An Alternative Review

Teletouch Drive
Warren Ray

By Todd Fuller

Quote from a good friend of Warren Ray: "Warren regularly walks on the razor's edge between bliss and heartbreak. It seems to be the way he functions best in this world and his music reflects as much."

After Warren Ray's Bushfire Need/Wrench double CD release, I was fairly certain I would never hear Ray rockin' his music with a big full sound. Ray's previous three releases (yes, he has three other CD's) were sparsely accompanied recordings, and while all were excellent efforts, Teletouch Drive proves I was wrong and shifts things into high gear.

Ray, along with Sam Gray (Ramcat Productions), has co-produced an overall super CD! In the past, others have tried to tag Ray with labels like: folksy, country-rock, and the newly popular alternative-country, but one look at Teletouch Drive's artwork screams out Mellencamp/Petty-flavored American rock-n-roll. One spin of Ray's disc confirms this supposition.

The song arrangements of Ray's new release firmly showcases his `doctoral' like understanding of song dynamics. The first track "I Come Callin'" starts out with a sleepy few lines before bursting into its true rock-n-roll colors. This formula is used to a greater extent on "Bitter" as well; as Ray tests his listeners intellect with the chorus, "things ain't bad, I been bitter." "America's Backyard," a rock-n-roll anthem, explores weekend life in the Midwest, while the driving "Buy Me A Pony" seems to convey Ray's thought of `what are you gonna do for me?'. At this point, it should be noted that Ray is one of the few singer/songwriters anywhere who can pull off "yeah yeah yeah" and "unhunhu" as a completely understandable and appropriate lyric, quite a feat in and of itself. "Burnt Down," while having pop-rock Rickenbacker guitar roots, could easily be heard on any of today's commercial country radio stations.(WAMZ are you listening?) "Dashbox" is a beautiful hard luck ballad and "Crazy Man" is the first `swamp' rock ballad I've ever heard.

No "What If" lays ground for the `second chance' theory that most of us never seem to experience after a huge relationship mistake with lines like, "what if I could change the world/would it make you be my girl/ would it make you want me." This track also rocks with an exceptional guitar solo by guest player "Screamin" John Hawkins. "Miss You Hard" was the highlight of the CD for this reviewer as most of us can relate to Ray's first line of the song, "you don't have to take out no restraining order on me, I'll leave you alone."

To be fair, I should point out the negatives as well, so here goes. Ray seems to have an infatuation with non-commercial endings to his songs. This happens on more than one occasion and while the majority of Teletouch Drive is ready-made radio-friendly, those particular endings simply distract the listener. No doubt, most Warren Ray fans will accept it and move on. Secondly, while the late Joey Ramone's (of the Ramones) death seems to have affected Ray quite a bit (he sees some of himself in the way Ramone lived his life; the melody is beautiful and the performance flawless), "Joey Ramone" the song just doesn't fit with the rest of the work on this disc. Finally, the promotion of Ray's past releases, by the artist himself, has been lacking. With such a quality collection of work, one wonders why he hasn't gained national attention and airplay, if only on Public Radio. We can only hope, for Ray's sake, that greater effort will be made to get this disc out to the public as it certainly deserves to be heard. In summary, Teletouch Drive, is a `go buy it now' selection.