July 12, 1995
Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Essential Ride '63-'67 (Columbia 1995) -- Columbia Records has started tapping deep into its vaults for reissues, and The Essential Ride shows their care and attention to detail. Featuring 20 solid cuts by the now-forgotten Paul Revere, this re-issue gives a great feel for the state of American rock in the mid-60s. And the packaging and liner notes are first-rate, which is an added bonus.
Considering that Columbia Records was headed by Mitch Miller at the start of the British invasion, the success of Paul Revere & the Raiders cannot be underestimated. Now relegated to the 60s scrap heap, Paul Revere & the Raiders had the biggest concert attendance, the best record sales, and the most national television exposure of any American band during the years covered by The Essential Ride.
While the band's costumes may seem a little extreme, vocalist Mark Lindsay remembers that the silly Revolutionary War outfits allowed the band to cut loose. Says Mark, "We were in our uniforms, and we were just goofs." Adds guitarist Drake Levin, "We were kick-ass garage band, hard-edged greasers. Well, as much as you can be coming from Idaho. Mark definitely was, and Paul too. Back then, we were hoods."
Of course, the true test is the music. And the Raiders'recordings have aged well. From party favorite "Louie, Louie" to polished rockers like "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" (from 1966) and "Kicks," The Essential Ride proves guitarist Jim "Harpo" Valli's claim that "Everybody went nuts for Paul Revere and the Raiders because they played simple three-chord, throbbing rock 'n roll."
While the music is 25 years old, it still sounds great. Columbia Records has done a stellar job with this repackage, which should delight fans old and new.
On 12 Haunted Episodes, Parker creates a subdued mood that helps flesh out the meaning in his songs. The result is one of his most consistantly-satisfying albums, as Parker restrains his sometimes tart tongue and sees the beauty around him.
Parker, Elvis Costello, and Joe Jackson all sprang from the same late 70s school of song. Although Parker's early releases (including Howlin' Wind) were stellar, his work in the 80s languished before returning to high gear with 1988's The Mona Lisa's Sister and 1991's Struck By Lightning.
While Costello has written the best pop songs of this trio, it's been ten years since he released a decent studio album. Jackson has the best insight into relationships, but faded the public eye (though his 1989 release, Blaze of Glory, is an overlooked classic). Parker, by strange turns, has become the most well-rounded artist of the group.
Despite all the critical acclaim for his albums (The Mona Lisa's Sister contained several brilliantly oblique songs), Parker has bounced from one label to another.
Enter Razer & Tie Music. Initially formed in 1991 as a re-issue label (their first project was Parker's 1980 Stiff/Arista album, The Up Escalator), Razor & Tie has begun pressing new music: its most-acclaimed release was last year's fine collection of Arthur Anderson songs, Adios Amigo.
12 Haunted Episodes was recorded near Parker's hometown of Woodstock, New York, and features Parker on vocals and all guitars, Denny McDermott on drums, and Joel Diamond on Hammond organ and keyboards.
Parker had great creative freedom with this album, and says 12 Haunted Episodes was inspired by an article in Guitar Player magazine about "those old folkies and their use of open G tuning." This article steered Parker toward a folksier, more muted sound, and resulted in rich and full performances on cuts like "Force of Nature" and "Honest Work."
While songs like "Disney's America" show that Parker's biting sense of irony remains, other cuts (including "Partner for Life" and "Polinate") display Parker's new-found insight into relationships.
With constant attention to songwriting, terrific studio skills, and a willingness to take chances, Parker has built a small but loyal fanbase.
And it's fans that make the artist. Mass sales may produce a pop flash, but it's loyal fans that build a career. If you've never discovered Parker before, try 12 Haunted Episodes.
Patterson Hall - I recently visited Patterson Hall, the new punk rock venue founded by Paul Cruickshank and Jennifer Biskup. Located in the old Patterson Building on Fulton Mall, the club features wholesome, all-ages entertainment that our beloved mayor would certainly approve.
Actually, Paul and Jennifer have a good thing going. With their finger firmly on the pulse of modern punk music (which blends thrash guitars with hip-hop vocals), Patterson Hall is a terrific all-ages club. While this kind of music isn't my bag (at age 34, I was easily the oldest person in the audience), the moshing seemed sincere, and the security people kept matters in hand.
Everyone seemed to be having a good time, and that's the name of the game. Between Patterson Hall and the ever-friendly Fulton Bar, there's hope that the live music scene in downtown Fresno will return. Go see a band tonight. Support live music.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
Design by David Anand Prasad and Idea Co.