Rick Ray Band, The: The Setlist
Since I started my last Rick Ray Band album review (Violence Marred by Peace) with the confession that I had been, until that initiation, a "Rick Ray virgin", I see no reason not to start this review with another confession: since that stripping away of my innocence I have allowed myself to succumb and wallow in some of the many pleasures that this band has to offer, and I've enjoyed every minute of it. Out of the Mists of Obscurity, Nothing to Lose and Temporary World have all joined my record collection via an intrepid UK music retailer and I am hoping to add yet more of Rick's large back-catalogue in the future. So, The Setlist is my fifth album in, and none have yet disappointed – that's as strong a recommendation as any for spending your money!
The Setlist is an attempt to recreate the band's live performance and was recorded live in the studio in just five hours. It features some songs that I recognise from those albums that I've already mentioned ("Standing In Harms Way", "Sgt Pepperspray" and "Until the End"), whereas the others were new to me - either entirely new songs or from albums I've not yet heard. Regardless, all are given high quality performances and are very enjoyable.
The Rick Ray Band's sound is raw rock played with a progressive edge. To Rick Ray's own dizzy, super-fluid guitar is often added the sound of Rick Schulz's sizzling reed instruments (sax, clarinet, oboe), often the two Ricks duelling directly with each other just as in some twin-guitar bands. It's a potent sound; the reeds add a texture and a power that is joyous. In this respect, eagle-eyed readers may have noted that in my last review I gave a thumbs-down to The Ed Palermo Band for their take on Frank Zappa classics, and they may now ask how come I am suddenly waxing lyrical about these wind instruments? Well, that was big band, and never strayed from big band despite the Zappa connection, whereas this is ROCK, and never you doubt it! The Rick Ray Band has opened for such luminaries as Robin Trower, Pat Travers, Blue Oyster Cult, Allan Holdsworth, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Steve Morse Band, Kansas, Michael Schenker Group, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Peter Frampton etc, so they come with a fine pedigree.
Most of these tracks are sung, and to the guitar-led rock are systematically added social commentary lyrics, sung with passion. This near-continuous commentary on a dysfunctional society might be irksome to some rock fans, but they are as defining of the band's music as the energetic guitar and reeds and the majority will almost certainly agree with the sentiments. To me, it shows that the man cares deeply not just about his music, but also about life in general around him, with a conscience and compassion. I ain't arguing with that.
But back to the music itself. The band is completed by Wally Spisak on bass, Paul Geltch on drums and Dennis Corrigan on lead vocals and harmonica. Rick Ray and Wally also share some vocal duties. "Taken Control" provides a solid start with Ray's super-fluid guitar taking the honors and on "The Jokes On Me" Schulz comes in with his own version of super-fluidity to give Ray a challenge for his guitar! The pattern is set and continues through the rest of this fine album; the pace and quality never letting up. Particular highlights for me are "Red Tape" (the guitar on the intro followed by Schulz's super-riff), "The Voices" and the groove and rhythm of "Reality Replaces the Symbol".
If you enjoy fast paced rock played with a progressive spirit (yes, that is more progressive than most progressive rock!), fluid guitar phrasing and wind instruments played within the rock band style, then you must have a Rick Ray Band album in your collection: and when you have one, you'll want more!
1) Taken Control (4:26)
2) The Jokes On Me (6:17)
3) Something a Little More Original (6:42)
4) Red Tape (4:13)
5) Standing in Harms Way (7:47)
6) Sgt Pepperspray (5:20)
7) In the Real World (4:10)
8) Reservations in Cell 3 (5:42)
9) The Voices (6:44)
10) Until the End (6:41)
11) Reality Replaces the Symbol (5:22)
Added: August 13th 2009
Reviewer: Alex Torres
Related Link: Rick Ray's Website
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|Rick Ray Band, The: The Setlist
Posted by Ryan Sparks, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-02-09 21:27:56
If there is another artist or band more prolific that Ohio's Rick Ray then I've yet to hear about it. Dating back to the late 90's the guitarist has released well over thirty albums under various different guises including his Rick Ray Band, Riot Act and Neurotic. His latest disc to appear on the scene Setlist is a live in the studio recording featuring the current version of his Rick Ray band. The highlights of their five hour studio jam were condensed down to eleven songs to give the listener a feeling of a typical concert or set list (hence the title) on any given night.
