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Ray Band, Rick: Nothing to Lose

The Rick Ray Band is back with a vengeance and another new CD, this one titled Nothing to Lose. Although they hit a major setback in 2005 when then lead singer Chuck Abraham passed away, the band has found some new musicians and new vitality, and the end result is Nothing to Lose, an extremely varied affair that sees Rick Ray and his cohorts touching on jazz, psychedelia, prog rock, hard rock, and of course the blues.

Joining ace guitarist Ray is longtime collaborator Rick Schultz on reeds, Sam 'PJ' Glorioso on drums, bassist Jack Ambrose, and new singer Alex Abraham. While much of Ray's earlier work had a certain 70's hard rock/guitar hero sound to it, the music here on Nothing to Lose, while still containing plenty of rampaging fretwork, has a very late 60's psychedelic feel to it, as well as some early 70's jazz fusion influences. Tunes such as "There's Always a Catch", "The Whole Ball of Wax", and "Back to the River" contain some great jazzy reed work from Schultz, splatterings of keyboards, and Ray's exploratory,spacey guitar work. This time around, the production is a bit clearer and less cluttered, allowing all the instrumental bits to really stand out. Abraham unleashes his almost Bruce Dickinson-like pipes on the blistering "Blue Print For Ruin", a hard-hitting heavy guitar number that surprisingly gets broken up in the middle by a jazzy sax lead from Schultz, some slippery bass grooves from Ambrose, and a Wes Montgomery styled guitar solo from Ray. After the psychedelic rocker "Living in Sin", the band launches into the jazzy folk number "Substitute For Faith", a real departure for the band that features some tricky drum fills from Glorioso and plenty of flurries from Ray. In some aspects the band sounds a bit like classic Traffic on this one. They continue on with the jazz, mixed with some funk, on the intricate "Standing in Harms Way", which gives way to the crunchy heavy rock of "The Spirit of Fear", which again sees Abraham soaring in true Dickinson form over the beefy riffs from Ray. The band moves into progressive rock and fusion on the complex stop-start rhythms of "If We're Silent", and lets Ray crank out the wah-wah on the Trower/Marino inspired instrumental burner "Across the Bridge of Time".

With more and more jazz tendencies starting to come to the surface, Nothing to Lose is one of the more interesting and varied Rick Ray Band recordings to date. While the production is a step up from earlier efforts, especially regarding the sound of the reeds and rhythms players, Ray's rhythm guitar parts could stand to be a little louder in the mix, but his lead work, and Abraham's vocals, are crystal clear. If you've yet to check out one of the hardest working guitar players on the scene, Nothing to Lose is a good showcase for the unique sounds that he and his band are creating.

Track Listing

  1. There's Always a Catch
  2. Back to the River
  3. The Whole Ball of Wax
  4. Blue Print For Ruin
  5. Living in Sin
  6. Substitute for Faith
  7. Standing in Harms Way
  8. The Spirit of Fear
  9. Hands of Circumstance
  10. If We're Silent
  11. Nothing to Lose
  12. Across the Bridge of Time

Added: May 30th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Rick Ray Website
Hits: 18628
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Ray Band, Rick: Nothing to Lose
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-05-29 23:20:32
My Score:

Funny thing:

Rick Ray used to be one of his genre's most prolific musicians, pumping out a mind bending twenty-something self-released CDs between 1999 and 2005. But Nothing To Lose was in gestation for well over a year before being presented to Ray's growing, fiercely dedicated fanbase - and that extended development period made an important difference: Rick Ray and his band's performances have always been masterful - but the this CD has cleaner production, and more musical songwriting that embraces a more sophisticated style. Ray's music improves with each release and although this record is still a challenging listen with many wild solos, powerful reed sections, walls of sound and balls a-plenty, it is altogether more listenable than his previous releases.

Rick Ray's mastery of the fretboard was well established long ago, and he has shared the stage with such luminaries as Pat Travers, the Dixie Dregs, Frank Marino, Robin Trower, Michael Schenker, Gary Hoey, Kansas, Mark Wood, Peter Frampton and Allan Holdsworth. Lofty company indeed.

