In the annals of ‘60s pop, Mark Lindsay was a bona-fide teen idol and the songwriting and singing talent behind the garage rock of Paul Revere & the Raiders. However, by 1969, Lindsay was branching out as a producer and a performer in his own right. The lovingly remastered The Complete Columbia Singles, which chronicles Lindsay’s solo material from 1969 to 1974 in chronological order during his tenure with Columbia Records and collects all of his 45 rpm singles (along with a previously unreleased cover of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe”, which would later become a big hit for Rod Stewart), pays such attention to detail that the first five songs of this 24-track collection are in their original mono state – the rest are in stereo.
Here’s the thing: I don’t deny that Lindsay has a place in American pop music history, and he does have a distinct voice. However, instead of writing his own songs for his Raiders-less material, he frequently relied on a pool of songs from other mainstream lite-pop acts (such as Jimmy Webb and Neil Diamond), which diminishes any claim to originality. Also, much of Lindsay’s solo output had been, until now, out of print or not issued on CD at all and there’s a reason for this. His choice of material is definitely a product of its time and sounds incredibly dated to modern ears. Thus, The Complete Columbia Singles showcases an era when Lindsay’s solo forays into largely strings-and-horns drenched middle-of-the-road pop music was a balm for those living through the turbulent Vietnam War and Watergate years. It’s disposable pop of its time in the same way that Lady Gaga will probably be viewed as in another 40 years. That basically means that the people who are going to get any sort of enjoyment out of this collection are those who grew up on this music, and had a song like his biggest hit “Arizona” on a K-Tel compilation or single.
What this collection ultimately winds up showcasing is that Lindsay spent a great deal of his early ‘70s career as a solo act trying and failing to recapture the success of “Arizona”. Indeed, Lindsay went so far as to cut another ode to a U.S. state, “California”, and “Silver Bird” and “Problem Child” are essentially attempts to entrap once again the lightning in a bottle that Lindsay effortlessly found on “Arizona”, employing the same big brassy choruses and soft shoe verses. While Lindsay had charting hits beyond “Arizona”, as this collection shows, none was as successful as that aforementioned tune, and the latter half of the collection shows Lindsay trying to keep pace with evolving ‘70s musical trends, such as country rock and punchy lite-rock Rhodes piano numbers.
There are some glaring misfires, such as the proto-funk boogie of “Are You Old Enough”. “Pretty, Pretty” even lifts that children’s favourite “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in its lyrics, which is, of course, as cheesy as it could get. That said, there’s the odd bauble such as “Don’t You Know”, which has a simmering Californian-style rock guitar. Still, if the archivist label Real Gone wanted to put out a true summation of Lindsay’s solo output, they might as well have just issued “Arizona” 24 times. This compilation largely showcases an artist grasping at straws to have a hit single that would take him to the top of the charts, something he was unable to achieve without the Raiders moniker bolstering him. As such, The Complete Columbia Singles is, as a whole, largely unessential for non-baby boomer listeners, except if you’re having a party where you and your friends are blowing soapy bubbles around. There’s pretty much a term for this sort of thing: dad rock, and sensitive dad rock at that. Not necessarily a bad thing, per se, but this is the sort of thing only tolerable in small doses for younger listeners and is more of a stone age relic than a case for unheralded genius.
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// Notes from the Road
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