The way Ray effortlessly ties together late 60's psychedelic rock with 70's fusion and Beatle-esque vocal harmonies is exemplary. Another thing which has always made Ray's sound, in addition to his brilliant guitar playing, stand out from his peers is his knack for incorporating various reeds and woodwinds (played by long time cohort Rick Schultz) into his music. Schultz' deft skills on the flute, clarinet etc…has always blended seamlessly with Rick's meaty sounding, psychedelic infused riffs and blazing solos and the material presented on Setlist is no exception.
Newer tracks like "Sgt Pepperspray" (love that title) and "Standing In Harms Way" sit nicely alongside older fan favorites such as "Reality Replaces The Symbol". Ray has plenty of opportunities to stretch out and display both his virtuosity and versatility as a player with extended workouts on "Something A Little More Original", "The Voices" (alongside blazing sax and harmonica solos) and "The End".
Ray's style has often found him being compared to 70's guitar legends Robin Trower and Frank Marino, due in part no less to his penchant for lengthy solos which have that distinctly hazy or smoky feeling permeating them. While these comparisons are somewhat warranted I personally think his chops and playing style are more worthy of attention due to the fact that he stands out as a musician with his own unique voice and character. The fact that the guy has been so darned prolific the past ten years or so can only be seen as a huge plus for fans of his thought provoking music and lyrics.
Rick Ray is the quintessential 'unknown' musician that readers of this website need to get behind and support. You can either start here with Setlist or pick up any one of his albums from his vast back catalogue of work, either way you'll find a treasure trove of musical gems await you.
(originally reviewed for www.classicrockrevisited.com)
|Rick Ray Band, The: The Setlist
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-08-13 20:45:36
They have opened for the likes of Blue Oyster Cult, Frank Marino, Pat Travers, Robin Trower, Peter Frampton, Alan Holdsworth, well, you get the idea. This band has been around for a while and have just released their 31st album entitled The Setlist, no small accomplishment to say the least. For all of our readers who like the guitar, you need to hear their latest exercise in rock and fusion. Lets just say the guitar playing is phenomenal and worth the price of admission for that alone.
According to the press release this is a setlist that one might actually hear in concert. The album was recorded live in studio and there sure is one hell of a lot of energy contained in these grooves. These eleven tunes burst with enthusiasm and the impossibly fast riffs just add fuel to the fire. There is no doubting Ray's speed on the instrument but he is also able to inject that slow burn bluesy touch when required. His playing conveys feeling and passion, something which all musicians strive for but only a few attain. Of course, Rick Ray has a little help from his friends including Wally Spisak (bass, vocals), Paul Geltch (drums), Dennis Corrigan (lead vocals, harmonica) and Rick Schultz (reeds). These musicians are also of high caliber. I especially took notice of Spisak's bass playing as it is very good throughout. Also important are Schultz's saxophone flourishes that add splashes of colour, giving some of these songs a jazzy vibe.
Beginning with the fuzzed out power chords of "Taken Control" this album is off to a rocking start. With its slower beat and lightning fast guitar runs, "The Jokes On Me" really hits its stride as it ventures into fusion territory. The eclectic "Something A Little More Original" begins with avant-garde guitar stylings and eventually takes on a progressive jazz approach with shifting tempo changes and more frantic guitar leads. One of the albums best tunes, "Sgt. Pepperspray" delves into psychedelic rock and features a nice guitar melody. You can expect more of the same with the rest of the album as there is no filler to be found and the shredding keeps on coming.
Chalk up another one for The Rick Ray Band. This band is talented folks and I can safely recommend this for guitar lovers everywhere.
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