Rock’s back pages are littered with “creative differences.” Such differences split Paul Revere and the Raiders into two warring factions – Paul Revere and Mark Lindsay on one side; Phil “Fang” Volk, Mike “Smitty” Smith and Drake “The Kid” Levin on the other. The Volk-Smith-Levin triumvirate bristled at the more pop direction that the onetime garage band had been taking, and were none too pleased with the studio musicians being enlisted to beef up the Raiders’ recordings. In early 1967, the trio departed the band, leading to litigation and acrimony. But both parties soldiered on. Revere and Lindsay were joined in The Raiders by Freddy Weller, Joe Correro, Jr. and Keith Allison, and Volk, Levin, and Smith formed The Brotherhood. But while Revere continued to notch hits, The Brotherhood wasn’t quite so lucky. Its small three-album discography for RCA has gone all but forgotten in the ensuing years. Luckily, Real Gone Music has found this missing link in Raiders history. Brotherhood’s The Complete Recordings (RGM-0220, 2014) brings together all three of these fascinating LPs in one deluxe 2-CD set.
With a new label and newfound autonomy, bassist Volk, guitarist Levin and drummer Smith took few cues from their old band when they formed Brotherhood. Organist Ron Collins rounded out the group which tried to live up to its name; on the first album, every songwriting credit was shared by the three core members. Brotherhood’s first, self-titled long-player from 1968 began hopefully with the sound of applause, but despite the wealth of possibilities in its twelve tracks, a listener could be forgiven for wondering, “Just who are these guys?” The versatile talents of Brotherhood failed to create a cohesive album for their debut, but succeeded in showing off the many musical styles they had mastered, gleefully jumping from genre to genre – at times in the same song! The opening track “Somebody” veers from snarling garage rock to showbiz brassiness with a dash of reggae for good measure, but it gets even stranger from there. Levin’s “Pastel Blue” is a gently wistful bossa nova tune, while “Lady Faire” is a decidedly Parisian cabaret jaunt. “Box Guitar” is a slightly twee soft-shoe vaudeville track with enjoyable tack piano from Collins, but none of these tracks could have satisfied expectations of a new band built around the talents of the Raiders’ rhythm section.
Despite the smiling faces on the album cover, darkness permeates much of Brotherhood, too. One rocking track pleads to “Close the Door” (“before they find us…”), and the specter of Vietnam looms over the tense, slow and lysergic “Doin’ the Right Thing (The Way),” featuring Levin on sitar. (Volk’s brother Capt. George Francis Volk of the U.S. Army was killed in Vietnam in 1967.) “Love for Free” begins on an ominous note before ceding to harmony-psychedelia. The band indulged its baroque, impressionistic sensibilities on “Seasons” (with a guest cello spot) and the lyrically-cryptic “Ice Cream.” Brotherhood was an album in search of a single, as the band was aware. They settled on “Jump Out the Window,” with the LP’s most straightforward and enjoyable pop-rock melody. The lyric urges the title act as a kind of liberation, and most of it is innocuous enough: “I’m a hip Mary Poppins/I fly so naturally/I go where the wind blows/And the wind knows I’m free…” But the plea to jump out the window likely didn’t help it climb the pop charts. Bill Kopp’s comprehensive liner notes find Phil Volk confessing that he found the song’s message “irresponsible.” By the time of the album’s finale, the hypnotic, Moog-splashed “Forever” as sung by Levin, it was still difficult to discern what kind of band Brotherhood was, and wanted to be.
Where did the band head next? Hit the jump!
Sound effects were utilized throughout Brotherhood, and the band took its sonic experimentation a step further with its sophomore release. Joyride was issued under the name of Friend Sound, a peculiar move for a group that had failed to break through to the mainstream with its first record. Inspired by the likes of Frank Zappa’s sprawling Uncle Meat, Joyride (originally released in 1969) featured six tracks that could hardly be categorized as “songs.” Real Gone has placed the album on the collection’s second disc; Brotherhood’s first and third albums are on Disc One. Considering the outré content of Joyride, the decision was a wise one.
