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Mitch Ryder - Never Kick a Sleeping Dog

  by Lisa Torem

published: 23 / 6 / 2012

Mitch Ryder - Never Kick a Sleeping Dog
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Lisa Torem reflects upon Detroit-based garage rocker Mitch Ryder's 1983 album, 'Never Kick a Sleeping Dog', which has just been reissued

When Detroit’s Mitch Ryder cut 'Never Kick a Sleeping Dog' in 1983, he was already an established star having scored hits with ‘Jenny Take Ride’, ‘C.C. Rider’ and ‘Devil With A Blue Dress On’, in the 1960s, but by then the rusty voiced rocker was ready to explore more terrain. Producer and singer/songwriter John “Cougar” Mellencamp hopped on that moving train, and the results are impressive. The digitally remastered reissue comes with back-stories from journalist Chris Welch, and the smart package includes bright covers of songs by Prince, Keith Sykes and Mellencamp, and several co-writes by Ryder himself. The backing band was provided by Cougar’s own, which was another smart choice, and, believe me, these guys can really play, yet are truly sensitive to Ryder’s ramblings. Apparently Mellencamp’s adoration for Mitch Ryder never waned. The songwriter-turned-producer’s vision and excitement shine through. ‘B.I.G. Time’ explodes. Ryder sounds amazingly like David Bowie. The ferocious rhythm section delivers a booming, thrashing, irreverent product. Ryder’s voice is as elastic as your kid’s modelling clay. ‘When You Were Mine’, the Prince cover, has great, youthful lyrics: “I used to let you wear all of my clothes,” is one example that sticks in the mind, and the pay off hook of “I love you more than I did when you were mine” allows Ryder to convey a tinge of bitterness with a wail of remorse. Those nuances are riveting. ‘A Thrill’s a Thrill’ has a more country, and then blues feel. On this duet with Marianne Faithful, a chemistry ensues. It’s Faithful’s smoky tone with Ryder’s growl. The collaboration results in a track that is humanly genuine, yet wonderfully unpolished. ‘Come Again’ with its vintage handclaps, steady beat and Keith Richards’ like riffs is a spirited free-for-all. ‘Cry to Me’ is the most intense of the vocals. Ryder’s voice is smartly framed by the brilliant backing band and the raw lyrics: “Loneliness sucks away the time.” In the sleeve notes, by Chris Welch, it is stated: “The choice of material was designed to stay true to Ryder’s gruff vocal style and R & B riffs.” Amen, Chris. ‘Stand’, which is the first rewrite by Ryder and fellow writer, K. Levise, best represents the 1980s feel. Not as blues-wrenched, but big on style, it is underscored by the spine-tingling, superb guitars of Larry Crane and Mike Wanchic. “Is a woman gonna stand on my dreams?” Ryder’s dynamic contortions make the answer impenetrably clear, while Kenny Aronoff’s sticks provide solid affirmation. Cougar’s ‘Rue De Trahir’ deviates strongly from the other material, leaving a lot of room for improvisation by Ryder and the rest. The closer, ‘Code Dancing’, the second rewrite by Ryder and K. Levise (Ryder’s wife) yields more of a punk feel than the rest. The real pull here is that fab rhythm section, and the weird story behind it. Apparently a message transmitted by a telegraph machine “described the time and place for an anti-Government protest meeting.” The song had been written for Ryder's 1982 album 'Smart Ass' originally. When a US Coast Guard member came into the studio and used his telegraph key to send the Morse coded message, merely as a rhythmic device, it caused a major ruckus. Still, that kind of serendipity seems to be par for the course for Ryder whose real name is William S. Levese, Jr., and who picked his stage name at random from a telephone book. That said, this album needs no more introduction. It is satisfyingly transfixing as is.

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Mitch Ryder - Never Kick a Sleeping Dog

Mitch Ryder - Never Kick a Sleeping Dog

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