Paul Revere & The Raiders featuring Mark Lindsay
The Complete Columbia Singles
The Experience Music Project’s Grand Opening, Seattle Center, 2000. I’m backstage chatting with the Ventures as they wait their turn at bat. Pacific Northwest legends are being honored, and they’re performing all day. We’re in this concrete, bunker-like room behind and sort of beneath the stage. All the sudden, I hear this racket above us — bam! boom! goes the kick drum. Damn, I think, this group is loud; it’s as if a marching band has been assembled above us. It isn’t the Kingsmen, and the Sonics are a decade away from another reunion.
“Who the hell is playing?” I wonder aloud.
“Paul Revere and the Raiders,” someone replies.
Abandoning the Ventures for the Raiders would be akin to breaking off a talk with the Stones to go check out the Who — a true quandary. As I’m listening to Don Wilson tell some fantastic story from 1963, I tell myself, “I’ll go check out the Raiders in a minute.” And I keep telling myself that until the din above quiets.
A few minutes later, a larger-than-life figure bursts through the Ventures’ dressing room door, resplendent in a vividly colored Revolutionary War costume. Holey moley, it’s Paul freakin’ Revere himself — and in an instant, I instinctively realize that I had just missed a heck of a show.
This new compilation I’m holding in my hands is a small yet very important consolation prize for my misstep 10 years ago. A three-disc, 66-track set, Paul Revere & the Raiders featuring Mark Lindsay — The Complete Columbia Singles is practically a historical document that traces the bulk of the Raiders’ unique and storied recording explorations.
The Complete Columbia Singles‘ structure is a bit unique, as well. The Raiders’ radio offerings are presented chronologically, alongside their respective B sides, instead of a separate disc for the latter. Often, the two songs had no genre-correlation to one another. For example, the feel-good 1968 pop single, “Don’t Take It Too Hard” was backed with a very psychedelic journey with a Floyd-echoing intro, “Observation From Flight 285 (in 3/4 Time).” Additionally, the Raiders had a penchant for including instrumentals, tracks nodding back to their origins in the “Northwest Sound,” on flip sides well into their career.
The “dirty R&B” that the Raiders, the Fabulous Wailers, and other northwest acts regarded as a holy edict is established right off the bat. The set’s first four songs — “Louie, Louie” b/w “Night Train” and “Louie, Go Home,” b/w “Have Love, Will Travel” — echo what was being played at the Spanish Castle and every other club between Vancouver and Portland at the time.
Above all, The Complete Columbia Singles reveals to the novice the band’s diversity. The Idaho-spawned Raiders were all over the map musically, depending on the lineup, and seemingly, upon songwriter/frontman Lindsay’s whim. After the huge hits “Just Like Me,” “Kicks,” and “Hungry” came hit-and-miss forays into R&B-flavored pop, folk-rock, country rock, psychedelic/baroque, saccharine-sweet pop, and early funk.
Yes, funk. 1967’s “Rain, Sleet, Snow,” with its string-section hook and chunky, fuzzy guitar, sounds like the Chambers Brothers on steroids. Adding a full horn section, churning rhythm, and blistering lead guitar, 1970’s “Just Seventeen” proves to be funk-rock at it’s meatiest — the James Gang meets the Family Stone. And the song’s funky, prog-rock flip side, “Sorceress With Blue Eyes,” is simply mind-blowing.
After this three-hour-plus session with the Raiders (reading along with an extensive, fresh biography in the notes by Ed Osborne) one will inevitably draw these conclusions, among others: in a more perfect world, this supremely talented band wouldn’t have needed the 1776 costumes to counter the British Invasion; Mark Lindsay, apart from having one of the most admired voices in rock history, is one gifted songwriter; finally, losing the “Louie, Louie” chart-race to the Kingsmen was probably a blessing in disguise — they wound up having much more to offer.
The Complete Columbia Singles is an important and supremely enjoyable reminder that the Sixties did not entirely revolve around the Beatles, Who, and Stones. It’s good to see, rather, hear Paul Revere ride again.