The resurrected ‘Listen Again’ series takes a second look at previously released platters.
For those music lovers who missed the previous incarnation of “Listen Again,” “Listen Again” is a review series in which we revisit releases that, for whatever reason, never received the attention or acclaim they might have deserved when they first hit the record bins. Whether it was because the album was ahead of its time, strayed from the artist’s expected style, was misunderstood, or just not properly promoted, the “Listen Again” series urges music fans to “listen again.” (All releases reviewed are a minimum of one year old.)
This time we revisit Ralph Molina’s Love & Inspiration.
Ralph Molina was born in Puerto Rico. He is perhaps best known as the drummer for Neil Young’s band Crazy Horse. His stint with the band began with his work on Young’s second studio LP, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, which dropped in 1969.
According to Molina’s official website, “Molina has been a member of Crazy Horse in a career spanning nearly six decades since they were formed in 1962 (originally as Danny & the Memories, and then briefly, The Rockets). He has remained throughout the group’s many personnel changes, and has performed on all 20 releases by the band, with and without Neil Young.” Today he is out from Neil Young’s shadow. His most recent release dropped last year and was released on Neil Young’s well-known Vapor Records imprint. Love & Inspiration marks Molina’s official debut disc as a solo artist.
Ralph Molina’s signature sound is a mélange of multiple music genres and influences including alt-country, folk, rock, and pop. It is heavily influenced by Young’s light, orchestrated country-rock sound. He writes songs much like Billy Joel does. The melodies come to him before the lyrics.
Love & Inspiration
On this 11-track disc, Ralph Molina emphasizes his abilities as a songwriter and singer. In fact, his vocals have been compared not only to those of Young but former Beach Boy Dennis Wilson as well. Here he climbs out from behind his drum kit and leaves the percussive responsibilities to drummers Tom Lackner and Greg Morrow.
He is backed by an assortment of other artists including Phil Lee (harmonica and guitar), Dave West (banjo, bass, slide guitar, piano, and guitar), Anthony Crawford (keyboards), John Sklair, Bob Thiele and Mark Pont (guitars), and Barry Goldberg, George Friedenthal, and John Phillip Shenale on piano. (Ian McNabb, Anthony Crawford, Victor Goodman, Kent Agee, and Allen Chance are also credited for their assists with a few of the tracks.)
Track by Track
The short album opener is titled “Lullabies.” Molina briefly plays guitar on this unexpected introduction.
The second song is “Your Life is My Life Too.” It is a smooth, surprising but poignant piece. It includes additional vocals by Kelly Clarkson.
Next is “Dance on the Wind.” It is a rich, soft-rocking cut that stands alone.
“You Wear an Angel’s Wings” is a delicate, ethereal and intimate album offering.
Molina continues to open his heart with “I Don’t Care.” It’s another personal piece in the form of a love song.
“Too Young to Know” follows. This is a simple yet effective song that would almost be at home on an alt-country artist’s album.
Something about “Wonderland” reminds your rockin’ reviewer of a much more mellow ELO. Regardless, whether or not anyone agrees, the song works. You might even say it’s (ahem) wonderful.
”Hopelessly in Love With You” is a fave of fans and critics alike. It has that movie-ready feel to it.
“Trash for the Dollar” is a musically gentle yet lyrically harsh social commentary song.
Molina’s signature sound remains solid on “Follow that Star.” The production values and musical quality remains solid here. Molina has firmly established his tuneful trademark.
The closing cut is the song “It’s Gonna Be Alright.” This too is a nigh cinematic selection. It comes complete with a positive, hopeful message.
Overall, this album is a surprising serving of original audio offerings by an established artist exhibiting unexpected talents outside of his percussive box. The harmonies are beautiful and Molina seems to sing effortlessly. Essentially, this CD reveals a new side to the Crazy Horse legend known as Ralph Molina. So, if you’ve never heard Ralph Molina’s Love & Inspiration, listen to it. If you’ve already listened to it…listen again.