New singer and some-time songwriter Alex Abraham had a big pair of boots to fill after the untimely passing of previous singer, his brother Chuck Abraham. To his credit, Alex doesn't attempt to emulate Chuck - preferring to cast his own personality on the band's sound. His upper-register style would be well applied to '80s metal, though it's been successfully shoe horned into the retro jazz/blues/rock style evident on Nothing To Lose. The singing will however be a love-it or hate-it affair for many listeners.

"Back to the River" is a memorable piece - despite being one of the most straightforward songs on the album - and despite being a cover of a Damnation Of Adam Blessing song. It starts with a groove reminiscent of the Woodstock era, and moves into a simple, very catchy vocal melody. Some verses are sung in a complex 2-part duet (almost) a capella over the bass/drum groove and a few sparse guitar chords, and the chorus swells into a bluesy, anthemic piece with anti-war lyrics that stay with you for days. It's hard to pick a standout from the other songs because so many of them have distinguishing features. Some are as tight as a drum (listen to the opening track's tightly coordinated multi-instrumental riffs), while others are masterful jam sessions. Many have a solid groove laid down by elegant bass/drum interaction, and several tracks feature long-time collaborator Rick Schultz's wonderfully smoky, jazzy sax solos. "Blue Print For Ruin" is a favorite, partly because of its extended instrumentals with a long reed section, elegant bass work and light, nimble, jazzy guitar work. Very retro, and it will remind you that so much of the older music was so much better than so much of the newer stuff.

The twelve tracks last 77 minutes, for an average of 6-1/2, with all tracks lasting over 5 but under 8 minutes. Plenty of time to allow each piece to progress through a series of time and tempo changes, and to showcase the band's musicianship.

It isn't perfect. The drumming on "The Whole Ball of Wax"" may have limited appeal with its odd mix, Abrahams's vocals are somewhat limited in range, and it would behoove Rick Ray to invest more emotion and less flash into just a few of his guitar solos. That said - Nothing To Lose is a rewarding listen.

Recommended to fans of progressive rock, southern blues rock, smoky jazz, or '70s-era acid rock.

Ray Band, Rick: Nothing to Lose
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-04-19 22:36:12
My Score:

By my count, Nothing to Lose is the 23rd self-released album from American guitarist Rick Ray. It is also one of the man's most complex, heaviest and psychedelic releases. Credit that, at least in part, to new vocalist and songwriting collaborator Alex Abraham. With a raw and bluesy voice that crosses Bruce Dickinson with Todd Rundgren, he sings tortured lyrics in songs with titles like "Blue Print for Ruin," "Substitute for Faith," Standing in Harms Way" and "The Sprit of Fear."

In keeping with this testosterone-laced album's retro classic-rock vibe, Ray and his four-man band include a groovy cover of 1970's "Back to the River" by The Damnation of Adam Blessing. It's an anti-war song rooted in the Vietnam conflict, but the lyrics are just as relevant today. "Back to the River" stands as one of several highlights here that also include the opening rocker "There's Always A Catch" and "The Whole Ball of Wax" featuring horns galore. Through it all, Ray (who also contributes keyboards and backing vocals) plays with class and ease, drawing from a seemingly bottomless arsenal of licks and melodies. No surprise, really, considering he's been known to release as many as seven CDs in one year.

With some accessible songs that rank among the best in Ray's extensive catalog, Nothing to Lose is still a noisy, chaotic and challenging record that should please longtime listeners and probaby even create some new Rick Ray fans.

» Reader Comments:

Ray Band, Rick: Nothing to Lose
Posted by Susan Abraham Sabetta on 2007-08-14 16:08:45
My Score:

There are few bands who perform to the best of their ability. Rick Ray Band does! They hold first place in putting forth a ready sound, able to enjoy vocals and full blend technology. Thank you for sharing your art. The word is out! Keep it there.

Ray Band, Rick: Nothing to Lose
Posted by Mike Blackburn on 2007-03-31 07:48:43
My Score:

Nice write up Pete and a bang on review..... The vocals are really cool and bring a real change in sound contextually to Rick's music, which I gotta say is some of his best yet.... Packakging is graced with some of Rick's cool artwork, check out his site.... A harder working man in music than Rick??? Dunno who that could be......

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