Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels

Rev-Up: The Best of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (Rhino ’89) Rating: A-
Though he’s probably now best known for inspiring the last name of actress/thief Winona Ryder, back in his 1966-’67 prime Mitch Ryder fronted a hard rocking singles juggernaut that also included guitarist Jim McCarty (later of the criminally underrated hard rock outfit Cactus), bassist Earl Elliot, rhythm guitarist Joe Cubert, and drummer Johnny Bee Badanjek (later a sought after session player). Although they were basically a glorified cover band (much like The Animals), Ryder (who got his stage name while leafing through the phone directory) and co. produced a sweaty brand of party music that was notable for its propulsive drive, its wild energy, and Ryder’s raucously shouted soul vocals. Songs such as "Jenny Take A Ride" (which mixed Chuck Willis' "C.C. Rider" with Little Richard's "Jenny, Jenny"), “Shakin’ With Linda,” “Good Golly Miss Molly/Devil With A Blue Dress On” (their signature song), and “Sock It To Me-Baby!” are some of the hard-charging highlights of this 20-song collection, which is the best on the market even if a few mediocrities and occasionally downright silly songs makes it overly generous. Still, the band was more diverse than generally given credit for; remember, this is a band with a wide array of influences, including Little Richard, Motown, Nuggets bands, The Beatles, The Rascals, and of course other hard rocking peers from the Motor City. The band slows it down and still hit their mark on the poppy “I Like It Like That,” prominent horns and McCarty’s great minimalist playing make “Break-out” a winner, “Takin’ All I Can Get” is a passionately shouted ballad with big fuzzy riffs, and “Joy” sees a more measured vocal from Ryder that still retains its effectiveness. Yet though songs such as these give this compilation some needed balance, it is the band’s high-energy, r&b-based rock ‘n’ roll for which they are rightfully remembered. Unfortunately, manager/producer Bob Crewe, who had served the Four Seasons so well, distanced Ryder from the Detroit Wheels in an ill-advised bid for solo success (he tried to make Ryder into a Vegas-styled crooner and Ryder has had limited success with intermittent releases since). Among Ryder’s more notable post-Detroit Wheels projects was an album with Booker T. and The MG’s, from which this collection samples “Liberty,” and an album with the band Detroit, which included Badanjek and legendary guitarist Steve Hunter. “Long Neck Goose” and “Rock and Roll” are included from that album and both strikingly recall early Aerosmith. Lou Reed was so enamored with their version of “Rock and Roll” that he later recruited Hunter (along with longtime tag team partner Dick Wagner) for his own band. All in all, this compilation covers just about all the necessary high points of a once-promising career that burned briefly but brightly (seven chart hits, six of which are included here, including their definitive take of The Righteous Brothers’ “Little Latin Lupe Lu”), as one of the finest soul shouters of the ‘60s and his talented backing band can still rev-up any party.

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