Classic Albums remastered, reissued and revisited
The Final Years Reissued Review
by Anthony Kuzminski
Nothing ever seems to turn out
-"I Don't Want To Grow Up" from the
1995 album "Adios Amigos"
If The Ramones were a 19th Century painter,
they would have been Vincent Van Gogh. During Van Gogh's life he was eternally
linked with failure; only after his death in 1890 did he achieve great
acclaim. The Ramones are credited today with being the godfathers of the
punk movement of the 1970's and everyone claims to adore and revere them,
however, one would never be able to tell by their record sales. Last year
when I saw Green Day in concert, their pre-set music included a number
of Ramones hits and right before the lights dimmed, 12,000 fans were already
in a frenzied state yelling "Hey, Ho
.Let's Go" before one note has been
performed. All I could think of is how sad it was that Dee Dee, Johnny
and Joey were not alive to see it. Science says that Dee Dee died of an
overdose and Johnny and Joey died of cancer, but I believe they died of
broken hearts. Here was a band that for twenty-years influenced more acts
than just about any other band from the punk genre, yet they never had
a gold record to show for it. Despite never winning the lottery, The Ramones
were among the most dedicated and unfailing acts of their generation; releasing
album after album and touring year after year.
Most people focus on the early Ramones
albums as their masterpieces ("Ramones", "Leave Home", "Rocket To Russia
& "Road To Ruin"). These albums are arguably four of the most essential
punk albums to own, however, the band's next four albums ("End of the Century",
"Pleasant Dreams", "Subterranean Jungle" and "Too Tough To Die" ) bridged
no nonsense fifties rock which was melded with a pop-punk modern sound
a decade before Green Day would release their debut album. Even though
they drew their inspiration from the musical acts of the past, they were
consistently always ahead of the commercial curve and way ahead of their
Sadly, the final chapter of Ramones albums
gets sadly overlooked and unrecognized. By this time, new albums were released
merely as an incentive to tour extensively. With the grunge implosion of
the early 90's, one hoped that all of the kids rushing to record stores
buying albums by Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana would have traded
a flannel or two for some Ramones albums, yet still, success eluded them
even though these alternative bands all pointed to the Ramones as a vital
influence. Regardless of never reaching the top of the heap, the band remained,
both on stage and in the studio, incredibly relevant. This constancy was
best documented in 2003's "End of the Century-The Story of The Ramones".
Every artist who was interviewed spoke of how the band appeared to be timeless
as their performances in the 1990's appeared to be taken from a page from
the 70's. The force, vivacity, preservation and spirit of the punk attitude
was alive and well with each passing year as the band performed each and
every show as if it was going to be their last.
Recently, Captain Oi Records, out of the
UK, took up the task of remastering the bands final four albums (with bonus
tracks) to ensure the legacy of the band's final years is not forgotten.
Brian Drain (1989)
Aside from "Mania", this was the first
Ramones album I ever bought. Ironically, I still listen to it today and
wore the cassette out when I had it. Jean Beauvoir took the reins at the
producing desk forging an album by adding a punch of guitars to the mix
as this album harkens back to their roots more so than any other album
they had recorded ten years prior. The album has a number of classic tracks-
"Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight)" is a landmark tune that I saw
Steve Van Zandt perform live a few years back in honor of The Ramones.
"Pet Sematary" was written for the film of the same name and is one of
the band's most recognizable songs. This reissue contains a different remix
of the song which excludes the keyboards and focuses heavily on the guitars.
Both versions are great and it's nice to have them both represented on
this reissue. The Ramones have always been known for great covers and "Palisades
Park" is yet another one they make their own. This would sadly be the last
album Dee Dee Ramone would appear on, even though he received songwriting
credits on future Ramones albums.
Album Grade: B+
Standout Tracks: "Pet Sematary", "Palisades
Park", "All Screwed Up", "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight)", "I
Believe In Miracles", "Come Back, Baby"
Bonus Track: Pet Semetary (Bill Laswell
and Purchase This CD Online
Mondo Bizarro (1992)
My least favorite of all Ramones albums
is their first without Dee Dee. "Censors***" seemed weighty and audacious
back in 1992, but fourteen-years onward, it sadly falls flat and feels
outdated. While the album is full of consistent songs, there are no prominent
tracks I would feel inclined to include in a Ramones "Best of" compilation
(although "Poison Heart" is a catchy). All in all, it is the first Ramones
album where I felt they were merely running through the motions without
a real sense of direction. However, the bonus track on this reissue of
"Spiderman" is priceless and almost worth buying just for this one song.