With its title seemingly meant to be taken ironically, much of Joyride is unsettling – from the eerie “Love Sketch” to the cacophonous, nearly ten-minute “Lost Angel Proper St.” An aural portrait of the darker side of Los Angeles life, Brotherhood employed spoken word passages, noisy blasts of guitar, the sound of ticking, and other jarring effects. “Childsong” features wind chimes, celesta, flute recorder and even an old family tape of three-year old Fang singing, plus the sounds of children. It’s an ambitious sound collage, for sure, as is the title track. Credited to fifteen (!) writers, “Joyride” is a one-chord composition with organ, woodwinds, percussion, guitars and bass, punctuated by spoken interjections. It’s all very ambitious, but lacked the sheer musicality, scope and personality of Zappa’s work of the time.
Needless to say, Joyride didn’t trouble the charts. The band itself was also fracturing. Collins and Smith both departed the group after the experimental album. Collins even, rather damningly, reveals in Kopp’s liner notes here that he felt much as the central trio did in The Raiders – in other words, like a hired hand with no hand in the creative direction of the group. Ironically, Smith followed his tenure in Brotherhood by briefly returning to the Raiders line-up. But Levin and Volk soldiered on for the 1969 set entitled Brotherhood Brotherhood, enlisting Joe “The Machine” Pollard to fill Smith’s place at the drum kit.
With three covers of familiar songs and eight Levin/Volk originals, Brotherhood Brotherhood was the band’s first and last stab at a commercial set of songs. This new pop-rock direction was evident on the opening cut, “Don’t Let Go.” It was more raucous than anything on the past two records, and even featured The Wrecking Crew’s Larry Knechtel on boogie-woogie piano. The boisterous slice of blue-eyed-soul-gone-to-church (“Everybody put your hearts together and pray for peace!”) also was markedly more optimistic than past Brotherhood efforts: “Don’t let go/Farther up ahead is a better road…” The band rocked hard, too, on the urgent “Back Home Again” with a searing Levin solo. The track was ahead of its time in its lyrical plea for awareness of the environment. “This is our natural home,” goes the lyric about the Earth itself. Another solidly enjoyable, if standard-issue, rocker is “Destination Unknown,” and Levin lathers on the funk with his wah-wah guitar on “When the Chips Are Down.”
The oddest track might be a surreptitious revival of Levin’s 1967 jazz-inflected Parrot single “Glory Train,” first released under the name of “dRAKE.” “Love Sketch” makes a return appearance from Joyride, with newly-added lyrics over its haunting bed of music. But despite some missteps, Drake’s commanding talent at the guitar comes to the fore on Brotherhood Brotherhood. Blues licks abound on “Deep Blue Sea,” though its simplistic lyrics (“You know the sea is in me/I love the deep blue sea”) aren’t among the album’s finest. In Kopp’s notes, Fang correctly characterizes the song as “filler.” Far better is the snarling rock of “Family Tree,” its muscular sound finally recalling the early Paul Revere and the Raiders as crossed with The Rolling Stones thanks to Fang’s Jagger-esque vocal.
Of the covers, Brotherhood channeled Vanilla Fudge with a “heavy” take on John Phillips’ Mamas and the Papas classic “California Dreamin’.” Its mannered lead vocals, screaming guitar from Levin and lack of harmonies creates a valid, alternative look at the familiar song. Brotherhood’s rendition of Joe South’s “Rose Garden” is a more straight-ahead rock treatment thanks to the backing track donated to the band by friend Lee Michaels. (Drake had played on the original session for Michaels’ Recital album for which “Rose Garden” was originally recorded.) The Vanilla Fudge approach is heard again on The Beatles’ “When I Get Home.”
Bill Kopp’s comprehensive liner notes present a full history of the band plus detailed annotations on each album and track. The 24-page booklet is loaded with artwork and photographs, as well as an afterword from Phil “Fang” Volk. The original RCA orange labels are lovingly replicated on the CDs, and all tracks have been crisply remastered by Vic Anesini. If you’ve ever wondered what direction Paul Revere and the Raiders might have taken had Volk, Levin and Smith remained with the group, Brotherhood’s Complete Recordings might offer some hints. “Destination Unknown” was an apt description of Brotherhood’s time together, but the varied music the band created during a tumultuous couple of years at long last can be rediscovered – and it’s a Joyride worth taking.