Setting his wheels on fire, Motor City’s primal screamer uncovers a sacred cache of soul classics – and other chestnuts – in the company of unusual suspects.
For all the racket this artist used to make in the rhythm-and-blues stakes, it’s always been more nuanced music that fueled Mitch Ryder’s engine, and the veteran’s return to songs he performed in the days of yore for pleasure, rather than money, was long overdue. The 74-year-old may have played it safely on 2018’s Yuletide album, yet “Detroit Breakout!” – whose title is the reference to THE DETROIT WHEELS’ 1966 debut LP – sees him unleashing the emotions the likes of “Shout” or “Turn Back The Hands Of Time” should warrant. More so, there’s an array of kindred spirits, from various walks of rock life, deployed to facilitate Ryder’s drive down memory lane and add their own signature to a piece of pop history.
That’s why, while some of Mitch’s choices may seem obvious, if not too impressive – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” is impossible to reimagine – his treatment of others sheds a different light on familiar tracks such as “You Send Me” or “Twistin’ The Night Away” where Sam Cooke’s grace has been supplanted with Ryder’s vibrant rasp and spiced up, respectively, with Linda Gail Lewis’ piano and Joe Louis Walker’s guitar. And, of course, nothing can beat the logic of pairing James Williamson with the singer for a new, sharper take on his biggest hit “Devil With A Blue Dress” which the fellow Detroiter would appropriately Stoogify to shape a total opposite to “Just My Imagination” – drenched in orchestral mawkishness to expose the old warbler’s new sentimentality.
Surely, one can’t go wrong when partners’ combined age has left centennial mark far behind, so once Brian Auger’s ivories and voice join the host’s pipes for “Cool Jerk” to ramp up the excitement, before Cherie Currie’s vocals soften “Dream Baby” – rendered as a punk romp here – there’s no going back to originals. Although Sylvain Sylvain’s six strings open another, belligerent dimension to “Dirty Water” – one of a few garage gems on display – it’s Paul Rudolph’s serrated axe that will chop “Have Love, Will Travel” into delicious bits.
Still, ultimately, Ryder’s guests only augment his vigor. Covers albums became commonplace now, but Mitch proves they still can strike a chord with the listener.