Rick Ray - "Into The Hands Of Sinners"
(Neurosis Records 2003)

From Aural Innovations #24 (July 2003)

After a staggering flurry of releases over just a couple years, Rick Ray has slowed the pace a bit. And not having reviewed one of Rick's CDs in a while I felt compelled to dive in when his new Into The Hands Of Sinners showed up. Returning to Rick's music with a fresh ear I have to say that he has got to be one of the best and most expressive guitarists in the hard rock realm. Rick's music is heavily informed by the Hendrix/Trower/Marino axis of heavy rock, with progressive rock influences peppered throughout. But analogies are ultimately difficult because Rick really does have his own distinct voice, particularly when he and Rick Schultz are combining guitar and reeds.

With the exception of Rick Schultz's participation, Rick Ray albums are typically solo affairs, with the Riot Act releases being his band project. Into The Hands Of Sinners is different in that it really is a full Rick Ray Band (on most tracks anyway). Along with Rick on guitar, keyboards and vocals and Rick Schultz on reeds, we have Gary Wood on bass and vocals, Phil Noch on vocals, and John Cek (from Riot Act) on drums and vocals. Nearly everyone contributes lead vocals, though I found Phil Noch to be a particularly soulful singer. But it's great hearing the full Rick Ray band on CD, especially as I believe this is same lineup I saw perform at the Strange Daze 2001 Space Rock Festival (a SMOKIN performance!)

Among the highlight tracks is "Feel Like I'm Gone", a slow droning Hendrix laced rocker with some beautifully expressive playing from Rick. Rick Schultz doesn't appear until track 3, "You're Not Alone", but it's worth the wait as his horn is absolutely ripping, and the bits of dueling between him and Rick's guitar are exquisite. "From One Side To The Other" is one of those slow paced melodic songs in which Rick manages to fit in ripping solos seamlessly and without ruining the song with flash. Even when he's shredding Rick is making passionate statements. Rick doesn't do acoustic songs very often so I was happy to hear the dual acoustic guitar instrumental "Loriann". A gorgeous tune. "Breakout", "Invisible Man", and "Into The Hands Of Sinners" are the hottest balls out head boppin rockers of the set, with the latter have the most smokin clarinet and guitar. Honestly, you've got to hear this sax/clarinet-guitar combo to understand what I mean. And "Supreme Court Justice" is the ass kickin boogie woogie number of the set and includes a head spinning guitar solo. Another fine set from Rick Ray that will appeal to fans of heavy rock with a progressive edge.

For more information you can visit Rick Ray's web site at: http://communities.msn.com/GuitaristRickRay.
Contact via snail mail c/o Neurosis Records; 20301 Ball Ave; Euclid, OH 44123.

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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