It also includes a trivial cover of The Doors "Take It As it Comes". While
the album is full of the classic no nonsense rock that made virtually every
Ramones album a standout in the past, I do not feel that the songwriting
on this album was up to par with their previous releases. It's not a dreadful
album by any means, but by no means their best.
Album Grade: C+
Standout Tracks: "Poison Heart", "Tomorrow
She Goes Away", "I Won't Let It Happen".
Bonus Track: "Spiderman"
and Purchase This CD Online
Acid Eaters (1993)
The Ramones, like the early Beatles, incorporated
so many classic rock songs from the 50's and 60's onto their albums and
into their live sets; you sometimes mistakenly believe they were actual
Ramones compositions. However, they never recorded an album full of nothing
but covers until "Acid Eaters" where the band opted to choose familiar
songs from the psychedelic era. Despite the safety of selections, this
album never fails to bring a smile to my face even though it's far from
perfect. The albums standout track-the lost nugget "Out of Time", originally
recorded by The Rolling Stones, is worth the price of the album alone.
Killer versions of "Have You Ever Seen The Rain", "Substitute" and "Surf
City" are also included. The main downside to this collection is the song
selection. It may have been nice to dig through some lesser known 60's
classics like those that Steven Van Zandt has been spinning on his "Underground
Garage" radio show. Regardless, it's the rare covers album that perfectly
encapsulates and captures the aura of the psychedelic era-Ramones style.
Album Grade: B
Standout Tracks: "Out of Time", "Surf
City", "Substitute", "7 and 7 Is"
Bonus Track: "Surfin' Safari"
and Purchase This CD Online
Adios Amigos (1994)
The bands swan song and finale is neither
a disappointment nor a masterpiece, however, it is a worthy album swan
song. CJ Ramone (who took over for Dee Dee in the early 90's) can be heard
handling lead vocal duties on a handful of songs, including the bonus track
of the raucous cover of Motorheads "R.A.M.O.N.E.S". While the bands last
studio opus ("Mondo Bizarro") was below par, they appear to be reinvigorated
on this album knowing this was probably the last batch of songs they would
ever cook up. The album is a back to basics affair with a throbbing backbeat
and ferocious guitar chords flying throughout the album. There are no extra
flourishes on this album (excessive dubbing or keyboards) and it focuses
solely on the recipe that largely defined the Ramones throughout their
career- drums, guitar, bass, rage and aggression.
Album Grade: B
Standout Tracks: "She Talks To Rainbows",
"I Love You", "It's Not For Me To Know", "I Don't Want To Grow Up", "Cretin
Bonus Track: "R.A.M.O.N.E.S."
and Purchase This CD Online
I will forever cherish the Ramones as one
of the greatest rock 'n roll bands to ever grace God's green earth. While
many of the bands that came out of New York and London's punk scene in
the late 70's burned out quicker than their stars rose, The Ramones soldiered
on even after the punk revolution died. They forged ahead crafting original
music, touring annually and took their fist-full of no nonsense punk rock
attitude and sound well into the 1990's until they decided to call it a
day. Sadly, little or no acclaim was bestowed upon them while they were
within our presence. Decades and centuries from now, the Ramones will continue
to be celebrated as the godfathers of punk rock and will also be seen as
one of the 20th Century's greatest tragedies. Like Van Gogh before them,
their art was ahead of their time. They were widely misunderstood and it
was largely after Joey died that people began to appreciate the band's
originality and brilliance. Sadly, it was far too late. Despite this tragedy,
we will always have the music and that will be the Ramones lasting legacy.
Acts who sold millions of records during the 70's, 80's and 90's will be
forgotten generations from now, but the Ramones influence and their music
will live on forever. That in many ways will be their greatest reward,
whether they are here to witness it or not. Wherever Joey, Johnny and Dee
Dee are today- above us, below us or somewhere in between, I wish them
a prosperous journey-Godspeed my friends.
I believe in a better world for me
"-I Believe In Miracles" from the 1989
album "Brain Drain"
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