– Plattsburgh, 62 And Beyond –
There’s a common belief that there wasn’t much a-happening in America after the unfortunate plane crash that took Buddy Holly away, and before The Beatles had hit the big time in the U.S., which brought a whole new way of exploiting the native musical legacy.
As it happens, there was a whole bunch of cookin’ little bands up in the North Country’s city of Plattsburgh, with Mike & The Ravens carrying the torch, sharing the same ideas as The Beatles, without actually knowing of their existence, and unfortunately, with a bit less of a luck than their British soulmates.
Starting from the band’s front man, Mike Brassard’s solo acoustic ’58 performance, dating from “since he was old enough to drink Coca-Cola”, the first CD covers their earliest surfy-rockabilly-Everlies-like harmonization’s as Mike & The Throbs, through the pre-Mersey-flavoured twang of I’ve Taken All I Can, One Of These Days, Can’t You Feel The Pain or Goodbye To Mary Jane, and the pioneering power-pop Holly-smoke of Biggest Fool Around, all predating the Beatle-craze.
Unfortunately, some of the tracks, available only as pretty poor quality live recordings, such as Like A Fire, or what might be the band’s signature track, the romping stomp of (Everybody’s Goin’ To) Rollerland, only give us a hint of what they really might be, had they been given proper studio treatment.
After a four year break, the second CD sees the band members moving along with the times, through different line-ups and names, starting with some pretty cool harmony popsike of Stephen Sargent & The The Pride’s Grey Eyes Watching and Fire & Brimstone’s single Undergound / I Could Hear The Grass Growing.
By 1969, expectedly enough, they were also adding some country-ish flavour, as heard in The Camel’s Hump’s Look, while, surprisingly enough, Gotta Talk To You, Baby sounds almost like The Music Machine, before 1971, when they were returning to the “summer of love” aesthetics with The Front Burner’s appropriately titled Lights Of San Francisco and Eldorado, with the latter sharing equal parts of Young-ish country and Mamas & Papas harmonies.
In 1973, Taxi Driver’s Gentle Wind was already “blowin” towards the cool jazzy pop sophistication, later revisited by Stephen Blodgett’s 1998 solo recordings of No More Beatle Songs and Motorboatin’, while the pair of the newly reformed Mike & The Ravens recordings No Love To Give and Durham, make it full-circle, taking us back to their earliest daze.
It might seem that this would make a perfect single-CD overview of the Ravens-and-related, but considering the historical significance of all the stuff included, hats off to an enthusiastic labour of love to everyone involved.
The lack of a more detailed written word that could’ve accompanied the sound, is made up with the project coordinator, Will Shade’s lengthy article in the 23rd issue of the Ugly Things magazine (to be continued in the next one too!).
[Released by Dionysus 2005]