Ray Paul is all about the snap and crackle of a pop song: its hook, its catchiness, its undeniable sing-along and finger-snap appeal. Want proof? Just dig Paul's new CD, "Whimsicality," on his own Permanent Press Records label. "Whimsicality" is a mighty fine 10-song collection of power pop goodness. (Power pop is like garage rock without the trebley snarl and wail.)
Paul and his all-star band know how to sneak up on the electricity without waking the demons of volume. The album is still a healthy slab of rock 'n' roll, though. Songs like "You Don't Have To Prove Your Love," with its stop and start swing and harmony, grab you by the ears immediately. You say you dig Merseybeat? Just give "Pretty Flamingo" a spin or two or three. And "In My World" is pure Brit-pop bop. There are hints of Paul Weller in Ray Paul's pen.
The whole affair has been a long time in the making — what with other projects and geography dictating what Paul could do. Ultimately, it wound up in Rochester where it all began.
Paul started rockin' the Rochester scene in 1964 with The Centurymen. For the remainder of the decade he moved around town to play in other outfits like The Most LTD, The Regent Street V, The Raile, Nasty Tone, and Ragamuffin. Paul remained on the scene stirring things up before hitting the road in 1975.
"That's when I moved to Boston," Paul says. Boston is where Paul's career really took off in 1978 with the first record, "Lady Be Mine Tonight" b/w "Hold It," released on Euphoria records.
Due to the buzz created by impressive airplay, he put a band together that came out six months later. "We were treated more as a recording act than a band that just played bars," Paul says. The band, Ray Paul and RPM, was together from 1978 to 1980, when Paul shifted operations west to Los Angeles. He landed a job in the music business, running Permanent Press Records.
"We mostly did re-issues," he says. "We had something like 24 releases; bands like Badfinger and The Sponge Tones." But the music bug kept biting. Ray wanted to play.
"I always wanted to record again," he says. "I was constantly writing songs."
After 22 years in the California sun, Paul returned to Rochester and formed 28IF. The band played the region for four years before breaking up in 2010. The group was gone, but for Paul, the old spark had been re-ignited, so he assembled an all-star cast — Clem Burke, Emitt Rhodes, Terry Draper, Gar Francis, and Walter Clevenger — and began recording in studios in L.A.; Toronto; Highland Park, New Jersey; and Rochester. Paul says it's more of a collaborative project than a solo outing.
"It's a solo album with friends," he says. "It's the most fun I've ever had doing a project."
And since the members of his studio band have prior commitments, Paul has put together a live band. It features Paul on bass and vocals, Bob Janneck on lead guitar, Billy Eberts on drums, and Dan Eilenberg on rhythm guitar.
It's 2016 and Ray Paul is 66 years old; 52 of those years spent as a musician. "I should have been a doctor," he says. "But I've always gone where my heart was and I've been fortunate to do the things I love."