Joey Ramone had begun to work on a solo recording career after The Ramones parted ways in 1996. None of the songs, though, were released during Ramone's life. His first solo recording came during the 2001 Christmas season. It was the CD single, "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight"). Originally recorded by Joey with The Ramones, he takes the song in a different direction on his own. The Ramones' take on the song was angry and direct. Joey turns the tune into a slow blues punk song, with a little guitar work from his brother, Mickey Leigh. The soft drum work of Steve Jordan and keyboards of Tommy Mandel perfectly complement the piece. This arrangement brings out the sadness of the situation, as Ramone ponders "Where is Santa, and where is his sleigh?" Peace may be on earth, but it is not in his household. This song also appears on the Ramone EP "Christmas Spirit...In My House."
The other track on this release is a non-seasonal gem entitled "I Couldn't Sleep At All." It's a delightful combination of mid-sixties rock and Ramones punk. It's a fun tune about someone who enjoys rock so much, he's dancing, even while trying to sleep. The beat reminds me a bit of The Rivingtons' hit "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow." Leigh (who also produced this disc) provides solid guitar work, with a driving rhythm provided by Andy Shernoff on bass and Pat Carpenter on drums. "I Couldn't Sleep At All" is not available on any other disc, even though the "Don't Worry About Me" album followed just a few months later.
The solo recordings of Joey Ramone show he didn't necessarily need his musical namesakes to keep his old band's punk style alive. "Merry Christmas," in fact, shows Joey Ramone could take an old Ramones tune and reinvent it with great success. "Merry Christmas," in either version, is one of the best songs in the holiday punk rock genre, as Joey could virtually make people hear the sneer in his voice. The other track on his solo single may be a tough find (I bought my copy used), but Joey Ramone fans will want to make sure to get a hold of this tune if they don't already own it. He may serve as a prime example of music with an hard approach, but the music of Joey Ramone was also filled with a passion and an energy that never waned.
This review was first published on Epinions.com.