On May 22, Joey Ramone’s second solo album, “…ya know?” will be released (BMG Rights Management), eleven years after his life was cruelly cut short by lymphoma. The tracks were drawn from a cache of demos and unreleased recordings that Joey had cut at various times during the last decade and a half of his life.
His brother, musician Mickey Leigh, executive produced the project. “It was of the utmost importance to me that these remaining songs of Joey’s be finished properly, and made available for the world to hear,” Leigh says of “…ya know?”, which is comprised primarily of never-before-heard songs written and sung by his brother.
But this is no half-baked grab-bag of odds and ends. Rather, it’s a riveting collection of first-rate songs that embody Joey’s trademark intensity and wit, and that can stand proudly alongside his most beloved Ramones compositions. It’s also a fitting, if belated, follow-up to Joey’s first solo album Don’t Worry About Me, which was recorded just prior to his death and released the following year.
“…ya know?” – whose title refers to the phrase that was a ubiquitous staple of Joey’s conversation – adds a significant new chapter to the seminal punk icon’s hugely influential body of work.
Among the many talented people Mickey Leigh and Joey’s manager Dave Frey reached out to in bringing “…ya know?” to fruition was veteran producer Ed Stasium, who was behind the board for many of the Ramones’ greatest albums, including their early classics Leave Home, Rocket to Russia and Road to Ruin.
In addition to producing ten of the album’s fifteen tracks, Stasium also contributed instrumentation and vocals to each.
The swaggering album-opener “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is the Answer” (co-written with Plasmatics guitarist Richie Stotts) will be released as a limited-edition 7” single for Record Store Day on April 21, 2012.
That song and the hometown shout-out “New York City” demonstrate Joey’s knack for channeling his personal passions into bracing anthems. The playfully breezy “Make Me Tremble” (which Joey wrote and recorded with Dictators founder Andy Shernoff) and the bittersweet acoustic ballad “Waiting for That Railroad” find him exploring some of the more introspective territory that he’d been unable to visit within the format of his former band.
Elsewhere on “…ya know?”, “I Couldn’t Sleep” is a collaboration between brothers Joey and Mickey, who also teamed up to record a romantic alternate version of the Ramones’ holiday classic “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” in Joey’s apartment. Meanwhile, a previously unreleased reprise of Joey’s late-period Ramones tune “Life’s A Gas” ends the album on an appropriately uplifting note.
Also contributing to “…ya know?” is an assortment of musicians and producers whose prior relationships with Joey help to give the album an organic vibe that enhances its power and character. The cast of players includes Joan Jett, and Little Steven Van Zandt, who plays guitar on “Party Line” and wrote the album’s poignant liner notes, along with such notables as former Ramones drummer Richie Ramone, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, Dennis Diken of the Smithereens, Richie Stotts, Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye, punk survivor Holly Beth Vincent, members of the Ramones’ punk-era contemporaries The Dictators, and producers Jean Beauvoir and Joe Blaney.
The resulting album is a brilliant encapsulation of the qualities that made Joey Ramone one of rock’s most unlikely, yet most beloved, heroes.
Leigh reflects “Over the past eight years I’ve been getting barrages of emails and Facebook messages from Joey’s fans, wanting to know when this album would be coming out. So having it finally become a reality gives me a feeling of triumph – not for me, but for my brother, and for his fans. And there’s not the slightest doubt in my mind that people are gonna be blown away by it.”