Joey Ramone …Ya Know – Album Review
By Alex Young
He might not have been the greatest singer to music snobs, pretentious rock critics, progressive rock nerds, or the bohemian bourgeois that were into Art Rock during the 70’s. But he defiantly gave a voice to teenage brats, social misfits, punks, drunks and skunks for the last three decades…… and then some. He was the front man for a band of rebellious songwriters from New York City that barely knew how to play their instruments but blazed like a bullet from a gun once they hit the stage. That man’s name is Jeffry Hyman, but the world knew him as Joey Ramone, the lead vocalist for a platoon of punk rock musical misfits known as the Ramones that helped forge a new frontier for rock and roll. Joey is one of rock’s most treasured vocalists that rose to prominence from the gutter like an alley cat alongside Iggy Pop and Wayne Kramer of the MC5.
After Joey died in 2001, his brother Mickey Leigh gathered some undiscovered demos and took it upon himself to release the tracks as a proper album. Using the vocal tracks as they were originally recorded, Leigh collected some punk rock alumni that were friends and admirers of Joey’s work with the Ramones, to help him complete the record. Guests on “…Ya Know?” include Joan Jett, Little Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band, along with members of Cheap Trick, The Dictators, the Smithereens, and the Patti Smith Group.
The production value on the album is great considering the songs were re-recorded from scratch and contain some contributions from the motley cast of musical guests on the record. One thing on the album that instantly makes it stand out from any releases by the Ramones is the songs with GUITAR SOLOS and ACOUSTIC GUITAR, which might strike some fans as odd, but they manage to make their way onto the album tastefully for the most part and aren’t too heavy-handed. Songs like “Waiting for that Railroad” and “Life’s a Gas” are all on acoustic guitar, but add a surprising diversity to “…Ya Know” without losing their under-dog charm thanks to Joey’s voice. Naturally there are songs with the signature chainsaw guitar riffs akin to the Ramones, with some fiery hooks on tracks like “I Couldn’t Sleep”, “Rock and Roll is the Answer” and “21st Century Girl”.
Joey Ramone rode through his life with his heart in his fist while he sang with a chip on both shoulders and a soul of gold because that’s all he had. Joey’s voice helped the Ramones fire their way into the minds of millions of disenfranchised fans the world over and tattoo his memory onto the brains of rock and roll fanatics forever. This release contains some surprisingly tasty tracks that are a swift reminder to people that are too young to know what a heavy role the Ramones played in shaping rock and roll as we know it. “…Ya Know” is available in stores and online on May 22nd with the new single “Rock and Roll is the Answer” hitting the airwaves on April 21st in time for Record Store Day.