Rick Ray - "Guitarsenal"
(Neurosis Records 2000, CD)
From Aural Innovations #15 (April 2001)
Rick Ray is an Ohio-based guitarist who bursts the shredometer mercury on this aptly titled set of rockin' tunes. The closest analogy for Rick Ray's style is Steve Morse, not so much because he sounds like Morse (he does at times) but because numerous diverse styles are featured across Guitarsenal's 16 tracks and Ray displays impressive proficiency at all of them. And except for Rick Schultz guesting on clarinet, Rick plays all guitars, bass, keyboards, and percussion on the album.
Track like "looking Into Your Eyes", "Same Here", and "An Unexpected Moments" are all basic rockers that include shred-fest heaven playing. "Same Here" in particular is a melodic instrumental that incorporates blazing solos while still retaining a floating quality and even communicating a bit of romance. Chops and style. "People Turn" and "Floating" are similar, but the guitar ventures into jazz-rock territory. "Taken Control", "The Atom Smasher", and "Bottom Of The Heap" are all driving rockers that reminded me of the Dixie Dregs' "Cruise Control". "The Atom Smasher" is the song where the guitar work really blew me away. Intricate playing that will make heavy rock progheads drool but is still firmly rooted in good old bluesy rock n roll.
On "The Rendezvous" Rick kicks out blazing runs while still maintaining the illusion of calm. You don't realize you're moving along at the speed of light. "If I Had The Chance" is similar, being a nice melodic tune that combines acoustic guitar with Rick's lightning runs. "Mellow-D" and "Holding On To Hope" are easier-paced acoustic songs. And "Nine Again" and "Terry The Duplicate" are a couple wah'd guitar rockers that were among my favorite tracks.
In summary, if you want to be bowled over by an axe-master shred-fest than you couldn't do better than this. But is there anything more substantial than just chops? I'd say Rick Ray's strength lies in his ability to play something akin to a love song and have the listener not see the guitar's burned rubber in the road till the end of the song. I didn't like his vocals at first but after a few listens to the CD they certainly seem to work well with the music. Actually, I think he sounds a bit like John Lennon.
For more information you can visit Rick Ray at his web site.
You can order Guitarsenal for $7.00 from Neurosis Records (checks/money orders payable to Rick Ray); 20301 Ball Ave; Euclid, OH 44123.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz