Brian Ray may not exactly be a household name, but the guy is no stranger to the music field. He’s spent the past few years in the band of Paul McCartney, singing and playing guitar and bass. He was musical director for Etta James. And he wrote the Smokey Robinson hit “One Heartbeat” back in the ’80s. Now he has released one of the freshest pop-rock albums I’ve heard in awhile.
On this album, Ray has written a batch of songs that stick in your head. “Good For Nothing” has a great hook to go with the chunky rhythm guitars. “Vinyl” is a great song about records and life. And check out the bass! Ray and his buddies may be listening when his boss straps on the instrument.
“I Liked You Better” has a catchy, relatable (and very funny) lyric. It’s a pop-rocker with big crunchy guitar. “All I Know” is a fine rock ballad. The good kind of rock ballad – not the kind that would come from bands with big hair and eyeliner. “Sub Atomic” lets us know Ray’s interests cover a broad base. It’s kind of a Stone-Temple-Pilots-meets-Hendrix feel with a wonderfully wild solo that’s loud, fast, and obnoxious. In fact, the song is a good indication of Ray’s prowess as a writer. He mixes the history of rock and roll and comes out sounding great.
Cynics might say this is the best record released by McCartney or any member of his band in many years. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But it’s as fine a guitar-based pop-rock record as you’re likely to hear for some time.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.