Sixteen years after parting ways with the godfathers of punk rock, and ten years after losing a long battle with lymphoma, Ramones front man Joey Ramone is again making waves with his latest album, …Ya Know?
Like so many other posthumous releases, I suspected the album would be a pure money grab packed with leftover dregs from earlier projects. I was wrong. The album is a nice collection of earlier stuff, but with a cool twist. The project started when Ed Stasium and Ramone’s real brother Mickey Leigh obtained the rights to the remaining tapes of Joey’s unreleased vocal tracks, all recorded in the dozen years preceding his passing. From there, they assembled an all-star band to lend their music to the project; folks like Richie Ramone, Steve Van Zandt, Joan Jett, Bun E. Carlos, Mickey Leigh and a slew of other contemporaries from New York City.
The result is an album that’s pretty damn diverse, and a fitting tribute. You’ll hear a few cuts that hearken back to the Gabba Gaaba Heydays of the Ramones, but you’ll also hear Joey stretching himself in numerous surprising ways throughout the album.
The album kicks off with “Rock ‘N Roll is the Answer,” the first single. It’s a decent song, but there are plenty of better choices as single releases. “New York City” is reminiscent of classic Ramones and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a straight forward ode to the city where Joey reached legendary status.
A couple of the songs remind me musically of Social Distortion, just with Joey subbing in for Mike Ness. Check out “What Did I Do to Deserve You” and “Seven Days of Gloom” for a taste. “Eyes of Green” and “I Couldn’t Sleep” could have been plucked directly from the happy hard-driving regional rock of the late 80’s. “21st Century Girl” is of the same vein, and as a bonus, features Joan Jett on guitar and backing vocals.
“Party Line” is surely a holdover from the Phil Spector days and is the most intriguing track on the album. It comes off as a duet with Holly Beth Vincent, who you may remember from Joey’s “I Got You Babe” cover. The song also features Van Zandt on guitar, and shows Ramone singing in a new range. It’s addictive stuff.
…’Ya Know? also displays Joey’s tender side on “Make Me Tremble and “Waiting for That Railroad.” Neither will remind you of Ramones, but they’re both interesting peeks into Ramone’s soft side, and the former is a pretty good song. You’ll also get to hear Joey put a nice spin on his previously released Christmas tune “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).”
The album is a nice surprise and leaves me reminiscing once again about the Godfather of American Punk and wishing we had been given the chance to watch him mature and adapt to the times. On …’Ya Know? at least we finally get a glimpse.
Rock On – Cretin