Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Paul Revere & the Raiders
Hope you enjoyed Record Store Day. Where we live (in Houston) people were camped out at 5 a.m. to be the first to get their sweaty hands on the exclusive vinyl available. So needless to say, if you showed up an hour or so after 10 a.m. all the good stuff was long gone. The early bird, and all that … But by afternoon you could always go home and download it for free, or purchase the same records off eBay for jacked-up prices.
We did find some nice old vinyl, however – including today’s selection, Goin’ To Memphis, a 1968 album from the Oregon hitmakers Paul Revere and the Raiders. With three years of big hits and garage rock classics behind them, the Raiders were ready for a departure of sorts. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to them to go psychedelic, as their pop music peers did (see The Cowsills and Jan & Dean) but with songs like “Just Like Me” and “The Great Airplane Strike” maybe they were already a little freaky for the pop charts. Nevertheless, at that time the Raiders were Columbia Records’ top-selling rock group and some of the original members had left.
The band’s road manager was from Memphis, and he suggested the Raiders do an album there with legendary producer Chips Moman. Moman was already a legend, having produced classics like “The Letter” and “Angel of the Morning” at American Recording Studios. Moman agreed to produce the album, but he would do it only if he could use his own house band, which included Gene Crispian on drums, Mike Leech on bass, Tommy Cogbill and Reggie Young on guitars, and “Spooner” Oldham on acoustic piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, and a Vox Jaguar organ.
Raiders frontman Mark Lindsay remembers: “Chips was very rigid about certain things in the studio. Gene used a set of drums that were set up in the center of the room on a four-foot platform. They were permanently miked, and God help anyone who moved a single drum or mic a fraction of an inch. The board was a custom affair, mostly tubes and straight wire, as I recall. There was minimum EQ (highs and lows), and a couple of LA-2A tube limiters that were rarely plugged in. Chips didn’t believe in processing the sound; the sound should come from the live musicians in the studio.”
The gritty Memphis sound proved to be a pretty good fit for Lindsay, who rose to the challenge by writing a handful of songs that credibly fit the Memphis mold. “Peace Of Mind” and “I Don’t Want Nobody” are actually pretty decent blue-eyed soul, and Lindsay’s voice takes on a rougher, tougher quality on these tunes. At the end of “Peace” he even attempts a Wilson Pickett-like scream … no contest, but not bad for a white guy. Of course, the album is filled out with a couple of covers: “Soul Man” and “Booglaoo Down Broadway,” which are only OK.
The title track attempts to explain musically what a band like Paul Revere and the Raiders were doing in Memphis. It’s also not bad, but I could have done without Lindsay’s “down home” chatter at the beginning of the track. The CD reissue of Goin’ To Memphis adds a couple of unreleased tracks from the sessions, including “How Can I Help You,” on which Lindsay sounds for all the world like Blood, Sweat and Tears’ David Clayton Thomas.
Needless to say, Goin’ To Memphis only confused listeners who were more used to Paul Revere and the Raiders’ characteristic sound. But it has grown in stature over the years and now some people regard it as a lost classic while others dismiss it as a glorified Mark Lindsay solo project. Lindsay would gradually take over more control of the group and started producing the albums himself (including a psychedelic album). After a few more rough years, the Lindsay-led group would score the band’s biggest hit with 1971’s “Indian Reservation.” Lindsay left the band to start a solo career; today Paul Revere and the Raiders still perform in Branson, Mo., and on the oldies circuit.