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Rick Ray - 2004 - "Chainsaw Manicure"

(58 min, Neurosis)

TRACK LIST:                             

1.  Reality Replaces the Symbol 6:00
2.  Leave It Unsaid 4:54
3.  Nothing Left to Think 5:21
4.  How Can I Miss You 3:36
5.  Just Wanted to Thank You 5:25
6.  In the Void 4:12
7.  Arrested 3:18
8.  Give War a Chance 4:36
9.  Threnody 4:10
10. Rhinoceros Shuffle 4:07
11. I Love Your Stinking Guts 4:39
12. Chainsaw Manicure 4:07
13. Nowheresville 4:15

All tracks: by Ray. 
Produced by Ray.


Rick Ray - vocals; guitars, bass; keyboards, programming
Rick Schultz - reeds

Prolusion. After issuing several albums with The Rick Ray Band, this highly prolific American guitarist returns to a solo creation. "Chainsaw Manicure" is Rick's nineteenth solo album and is the twenty-fifth outing in his general discography. As usual, the only man supporting Ray on his solo path is the reed player Rick Schultz.

Analysis. This album surpassed all the expectations I could ever have had for it. I liked The Rick Ray Band's latest, "Night of the Living Dedicated", but "Chainsaw Manicure" is way better and is probably Rick's best effort to date. Here, there is no musical mess typical for any of the Band's albums due to the large number of differently thinking songwriters, as well as singers, pulling things in different directions instead of doing a truly collective job. Although stylistically rather diverse, "Chainsaw Manicure" is fully coherent musically and is excellent compositionally. The performance is also very good. It's for the first time on this album that Rick revealed his capabilities to be a real, full-fledged multi-instrumentalist. The man just masterfully plays each of the instruments credited. He also managed to program a drum machine in the best possible way in most cases, though of course, any machinery will never be a worth replacement for a skilled drummer. Unfortunately, I can't complain about the sound quality, which seems to be kind of an eternal problem for Rick, though this CD is noticeably less noisy than most of those by the Band. All in all, this isn't a glaring flaw, in my view, especially considering the magnificence of the material, as none of the tracks presented is weak, while some of them are simply outstanding, from any standpoint. Although Hard Rock still remains the dominant in Rick's creation, this time around it's closer to Cathedral Metal, which is explained by the heightened density of guitar riffs and some other factors differentiating this direction. (I described them more than once in my previous reviews, as well as those related to Fifth Element.) Its brightest representatives on the album are the first four songs: Reality Replaces the Symbol, Leave It Unsaid, Nothing Left to Think and How Can I Miss You, though the third one contains also Space-Rock-related arrangements. The structure is fairly skeletal, yet it manages to rock hard and offers some ripping guitar, bass and synthesizer solos along the way. Then follows Just Wanted to Thank You, presenting a pretty philosophical dialog between fast solos and passages of two acoustic guitars (one was overdubbed) at the background of lush synthesizer passages. The first of the instrumental works, it's also the first gem to meet the sonic journeyman. I wish Rick would record an album consisting exclusively of his acoustic guitar pieces. It would dethrone many of those in that category, by major guitar heroes. Threnody is a kindred song, but it has a wonderful classical influence in addition. Generally, the second two thirds of the album are full of pleasant surprises. A rather unexpected, very effectual and definitely progressive combination of the primary style, heavy Space Rock and intensive Space Fusion, sometimes with elements of authentic Jazz-Fusion, awaits the listener on each of the further tracks, save Threnody of course. While the songs: In the Void, Rhinoceros Shuffle, Give War a Chance, I Love Your Stinking Guts and Nowheresville (cool title) have something in common with classic Hawkwind in places, the instrumentals: Rhinoceros Shuffle and the title track find Rick at the apogee of his creation. Quite simply, these are among the best Jazz-Fusion-related works I've heard this year and are the most unique, most progressive compositions I've ever heard from him. On this album, both of the musicians showed themselves as masters of the improvisation, not only Mr. Schultz, though these are his wild solos on clarinet and sax that bring the most distinctive jazzy feel to the music, especially on Arrested and Rhinoceros Shuffle. I'd wish he were equally active everywhere on the album.

Conclusion. Take a drummer and go solo, Rick. This is the case that a collective creation, at least in the face of your current Band, is harmful rather than vice versa. I didn't expect I would about to highly recommend "Chainsaw Manicure", but it's done already, in the review. This album might help everyone in the know to broaden his knowledge of Rick Ray as a musician and composer or even change his old opinion on the matters.

VM: February 25, 2005

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