The Little Things
Ram Jam Records
Rickie Mann has no problem knowing the niche into which his music fits. Mann describes the music on this release as an “old school R&B, Rock, and Blues tinged excursion from the usual airplay … a fun-filled, not-too-deeply-complicated, energized project.” Well, yes, but as Billy Joel wrote: it’s still Rock and Roll to me. In fact, this is good old-fashioned big-band Rock and Roll spiced up with just a bit of Funk and Seventies theatre and Soul. It’s definitely worth a listen, or maybe two.
Mann has a real grasp of this genre. Although each of the thirteen songs in this set was written by Mann, listening brings echoes of artists and songs from some past hit parade. These are new songs with memories built in. This set would warm the mood of any house party and any one of the songs could become our song for some celebratory couple.
In the tradition to which he aspires, Mann writes simple songs. His lyrics are tight and well-written, touching on the everyday lives of his intended audience. Keeping his tunes as simple as the words laid over them, Mann has a knack for arranging the parts so that the music is powerful and affecting. The result is that these songs are sustainable and should hold up over time.
Mann has a strong voice and an excellent sense of the balance between just singing the words and performing the role. Mann’s vocals are supplemented by a full complement of a dozen or so instruments arrayed behind him and several voices singing backup or alternate-lead parts. This is music that draws you in and makes you want to hear more.
I’ve always been a fan of big band Rock and Roll, everything from the up-tempo screamers of Little Richard through the American theatre of Meatloaf. I love the sound of a big horn section blasting away with sax in the forefront and the brass not far behind. I love those rocking boogie woogie piano sounds and the tension between the guitars as they struggle for ascendancy. I love the heavy thrum of the bass and the driving rhythm of the drums as they carry the whole thing forward. If that’s what you’re looking for, Rickie Mann delivers.
While he clearly has talent as a singer, arranger, and producer, Mann sees himself as primarily a songwriter. This shows in the variety of songs presented here, often sounding very much like certain popular artists who might have been the target audience for a particular song. If Mann is as good at marketing himself and his work, then we may indeed be hearing hitmaking artists performing his songs.
I won’t go into all of the songs in this set – which are uniformly well written, performed and produced – but I’d like to mention a few that do stand out. “Junkstore Junkie” is a classic jump jive piece that would be at home in Forties R & B or Fifties Rock and Roll. A very cool touch is the bit of voice-under chatter at the end, very reminiscent of some of the old Johnny Otis tracks. “Cry” is a heavy rocker with big drums, cool keys, and romantic lyrics that brings to mind artists like Bob Seger, Pablo Cruise, and Jackson Browne. “Hand in Hand” has much the same feel but is a harder-driving number and introduces powerful, soulful vocals by Treva Henderson. “I’ll Give” is the sort of romantic ballad often requested by couples to play at their weddings. It brings to mind songs performed by artists like Cliff Richard some thirty years ago. “Princess Cinderella” presents a strange mix of styles. The verses feature a jumpy vocal that harks back to some of the early Elvis Costello, but the chorus has a smoother and more romantic feel to it. Mann somehow makes this apparent mismatch work. “Powerful Love” is a sweet, sentimental piece meant to seduce, and loaded with the romantic dynamite to do just that. Oh, and Mark Douthit’s smooth sax adds just the right touch of sexuality. “Jill the Ripper” is another throwback to earlier times, the sort of down and dirty blues-rocker that would be a hit in any local bar.
If The Little Things is an indication of Rickie Mann’s abilities as a singer, musician, and songwriter, then he should do well. In the meantime, we have this release to remind us of the talent waiting in the wings. This one is well worth the price of admission.
You can purchase The Little Things and learn more about Rickie Mann at CD Baby, where you’ll also be able to listen to clips of six of these songs.
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