Reviews

Ray Paul: Performance Reel, Volumes 1 & 2 [DVD]

Will Harris

Ray Paul

Performance Reel, Volumes 1 & 2 [DVD]

Label: Permanent Press
US Release Date: 2004-01-28
Amazon
iTunes

Outside of the Boston area, Ray Paul's greatest musical accomplishment was the founding of Permanent Press Records. Toward the end of the '90s, the label released debut albums from the Brown Eyed Susans, the Carpet Frogs, Chewy Marble, Maple Mars, the Supers, the Van De Leckis, William Pears, and Yogi, reissued albums by the Spongetones, Segarini, Klaatu, and Badfinger, and kept artists like Walter Clevenger, Richard X. Heyman, and Terry Draper in the public eye.

And, given that it was Ray Paul's label, it probably shouldn't come as any real surprise that Permanent Press also released The Charles Beat: The Best of the Boston Years 1977-1981 and Now, by none other than... Ray Paul.

In 1980, What's Up, a Boston-based magazine, said of Paul that he "has a McCartney-esque talent for melody," adding that he and his band, RPM, "sound like they truly respect pop. There's no new wave pretension, no '80s cynicism, just the energetic goodwill that made groups like the Grass Roots and the Raspberries so great." The music on The Charles Beat backs up this opinion handily.

Permanent Press closed its doors as a label some time back, but Ray Paul still maintains its name to release his own material, and, as a video companion to The Charles Beat, Paul has now produced a two-DVD set entitled Performance Reel.

At first glance, those who aren't particularly familiar with Paul's work will undoubtedly think, "Geez, two full DVDs worth of live performances? What kind of ego trip is this guy on?" And given that the guy's putting out the DVDs of his own stuff on his own label, well, you can kind of see where they'd be coming from with such an opinion.

What needs to be kept in perspective, however, is that, if your favorite hometown pop hero put out two DVDs of live performances, you'd be all over it, whether the folks in Podunk knew who he was or not. And that's why the folks who worshipped at Paul's altar in Boston in the late '70s and early '80s are no doubt drooling over this release.

Even if you didn't live in Boston, though, this is a fascinating artifact of the power pop sound of that era, as well as of the sort of TV shows bands were appearing on back then. Nightscene and Boston Live, two shows on which Ray Paul and RPM made appearances, are the sort of thing that you used to see on television before syndicated programs and cable wiped out so much of the local TV programming that used to exist. These were the shows on which bands had to play in the dark, pre-MTV days.

Fans of late '60s pop will be fascinated by the appearances from Emmit Rhodes, who made his mark as frontman for the Merry-Go-Round before going solo. Rhodes had been a virtual recluse from the concert scene, but Paul managed to get him on stage for brief performances at International Pop Overthrow in both 1997 and 2000.

Unfortunately, despite great music and fine performances, what cannot be ignored is the wildly varying video quality of the various gigs. Chalk this up to age and the fact that many, perhaps most, of the items on the two discs were probably transferred onto DVD from well-worn tapes sitting in the Paul family video library. The result of this, however, is that some portions of the older performances are almost impossible to watch.

There remains another caveat emptor as well. Although the discs do note on their cases that, "due to the age and sources of some material, the quality of portions of the video content presented here may at times vary," they do not note that both volumes of Performance Reel are DVD-R's rather than professionally-produced DVDs. As a result, they will not play on everyone's DVD player; in fact, to be painfully honest, they didn't play properly on mine, which resulted in a real struggle to offer a review of the discs in their entirety.

That having been said, if you've got a better DVD player than mine and you're a fan of the power pop genre, these two discs provide a fascinating trip into the history of a guy who never managed to be quite the pop star he should've been. It doesn't solve the mystery as to why he never broke out beyond Boston, but it provides some fine music nonetheless.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnarok' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

Music

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.

Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.