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Ramones | Road to Ruin 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

You can have it all in the new three-disc version of The Ramones' fourth full-length.

In 1978, The Ramones wanted everything. Or at least more than they had. You can’t blame them. Two years earlier, the Queens foursome had kickstarted the American and British punk scenes almost singlehandedly with their self-titled debut — then followed it up with two more classic LPs cut from the same leather-jacket power and three-chord brilliance. Despite their massive influence, they couldn’t score a hit single if their lives depended on it. So they started making changes. They switched drummers, swapping out original brudder Tommy for the more professional and powerful Marky (though Tommy stayed in the fold as producer). They began working on the movie Rock ’n’ Roll High School. And most critically, they started softening and expanding their sound in the first of many bids to break out of the underground ghetto and into the pop-chart mainstream. The result was Road to Ruin. Released exactly 40 years ago this week and greeted with mixed reviews at the time, the band’s fourth album is the latest to be resurrected, refurbished and reissued in an expansive three-disc box set. And not surprisingly, from this vantage point, it’s hard to see what all the controversy was about at the time. Sure, the addition of ballads, harmony vocals and solos was a pretty drastic change to their bare-bones, bare-knuckle sound. But it’s not as if they went disco like KISS or The Rolling Stones. All they did was cover The SearchersNeedles and Pins, toss some acoustic guitar onto a couple of cuts and slow down enough to have all their songs crack the two-minute mark (a couple even broke the three-minute barrier, yet another sign of sellout according to punk purists). Aside from that, the bulk of Road to Ruin‘s roster — including I Just Want to Have Something to Do, I Wanted Everything, I’m Against It, She’s the One, Bad Brain and the immortal I Wanna Be Sedated, of course — stuck pretty close to The Ramones‘ original recipe, with Marky‘s speed-demon propulsion and Johnny‘s buzzsaw attack topped by Joey‘s classic pop melodicism and lyrical alienation. Along with the mandatory remastered version of the original dozen-track album, it includes the usual slate of rarities and extras. The 40th Anniversary Road Remixes strip away some of Tommy‘s big production and overdubs — the ringing bridge and gang handclaps from Sedated are gone, for instance — while resurrecting the 1-2-3-4 count-ins (though they aren’t delivered with Dee Dee‘s usual frenzy). The second disc includes rarities like I Walk Out and S.L.U.G., along with rough mixes, a cartoonish cut-and-paste Sedated megamix and full-on acoustic versions of those softer numbers (you have to wonder how people would have reacted if they put THOSE on the original disc). Finally, the third disc includes a typical high-energy hometown gig, with the band blitzing through 32 songs in 63 minutes. The Ramones never got everything they want, but there’s no reason you can’t have it all.


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