RAM JAM – Introduction
Welcome again to “That 70’s Guy’s Retro Review”. For this month’s hidden gem, I have chosen from 1978, Ram Jam – Portrait of an Artist as a Young Ram. I was beginning to wonder why there’s been so many from 1978. It’s because when we rockers, being slowly squeezed out by the disco invasion, actually found an album that rocked, its presence was even more memorable and special. Bands like Riot, Van Halen, Legs Diamond, Teaze and Prism come to mind during that desperate time.
Ram Jam is of course remembered for the iconic 1977 rock classic “Black Betty”. That song has been in continuous radio rotation since. It has been in commercials, movies and played in almost every musical setting including weddings, bars and dance halls. It was also the only hard rock song played in the discos back then. In fact, I still have the Ronco Records – Boogie Nights compilation with “Black Betty” on it. It sits comfortably in between “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps and Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”. However, along with the massive success comes that dreadful title of “One Hit Wonder”.
Ram Jam could never shake that.
The band consisted of Myke Scavone on lead vocals, Bill Bartlett on guitar, Howie Arthur Blauvelt on bass and Pete Charles on drums. In addition, Jimmy Santoro, who toured with the band in support of their debut album, joined on guitar for this album.
Ram Jam’s first album got a lot of airplay during our cruise nights. It was a great rock/blues/boogie album, with some awesome tunes including the “long” guitar driven version of “Black Betty” that wasn’t played on the radio. When I noticed that they had a second album, I didn’t even hesitate to scoop it up, hoping to find some more of the same great rock and roll. Boy was I wrong.
This album is an example of true hard rock bordering on pure all out metal. Was the NWOBHM already simmering in New York?
Let’s put these 10 gems to the test in 2018. Crank it up!!
- Gone Wild – Fast guitar driven in your face rocker. The lead guitar continues the frenzy throughout. Maybe a bit of AC/DC here, but the dual guitars surely take this album up a notch from the first. Cripes, for an unknown album, this song has over a have a million hits on YouTube! A wild start!
- Pretty Poison – a slow cooker of a rocker. Screeching guitars from beginning to end. A super heavy chorus keeps this one up there as a party crowd fave. Love the drumming from Pete Charles, with incredible dual guitar solos included free of charge.
- The Kid Next Door – another first rate rocker – kind of reminds me of Starz. Let’s not forget more of Jimmy’s shredding throughout!
- Turnpike – an album highlight and one of the songs that hooked me. A haunting “John Carpenter’s Halloween” keyboard intro mixed with some heavy riffs. I always loved how you could feel it slowly build up the tension until a chorus that I can’t stop myself from singing out loud – “Stuck on the turnpike – it’s taking me days to hitchhike”. Around 3:35 – all hell breaks loose and I’m in air guitar heaven! Classic, what more can I say?
- Wanna Find Love – a bit of a boogie/blues song that, once it gets it hooks in you, that chorus doesn’t let go. Sing along, if you may.
- Just Like Me – put on your seatbelt. Side 2 gets intense really fast and doesn’t let go. This song is perfect. I can play this over and over and, believe me, I have. The chorus is one of the best around and that chorus guitar riff is one of the best I have ever heard period! 4 plus minutes that just does not let up and a solo that friggin’ melts everything in its path. Can you tell this is my moment on the CD? Remember this is 1978.
- Hurricane Ride – perfectly named little ballad – lol. Can it get any more metal than this? The guitar bridge is just amazing! If that’s not enough it elevates to an almost incomprehensible state at 1:10. What a riff. Wow! Are you shitting me? And just when you think the song is over away we go again, around the ride again. A fabulous guitar outro you won’t soon forget.
- Saturday Night – one of the more catchy songs on the album. If any song would’ve been the radio hit it would’ve been this one. Who doesn’t love a song about the weekend? I considered this a breather after the first two songs on this side. Really nice clean solo here as well.
- Runway Runaway – go for the throat rock n roll. Great nonstop lead guitar with some great riffs in the chorus. This could be lifted from any Ted Nugent album at the time! The solo is insane!
- Please, Please, Please (Please Me) – great chorus, great melodies, great riffing, great hooks all composed nicely here to round out the album. Great song! Did I miss anything?
Phew, that was one heck of a trip, courtesy of a relatively unknown slice of early metal from an album that is up their when it comes to obscure names. Right next to REO’s You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish.
Here is a quote I found interesting from Wikipedia regarding this album – “Their subsequent album Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ram achieved little success, despite the addition of Long Island, New York, lead guitarist Jimmy Santoro. The Portrait album was re-issued on Rock Candy Records from England in 2006. It is listed in the Top 100 lists in Martin Popoff’s book The Collector’s Guide to Heavy Metal Volume 1: The Seventies. The album’s heaviness was attributed to Santoro’s guitar and Scavone’s vocal power. Bartlett had left the group by then and did not play on the album.”
As much as I wish bands like these had the success they deserved, there is that selfish feeling I have knowing that my buddies and I have them all to ourselves. We discovered them, we owned them and we shared them with others at a time and place of our choosing. After all, you didn’t want to just whip it out any old time, it had to be appreciated. Cruising through Paris Ontario in the summer with the windows down and Ram Jam cranked would be one of those times!!
If you really like your music loud and heavy with a real appreciation for great guitar work this album is for you. Seek it out and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
“In the linger, do you want to be tied, We were within a world in the war that we tried, Won’t you be here by my side on the hurricane ride”
Enter the Hurricane Ride at your own risk: