Friday 29 March 2024

The Now Sounds of the Rave-Ons

Full disclosure: I have written about some of the tracks on this album before, but that was back in 2010, and the links to the two tracks are long dead.


Over their many years in the song-poem field, Columbine Records issued dozens upon dozens of compilation albums under the title The Now Sounds of Today; if their catalogue is to be believed there could be as many as 300 or more. Each of them contained anything up to 20 different tracks, most from aspiring hit makers but occasionally featuring one or two covers of standards from the American songbook, included no doubt to add a patina of authenticity to the company’s nefarious money-making scheme.


Packaging these albums in dull, generic sleeves (often with different catalogue numbers printed on the sleeve and disc) saved both time and money, important when the overall budget for each project was close on non-existent. It seldom mattered if the details on the sleeve were wrong, as customers were unlikely to know any better: on this particular volume, track five, I’ll Never Say No To You is credited to Rave-Ons but actually performed by Bob Grummer; the following track has no artist credit at all on the sleeve but does feature the band elsewhere referred to as the Rave-Ons.


The musicians involved would not have seen cue sheets for the songs they were being asked to perform before entering the studio, yet even taking note of the ridiculous rate that Columbine churned this material out many of those musicians - consummate professionals and song-poem stalwarts like Kay Weaver, John Muir (aka Gene Marshall) and Ralph Lowe - managed to do a half-decent job.


Several of the song-poem companies had their own studio band: Cinema, for example, issued hundreds of records credited to the Real Pros, a shifting collection of studio musicians which at times was nothing more than a one-man band (a la Rodd Keith) and at others a full-blown band fronted by Dick Kent, and Columbine had the Rave-Ons.


I believe that there were at least two different incarnations of the Rave-Ons. The band of that name that appears on side one of this album, for example, is a laughably inadequate three-piece who can barely put a tune together, led by a vocalist who simply cannot sing. On side two, the Rave-Ons are fronted by superior song-poem session singer Ralph Lowe. That’s Ralph on vocals on the brilliant Journey’s End, the rather pedestrian Heavenly Baby, and A Friend, a boring lyric only lifted above the mediocre by the fact that Ralph is singing from a woman’s point of view about his/her ‘soul sister’.


To call the (side one) Rave-Ons inept is putting it mildly, but the act appearing on side two are perfectly serviceable, and make a decent fist of things. The band credited as Rave-Ons on side one of this collection (and who appear on several other Columbine albums in my collection) are nowhere near as capable as Ralph’s backing act: they simply have to be a different set of musicians.


It's beyond belief that anyone at Columbine could have sanctioned the release of this drivel; yet more proof if you needed it of the contempt that these outfits had for the people stupid enough to send them their hard-earned dollars. The (side one) Rave-Ons’ singer 'performs' in a garbled, high-pitched whine racing through the lyrics at speed, clearly wishing that he wasn't there while the rest of the band (keyboards, bass and drums) play the same basic tune on all of the cuts on the album, never managing to rise above the mediocre. All in all, they sound to me like the school band of my nightmares.


Anyway, make up your own mind, for here is the entire album. All 19 tracks, split into the original two sides for your listening pleasure. Apologies for the jump on Erica Campbell’s Heartaches (track eight, side two), but this appears to be a pressing fault. Stand-out tracks are Ralph and the Rave-Ons with Journey’s End (side two, track three) and pretty much all of side one, but especially the exceptional opener Curse of an Evil Woman, Happy Inside of Me (track three) and the insanely awful My Only You (track seven).

Download Side One HERE

Download Side Two HERE

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