If the Rolling Stones are the greatest rock ‘n roll in the world, then Ramones have a more than viable claim to be the greatest punk rock band in the world. And while arguments will forever rage over which band were the first real punk band, there can be little doubt, circa 1977 -Ramones were the most influential, certainly here in the UK. They were a gang of tough New Yorkers who, at a time when rock was in dire need of a shot in the arm. Stripped rock down to its three-chord minimalist basics and giving us some time-honoured classic songs and ultimately achieving legendary status, influencing bands such as Green Day and U2. And as, our lord and saviour, Lemmy said: “The Ramones understood rock ‘n roll, most bands didn’t”.
CJ Ramone joined the band in 1989 when original bassist Dee Dee Ramone’s drug problems became a liability to the band. According to Marky Ramone: “CJ bought a ton of energy to the band and had solid back-up vocals”. He played with the band for seven years and appeared on a number of studio and ‘live’ albums before they called it a day in 1996. He’s now the last Ramone standing and making music. Sadly, all four original Ramones have now shuffled off their leather jackets and departed. Though Marky and Elvis Ramone are still with us, it’s fallen to CJ to keep the spirit of the original band alive, and it’s evident on this new album he’s learnt his lessons well.
The Holy Spell is an album riven through with the spirit of the original band. Songs, like ‘Stand up’, ‘Waiting on the Sun‘, and ‘Moving On’ are a glowing testament to this.
The album is occasionally more rock-ish than punk ‘One high, one low’ featuring the kinds of guitar breaks the original band never performed, the song ‘I’m Disappointed’ is more riff-based than the guitar chords favoured by Johnny Ramone, and ‘There stands the glass’ is speed-metal meets Ramones. If any of the songs on this album had had Joey Ramone singing them, you would think this was the original band. The legacy of Ramones is alive and well and, judging by this album, it’s in good hands.
The last word should go to CJ himself: “When you’re a Ramone, you’re a Ramone for life. I absolutely feel obliged to keep the legacy going, 100% I do”