MP3 Mike & The Ravens - Noisy Boys ! The Saxony Sessions
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ROCK: 60's Rock, ROCK: Classic Rock
: â¢ Founded by Mike Brassard and the Blodgett brothers in 1960, Mike & The Ravens were early pre-Beatles/British Invasion rockânrollers, influenced by Jerry Lee Lewis & Link Wray, with a substantial regional following around Upstate New York.
â¢ In 2007, producer Will Shade (Yardbirds, Monks, Electric Prunes) reconvened Mike & The Ravens for their first full length album, reuniting the band for the first time in 45 years at one of their old stomping grounds, The Saxony in Rouses Point, NY, a few miles south of the Canadian border.
â¢ At the Saxony, âNoisy Boys!â was recorded with the original 1962 line-up of Mike & The Ravens, consisting of 12 songs full of ferocious energy and snarling vintage Fender & Gibson guitars, and finally including their
first recording of their room-shaking â62 party hit (Roller, Roller) Rollerland.
A tiny ember can smolder unseen for years before bursting into flames. And so it was that this album came to be madeâmore than forty years after Mike & the Ravens had broken up. This is potent, homebrewed rock ânâ roll, drawn up from a wellspring of hopes unfulfilled and dreams deferred. This stuff has deep roots. This stuff has heft and history. This ainât no grandma grandpa rock: this is the real shit, friends.
The Mike & the Ravens story began back in 1960 in Northfield, Vermont, when Mike Brassard, Stephen Blodgett, Brian Lyford and Peter Young met and formed Mike & the Throbs. Stephenâs brother, John âBoâ Blodgett joined a year later on lead guitar, and in 1962 they changed their name to the Ravens. Almost from the get-go it was clear there was something different and special about this group. While most of the other bands in the area were slick and sparkly, the Ravens were dark and gritty. Their somber charcoal gray stage suits made them look more like bank robbers than entertainers, and while other bands practiced choreographed dance steps, the Ravensâ stage show was wild and, at times, almost uncontrollable. The music, though, was always tight and rocking. Most significantly of all, the Ravens played original material, a real rarity for a local act in the pre-Beatles era. Stephen Blodgett was the bandâs main writer and even as a teenager he had a real gift for carefully crafted, highly contagious rock ânâ roll songs.
Rollerland, a cavernous roller-skating rink in Plattsburgh, New York, became the bandâs main stomping ground and the scene for some of the wildest rock ânâ roll shows of the day. âRollerland was like a Quonset hut,â Mike Brassard recalls. âA huge steam room basically. Packed with kids screaming their asses off. The steam would be rising off them. I would be sweating like a stuck pig and smell like a garbage heap at the end of our first set. I was dizzy most of the time because I would be very active up on stage and my suit would cling to me and we all smelled like sweaty socks and wet sneakers. Ah, now thatâs rock ânâ roll!â
Stephen Blodgett immortalized the venue in a song he wrote in 1962, â(Roller, Roller) Rollerland.â A fast rollinâ rocker, it inevitably brought the house down every time they played it. The Ravens didnât record the song at the time, but it was picked up a year or so later by another local band, Wild Bill Kennedy & the Twiliters, who recorded it for a 45 release on Empire Records. (In the early 1990s the song was rediscovered by Deke Dickerson, who recorded a version with his band at the time, the Untamed Youth.)
The Ravens themselves made a handful of 45s for the local Empire label, and although they didnât capture the energy of their live performances, they stand as evidence of their solid vocal, instrumental and songwriting prowess. By the end of 1962, though, the original, classic Ravens lineup had broken up. Mike Brassard and Stephen Blodgett would continue to write and record musicâtogether and separatelyâthrough the end of the decade, but Mike & the Ravens were, for all intents and purposes, dead and buried.
