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The Rick Ray Band - 2008 - "Violence Marred by Peace"

(60:15, Neurosis Records)


TRACK LIST:                                 

1.  Awake From Reality 9:01
2.  Sgt. Pepperspray 6:03 
3.  Violence Marred by Peace 6:42
4.  Fifty Thousand Volts 6:44
5.  Among the Fire 10:29
6.  Lunatic Serenade 4:05
7.  Matthew 6:44
8.  Tribute to What's His Name 2:50
9.  Fan the Flames 7:37


Rick Ray  guitars; keyboards; percussion, vocals 
Rick Schultz  clarinets, saxophones, oboe
Gery Riva  trumpet, trombone
Jack Ambrose  bass; vocals 
Alex Abraham  vocals  
Sam Glorioso  drums

Prolusion. Rick RAY is a US-based musician who has played in various bands since 1976. Actual recordings from these acts have been hard to find though, but in 1999 he founded his own record label, Neurosis, to release old archival music as well as newly made creations. The Rick Ray Band first started out in 1985, was on hiatus during the '90s and has reformed again after the Millennium. "Violence Marred by Peace" was issued in 2008, and is the sixth release from Rick Ray under this moniker.

Analysis. The Rick Ray Band is an act that has been given the description of "a musical chameleon" by some, blending and mixing elements from several different styles of music the improvisational flowing structures from jazz, grooves and atmospheres from blues, riff patterns and guitar licks from 70s hard rock, laced with psychedelic tendencies and the quirky compositional structures and multilayered melody lines from the world of progressive rock. The guitar is a solid foundation for most of the songs here, serving up mellow acoustic guitar licks, quirky riff patterns and atmospheric soloing just as readily as licks and riffs from the Robin Trower school of guitar playing, with some shredding thrown in for good measure. Rick Schultz adds textures to the compositions by utilizing various forms of reeds, underscoring the guitar or adding an additional melodic layer above the main one, as well as trading solo spots with Rick's guitar. On this album he gets to dominate quite a lot as well, in unison with Gery Riva's trumpet and trombone. The first six tracks on this creation sees a dual attack of reeds and brass instruments as key elements of the sound explored, partially harmonizing with each other, at other times with one instrument underscoring the other, while guitar, bass and drums mostly have secondary roles. Rick's guitar gets highlighted now and then, and bass player Ambrose gets a few dominating shots in these tunes too, but it's the dual reed and brass performance which is the central feature. I like the approach and appreciate what I regard as a bold move when it comes to mixing reeds and brass with the quirky, structurally complicated progressive rock Rick Ray is fond of exploring. The end result sounds rather chaotic though; in my opinion there are too many sounds placed too high in the mix, eradicating the individual melody lines and thus resulting in dissonances. Too much a chaotic noise, the highly complex interplay of a multitude of melody lines I suspect were the intention in these creations. On some songs, however, additional elements have interesting end results. The dark and menacing vocals on the title track and the long solo segment on the following composition Fifty Thousand Volts in particular. The last three compositions are different, as the reeds and brass take more of a secondary role there. For me these tracks are the ones that work out best as well. Matthew is a particular good example of The Rick Ray Band at their best as I see it, with a strong bass line, careful percussion work adding textures, strong vocal performance by Alex Abraham and some fine, quirky riff patterns from the guitar, spiced with mostly darker underscoring by reeds and wave-like synths. And an intriguing call and answer solo segment with guitar and sax as the icing on the cake.

Conclusion. "Violence Marred by Peace" comes across as a rather mixed release in many respects, but does contain quite a few intriguing creations. Rick Ray's own description of his music as "Psychedelic Progressive Hard Rock Fusion" is an apt description of the music explored, and if this sounds appealing it's certainly a release well worth checking out, especially if you're fond of extensive use of reeds and brass instruments.

OMB: November 3, 2008
The Rating Room

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