Naked But Not Dead

Mitch Ryder

J-Bird Records, 1979

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


If you read last month's review of Mitch Ryder's How I Spent My Vacation, you'd know that a slew of albums Ryder cut some years back have been re-released (and you've probably figured out we're looking at those albums here). You'd also understand why I would be hesitant to sit through another one of these, after the disturbing sexual imagery of "Cherry Poppin'".

The follow-up release, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Naked But Not Dead, seemed to suggest that Ryder had worked out much of the anger that lined How I Spent My Vacation, and he could finally concentrate on making a decent album. While this disc isn't perfect, it is a major improvement.

While some people might not get a few of the references (such as the dig against Elvis Costello on "Ain't Nobody White"), you don't have to have full comprehension of what Ryder is talking about in order to enjoy Naked But Not Dead. Tracks such as "I Got Mine," "Spittin' Lizards" and "True Love" suggest to the listner that Ryder has gotten things in order and was again ready to make music for music's sake.

This isn't entirely true. Ryder had gone on a journey to clear his head from his anger against the music industry (which resulted in a five-year self-imposed hiatus), and Naked But Not Dead represented just the next step in a continuing trip. There are still some remnants of venom heard in songs like "Future Looks Bright" (which could also be seen as Ryder's declaration of musical independence as well) and "Hometown". But to Ryder's credit, these pills aren't as difficult to swallow for the listener.

Despite the progress that Ryder makes on Naked But Not Dead, there still are a few moments of weirdness that leave the listener unprepared - the strongest of which come on "Future Looks Bright" and the two-and-a-half-minute blast "I Don't Wanna Hear It". Ryder was working his way back to the spotlight, but he hadn't quite reached the goal yet.

Where I had difficulty recommending How I Spent My Vacation despite the few good moments, I don't have difficulty recommending Naked But Not Dead despite a few remaining speed bumps. Whether or not Ryder would be able to carry this momentum forward, we'll have to wait and see until our next review. But after listening to this disc, I'm not as afraid to explore the rest of Ryder's catalog for fear of what he might say.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of J-Bird Records, and is used for informational purposes only.