Ray Paul: The Charles Beat

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By David Fufkin

When The Knack hit #1 with “My Sharona” in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, it was a really exciting time for a lot of bands skilled in the art of the A/B structure, melody and harmony. Sure, there were stupid “new wave” bands who wore those really skinny sunglasses and skinnier ties doing bad Devo-soundalike songs getting signed left and right. There were a lot of posers out there. Ray Paul was no poser then, and he is not one now. On this disc, Paul gives us just the right mix of sweetness combined with that Dirty Water crunch from his hometown of Boston. This is pop of the power variety: the real stuff from an era when everyone was in a power pop band. Only the best left a legacy. Paul and RPM did that.

Rock ‘n’ roll in Boston in the ‘70s was a vital place and Paul and his band RPM were a big part of it. RPM and Paul had a sound similar to Raspberries from Cleveland. Like Raspberries, RPM sang tight melodic pop that rocked.

The Charles Beat opens with a track recorded with the legendary Emitt Rhodes. Rhodes released an absolute classic McCartneyesque album in the early ‘70s. Paul sounds, at times, like a combination of Chicago’s great Pezband and Tommy Hoehn. For those who hate esoteric references, think Cheap Trick fronted by McCartney. This is great guitar rock pop.

There are a lot of flavors here: consider the organ-fueled “Won’t You Take a Ride”. I hear J. Geils (Boston) and James Gang. Melodic rock. “Broken Hearted” is a highlight of the CD. Killer chorus, with very Pete-Ham like guitar arrangements that give space to the rest of the cascading melody around the guitars. “Hold It” could have been written for Mick Ralphs and Paul Rodgers, and if they’d have put this on an album back then, Ray would still be getting royalties.

One of the nice things about The Charles Beat is that it does not sound dated, and that just isn’t true with a lot of stuff from this era.

Paul now runs Permanent Press Recordings in California, using his obvious ear for music to sign artists such as Walter Clevenger. Clevenger may be the finest roots pop songwriter in the world, and sometimes it takes a good musician to hear Clevenger’s kind of talent.

As far as Mr. Paul is concerned, I’d love to hear more of the stuff like the new track which opens the CD. The whole of The Charles Beat is strong. Overall, this is a nicely done retrospective of a legacy Paul should be very proud of.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/raypaul-charles/