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Rick Ray Band, The: Violence Marred By Peace

To Rick Ray's credit, despite the fact that he's a fiery guitarist with nimble fingers and deft fretboard technique, most listeners will find the wind instruments and the bass guitar to be the predominant sound on Violence Marred By Peace. Ray's earlier albums tended to revolve around on his guitar work, but with their focus on songwriting and a bigger soundscape, his more recent releases enhance his credibility as an all-round musician.

The wind section includes trumpet, trombone, tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and oboe - and there's a sort big-band meets blues rock ambience to many sections, a sort of of smoky, old-fashioned sound that's punctuated by blazing guitar solos - recalling, in parts, acts like Chicago or Blood Sweat & Tears. And of course when the guitar does come to the fore, Ray's athleticism on the fretboard is just as impressive as Rick Schultz is on reeds.

The cover are features a photo-shopped statue of liberty standing proudly above a huge open air crowd, with bombs, missiles and mushroom clouds overhead. That and the title, along with the clearly enunciated vocals, convey Ray's socio-political position to good effect. This is a song-oriented, album with abundant vocals. A notable exception is the title which is track essentially instrumental, with winds over a consistent, insistent rhythm, with spoken-voice vocals and an expressive two minute guitar solo.

Much of the music is fairly approachable, but there are more than enough angular and more interesting sections to keep your attention. In "Fifty Thousand Volts", for example, the music and the rhythm move at an energetic pace, under vocals that are strong but essentially monotone - relying on 'tude rather than melody, and ending with a long guitar-led instrumental jam. "Among The Fire" features another unconventional vocal style, and so does "Sgt. Pepperspray" - with a delivery, vaguely reminiscent of several '60s-era icons. Alex Abraham's singing is strong, and Rick Ray provides vocals for many of the songs himself - expressing himself more with expression than with technique.

The Rick Ray Band has has opened for an impressive list of artists - including Robin Trower, The Dregs, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, Peter Frampton, Kansas, Michael Schenker and Allan Holdsworth - and more. No surprise there - with its good musicianship and ballsy power, this music would probably translate very well to a live environment.

Track Listing:
1. Awake From Reality
2. Sgt. Pepperspray
3. Violence Marred By Peace
4. Fifty Thousand Volts
5. Among The Fire
6. Lunatic Serenade
7. Matthew
8. Tribute To What's His Name
9. Fan The Flames

Added: October 30th 2008
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Related Link: The Band's Website
Hits: 10233
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Rick Ray Band, The: Violence Marred By Peace
Posted by Alex Torres, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-10-30 07:42:21
My Score:

I must have been the last of the Rick Ray virgins, given that this was my initiation into the glories of his music! From now on, I will abandon myself to his pleasure-giving without resistance!

Fresh as I was to these delights, I must admit that I expected something heavier from the music given the cover image and the album's title. It's not lightweight of course, overall a rock-guitar dominated soundscape, but it's not metal! The most pleasing aspect of the soundscape for me is the unusual addition of wind and brass instruments, played by Rick Schultz (clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor and soprano sax and oboe) and Gery Riva (trumpet and trombone), within what is essentially a straight rock soundscape. There are other influences in there for sure - this has plenty of credentials as progressive music: some psychedelic, some jazz, but substitute the wind/brass phrasing for a second guitar and you're pretty close to a twin-guitar attack band such as Wishbone Ash.

The bass (Jack Ambrose) and slick drumming (PJ Glorioso) are first-rate, Alex Abraham has a good rock voice and the guitar....well, the out-of-this-world, silky, smooth, gloriously fluid, fast, rocky - delicious! It all makes for a strong, full, good sound.

There's enough compositional variety here to keep up interest: for the first half of the album the tracks alternate between ones where Schulz and Riva contribute significantly, jousting with Ray's guitar or dominating the soundscape for long periods, to ones where Ray is completely dominant. In the latter half Schulz/Riva are less prominent but contributing to some psychedelic and rocky music. The psychedelic "Lunatic Serenade" and the guitar-driven "Tribute to What's His Name" are the only instrumentals, I like to think of them as linking pieces as they work well in that role.

Amongst the more straight rock, light jazz fusion and psychedelia there are some lyrical and musical references to The Beatles, most obviously on "Sgt. Pepperspray" but also "Among the Fire", whose sonority reminded me of "Within You Without You" from the album referenced by the "Sgt. Pepperspray" track.

Overall, very enjoyable, the music that will remain in the mind is the liquid guitar and Schulz's and Riva's contributions.

I'll be researching the back catalogue just as soon as I get a little bit of funds - at $7 a CD that seems like a real pinch! Are CDs in the US always this inexpensive? Jeez......

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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