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The Rick Ray Band

The Setlist

Review by Gary Hill

The Rick Ray Band’s latest disc has an intriguing sound. I have no problem putting it into the progressive rock heading, but I would also point out that in many ways it’s tied to fuzz rock or classic hard rock. There is a fuzz guitar sound that permeates and this is old school hard rock – think Blue Cheer. Yet the complex arrangements and fusion oriented stylings that permeate much of the disc keep it firmly into a progressive rock setting. This is a great album and a unique sound. I’d say that since the non-prog textures here are very retro, this CD should appeal to fans of old school progressive rock. I’d also think that neo-prog heads could reach out and appreciate this. Beyond that, though, I would think that anyone who enjoys old school guitar oriented hard rock would like this album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Taken Control

Fast paced guitar dominated prog jamming, this is fun stuff. When the vocals join, it turns more toward a metallic edge. The cut does a great job of merging those metal and prog tendencies as it winds through.

The Jokes On Me
Slow the previous track down and add saxophone and you’ve got a good idea of what this number is like. There’s a little jazz edge to it, but it’s a real rocker that’s quite prog in nature despite its fuzz dominated arrangement.
Something a Little More Original
The opening section of this reminds me a lot of King Crimson – think “21st Century Schizoid Man”. It’s still got a lot of distortion, but the changes are impressive. The number does hit some rather metallic territory but the horn wailing overhead and the series of changes keeps it quite firmly based in progressive rock. A jam around the three and a half minute again calls to mind “…Schizoid Man” a lot, but this time the mid-track jam portion. Still, they take us through a number of variants and alterations throughout the run here. 
Red Tape
This is an Eddie Van Halen styled hard rocking guitar solo - at least for the first minute. After that it moves out to a riff driven jam that’s a bit like something from Ted Nugent. Still, the saxophone makes me think of Nik Turner era Hawkwind. The prog elements appear in a killer jam mid track that soars and winds around in rampant space meets fusion style. 
Standing in Harms Way
Here we have a cut that’s a lot more jazz-like, but it still has some of that hard rock element to it. There’s an extended guitar solo section on this piece. At first it makes me think of Robin Trower, but it moves into more fusion oriented music after a while and then gives way to a smoking saxophone solo. We also get a harmonica solo on this number, making it feel more bluesy for a while.
Sgt Pepperspray
First off, you just have to love that title. The music here is sort of what I would describe as Robin Trower goes progressive rock.
In the Real World
A swirl of chaos, this one is almost RIO in its approach. There’s definitely a fusion element on display here and I like this a lot.
Reservations in Cell 3
The opening on this one is very Crimson-like mixed with Led Zeppelin, but the jam moves out to more fusion oriented territory as it carries onward. 
The Voices
There’s an almost funky air to this rocker. I’d say that of anything to this point it’s the least progressive rock oriented. There’s still some here, but this is probably more proggy hard rock. All that said, there is a smoking fusion jam in the middle of the piece that’s definitely prog. This worked out further down the road into a frantic progressive rock jam that serves to close the tune out.
Until the End
This hard rocker is more straight ahead than a lot of the material. It’s got a fusion element to it, but it’s also mostly pure hard rock. Still, it’s a great tune.
Reality Replaces the Symbol
Jazz meets hard rock and old school prog in this closing number. It has bits that remind me a little of very early Rush, but there are also some decidedly fusion oriented segments. Sound effects eventually end it and the disc.
 
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