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TRACK LIST: 1. Can’t Lie Hard Enough 4:28 2. I’m a Vagrant 3:11 3. Gotta Be 5:17 4. I’m Nobody 4:19 5. View from a Train 5:43 6. All I Want Is Peace 3:42 7. Dragon’s Breath 3:59 8. Propaganda 6:22 9. Spinning Round and Round 6:29 10. What He Deserves 7:07 11. Wonderful 4:35 12. Blasphemy 6:39 13. Judge and Jury 3:46 LINEUP: Rick Ray – el. & ac. guitars; g-synth; vocals Rick Schultz – saxophone, clarinets DC – lead vocals; harmonica Wally Spisak – bass; vocals Paul Geltch – drums
Prolusion. American guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Rick Ray formed the eponymous RICK RAY BAND in 2004 after finishing his – both long and fruitful – career as a solo performer. “Can’t Lie Hard Enough” is the outfit’s eighth release.
Analysis. The album is comprised of thirteen tracks, all of which are songs. On nine of those the music is overall much the same classic American Hard Rock the band has been playing all over the long years of its existence, albeit the term Hard Brass Rock comes to mind as well – which is to say, anytime when the sax parts strictly follow the guitar riffs (instead of crossing those), which occurs comparatively often. Traditionally for conventional or even standard Hard Rock, such songs as the title one, I’m a Vagrant, Gotta Be and Wonderful all revolve around verse-chorus-bridge structures (plus an instrumental interlude), but they nonetheless work well, meaning within the confines and limitations of the genre. At the core of each of them, however, is a guitar riff that serves as a skeleton onto which, so to speak, flesh and muscle are applied. All I Want Is Peace, Dragon’s Breath and Judge and Jury are somewhat more diverse, on all levels, although the former two pieces sound pretty much like the same composition, only with different lyrics. Blasphemy and Propaganda stand out for their inventive instrumental arrangements-sections (one of which is considerably long in addition), such as an acoustic guitar outro of the former song or a symphonic art-rock-meets-jazz-fusion move on the latter, which finds Rick Ray effectively using his guitar-synth, resulting in a series of vivid solos that sound not unlike those of synthesizer and electric piano. This one can be labeled as progressive Hard Rock in style and gets my vote for the best track. Of the remaining four pieces, I’m Nobody and View from a Train are melodic rock ballads, fine as they are, although sounding a bit the same – because they’re placed one after another for some reason. While only featuring acoustic guitar and clarinet, Spinning Round and Round is in many ways a gem (my second favorite track here), whereas the jovial, rhythmic, sort of brass rock-ish song What He Deserves is, well, what it deserves – a minus, in my view. Within the instrumental sections of all of the primary-style songs the lead instruments are Rick Ray’s guitar and either the sax or clarinet courtesy of Rick Schultz, while bassist Wally Spisak (a remarkably masterful player too) shines predominantly within the vocal ones, often appearing to be the only soloing voice there. Paul Geltch’s drumming is solid – rock-solid, as many would say. Credit also goes to DC for superb vocals, surpassing many others in this genre, at least nowadays.
Conclusion. The craftsmanship behind the album is considerable, all the more impressive if we bear in mind that it’s by one of comparatively few groups that play ‘70s-style Hard Rock nowadays, and the quality of the musicianship adds up to the best Hard Rock I have heard this year. On the other hand, there is almost nothing new here compared to any of the outfit’s previous releases. Recommended to fans of the genre, especially those into Robin Trower and Mahogany Rush, with both of whom the Rick Ray Band very often shares the stage when playing live, touring, etc.
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