on 7 October 2001
Ok, they say that a good reviewer first acknowledges his prejudices, so I must confess that my first listening of this album was prejudicial since I'm absolutely bonkers about Red House Painters!
Where to start with this masterpiece of an album? Well, lets go for a few don'ts.
DON'T let people tell you that RHP songs are 'overlong'. The whole point of Mark Kozelek et al's music is to TAKE ITS TIME in a musical era more known for pithy gush, crass, unfelt sentiment, or just sheer lack of meaning.
DON'T worry if your first listening of this album doesn't immediately flip you upside down, whirl you around the room and give you palpitations straight away. This music will enter your heart, and needs time to mature there. Keep listening: your patience will be rewarded.
DON'T listen to this music quietly, in a crowded room, or in any context where you cannot give it your full attention. ("Master, will you please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?" Ikkyu took his brush and wrote: "Attention")
DON'T get caught up in discussions about the technical elements of RHP's music: if you're thinking in bits, you're not going to experience the richness of the whole.
This is my favourite RHP album. I listen to it alone, or with my lady-love, driving through the beautiful hills and valleys of England.
on 14 April 2011
I finally became exposed to Mark Kozelek about a year ago in the form of the 2CD R.H.P. retrospective. Describe it? Usually guitar-based, highly individualistic, dangerously hypnotic and addictive. Since then I've managed to pacify my cravings with a growing selection of RHP, Sun Kil Moon and Koz.solo product. I don't write reviews, but now I HAVE TO. My experience to date DEMANDS it be 'Old Ramon`.
It's on the hi-fi. It's in the car. If you're talking to me, I'm not listening to you cos it's in my head. It has entered my bloodstream and I think it's merging with my DNA. I don't need a doctor JUST PLAY IT, SAM! That this record remained unreleased for 3 years only leads to the symbol `?' but maybe ultimately gives it the special place it deserves.
Should this also be to your taste, `Songs for a Blue Guitar' is also highly recommended.
on 3 July 2001
Mark Kozelek yet again managed to create an album of outstanding and overwhelming beauty, even if Old Ramon is of mixed quality and does not live up to the heights reached by some of RHP's earlier albums. Some of the songs rank amongst their best, such as 'Void,' which is exquisite, 'Michigan,' and 'river,' which builds and grows in the fine RHP tradition. The songs range from the loud rock songs like 'Between Days,' to the beautiful acoustic 'Golden.' RHP have progressed and changed yet again with this album, and while in parts I'm not sure if several of the songs are quite perfect, overall its effect is magnificent and new.
on 19 March 2001
The San Fransico band return to delight their fans with a new album of beautiful, melancholic tracks. Beginning with 'Wop-A-Din-Din' (a love song to frontman Mark Kozelek's cat), the album makes you laugh, cry and reflect on the varying themes of Kozelek's songs. The gorgeous 'Void' is a big highlight but the album retains it's quality throughout. 'Old Ramon' has taken three years to finally see the light of day, but hell it was worth the wait!!!!
on 28 December 2002
Wop-A-Din-Din-- Stoopid song about Kozelek's moggy. Avoid. Actually the tune is quite good so check it out.
Byrd Joel-- uptempo song, jangly and with some quality guitar, great lyrics about "she sleeps and won't come back again"
Void-- the album's high point, and one of the best songs Kozelek has ever made. A slow burning epic, with amazing flared trouser 1974 guitar sounds, amazing vocal melody and harmonies, and achingly longing lyrics "fill the void in me now/ red lights cruise in the night/ red light take me home/ make it up to me good". Class
Between Days-- a college rock guitar stomp about depression in young women and the passing of time. Faster and louder than most RHP songs, and great bass guitar and drums.
Cruiser--the big disappointment of Old Ramon. This is a great song with fantastic words "Hanoi Rocks & Social D, my sweetest angel rescued me/ so drive me down sunset boulevard/ feeling nice in your white car". Just fantastic, but the production makes it sound like there's no vibe there at all. Check other versions for the quality of this song.
Michigan-- a jangly uptempo semi-acoustic, airy song not dissimilar to track 2. Yet another top quality Kozelek song about sexy women "I don't know/ if we'll get dressed"
River-- and in case the mood gets too light, River brings the mood to a darker, more navel gazing attitude "down through the dirt you lead us, across the sand you disappear/ will you come back?" It starts with sad words and ends up, like early RHP, a strangulated noise-fest of atavistic primal cries and an eventual feeling of hard-won catharsis. Phew
Smokey-- a gently floating song about how the magic of life "comes down like a storm/ then drizzles/ then dies". A tuneful but ultimately quite depressive meditation upon entropy, obsolescence, ageing, and mortality.
Golden- MK's hymn to John Denver. Once again all the RHP trademarks are present. A feeling of air and space, an almost pathological obsession with music and death, and MK pours his extra virgin olive oil voice over the top. Class
Kavita-- This seems to be kind of a joke. Very mexican vibe here, and a cruelty not seen in MK's work since the mid 1990's. "My friends think you're stupid". An odd sad funny end to what is surely the best, or best equal, RHP album of all time.
Remember Wizzard wishing it could be Xmas every day? Well I wish I could hear a new RHP song every day. But then I might die of happiness.