CD Reviews > Joey Ramone

Joey Ramone - "...ya know?"

Joey Ramone’s highly anticipated second solo album at long last is finally seeing the light of day, much to the delight of his throngs of fans (myself included in that). Entitled "...ya know?" (referring to the phrase that was a ever-present staple of Joey's conversation), these songs are definitely imbued with Joey’s distinctive spirit, and range from celebratory to introspective. Believe me, it was well worth the wait – this album is awesome!

These treasures were unearthed by Joey’s brother, Mickey Leigh, who has worked tirelessly since his brother’s untimely death 11 years ago to keep this beloved icon’s spirit alive. Mickey also served as the executive producer for “…ya know?” (BMG Rights Management), and was one of the many illustrious musicians who lent their talents to bringing these brilliantly sparkling gems to the public. Mickey poured through a cache of demos and unreleased tracks that Joey had made at various points during the last decade and a half of his life.

Mickey explained, "It was of the utmost importance to me that these remaining songs of Joey's be finished properly and made available for the world to hear. Over the past eight years I've been getting a barrage of emails and Facebook messages from Joey's fans, wanting to know when this album would be coming out. So having it finally become a reality gives me a feeling of triumph - not for me, but for my brother, and for his fans. And there's not the slightest doubt in my mind that people are gonna be blown away by it."

Called "a riveting collection of first-rate songs that embody Joey's trademark intensity and wit that can stand proudly alongside his most beloved Ramones compositions," the CD is a fitting if belated follow-up to Joey's first solo CD, Don't Worry About Me, which was recorded just prior to his death and released the following year (and still gets daily spins in the Crowgrrl’s personal CD player).

Among the numerous talented artists to whom Leigh and Ramone's manager Dave Frey reached out in bringing the album to fruition was veteran Ed Stasium, who was behind the board for many of the Ramones' greatest releases, including their early classics "Leave Home," "Rocket To Russia" and "Road To Ruin." In addition to producing 10 of the CD's 15 tracks, Stasium also contributed instrumentation and vocals to each.

Contributing to "...ya know?" is an assortment of musicians and producers whose prior relationships with Joey help to give the album an organic vibe that enhances its power and character. The cast of players includes Mickey Leigh, Joan Jett, Little Steven Van Zandt (who plays guitar on "Party Line" and wrote the album's poignant liner notes) along with such notables as former Ramones drummer Richie Ramone, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, Dennis Diken of the Smithereens, Richie Stotts, Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye, punk survivor Holly Beth Vincent, The Dictators’ JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson, Jean Beauvoir, Al Maddy, Amy Hartman, and producers Jean Beauvoir and Joe Blaney.

The album was performed live in its entirety at the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash. Participants include: Richie Stotts, JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson, Jean Beauvoir, Ed Stasium, Al Maddy, Amy Hartman and Mickey Leigh.

The anthemic “Rock ‘N Roll Is The Answer” immediately grips the listener by the jugular, and pulls us into a raucous celebration. Co-written with Plasmatics guitarist Richie Stotts, this song was also released as a limited-edition 7” single for Record Store Day this past April. I love the dark edge to Joey’s vocals and the sense of urgency in “Going Nowhere Fast” (it’s also got an impressive guitar solo). Joey’s love for his birthplace permeates the fantastic song “New York City” – it’s definitely imbued with pure pride. There’s subway FX in the outro, with the train announcer letting folks know they were coming up on Forest Hills (which, if you’ve read Mickey’s inspirational book “I Slept With Joey Ramone”, you’ll know the significance of this borough). The acoustic “Waiting For That Railroad” features some great vocal harmonies and a lonesome feeling. The echo FX were a nice touch in “I Couldn’t Sleep”, a Rocking song with a “Roots Rock” 50’s or 60’s vibe – this track was a collaboration between brothers Joey and Mickey.

The catchy, romantic “What Did I Do To Deserve You” is absolutely addictive! Despite the hopeless lyrics in “Seven Days of Gloom”, it’s a Rocker you can’t stand still for – it just begs dancing along. The passionate “Eyes of Green” has a temptress trying her best to lure Joey to stray, as he fights to stay faithful to girl at home – fun romp! “Party Line is a heartthrob of a song, with deeper vocals, some female vox mixed in, and a vintage 60’s vibe, not to mention some nice guitar licks by Little Steven Van Zandt. Brothers Joey and Mickey once again team up on the acoustic, bluesy version of The Ramones’ classic “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)”.

I absolutely love the lusty, bewitching “21st Century Girl”! Everyone can relate with being stuck in the rut of the daily grind depicted in “There’s Got To Be More To Life”. The lighthearted and slightly surreal “Make Me Tremble” (which Joey wrote and recorded with Dictators founder Andy Shernoff) reminds me a bit of early T. Rex, and features some nice fretwork. A manic intro carries us into “Cabin Fever”, which is an intense battle against boredom. (Sweet wind chime FX lead us out at the end). The acoustic “Life’s A Gas” is extremely optimistic and uplifting.

~Athena Schaffer