None of the 11 titles on Ricky Byrd’s solo debut, Lifer, goes over 4:40 and no title is under 3:10, the veteran guitarist giving compact pop bursts taking the listener pretty much through his personal musical journey with his voice telling the narrative. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Boys” is so reminiscent of the early days of post-Mott the Hoople Ian Hunter and, no surprise, Byrd backed up Hunter onstage. The first time Ricky appeared on this writer’s radar was when he replaced eventual Ben Orr (of the Cars) guitarist John Kalishes in a powerful album-rock band known as Susan.
Susan was a bit out of place in the grunge and new wave punk of The Rat in Boston (now the Commonwealth Hotel, go figure), a professional, machine-like band with a cover of the Head Over Heels tune “Right Away” that was amazing. They appeared on the Live At The Rat album (with Kalishes on guitar) along with DMZ, Willie “Loco” Alexander, The Boize and others. The debut album, Falling In Love Again on RCA Records, had Ricky joining the Leland Brothers and Tom Dickie. Byrd brings in a multitude of influences sounding like Al Green on the very Memphis-like “Ways of a Woman” to the Fine Young Cannibals on “Things To Learn”.
Perhaps my favorite track is “Turnstyle ‘01”, a ballad that has a sincere vocal and soulful, electric folk guitar. “Dream Big” could have hit for Foghat or even Aerosmith back in the day with “Harlem Rose” going into the realm of pre-Foghat Savoy Brown featuring exquisite guitar work (well, what do you expect?) and a solid vocal. “Married Men” is almost a Steve Cropper answer to “Rock ‘n’ Roll Boys”, ten years on, perfect for Joe Jackson’s comeback, if he ever plans on having one. “One Less Love” is a pensive groove that slinks along like the Pink Panther. All in all, a good and respectable outing for someone known for being a reliable foundation for so many front people.
“Rock N Roll Boys” RICKY BYRD
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.