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Music Review: Mitch Ryder – The Promise

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Mitch Ryder, born in 1945, has been rocking for almost 50 years. Born William Levise, Jr. in Detroit, Michigan, he began performing while still a teenager. His early band, The Rivieras, caught the attention of legendary producer Bob Crewe who moved the group to New York City. A name change was necessary because there was a band of the same name and a national hit with “California Sun,” so Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels were born.

From 1965-1967, Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels produced some of the better rock singles of the decade. Songs such as “Jenny Take A Ride,” “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” “Devil With The Blue Dress/Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Sock It To Me Baby,” and “Too Many Fish In The Sea” were high-octane, up-tempo rock ‘n’ roll classics, propelled by Ryder’s powerful voice. His career took a downturn during the late ’60s when he released a number of pop songs, but he made a comeback with a trio of excellent, if under-appreciated, hard rock albums, How I Spent My Vacation (1979), Naked But Not Dead (1980) and Never Kick A Sleeping Dog (1983).

He has built a loyal following in Europe where he has issued a number of albums down through the years. Next month will find him releasing his 2009 European LP, Detroit Ain’t Dead Yet (The Promise), in the States. Now titled simply The Promise, it is Ryder’s first exclusively U.S. release of new material in 30 years.

The album was produced by Don Was and its core musicians include keyboardist Jamie Mahuberac, bassist Reggie McBride, guitarist Randy Jacobs, and drummer James Gadsen.

The music travels a more eclectic path than one would expect from this veteran rocker. Soul, slower-tempo material, and confessional songs share space with his usual brand of rock ‘n’ roll. He gives a soulful performance on the title track. “Junkie Love” is a stark and raw look at his drug addiction days. “My Heart Belongs To You” glides into a funky and smooth groove. He even goes in a Latin direction with “Let’s Keep Dancing,” which has a tango beat.

When Ryder decides to rock, he remains one of the best in the business. “The Way We Were” may contain lyrics about society’s ills but it rocks hard throughout as does “One Hair,” “Crazy Beautiful,” and “Everybody Loses.”

The Promise is Mitch Ryder’s coming-home party. It’s a solid album that proves the 66-year-old is still an energetic, relevant artist.

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