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FROM THE ARCHIVES: THE RICK RAY BAND: PSYCHEDELIC AND PROGRESSIVE HARD ROCK FUSION

I know Rick and co are working on a new album so, until then, I present an extract from a review and interview from 2022 originally published in ACID DRAGON magazine.

The album was called “Under the Sky” which once again showed what the long-serving Rick Ray Band are all about, getting torn into ‘No Remorse’ “a speaker rattling tour de force with a lightning fingered coda. Apart from Rick’s extraordinary guitar playing the album benefits from the contributions of guest keyboard player Sam Guinta on two tracks. There is a Hendrix inflected ballad, ‘Absent Friends’ and the album concludes with a ‘blast from the past’ in ‘Manipulated DNA’ from Rick’s enormous back catalogue (on Neurosis Records and Bandcamp), with Rick’s old sparring partner Rick Schultz on wind synth. The album comes with a second live disc recorded in the band’s native Cleveland, Ohio. A special nod also to bassist Dave Snodgrass and drummer Kip Volans. And Rick’s own opinion: “Out of all 36 albums, I believe this is the best of them. We had a blast in our studio rehearsing and recording the studio disc and had a great time playing the concert on the live disc. The whole band is really happy with what we did.”


I asked what keeps Rick going (musically!): “I’m always writing, just about every day, I’m always playing my guitar. We’re starting to work on songs for the next album. What keeps me going is the love of music and the band since 2018 is the best band I’ve ever been a part of. Kip, Shaggy and Sarge are not only great to work with but great to hang with. When all cylinders are firing this band takes things to a level I was unaware of.” Having noted the shared writing credits, I also asked whether the band was growing as a collective: “I write basic ideas and the band adds, subtracts and expands everything. There are certain pieces I have ideas for that once the band gets a hold of it, it ends up going in a different direction. Four minds are better than one…and yes, the band is growing leaps and bounds as a collective. The ideas just come “all the time”. There is an endless amount of subjects to write about and the musical ideas are always coming.


I was also curious to know what special memories Rick had of the all the illustrious bands Rick and his band had played with: “CAPTAIN BEYOND used our practice spot to rehearse for the gig we did with them. That was a great time getting to know all of them. I spent about an hour talking to STEVE MORSE when we opened for THE DREGS, he’s not just a great musician, but also a great guy. One of the times when we opened for FRANK MARINO, after we talked for a while, he headed back up to his dressing room and I started playing the lead solo to his song “Something’s Comin’ Our Way” and he came back saying “wow, you know that? He then said, “Do you know the keyboard part to ‘Strange Dreams’? and I said “no”. He grabbed my guitar and taught me how to play it. When we opened for ALLAN HOLDWORTH, I knew early on he needed another Fender Twin amp. He was discussing needing another with his drummer and bassist. I went up and told him I brought one and he said, “I’m not going to use your amp, you need it and the settings are going to be completely different”. I told him “I have my amp. I brought this just for you”. The look on his face was priceless and he grabbed me and gave me a big hug. There are a million stories.


I also asked about the East Shore Park concert, on the bonus CD: It was a beautiful evening, the band was on fire and the disc is only about half the concert. There were songs we really didn’t have the money to pay for the rights to release them. Songs like ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’, ‘Stones Of Years’ (ELP), I Am The Walrus, Bridge Of Sighs, In This Place and Too Rolling Stoned (ROBIN TROWER) and Strange Universe (FRANK MARINO & MAHOGANY RUSH). So the East Shore Park part of the album is just all our material. So far, that concert was one of my all-time favorite gigs. I showed up early and the sound guy, Willie Tharp, asked if I wanted it recorded, I said “yes” and didn’t let the guys in the band know it was being recorded. Shaggy, our bassist, thanked me for not telling him. This live disc was mixed with “no editing, no fixing anything” it’s just the way we played it live.


On “Under the Sky” I asked about three particular songs: ‘Casualty’, the music is new, the words are old. I have books filled with lyrics and I was glancing through and those words seem to fit perfectly with the music. The song is inspired by the early deaths of JIM MORRISON and JIMI HENDRIX. They got a lot done in their 27 years here on earth, but there was way more to do, and they left their work unfinished, their lives unfinished, because of pushing the limits with drugs. ‘The Note Police’ is about people who are limited in their idea of progressive rock. If it wasn’t made between 1969 and 1978, it isn’t progressive rock to them. Shaggy wrote the words for this one. In one review from a Prog site we got, the reviewer said, “these guys aren’t prog, they’re just a hard rock band with some twists and turns”. Then a reviewer from a Hard Rock site said, “these guys are way too progressive for a site like ours”. I think that’s where the idea got going for this piece. There are people we’ve talked to also who pretty much won’t listen to anything new. It has to be from the so called “golden era” or forget it. It’s their loss but it‘s the inspiration that got this song going. ‘1974’, this song is about the first time I ever heard Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush in the summer of 1974. I went to visit a friend who lived about 50 miles away. I got there and he said, “Come with me”. We went across the street to a field where a plane had crashed. There were plane parts and body parts all over the place. It cut kind of a sliding board through the trees into the field. I think if they could have made it a little further past the trees they might have survived. It was a misty day like I had never seen before or since. When we finally went back to his house we were sitting on his front porch with the radio on just thinking about what we had just seen and then ‘Child of the Novelty’ by FRANK MARINO & MAHOGANY RUSH came on and I was blown away. That was my first exposure to their music and I’ve been a fan ever since then. I had originally written the words but couldn’t quite sing them and play guitar at the same time. Shaggy said, let me try. Well, he took the words and rewrote them. The descending parts such as the beginning riff are about Frank Marino and his new record at the time arriving at the radio station and eventually getting on the air, the verse parts are about the plane crash. So it keeps going back and forth.”

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