemorable with unneeded horns added. This leads into the “Legend of Paul Revere”, an entertaining biography of the band, though again, musically, it is not up with their best. These two songs ended the vinyl on an uninspired note.

But this CD has 4 bonus tracks, including “Action”, their theme song for the Where the Action Is TV show. This is a pretty swinging tune, though it is a little theme-song-y and a bit more Beach Boys than Raiders.

Speaking of TV, this also includes their take on “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” that is where the Monkees’ got their arrangement, but this is certainly rawer and more garage-punk. They were pure garage when they wanted to be!

“Him or Me – What’s It Gonna Be” is yet another hit for these cats and again shows their ability to mix vocal harmonies with fuzz-rock. Fairly slick but still rightfully hitting the Top Forty yet again.

This collection ends with “Peace of Mind”, which the liner notes describes as psychedelic-soul, which is reasonably accurate, though as white garage boys, it isn’t completely convincing.

But overall, this is a terrific CD with some of the best Top Forty garage-rock from the ‘60’s!