The BellRays may hail from Southern California but their spiritual home is Deeetroit. Their brand of soulful hard rock/proto-punk owes more to Motor City soul and bands like the MC5 than anything the Southland could muster. This is due in no small part to singer Lisa Kekaula's big, big voice; credit also has to go to the band's songwriting (handled mostly by guitarist Tony Fate and bassist Bob Vennum).
'Raw Collection' gathers together tracks from out-of-print vinyl singles and compilation albums, giving you an odds-and-ends overview of the band's output from 1995 'til now. Bear in mind that this patchwork approach results in a less-than-solid album overall - still, there's plenty of great material to recommend it.
The album opens with a minor-key, mid-tempo number You're Sorry Now - a great song but it doesn't exactly get things off to a blazing start. That is remedied with the next cut, a cover of the Saints' Nights in Venice. This song fits in perfectly with the BellRays sound; they could easily pass this one off as one of their own.
Next up, Half a Mind, an uptempo rocker that musically quotes (inadvertently, maybe) the descending part of the Saints' Stranded where Chris Bailey sings, "stranded on my own."
Mind's Eye is something that I don't think I've ever heard from the BellRays: a POP song. A really NICE pop song; kinda ballady. Quite the pleasant surprise.
A short instrumental, Swastika, brings to mind Hocus Pocus by the Dutch band Focus for I don't know what reason.
Other highlights include all out rockers Tie Me Down, Rude Awakening, I Lost the Feeling, the full-on punk rawk of Suicide Baby, the epic Chemical (epic despite clocking in at under four minutes), the pummel-rock of Say What You Mean, and a pair of pinball-themed ditties originally released with a copy of the late, lamented Multiball magazine (I haven't seen it around for quite a while, anyhow - are they still publishing?).
To sum up, 'Raw Collection' might not be the best introduction to the BellRays but is certainly worth picking up if you're already a fan of the band.