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Pleasant Dreams

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After reissuing deluxe editions of the first four and best Ramones albums, Rhino has just put out remastered versions of the next quartet. All I can say is: Damn them, anyway! That’s four more CDs I’ll be buying even though I already own the initial Warner/Sire discs. Bastards.
Bought one of ’em this week: Pleasant Dreams, the group’s post-Spector collaboration with professional popster Graham Gouldman (of 10-CC fame). Many hard-core punksters slag this album for its glossier moves. Not me. “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” “She’s A Sensation,” “Sitting In My Room,” all take the pop-punk promise of Rocket to Russia and more than fulfill it. After nearly getting lost in the production mire with End of the Century, Dreams provides a crystalline version of the studio Ramones.

In a lot of ways, this disc is closer to the sound of sixties rock than the band’s later cover album, Acid Eaters, would be: it certainly sounds better. Even a lyrically weak song like “It’s Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)” has a wonderful airiness around Joey’s vocals. (Not surprisingly, Rhino masterman Bill Inglot coaxes out a sound that’s superior to the original CD release. So if you’re an audiophile, you probably want the new discs just for that.) And album opener “We Want the Airwaves” more than makes up for the muffed promises of Century‘s overplayed “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?”
Rhino’s reissue contains seven bonus tracks: four demos that capture the band’s punkier sound, alternate versions of “Touring” and “I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind,” plus a version of a song that was previously only released on the soundtrack for Alan Arkush’s Get Crazy, “Chop Suey.” This “Suey” has to be the closest thing to an extended dance track the band ever did: warbling by Deb Harry and the distaff B-52s, plus a lengthy (for the Ramones) drum & bass break and a fading “Land of a 1000 Dances” ref. A trivial, but fun cut. Clumped together, the extra tracks’d constitute a great B-sides EP. So even if you’re not a hard-core fan, I’d recommend getting this disc for the extras. Particularly if you can buy the bargain-pricer on sale.
Did I mention yet that these music company guys were bastards?
(Reprinted from Pop Culture Gadabout)

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.
  • Eric Olsen

    Bill, Good review but I love End of the Century – the Spector production makes it. That the record that ties together punk and ’60s pop once and for all. Their “Baby I Love You” makes me laugh and cry.

    That said, Pleasant Dreams is really good and was a return to “normal” after the foray into Wall of Sound land.

  • I know there are Ramones fans who love End of the Century (according to Ira Robbins’ Pleasant Dreams booklet notes, Century is the band’s highest charting album), but for me the album remains a mixed bag. “Danny Says,” “I’m Affected” and “I Can’t Make It on Time” are great songs. But the remake of “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” lacks the clear drive of the single, and “Chinese Rock” was just a mistake – particularly when placed alongside the Hearbreakers’ majestically shambolic version. I go back and forth on “Baby, I Love You.” Joey’s vocals are unquestionably great, but the track sure ain’t the Ramones. In the end, I wish the band had gotten the Phil Spector who’d produced Plastic Ono Band.

  • G. Bob

    I always thought that the album was more of an interesting experiment than a definitive Ramones album. If anything it took the boys away from their roots and tried to mold them into a more traditonal band. That being said, I’ll definatly be picking up the re-issue.

    Gabba Gabba Hey.