Mitch Ryder

The Detroit-Memphis Experiment

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Mitch Ryder's voice is in great shape as Steve Cropper takes over the production reigns from industry legend Bob Crewe. There are more than a few digs at Ryder's past in the liner notes, but the music is truly the voice from Detroit meeting the sound of Memphis. The 12 songs here are statements, all clocking in under four minutes and above two and a half. These compact tunes like "I Get Hot" and the Cropper/Levise original "Long Long Time" -- not the Linda Ronstadt hit -- have Ryder/Levise pouring his well-known voice all over the grooves. "Boredom" is the strangest, and prettiest, song in the lot, written by Matthew Fisher, Gary Brooker and Keith Reid of Procul Harum bringing a British progressive pop sound to this rhythm and blues album, to good effect. Island vibes pervade this departure from the expected Mitch Ryder as well as Booker T sound. It's a delight. "Push Aroun'" would be fine for Wilson Pickett but it sounds like early Lou Reed circa Cycle Annie, Ryder's voice smoother than usual, with super little guitar licks bubbling under and over the hot rhythm. Cropper says in his liner notes that this started as an "Experiment" but became the "Detroit Memphis Experience." That is a more accurate description. The blues/gospel touches of "I Believe" and the Cropper/Redding co-write "Direct Me" on the second side blend nicely with the subtle rendition of "Raise Your Hand," a tune Janis Joplin performed with her Kozmic Blues Band and which obtained more noteriety because of the rekindled interest in her through the magic of box sets. "Sugar Bee" and "I Get Hot" are fine little numbers. There is a maturity to Mitch Ryder's voice here -- his performance on this disc perhaps a cross between the early hits and the ballads Crewe had him singing later on. It is very, well, refined for this rock/blues combo. Just two years later, producer Bob Ezrin would lay the foundation for the highly influential Rock & Roll Animal band by pairing Ryder with Steve Hunter and their concoction of the definitive cover of Lou Reed's anthem "Rock & Roll." That album would be released on the Paramount imprint, while Detroit Memphis Experiment came out on Paramount's Dot label. The anger in the liner notes would indicate a more vindictive bite in the material, but it's probably for the best that Booker T & the MGs featuring Mitch Ryder, which is what this record is, simply delivers a no-nonsense one-two punch of good music. The singer proclaims on the back cover that " Mitch Ryder is the sole creation of William S. Levise, Jr." -- and makes reference to being "raped by the Music Machine." It is great music, but there was no business person to deliver a hit single from this excellent collection. Maybe if someone with Bob Crewe's drive had supervised the work as Crewe oversaw the Toys' Lover's Concerto album, there would be a greater appreciation for this landmark recording. It still has a lot to offer. The horns on "Eenie Meenie Minie Moe" interact nicely with Ryder's voice, and the atmosphere is very party like. In fact, that's what this is, the great undiscovered Mitch Ryder party album. Would make a wonderful two-fer with the Ezrin-produced Detroit platter.

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