Ramones In Love LP
(Pirates Press Records)
No matter how open-minded listeners might be, some albums are simply intent on challenging their audience’s expectations – and Kepi Ghoulie’s Ramones In Love is definitely one of those. First, while the idea of an artist presenting their own interpretations of Ramones songs is not new, the idea of presenting a series of Ramones love songs is decidedly unique. This album marks the first occasion that anyone has attempted to make an album like this one. Likewise, the speed, power and attack that The Ramones put into their music could easily be called a staple element about the music but, on Kepi Ghoulie’s Ramones In Love, the only players in the mix are Ghoulie himself and multi-instrumentalist Eric Bianchi (who supplies bass, guitar, chimes, percussion, horns, piano and strings) – it’s a very “acoustic” affair and, while that might not seem much like a “Ramones” album, in function, it’s a really solid record, in form.
As soon as needle catches groove on the A-side of the album and “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” opens the proceedings, some listeners will immediately recognize the challenge that this album presents – while others will just be struck starry-eyed. The challenge is definitely justifiable; Ghoulie’s vocal is definitely the sugar on top of the song, but the way that the track is arranged makes for a really good and accessible presentation in a very folk-focused manner which will surprise anyone expecting something faster, harder or just generally more “Ramones-y” in form. There’s an obvious similarity between that source material and this, but no one will call what they’re hearing a Ramones clone.
With the precedent set, Ghoulie and Bianchi get a little softer and slower for “I Remember You” with a ride cymbal filling all of what should be the drumming performance (and really testing listeners’ patience – good thing the cut is only three minutes long) and then proving that a Ramones song can plod along (all it needs is a cello to make that happen) with Ghoulie’s rendition of “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.”
Now, it is worth pointing out that, while it’s slower and not necessarily the perfect thing that every listener would want from an album like Ramones In Love, listeners may discover to their surprise that they’ll never get sick of the adjustments which get made to the songs throughout Ramones In Love. As the A-side of the album plays on, in fact, “Needles And Pins” really stands out as playing like a great Sixties garage rock song – which has never been done before – while the “easy rock” quality in Kepi Ghoulie’s version of “Questioningly” draws in some inescapable connective tissue to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic material which no one thought could happen with The Ramones’ music as source material. When the side closes out, listeners won’t be able to flip the record over fast enough – the treasure they’ve already found is bright, and they’ll be anxious to find more.
…And there is absolutely more treasure to be found on the flipside of Ramones In Love. While there’s no question that the re-workings of “She’s A Sensation,” “Howling At The Moon” and “She Belongs To Me” leave a fair bit to be desired, it’s hard to lay the blame for that completely at Ghoulie’s feet – because anyone familiar with the source material from where those covers came will have to concede that they weren’t the greatest songs when The Ramones originally recorded them either and, in this context, they’re just the filler which happened to suit the album’s form. By the same token, while the number of interesting cuts on the B-side of Ramones In Love is leaner than it was on the A–, no one who hears them will be able to deny that “7-11” and “My-My Kind Of Girl” deserve credit for being particular stand-outs on the album as a whole.
So, standing back from it, those who run front-to-back with Ramones In Love will happily be able to say that they enjoyed their trip through this set. On its face, Ramones In Love makes the most of being an unlikely pleasure which presents more value than most anyone could expect, and that success may ensure that the number of fans who line up to see what Kepi Ghoulie comes up with for a follow-up release will be even better-populated than it was this time. [Bill Adams]
Ramones In Love is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pirates Press Records.