How refreshing it is to come across someone such as Gary Ritchie, who for all the years he has been making music, sticks to his principles. Trends and gimmicks are fleeting, but this greatly gifted singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist possesses a diehard devotion to pure and plucky pop rock matter.
Snipping paragraphs in the book from the fabled British Invasion acts of yore and blending them with new wave shadings, Gary’s latest album, Drake, Near the Alley (Fancy Tone/Tone Productions) calls up images of the Searchers, the Dave Clark Five, the Spongetones, the dBs and the Cheepskates, yet does so in a way that his own individual personality prevails among the influences. Choppy chords, jingling and jangling with energy, tend to direct the show on the disc, with tracks like “Hear My Pleas,” “Woman, Oh Woman,” “Victimized” and “Here’s To You” logging in as majorly memorable morsels.
Pointy hooks, boyish vocals dripping with vulnerability, and tightly-knitted arrangements also allow the tunes to shine brightly. A bit of a bluesy edge is detected on “Hum, Sing, Repeat,” while “Mr. Ordeal” yields a combative garage rock feel. Bouncy keyboard workouts, jumpy rhythms and enthusiasm by the bushel are other ingredients embedded in Drake, Near The Alley, lending it to be the tour de force of a album that it is. An extra round of applause goes to Jeff King, who contributed his instrumental prowess to the record.
Absent of clutter and chaos and big on short, simple, smart and snappy songs, Drake, Near the Alley stresses everything good and fun there is about standard pop rock music. Gary Ritchie really has a flair for creating the catchy stuff, and he just gets better and better with each release. Crank the volume and let it rock!