Paul Revere & The Raiders – Mojo Workout!

Mojo Workout!

If it’s a given that rock revisionists (er, historians) haven’t given Paul Revere & The Raiders the respect they deserve, then where does that leave Drake Levin?

“Drake who?” you ask?

My point exactly.

Well, this double-CD stomp (and shout and work it on out!) should be Exhibit A for inducting the quintet into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And while Drake Levin will never gain membership into the annals of Guitar Heroism, he should be recognized for providing the driving rhythm and stiletto leads for this kick-ass-and-take-names troop.

The Raiders have been all but written off as some sort of novelty act, despite ruling the roost in one of the hottest of rock hotbeds of the early ’60s – the Pacific Northwest – and having a string of 20 charted singles in 10 years (including “Steppin’ Out,” “Just Like Me,” “Kicks,” “Hungry” and “Good Thing”) that were anything but fluff. Maybe critics are blinded by the comical name or the Revolutionary War outfits, but you know what? In the pre-psychedelic days (come to think of it, during the psychedelic days, too), funny names and matching uniforms were the norm (in my stomping grounds, Northern California, two of the biggest local acts were Peter Wheat & The Breadmen, and William Penn & His Pals).

Revere & Co. represented the 90-percent-perspiration days, when showmanship was paramount. You couldn’t just play well, but in order to pull off all the gags and dance steps, you had to play well. And the Raiders combined an almost tent-revival fervor with stop-on-a-dime precision, always with a sense of humor and an about-to-spin-loose edge.

Mojo Workout! documents the period when the band became the first rock group signed to Columbia Records, before they developed a more polished sound and a string of originals, when they were still a holdover of pre-British Invasion influences like instrumentals, R&B, New Orleans party music (think about it – it was Paul Revere who rounded up the minutemen, warning, “The British are coming!”).

Disc two collects early singles (including their pre-Kingsmen – and superior – version of “Louie, Louie”), outtakes, and a rehearsal for a September ’64 in-house live set recorded by Columbia. Some cool stuff, but Disc one – that live recording in its entirety – is the real deal. The repertoire is standard bar-band stuff (Mark Lindsay wailing “What’d I Say,” and maybe the rockin’est version of “Peter Gunn” ever), but it’s played with a battle-of-the-bands vengeance that’ll make you sweat.

And when you listen to Drake Levin’s syncopated, treble-a-plenty solo on the live version of “Louie,” consider that he was probably standing atop the piano, swinging his guitar neck in time with the bass player all the while.

This review originally appeared in VG‘s April ’01 issue.

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