By Mike Greenblatt
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ricky Byrd has already made two masterpiece solo albums since he left Joan Jett & The Blackhearts in 1991 (Lifer, 2012, and Clean Getaway, 2017). He’s working on a third (his fourth overall) and early indications make it seem likely that this will be his career statement. It rocks like a bitch. His vocals are the best of his career. And what a career! It would take a book to list his credits but suffice it to say that Ian Hunter, Daltrey, Southside, Ringo, Mavis, Smokey, Nash and Elvis have all benefitted — be it onstage or in the studio — from his presence. Besides the best damn rock version of a Four Tops song I've ever heard (that may or may not make the album), his oeuvre on this as-yet-untitled album encompasses The Faces and Rolling Stones with a dash of Otis.
Highlights include “Recover Me” with its distinct Cheap Trick vibe (he wrote it with his buddy, singer-songwriter Willie Nile), “Tired” (which could be construed as his “Brown Sugar”) and “Life Is Good” (which could’ve been a Mott The Hoople deep track). I dare say that no one, but no one, is continuing the vibe of the aforementioned hard rock bands — from glam to glitter and back — like Ricky Byrd.
But there’s a difference.
Although the music is straight-up Byrd, the lyrical content speaks to addiction, recovery, hope and a change for the better. To that end, he’s a recovery coach and drug/alcohol counselor-in-training. Over 30 years ago, he wallowed in the pit of addiction, yet somehow some way, got himself righteous and is now hellbent to help. And he’s doing it. He visits half-way houses, hospitals, juvenile detention centers, rehab venues and the like to spread his message, perform, talk and give out his music for free at every appearance. Can you say h-e-r-o?
In Ricky Byrd's own words: "I started recording this CD in April of 2018, and finished everything right before the world came to a sudden stop. It didn't take as long as it sounds because between scheduling, and life in general, I was really only in the studio a total of maybe two months or so.
"The yet untitled record follows where I left off with my last one, Clean Getaway, which came out in 2017. The songs are songs I use in my Recovery Music Groups at treatment facilities around the country, and the lyrics speak to addiction, recovery, hope and a change for the better. I have been in recovery for over 32 years and people helped me when I was struggling at the beginning of my journey, so in turn it's my responsibility and mission to help others who are struggling. I kind of stumbled into using music as my method of communication in spreading the message, but from all the feedback I have received from those I play to in treatment, and those who have the last CD, it seems the lyrics are pushing all the right buttons. If you are caught between denial and surrender, you will identify with one of these songs ... maybe all of them. I get a lot of, 'Man, you told my story!' As a songwriter, I’m always trying to make the listener either laugh, cry or think. In this instance you can add stay on the right side of the grass, understand the truth of addiction and "Hey, baby, you don't have to live like that another minute."
"Most know my rock and roll history when I walk in so I have their attention, but I have to quickly dig in and hit 'em with the truth to keep them listening. I always bring a stack of CDs to my groups and give them out so they can take the message home with them. Last record, I gave away about 2,500. As far as the music goes, well obviously in my groups I'm playing an acoustic but on the record it's that plus straight-up rock and roll you would expect from me that will raise the roof and shake your speakers.
"I had four drummers on this one, Thommy Price (my old Blackheart bandmate), Steve Holley (Wings), my pal Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel) and Rich Pagano (Fab Faux). Bob Stander on bass and my co producer, Jeff Kazee (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes) on keys and backgrounds, Christine (The Beehive Queen) Ohlman (background vocals) and, of course, yours truly on guitars and vocals.
"So in the end... if you are struggling with addiction or early recovery you are gonna hear something you most likely need to hear. If you are in long term recovery, this will remind you why. And if you just love loud rock and roll, have I got the record for you baby!"
Ricky Byrd is currently taking pre-orders for the new as-yet-unreleased album at www.rickybyrd.com. A wiser investment couldn’t be made.