Joey Ramone, "...Ya Know?" (2012) Review
Joey Ramone - YA KNOW? (BMG Rights Management, 2012)
Joey Ramone may be gone, but his legend continues to rock on thanks to his second posthumous solo album, ...Ya Know?, which was released on May 22, 2012 via BMG Rights Management. ... Ya Know? (the title comes from the constant phrase that punctuated nearly every sentence spoken by Joey) is a follow up to Don't Worry About Me, which was released in 2002. The 15 tracks on ...Ya Know? were culled from a stash of demo recordings and unfinished works-in-progress that Joey's brother Mickey Leigh discovered while cleaning Joey's apartment after his tragic death in April of 2001. Mickey (who served as executive producer on ...Ya Know?) found some of Joey's handwritten song lyrics on the back of an old pizza-delivery receipt, and went on to uncover a number of other demos and rough recordings that he'd been working on during his illness. After several years of legal wrangling between the Joey Ramone estate and producer Daniel Rey (who claimed ownership of the tapes), Mickey teamed up with longtime Ramones associates/producers Ed Stasium and Jean Beauvoir to bring these unfinished songs to fruition, aided by an all-star cast of Joey's musician friends including Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick, former Ramones drummer Richie Reinhardt (aka Richie Ramone), Joan Jett, Little Steven Van Zandt, and Richie Stotts of the Plasmatics. Fans got a sneak peek of the first track from the album - "Rock 'N Roll Is the Answer" - on April 21st, 2012, when it was released on a limited edition 7 inch single (b/w "There's Got To Be More To Life") as a special premium to celebrate Record Store Day.
Mickey Leigh describes ...Ya Know? as the culmination of eight years of hard work and describes it as "a triumph," promising that Joey's fans will be "blown away by it." Since Joey's death, Mickey has worked tirelessly to keep his brother's legend alive, continuing to organize the annual "Joey Ramone Birthday Bash" concerts in New York City (a tradition that Joey started when he was still alive) as well as co-authoring (with Legs McNeil of Punk magazine fame) the excellent book I Slept With Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir . The 2012 Birthday Bash concert in New York City (which was held on May 19th, 2012 on what would've been Joey's 61st birthday) served as a record release party for ...Ya Know?, featuring special performances of the entire album by the artists who played on it. As usual, all net proceeds from the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash concert benefited Lymphoma research in memory of Joey.
"Rock N Roll Is the Answer"
In addition to "Rock 'N Roll Is the Answer," other tracks on Ya Know? include "New York City" (my favorite song on the album), a catchy shout-out to Joey's beloved hometown, the rockabilly-flavored "I Couldn't Sleep," the tender ballad "Party Line," and the soulful, acoustic "Waiting For That Railroad," as well as alternate versions of two songs that were previously released by the Ramones, - a "romantic" take on "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)," a holiday favorite originally released on 1989's Brain Drain, and "Life's A Gas," which first appeared on the Ramones' 1995 swan song release, Adios Amigos!. Overall, Ya Know? is a great listen. It's wonderful to hear Joey's distinctive bleating voice one more time, and thanks to the cast of musicians assembled by Mickey to back him up, the album sounds more like Joey fronting an actual "band" this time out, as opposed to the odds-and-ends feel that much of Don't Worry About Me had.
"New York City"
"Don't Worry About Me"
Without a doubt, Ya Know? is a stronger album than Joey's previous solo release, Don't Worry About Me. Released only a year after Joey's death, Don't Worry About Me may not have been as fast-n-furious as the best Ramones platters, but songs like "I Got Knocked Down (But I'll Get Up)," "Don't Worry About Me," and the poignant cover of "What A Wonderful World" from that album summed up Joey's positive outlook on life in general and have become even more meaningful since his passing. When Don't Worry About Me came out in 2002, I was thrilled to have one more record from Joey, but at the same time I was bummed at the idea that I was listening to his final recorded work. However, it's been well documented that even while Joey struggled with lymphoma he was still working on new tunes whenever his health allowed, and therefore I suspected that there had to be more material "in the can" out there somewhere. When rumors about another album began circulating a couple of years ago, I knew it would be worth the wait. Now we have proof in the form of ...Ya Know? Joey had not slowed down at all in the years after the Ramones' break up and he was committed to create solid music even in the face of the illness that eventually took his life. I am sure I'm not the only fan who's happy to have the chance to rock out with Joey Ramone one last time. R.I.P. Joey!!
Joey Ramone - Select Solo Discography
"I Got You Babe" (single) - Duet With Holly Beth Vincent (Virgin Records, 1982)
In A Family Way - Sibling Rivalry (EP with Mickey Leigh) - Alternative Tentacles, 1994
Don't Worry About Me - Sanctuary Records, 2002
Christmas Spirit ...In My House (single) - Sanctuary Records, 2002
...Ya Know? - BMG Rights Management, 2012