The Ravens secret history would remain interred for the next four decades until writer and rock historian Will Shade began tracking down the members as part of his research into the areaâs early rock ânâ roll and garage scene. Encouraged by this new interest
in their music, the original Mike & the Ravens decided to get together and make some noise. As fingers fumbled for and found forgotten chords, and rusty vocal cords strained to shake off years of corrosion, the embers stirred, glowed, then flared to life. With Will Shadeâthe bellows of the projectâin the producerâs chair the Ravens began work on their first album.
âI think the band wanted to prove something to ourselves,â says Brassard. âWe wanted this to be the album we never had the
chance to make. But most importantly, we wanted those young guys we used to be to dig it.â
To stir up a few old ghosts, or at least help conjure the right vibe, the album was recorded at the Saxony in Rouses Point, New York, the venue where the band made their New York state debut more than 40 years earlier. Stephen Blodgett came armed with a pile of high quality new songs, and the hungry band quickly sank their teeth into the new material. âSteve is an artist,â says Mike admiringly, âa craftsman. It is such a kick and honor to sing songs of that caliber. Steveâs songs and Willâs belief in us as a groupâno matter our age or how rustyâwas the great motivator for me. Peter hadnât played drums for over 36 years. Bo hadnât played either. Brian had done some guitar playing with his sonâs band, and Steve had kept working at his songwriting. I hadnât written a song or sang anything for about 36 years. So it was with some trepidation that we all jumped in.â
At first it was hard work as the band labored to fully ignite the fiery spark and spirit of those old Rollerland days. âI gotta tell you, Peterâs stamina was really something,â says Brassard of the Ravensâ drummer. âHis hands would blister and he would sweat, but he just did itâwe all didâand at some point it stopped being work and fun broke out in the studio. We knew we were on to something real then. We all sensed it. Something was going on here. About halfway through the project we found a used analog 16-track deck and transferred everything to analog. But we didnât go in and fix, fix, fix everything; we just hit it until it felt good. And thatâs what you hear on the CD: us having a ball, just rockinâ.â
The band roars back to life with a version of the song they didnât get to record back in â62, â(Roller, Roller) Rollerland,â and it rocks with the same passion and fervor that must have possessed them back in their original heyday. Bo Blodgettâs patented âgrowling guitarâ soundâstill spoken of in reverential tones by old Rollerland attendeesâmakes its first recorded appearance here, a wrenching, room shakinâ grumble thatâd make Link Wray proud. It surfaces again in all its string mangling beauty on the frenetic â(I Be) Rockinâ With Mrs. Benoit.â
In âNoisy Boys,â the Ravens claim their music is âtoo stupid for the radio,â but the opposite is true. Mike Brassardâs lyrics are full of sly humor and clever turns of phrase, and his songs are inhabited by characters that ring true to life like the reluctant hooker Polly in âSweet Potato Red Sez,â or poor mamaâs boy Bobby, who throws like a girl and listens to Marvin Gaye in his room all night.
The songs themselves are full of all kinds of left-field twists and turns as well: Stephen Blodgettâs âOnce I Was A Dancing Bearâ with its thumpinâ Bo Diddley beat and fevered beat poetry breakdown, âShe Wolf,â which twitches and howls like a lost track from Beefheartâs Clear Spot, or Brassard and Lyfordâs cacophonous âNoisy Boysâ which careens in headlong hysteria smack into the side of Wolverton Mountain.
Reunion albums by bands of sixty-somethings are usually dicey propositions at best. This album is a different animal altogether.
âThereâs too much Baby Boomer pabulum out there,â snarls Brassard. âYou know, careful albums by careful guys. Iâm still taking my cues from Jerry Lee Lewis and Link Wray like I did when I was a kid along with some bands who got by me in the â60s... people like the Sonics, the Velvet Underground and the Monks.â
âWe all hate the term Grandpa Rock,â he adds. âIf we ever do anything that sounds that way, shoot usâwe would rather go fishing.â
Mike Stax, Ugly Things Magazine, April 2008
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