It’s a special ‘Ryan’ only blog post, dedicated to new musical offerings from people with that name. Luckily we have two great examples handy.
Ed Ryan tells us the aim of his new record A Big Life “was to make a big, fun rock record!” Well he’s succeeded and then some. From the rollicking opener “Settle Down” with its rhythm guitar shots and 1980s J. Geils synth lines to a closer that reworks Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” into a rock and roll dance stomper, this record hits all the party marks. It’s like he’s taking us through all the many musical eras he’s lived through since the 1970s, adding his own distinctive Ryan-esque filter to everything. We go from what sound like 1970s guitars on “Take Away Everything” to a 1980s guitar vibe on “The Dreaming Moon.” “Wonder” is a lovely number that melds acoustic guitar and organ in a very 1970s Stonesy way. “Mary Anne” exudes what we used to call AOR (album-oriented rock) in the 1980s, where big crashing guitar chords and screaming solos ride a solid melody. Title track “A Big Life” also goes guitar-big but really delivers a subtle hook in the chorus. Then there’s the post-pub rock-styled “You Keep Me Up All Night” with its “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll)” feel. But if I had to single out tracks for extensive radio play they would be “Lighthouse” and “Testify.” “Lighthouse” combines jangle guitar with a jaunty tune that skips merrily along while “Testify” just sounds like the single to me.
On his latest LP The Last Rock Band Ryan Allen cooks up a concept album that explores the classic ‘Is rock dead?’ fixation of rock and roll players via a disjointed band biography. With song titles like “Start a Band,” “Like the Ramones,” and “The Last Rock and Roll Band” you can see where this is going, narrative-wise. And listening through the album it’s clear the lyrics here are smart. But concept albums really live or die by the music. Happily these tracks rock, in the very best way. As usual, the range of styles Allen pulls out is impressive. “The Last Rock Band” sounds like an edgy Bryan Adams, “Discovery” is laden with guitar windmills borrowed from The Who, while “Stop the Train” has a delicious reverby pop sound reminiscent of Fountains of Wayne. Going more for the 1970s “Second Act” has those big seventies Thin Lizzy guitars or you can enjoy something that sounds like Bowie meets Big Star on “We Have Returned.” “Bought a Computer” is that part of the story where the protagonist briefly abandons his guitar for technology but all I can hear here is some spot-on Chris Collingwood kind of lyrical phrasing. “Wrong Place Wrong Time” is just a great intense rocker. Saving the best for last Allen wraps the album with the obvious should-be hit single “Because I Have To,” a nonstop hook machine of a song. Rock may not dominate popular culture like it once did but Ryan Allen’s latest long-player proves it’s not quite on life support yet.
People named Ryan sometimes make great music. Like these guys. Press ‘Ryan’ as your hotlink choice to find out more.
Ray Gianchetti said:
Thanks for the Ed Ryan review Dennis!
Both Ryans are terrific, and your review made me want to listen to both albums. Of the two, I prefer Ryan Allen’s brazen, no-holds-barred style of rock’n’roll/power pop. Great stuff, and another great write-up Dennis!
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Dennis Pilon said:
Thanks EML! You are so kind.
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