Sunday, September 01, 2013

Joey Ramone - Ya Know?

After my last few entries, I feel like I have to revive my "cool quotient" and who was ever cooler than Joey Ramone?!

I don't really know the story behind this album, but it seems to be a collection of demos and one-off tunes that Joey did with a bunch of friends, including his brother, Mickey Leigh and this marks his second posthumous solo album. Mickey appears on pretty much every song in one way or another, either simply vocals, or a multitude of instruments, including guitar, bass, and keyboards.

The festivities start with the Plasmatics' Ritchie Stotts' tune (co-written with Joey), "Rock'n'Roll Is the Answer", which was pretty much Joey's mantra and with some fun lyrical rip-offs from "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting"! Stotts has always been a highly underrated guitarist - cool solo here! "Going Nowhere Fast" easily could be a Ramones outtake, with Ritchie Ramone providing the beat and Ramones' producer Ed Stasium playing guitar & bass.

"New York City" references a number of other songs, though I can't put my finger on most of them, and has a veritable who's-who of the NYC r'n'r scene as guests - members of the Dictators, Steve Van Zandt, Holly Vincent, Genya Raven and Lenny Kaye! Wow! "Waiting For That Railroad" is actually an acoustic ballad with none other than Bun E. Carlos on "traps", along with Holly Vincent again adding some vocals and Stasium adding various other instruments, including an accordion - is that a first on any Ramones-related albums?

"I Couldn't Sleep" sounds to be like a tribute to "Real Wild Child" with brother Mickey playing most of the instruments, other than Pat Carpenter's drums. A punk-ish, 12-string folk-rocker in "What Did I Do To Deserve You?" - funnily, I tried to place what this reminded me of and it is one of my old songs! Doubt that was a big influence on them! Interesting and cool change of pace, though! "Seven Days of Gloom" seems to be a more metallic Ramones, with Ritchie again on the throne and Bun E. again on "traps" and Handsome Dick Manitoba adding backing vocals with Holly Vincent and Al Maddy.

More Ramones-isms in "Eyes of Green", with Bun E., Shernoff, and Stasium making appearances alongside Leigh. Holly Vincent alternates vocals and harmonizes with Joey on "Party Line" - almost a doo-wop/early r'n'r feel with a cool sax section by Arno Hecht. A slow, Phil Spector-like "Merry Christmas" (without the "wall of sound") is a neat alternative to the "official" Ramones release. "21st Century Girl" returns the Joey power-rock'n'roll, with a guest spot by Joan Jett and more of the usual crew.

The sadly-titled "There's Got to Be More To Life" has Jean Beauvoir playing all instruments - the man was the bassist for the Plasmatics, and also sang in the Flamingos (!), played with Steve Van Zandt and had a hit song in a Slyvester Stallone move, Cobra! Another unusual musical turn is "Make Me Tremble" with Andy Shernoff performing all the instruments, and creating an almost Caribbean Island feel, in a really weird way.

"Cabin Fever" is a bit more produced song, with more members of the Dics and with Stasium and Leigh providing keyboards, including mellotron and then the record ends with "Life's a Gas" - not the T.Rex song, but has similarities - a short, acoustic number with just Joey, Mickey and Ed.

While nothing here should be a huge surprise to any Ramones fan, this does show that Joey liked different variations on the themes that his main group explored. As with the first posthumous release, this is a solid collection of tunes - any fan should own!