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Key Tracks: “Rock 'n Roll Is the Answer,” “Party Line,” “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”
The Ramones were one of the greatest punk bands of all time, making strange, strong music for a relatively solid two decades. This makes Joey Ramone one of the great untouchables by default, a counter-culture icon who will stand the test of time among characters like Buddy Holly and John Lennon.
When you talk about Jeffry Ross Hymen, you are talking about a genuinely talented musician and entertainer.
Even though Joey passed away 11 years ago, BMG has released another posthumous recording, …Ya Know?, following his proper (and sadly, also posthumous) 2002 solo debut Don’t Worry About Me. Much like Don’t Worry About Me, the latest release is incredibly charming and oozing with an enthusiasm for providing people with proper rock 'n roll--the same kind that propelled The Ramones to their revered status.
The album is actually a collection of songs that Joey penned between 1977 and 2000, and it's remarkable that a listener can’t easily discern what was written when.
Maybe this is a good thing, as tracks like “Rock 'n Roll is the Answer,” the album’s opener, are truly marvelous. The song is rife with all of the things that make Joey’s songwriting so great: youthful angst, chunky power chords, and a sheer realization of the fleeting and powerful nature of rock music. There is even a screeching guitar solo that Johnny would’ve certainly frowned upon, even though it fits seamlessly into the song.
“Eyes of Green” is another example of the greatness of Joey’s formula--simple lyrics, boisterous guitar licks and thick, simple drumming. Unlike the greatest Ramones material, however, this track, as well as the entirety of the album, is substantially more produced. There are background vocals and everything.
Other songs hark to the true blue rockabilly and Motown songs that Joey loved so well. “Party Line” is an excellent example of this, far too tuneful to even resemble the rawness of a Ramones single, but somehow the cooing female vocals and occasional spurt of horns sound just right here.
Some of the songs will be awfully familiar to any Ramones fan, like “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” and “Life’s a Gas”; the first of which is one of the few instances Joey was serious enough about a song’s sentiment to drop “wanna” in favor of “want to.” The song is definitely one of the album’s standouts. After all, Joey has a history of crooning great holiday tunes--just take a listen to “Danny Says” from The Ramones’ 1980 album End of the Century.
Unfortnately, charm isn’t enough to make this album a great one. Songs like “Going Nowhere Fast” are entertaining and charming for a hot second, but pretty soon the underwhelming production and simple lyrics get a little irritating.
Likewise, “Waiting for that Railroad” is a bizarre acoustic take on some type of blues influence, but whatever it is, it just doesn’t work.
But that doesn’t mean that most of the album isn’t at least, to some degree, ear candy. And that's really what Joey wanted to make all along.
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