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Review: Mark Lindsay, “The Complete Columbia Singles”

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There’ll be joy and there’ll be laughter/Something big is what I’m after now…

As frontman, songwriter and saxophonist of Paul Revere and the Raiders, Mark Lindsay had experienced his fair share of joy and laughter, but as 1969 rolled around, the band behind such garage-pop anthems as “Kicks,” “Just like Me” and “Hungry” was beginning to fracture.  Jack Gold, head of A&R at Columbia Records, however, saw something big in Mark Lindsay’s future.  According to the singer, Gold had stumbled on him in the studio goofing around with Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are” and felt the time was right to launch Lindsay on a solo career as an adult vocalist.  But Lindsay balked at Gold’s suggestions of material, covers of then-contemporary songs that Columbia proffered to a stable of singers including Mathis, Andy Williams and Robert Goulet.  Lindsay envisioned ballad-oriented original songs as his calling card, and Gold agreed.  The fruits of their labors at 45 RPM have been compiled by Real Gone Music as Mark Lindsay’s The Complete Columbia Singles (RGM-0027, 2012), a companion to 2010’s same-titled collection for Paul Revere and the Raiders on the now-defunct Collectors’ Choice label.

Although Real Gone is still a new kid on the block, this collection ranks hands-down as one of its finest and most consistently enjoyable releases to date.  There’s a palpable joy in rediscovering these long-unheard sides from a talented singer who took on a very different vocal character for his solo recordings.  Gone is the snarling punk of many Raiders records, but Lindsay even reinvents himself track by track here,  adapting to the unique sound demanded by composers like Jerry Fuller, Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb.  The Complete Columbia Singles makes for pure pop gold.

Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” was initially planned to feature on Lindsay’s first solo single, but the April 9, 1969 recording was shelved, and two Jimmy Webb songs recorded the same day were instead selected to launch Lindsay’s solo career.  In retrospect, “Reason to Believe” was probably a bit over-arranged, but you can hear it for yourself; the recording makes its debut here.  As for the Webb songs, “First Hymn from Grand Terrace” b/w “The Old Man at the Fair” couldn’t get past No. 81 on the pop charts, but that’s no reflection on their quality.  Al Capps arranged Jerry Fuller’s production in a suitably baroque style, and Webb was at his most impressionistic.  On “First Hymn,” Lindsay sings, “There was a hill we climbed and a nursery rhyme went flying across the waving grass/Like silver bells against the curtain that the sky had made/And so, we played.”  But the songs’ lack of a traditional verse/chorus structure might have impeded their chances at chart success.  Neither song has been much heralded over the years, either.  Richard Harris recorded “First Hymn” as a segment of the 9+-minute “Hymns from the Grand Terrace” suite on his The Yard Goes On Forever LP, while folk singer Judy Mayhan recorded the only cover of “Old Man” to this writer’s knowledge.

Mark Lindsay’s second single was just the ticket, however.  Kenny Young’s song “Arizona” still sounds like a hit today, with its big hook, spot-on vocal and forceful production by Fuller of an arrangement by Brill Building stalwart Artie Butler.  Lindsay was rewarded with a Top 10 hit, although following it up wasn’t easy.  J. Kelly’s song “Miss America” was the first attempt to replicate the success of “Arizona,” though Butler and Fuller took a page from the Webb playbook with the song’s prominent horns and string orchestration.  Lindsay considered the song “preachy,” however, so his next single hewed much closer to “Arizona.”  And “Silver Bird,” also by Kenny Young, may have been too close for comfort, with a similar-sounding brass arrangement and anthemic chorus.  Still, it reached a respectable No. 25 and was even adapted for a Yamaha motorcycle commercial!

Hit the jump for much more of Mark!

As Lindsay was responsible for writing some of the Raiders’ most enduring hits, it’s somewhat surprising that his own songs were more often than not relegated to the B-sides of his solo efforts.  The Complete Columbia Singles makes it clear that his own songs were often as strong as the tracks they were supporting, including “So Hard to Leave You” (the flip of “Silver Bird”).  What’s also shockingly clear, though, is that Lindsay was a vocal chameleon par excellence.

“Small Town Woman” the B-side of “Miss America,” was penned by Lindsay’s producer Jerry Fuller, responsible for the greatest hits of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.  And Lindsay’s velvety, reflective vocal indeed recalls Puckett’s style on the song.   Fuller must have been flush with the freedom of experimentation as Lindsay had so few limitations as a singer.  “Man from Houston” takes on a country twang, while he brings the right sensitivity to “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” also recorded by Elvis Presley and its songwriter, Neil Diamond.  Another Presley favorite, Mac Davis, supplied Lindsay with “Problem Child,” somewhat of a second cousin to “In the Ghetto.”  Davis’s song also went back to the same well as “Arizona” and ”Silver Bird” (“Don’t let those city lights take your sweet country smile away from me!”) but stalled at No. 80.

The final track arranged by Artie Butler and released by Lindsay was “Bookends,” co-written by Butler and Fuller.  The song was an unabashed homage to Bacharach and David’s sound, and if it doesn’t exactly capture Bacharach’s orchestral aesthetic, Lindsay nonetheless navigated a melodically and rhythmically tricky melody; could he have realized at the time that he would soon introduce his very own song by the pair?  After “Bookends,” John D’Andrea replaced Butler in the arranger’s chair, and the the sound of Lindsay’s records became a bit tougher.  A cover of David Gates’ “Been Too Long on the Road” (one of the Bread leader’s most hauntingly dramatic songs) was enhanced with much more prominent electric guitar juxtaposed with strings.  D’Andrea set Alan O’Day’s “Are You Old Enough” to a lightly funky groove which liberated Lindsay to use his harder-edged vocal style, more suited to Raiders records than his typical made-for-AM solo singles.  Its B-side, the self-penned “Don’t You Know,” dabbled in psychedelia and a harder sound.

