Friday, January 18, 2013
File #1: The Raiders, Indian Reservation (1971, Columbia Records)
As the inaugural entry of Attractive Nuisance, I should stipulate my aims for this space. My primary goal is admittedly indulgent: I wish to write passionately about misunderstood, overlooked, or dismissed albums, and the artist(s) responsible. I also, however, greatly hope that this space becomes a place that attracts and fosters a like-minded community of music lovers who feel compelled to express themselves in the comments (wink)—not uniform music lovers, mind you, as dissension is both necessary and encouraged. To start, let's head (Pacific North-) Westward, where we meet up with Paul Revere & the Raiders:
The first sound on Indian Reservation (1971), appropriately, is Paul Revere’s piercing, whinnying organ, helping to open the album with its titular smash hit. Funky and of-its-moment—Native American activists championed "red power" during the period, occupying Alcatraz Island in 1969 and clashing with federal marshals at Wounded Knee in 1973—the title track would go down as the only #1 song in the canon of the recently renamed the Raiders; only Revere and singer Mark Lindsay remained from the group’s halcyon days.
As Paul Revere & the Raiders, the group charted a fun path in rock primitivism, meshing colonial attire and daffy showmanship with a lean, raw rock ‘n roll sound—they even served as a kind of house band for Dick Clark's Where the Action Is. Many of the group's singles from the era, be it the nervous jangle of “Hungry” (#6 in 1966), the prickly vamp of “Kicks” (#4 in 1966), or the psychedelic tremble of “Him or Me, What’s it Gonna Be?” (#5 1967), remain sacred artifacts of an era where chart presence was tantamount to prowess; additionally, of course, they’re catchy, great fun that reminds listeners of the indelible fertility of this musical period. In an interview for with The Big Takeover from 2011, Mark Lindsay cites 1967 as his favorite year, musically and personally (“Everything was really poppin’”), before conceding that “rock ‘n’ roll began to develop a sad, dark undercurrent” in the following years.
Well, in that sad, dark undercurrent came Indian Reservation. The album was an evident slapdash attempt to capitalize on the astounding success of “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)”—the track itself arguably exploiting contemporary American history—by affixing the track with eight additional non-originals and Lindsay’s “The Turkey,” which sounds every bit the meandering studio gag. Still, there is both a resonance and a skillfulness to the Raiders’ exuberant handling of the material, which should be abundantly clear on the bounding funk-swarm of “Indian Reservation” (a track that, I would wager, has heavily influenced many of Jack White’s compositional decisions). Meanwhile, the Raiders twist Terry Melcher’s “Take Me Home” into a lascivious, ecstatic disco-boogie; “The Shape of Things to Come,” an apocryphal tune from the satirical cult film Wild in the Streets (1968), becomes a frenetic, unhinged barn-burner with plenty of ‘70s AM riffage; the Raiders nail both the soul and schmaltzy of “Heaven Help us All,” seemingly sending up Stevie Wonder’s po-faced take; and P.F. Sloan’s apocalyptic lament “Eve of Destruction” is deftly transformed from Barry McGuire’s shaggy, Dylan-esque folk into an almost dementedly giddy, bounding folk-rock number.
The only definitive assessment one can fairly have about Indian Reservation is that it does not serve as an ideal primer for Paul Revere & the Raiders. As an assured, idiosyncratic, disheveled, and appropriately angry musical document of its time, however, it demands attention. Although it is an extremely difficult album to locate digitally, Indian Reservation is worth a record store crawl for the seriously committed. For the rest (who can access Spotify), below are selections that exemplify both its eccentricities and feats.