Thursday, August 19, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 168: Ramones

The latest disc in the Odyssey was a double album anthology. With so much music, at first, I was thinking about how many drives home it would take before I'd be able to write the review.

Of course, that was before I forgot to bring my camera to a photo op event for my work. This meant I had to get to work, turn around and race home and then race back to work. I made it in time (Miata: there is no substitute). As an added bonus it shaved a couple days off for you, dear reader, who no doubt was hanging breathless in anticipation of the next record review.

Well, here it is.

Disc 168 is...Ramones Anthology: Hey Ho, Let's Go!
Artist: The Ramones

Year of Release: 1999, but with music from 1975 to 1993

What’s Up With The Cover?: On first glance, this appears to be that iconic photo of the Ramones for their debut album (one of the greatest band shots of all time). However, my image searching showed that album actually is a similar shot, with their jackets done up, etc. I think this might be some secondary shot from that record, but since I don't have the record, that's only conjecture. Anyway, a damn fine album cover by any standard.

How I Came To Know It: My friend Casey brought this exact anthology over to our place one night. He left it here, and I listened to it for a week before he came and collected it. I frickin' loved it, and so bought it shortly thereafter (maybe 7 years ago?).

How It Stacks Up: For the 3rd review in 4 albums, I'm once again forced to explain that best ofs don't stack up. They are compilations by nature, so there is no way to fairly compare them to actual albums. That said, this is the only Ramones compilation I have, and I like it plenty.

Rating: not applicable. It is a best of, monkey! They don't receive ratings, and that is the way of it. Deal.

I have never been seriously into punk, although I admire it's visceral energy. For this reason, all my early exposure to the Ramones is through being at a party, or hearing a well known track like "Blitzkrieg Bop" or "Rock and Roll High School."

That is why this album was such a revelation for me - the Ramones have so many great tracks and this is fairly exhaustive exploration of their entire career. It isn't just a two disc set, but with the band's propensity for recording tracks that seem to average 2:30 in length, they squeeze 58 songs in.

This volume of songs would ordinarily have me seeing red, and truth be told I could probably trim out 10 or 15 of the more average tracks. Still, that would leave a minimum of 43 songs, all strong. As I listened to this record again, it sunk in just what a major musical influence the Ramones are.

With the record spanning their twenty year career, you also get to witness the evolution of their musical prowess, from their pretty messy sounding music playing in 1975 all the way through serious proficiency by the end.

For me, the Ramones are at their best when they are in full punk mode, singing about having a bad attitude or engaging in some form of disturbing behaviour. "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" and "I Just Wanna Have Something To Do" all come to mind, but I could easily name ten others just as good. They are the unabashed voice not just for the disaffected youth of their time, but for the downright outcasts as well.

What surprised me a bit more (although hardly a revelation for hard core Ramones fans, I'm sure) was the ease with which they slide into the other sounds of rock n' roll, like beach-bum music and even more generic pop that is very reminscent of early sixties music.

As an early punk act, these other sounds not only show their own influences, they also serve as a bridge to explain part of the origins of punk; that these bands were taking a familiar sound, but infusing it with some genuine anger and power chords.

While I prefer their early stuff to their eighties releases, even the latter has plenty to be proud of, and I found myself enjoying a lot of later songs I don't listen to nearly as often. These tracks are current to their times, but never lose the unique sound of the Ramones.

I really enjoyed their "punkification" of the 1992 Tom Waits' song, "I Don't Wanna Grow Up." I don't know if the Ramones were attracted to this song because it had "Wanna" in the title, but I really like their take - very different, but also very true to the song's intent. They also do great remakes of "California Sun" and "Surfin' Bird" on this record that I prefer to the originals.

But for a moment let's forget about all the influences they took in, and let's forget about all the bands they in turn so deeply affected. The Ramones rock.

Best tracks: Many - but here's more than a few: Blitzkrieg Bop, Beat on The Brat, I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, Swallow My Pride, Sheena Is A Punk Rocker, Here Today - Gone Tomorrow, Surfin' Bird, I Don't Care, I Just Wanna Have Somethin' To Do, I Wanna Be Sedated, I Want You Around, Danny Says, The KKK Took My Baby Away, It's Not My Place in the 9 to 5 World, I'm Not Afraid of Life, I Don't Wanna Live This Life, Tomorrow She Goes Away, I Don't Wanna Grow Up, R.A.M.O.N.E.S.

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