From Aural Innovations #17 (September 2001)
My introduction to Ohio-based guitarist Rick Ray's music was his Guitarsenal CD (reviewed in AI #15), which I more or less likened to a heavier rock version of Steve Morse and the Dixie Dregs. Over a dozen more of Rick's CD's soon followed that review, and immersing myself in all these hours of music revealed something far more than a simple analogy could explain.
Rick has been playing for years, having formed his first band, the power-trio Neurotic, in 1973, and went on to enjoy a measure of success in the Cleveland, Ohio area. The band went through a number of personnel changes and in 1985 Rick formed his own Rick Ray Band with himself and Rick Schultz on reeds, a collaboration that exists to this day. In 1990 Rick formed another power trio, Riot Act, which has released three CD's and includes heavy power rock that equals or exceeds any of my favorites from the 1970's.
As for my initial impressions of Rick's music, many hours under the headphones wading through his catalog reveals that Rick's style is the sum of several influences, and with those inspirations as a base Rick has also managed to put his own stamp on the music, creating a sound that recalls known genres with trademark sounds, but are also easily recognizable as being Rick Ray. A top 20 favorites list on Rick's web site proclaims such artists are The Beatles, Frank Marino, Robin Trower, Steve Morse/The Dregs, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer/Powell, King Crimson, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, among others. Trower, Morse, and Marino's influences are definitely discernable in Rick's playing style. Pure power rock and the complexity and instrumental proficiency of progressive rock complement and coexist with one another throughout his music. And scattered throughout are enough freaky tunes and occasional Hawkwind styled music to make it a snug fit for the space rocker who loves a solid heavy rockin' time. The harmonics and sounds emanating from Rick's guitar are varied and beautiful, and in that sense he often reminds me of a rock 'n roll version of Allan Holdsworth. His style is so melodic that you're often so swept up in the music that you don't realize that this shred-meister has melted the sonic core.
On Rick's solo CD's he plays all the instruments, with the exception of Rick Schultz who contributes clarinet and saxophone. I can't emphasize enough the importance of Schultz's contribution to the uniqueness of the music's sound. Often fulfilling a keyboard role, the clarinet can shred and rock as hard as the guitar, and some of the most exciting moments are when the two Rick's trade licks or duel on the rock 'n roll battlefield.
Rick's music is also lyrically intense, being biblically based and heavily influenced by what Rick considers to be the lessons and predictions of the Book of Revelations. However you may feel about such subject matter, there's no denying the impact it has on his music. Rick is also a talented artist with a style that strikes me as a combination of Dali and the underground comix artists. Wonderfully freaky toons!
So check out the links below. The first one leads to a discography and overview of Rick's 13 solo CD's, three Riot Act CD's, and a compilation of earlier material, all on his own Neurosis label. Next is an interview with Rick. And the third is a small gallery of some of my favorite comix from a book he sent me. So read on... and then take the plunge yourself!