I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Hey! Ho! Let's Go!
Music Brokers (Argentina), 2014
Disc 1: "The Family Tree 1," 14 tracks
Disc 2: "The Family Tree 2," 14 tracks
Disc 3: "The Originals," 14 tracks
I've become somewhat obsessed with the Many Faces Of... tribute CD series since I discovered them earlier this year. Released by the mysterious South American Music Brokers label, there are several dozen of these bargain-priced, three-disc sets available, each dedicated to a different classic-rock performer, and featuring eclectic, occasionally puzzling assortments of cover songs and related rarities.
The Many Faces Of Ramones, released way back in 2014, is the sixth volume in the series that I've added to my growing collection, and it may be my favorite thus far. The Ramones are one of my all-time favorite bands, and the three discs in this collection contain some of the coolest goodies I've encountered on a Many Faces comp yet. So c'mon fellow Pinheads, zip up those leather jackets and let's dive in. Gabba Gabba Hey!
Disc 1: "The Family Tree 1"
The first two discs of The Many Faces Of Ramones are re-purposed from an earlier compilation release (also by Music Brokers) called Ramones (The Family Tree), with which I was unfamiliar. Originally released in 2008, Family Tree collected tracks that featured the Ramones members either as solo performers or as guests with other artists. It's a mixed bag of tunes, with quite a few cool, unexpected surprises.
Joey kicks off Disc 1 with a barn-burning cover of the immortal "Blitzkrieg Bop" backed by German punk legends Die Toten Hosen that will have you singing along in no time. Other highlights include Dee Dee's catchy solo track "I Am Seeing UFO's" (sung by Joey), Marky Ramone & The Intruders' snotty "Don't Blame Me" (with Joan Jett), and a cover of Elvis' "Good Rockin' Tonight" by the Swing Cats, with Johnny on rhythm guitar and Lemmy on vocals!
On the other hand, Dee Dee's sludgy cover of Nirvana's "Negative Creep" is cringe-inducingly awful and Osaka Popstar's too-slick take on "The KKK Took My Baby Away" sounds like a bad Green Day B-side.
As an added bonus, you get a genuine rarity by the Ramones themselves, a 1975 demo version of "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," which was previously released as a single in the late '80s by Norton Records. (The B-side of said single, "Judy Is A Punk," is from the same session and appears on Disc 2). That single is a hard to find, pricey collector's item, so it's a nice treat to have it included.
Disc 2: "The Family Tree 2"
Disc 2 has its fair share of gems, starting with a live version of "Pet Sematary" by Marky & The Intruders, Dee Dee's bouncy "Now I Want To Be Sedated" (a different song from the signature Ramones tune) and Joey's "See My Way," from the 1994 Sibling Rivalry single with his brother Mickey Leigh.
Marky plays drums on a killer cover of the Runaways' "Cherry Bomb," sung by Cherie Currie herself and featuring lead guitar from the MC5's Wayne Kramer. Marky And The Intruders appear again doing a punked-out cover of the Beatles' "Nowhere Man," which works better than expected.
On the weirder side of things, original drummer Tommy makes an appearance with "Round The Bend" by his bluegrass/roots music project Uncle Monk, and Dee Dee contributes another terrible cover version (this time it's Metallica's "Jump In The Fire") before Disc 2 closes with Joey's strange, sing-songy performance of John Cage's oddity "The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs."
Disc 3: "The Originals"
The Ramones covered a lot of classic '60s and early '70s rock, pop, and bubble gum songs over the course of their long career, and Disc 3 of The Many Faces is devoted to the original versions of many of those tracks. Chris Montez's "Let's Dance," the Rivieras' "California Sun," and the Searchers' "Needles and Pins" will be instantly recognizable to anyone who's ever listened to "oldies" radio, but it's cool to finally hear such relative deep cuts as "Indian Giver" by 1910 Fruitgum Company, Chris Farlowe's "Out Of Time," and "Can't Seem To Make You Mine" by The Seeds after so many years of familiarity with the Ramones versions.
The rip roaring version of "Chinese Rocks" by Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers and "Surfin' Bird" by the Trashmen keep the intensity level high, but disc 3 stumbles on its the last two tracks (Chuck Berry's "School Days" and Alice Cooper's "School's Out"), which are a bit of a cheat. Neither of them were actually covered by the Ramones, but the fact that they appeared on the soundtrack to the band's 1979 film Rock N Roll High School was apparently enough of a connection for Music Brokers to include them here. Adding insult to injury, "School's Out" isn't even Cooper's original -- it's a cover version by Megadeth's Dave Mustaine & Marty Friedman (from the 1999 Cooper tribute album Humanary Stew)!
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbrekers - "Chinese Rocks"
Summing It Up
Though there are a few clunkers spread throughout the collection, overall The Many Faces Of Ramones is a pretty killer deep dive into the hidden corners of the punk legends' vast catalog. Even the most diehard Ramones fans are bound to find a few nuggets here that they've never heard before, and it's certainly nice to have all of this hard-to-find stuff in one place. I would imagine that tracking down all the singles, EPs, and albums that this collection pulls material from would be extremely time consuming, not to mention expensive, nowadays!
I continue to be fascinated by the Many Faces Of series, and this volume in particular became a fast favorite and is still a frequent player. Long live the Ramones!
© 2022 Keith Abt