Graham Reid | | 2 min read
The point to note about Ray Columbus and the Invaders being inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at the 2009 Music Awards is that it is Ray Columbus AND The Invaders.
Columbus might have been the charismatic and energetic frontman, but as this 45-song double disc reminds, he had a band that were as good as it got in this country during the early Sixties -- and no surprise that Del Shannon wanted to poach them after a tour on the same bill.
After their classic cover of She's a Mod (but who knows of the original by Birmingham's Senators?) which opens this extremely well-annotated collection (the band telling their story, and stories), the next track is the surf-rock of Cat's Eyes which fairly burns off the disc. Later they romp through Joe Meek's Ku Pow like Peter Posa on poppers.
Over the long haul here it might be the Invaders as much as Ray and the songs you tune in for.
Much of the music, mostly covers as was the practice in those Beatlemania days, sounds utterly locked in its period of course: On My Mind peels off most of Boys; there is Willie and the Hand Jive, I Wanna Be Your Man (faithful but punchy), Shakin' All Over, Long Tall Sally, I Saw Her Standing There, Poison Ivy . . . All songs familiar in any Beat Band's repertoire.
To their credit, Ray and the Invaders play them with aplomb and passion, and the band are exceptionally tight. The few originals don't stray too far from the familiar (Oh My Baby, We Can't Go Wrong, I'm Finding Out shows they were listening to the young Stones as much as the Beatles/Swinging Blue Jeans/Searchers etc).
But Ray's self-penned Orbie Lee is a real shaker though, and band-penned instrumental Jimmy Jumps is a snappy little gem which lets drummer Jimmy Hill take a solo.
There are few ballads on the first disc but it closes with the wonderfully produced Till We Kissed, the history of which -- from Arthur Alexander's first version as Where have You Been to the Beatles singing a verse during the Let It Be sessions -- is also sketched in. You don't have to be a patriot to say Ray and the Invaders' delivered the definitive version.
The second disc sees them broadening their horizons: the slightly dirty blues of She's Gone; Ray and Billy Kristian's power-pop on I Feel Bad and their terrific She's Back Again; the album fillers (The Theme From Dr No, again faithful; I Think of You); the moody original Mad At Me; the country groove of 90A Nashville Drive (the Stones at Chess Studios the influence again); the Searchers-styled guitar jangle of All Through Pride (another excellent original); the MOR guitar ballad Autumn Leaves . . .
And they throw in a live version of the Newbeats' falsetto-testing Bread and Butter.
Yes, much of this music will sound thin to a young audience and maybe even slightly embarrassing to old fans who would rather pretend they didn't love this stuff quite as much as they did.
But there is a palpable excitement in these songs, they date from a time when the volume was going up, the energy from the band matched the screams from the crowd, and these guys were experiencing and causing antipodean Beatlemania.
So welcome to the Hall of Fame Ray, Billy, Wally, Dave and Jimmy.