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(77:39 / Neurosis Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. There's Always a Catch 5:34 2. Back to the River 6:08 3. The Whole Ball of Wax 7:13 4. Blue Print for Ruin 6:24 5. Living in Sin 6:00 6. Substitute for Faith 6:14 7. Standing in Harms Way 7:42 8. The Spirit of Fear 5:28 9. Hands of Circumstance 6:56 10. If We're Silent 5:31 11. Nothing to Lose 7:09 12. Across the Bridge of Time 7:20 LINEUP: Rick Ray - guitar, guitar synth; keyboards; vocals Rick Schultz - reeds Jack Ambrose - bass Sam Glorioso - drums Alex Abraham - lead vocals
Prolusion. Songwriter and guitarist Rick RAY is a veteran of the US music scene. He formed his first band way back in 1976, while THE RICK RAY BAND was first formed in the 80s. Rick Ray started releasing the music he has made with various bands from his own Neurosis Records label in 1999, releasing new music as well as older archival recordings with previous bands. "Nothing to Lose" is a new release from his current ensemble. Click here for more Rick Ray-related review on this site.
Analysis. Rick Ray names Robin Trower, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Beatles and ELP among his major musical influences, and on this release the first two of these are easily recognizable. The musical foundation of all the compositions on the album is 70's hard rock, of a highly melodic variety. The compositions are adventurous, with extensive use of various reeds, creating jazz-tinged atmospheres, as well as psychedelic moods when contrasting the guitar. Quite a few of the tunes have jazz-fusion-inflected improvised-sounding themes where horns and guitar lead the way. Rick Ray's guitar playing often resembles Robin Trower's early work, but is more experimental in scope. He likes exploring good old-fashioned blues-influenced hard rock just as much as jazz-fusion-inspired licks, but he's also familiar with more modern guitar playing. The guitar solos in particular showcase those more contemporary influences. One more element of the music on "Nothing to Lose" that will be noticed by many are the vocals. Alex Abraham has a powerful voice and a distinctive vocal style, sounding so much like Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden that I had to check with the liner notes to make sure he didn't make a guest appearance here. As for the individual songs on this release, I found them to be a slightly mixed affair. The jazz-tinged, mellow, yet sinister Substitute for Faith is the clear highlight for me, a brilliant tune from start to finish. Other personal highlights are the blues rock-inspired There's Always a Catch, the uplifting psychedelic hard rock Back to the River, the mellow, jazz-tinged psychedelic Living in Sin and the Troweresque instrumental Across the Bridge of Time. The rest of the tracks here are more average creations in my opinion, and I suspect many of those compositions sound much better in a live setting than on a studio release.
Conclusion. Rick Ray describes his music as "psychedelic progressive hard rock fusion" on his website. If that description appeals, then "Nothing to Lose" is an outing worth checking out. Rick Ray's guitar chops should also be of interest for fans of Robin Trower's early releases, as well as fans of 70's blues-based hard rock in general.
OMB=Olav M Bjornson: January 24, 2008
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