Liner Note Authors: Gerry Marsden; The Pacemakers.
The name Ray Columbus doesn't mean much in North America, but in New Zealand, the man is a multi-format celebrity. Columbus enjoyed a long and successful career on Kiwi television, but in the '60s he was also one of New Zealand's first and greatest rock stars. As the frontman with Ray Columbus & the Invaders, he was responsible for two of the Antipodes' biggest local hits, "She's a Mod" and "'Til We Kissed." On-stage, Columbus & the Invaders were a force to be reckoned with, able to show the Rolling Stones how it was done on a raucous 1965 tour. Though Columbus and his band were idols in New Zealand and broke through to major success in Australia, the rest of the world didn't quite get the message. Now You Shake: The Definitive R&B-Pop Psych Recordings 1963-1969 is a 29-track collection that finally tells the Ray Columbus story to the unenlightened. Columbus was a strong vocalist who could handle pop material, but excelled when the band showed off their R&B chops on numbers like "She's Back Again" and "Orbie Lee." He's at his best here on his Invaders sides and his early solo cuts, which should please garage rock and freakbeat enthusiasts. Columbus tried his hand at an American career in 1967. Despite the excellence of his single with the Art Collection, "Kick Me," his later polished psych-pop singles were not as exciting, though his performances remained top-notch. Even the weakest material here, however, is genuinely fun, and the best moments confirm Columbus was a major talent, even if the American market missed the boat. The liner notes are informative despite frequent typos and punctuation errors. If the archival audio quality is occasionally less than ideal, from a musical standpoint this is a great listen from front to back. If you've never heard Ray Columbus, Now You Shake will start you out in style, and fans will find this a satisfying summary of his glory days. ~ Mark Deming