Good thing Lindsay had experience with Jimmy Webb (very much influenced by Bacharach) and “Bookends,” because he was more than prepared for 1971’s “Something Big.” The song was written by Bacharach and David for Cinema Center Films’ movie of the same name, a western starring Dean Martin.  (Cinema Center hoped the tune would do for Something Big what “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” did for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and even set “Something Big” to a horse-riding sequence in the picture, filling in for Butch’s bicycles!)  “Something Big” was egregiously overlooked by listeners of the time largely due to the movie’s failure, but the song deserved much better.  It’s reminiscent of Bacharach’s sound circa Lost Horizon, a different style than that of his groundbreaking hits with Dionne Warwick but with his trademark rhythmic sensibility very much intact.  (Trivia time: For the second time, Bacharach abdicated scoring chores on a Cinema Center Films production to Marvin Hamlisch, after The April Fools; both Bacharach and Hamlisch would later be romantically involved with the lyricist Carole Bayer Sager.)  The singer emulated Bacharach’s drawling vocals and nailed the demanding phrasing, and D’Andrea’s arrangement may even best Bacharach’s own version, as heard on his album Living Together.  Though Lindsay never again originated a Bacharach and David song (and in fact, the pair would be separated soon after “Something Big”), the team did produce the Lindsay/Butler song “Amanda” for Dionne Warwick to sing in the film The Love Machine.  The B-side of “Something Big” brought another renowned songwriter into Mark Lindsay’s circle, none other than Peter Allen, another collaborator of the aforementioned Ms. Sager!  Allen and lyricist Hal Hackady (Broadway’s Minnie’s Boys) offered the wistful “Pretty, Pretty,” later recorded by Allen on his own Continental American album.

Jack Gold, the Columbia staff producer who was initially interested in recording Lindsay in a traditional Johnny Mathis style actually took the controls for one of his last singles, “California” b/w “Someone’s Been Hiding.”  The A-side, by Danny Janssen and Bobby Hart, is a variation on the “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” theme, and Lindsay found its theme (“the stars on the sidewalk are covered with dust”) resonated deeply with him.  Three songs produced by Eirik Wangberg rounded out Lindsay’s tenure at Columbia including the Latin-flavored “Mamacita” from the pens of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.  The B-side of “Mamacita,” the tender “Song for a Friend,” was again written by Lindsay himself with strong echoes of Bread.  It might have augured another stylistic change for the singer, but as he tells Ed Osborne (also the compilation’s producer) in the lengthy and wonderfully-detailed liner notes here, Columbia felt his time as a solo artist had passed.

Luckily for us, that solo era can be relived once again.  Vic Anesini has remastered each of the collection’s twenty-four tracks in sparkling sound, and now Lindsay’s entire Columbia singles output can be both enjoyed and re-evaluated.  (Could his three Columbia solo LPs follow in one remastered set?)  These songs can now stand alongside the best of Paul Revere and the Raiders’ work.  In the words of one of that band’s most famous songs, that’s such a good thing, baby.

Written by Joe Marchese

March 5, 2012 at 15:27

4 Responses

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  1. Joe’s review says it beautifully: Mark Lindsay’s Complete Columbia Singles is an amazingly diverse, thoroughly enjoyable collection. Mark’s rich, strong voice delivers the goods on every selection, whether he’s performing a powerful anthem like “Arizona” or “Silver Bird,” a playfully raunchy Alan O’Day song like “Are You Old Enough” or passionately lamenting the destruction of our nation’s natural beauty in “Photograph.” I notice that, like on Paul Revere and the Raiders’ Complete Columbia Singles, some of Mark’s most eloquent and deeply personal compositions were B-sides. But every song on here is a gem!

    Keith

    March 5, 2012 at 17:06

  2. I completely agree about this Mark Lindsay collection. It is a wonderful representation of Mark’s solo work. Every track is indeed a gem and a previous post stated. For the longest time I was hoping that Sony Music would do an Essential Mark Lindsay CD release. It’s a good thing I never held my breath and its just as well because Real Gone Music nailed this collection and did a far better job on it that Sony ever would have. Now I can’t wait to see the future releases for this terrific new reissue label.

    Zubb

    March 5, 2012 at 20:13

  3. I’ve nothing much to add that hasn’t been said already, but that is a MUCH better cover than the previous Paul Revere & The Raiders Complete Columbia Singles cover.

    Victor Dang

    March 27, 2012 at 14:53

  4. Very nice review. I love this CD. I have had it for a while now and I never get tired of it. Mark was the reason for the success of the Raiders and his creativity and talent are amazing. I am writing this in 2013 and I am listening to his new CD “Life Out Loud” as I write. At 71 he is still touring, writing, singing and making people happy. I hope he knows that his fans never left him. Until the internet came along we just didn’t know where he was. Now we happily find him on Facebook and still rocking it out. The man is timeless – his voice, his music and his looks. I hope Mark will be with us and sharing his light with us for a long, long time. Oh, and Mark – I cannot wait for that book and the Broadway play you are working on!

    Mykola

    December 6, 2013 at 19:44


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