Ramones Road To Ruin

Often imitated and, well, pretty authentically duplicated, at times, the Ramones were the original punk rockers. Though not as introspective or experimental as their mid-'70s NYC punk peers, such as Patti Smith, Television or Richard Hell, their back-to-basics mentality somehow became vanguard. These expanded edition reissues arrive on the scene shortly after the death of the band's front-man and figurehead, Joey Ramone. From their very first self-titled release, the band had defined their trademark sharp blasts of melodic four-chord garage punk, and by the third album, the anthemic, high-energy, high-speed and head-bobbing riffage had been perfected, complete with the most inane lyrics ever heard. Melodically, the Ramones drew from '60s girl groups and early bubble-gum, distilling the essence of rock'n'roll. Their style never changed over the next 20 years of continuous touring and recording, making these first four albums the standard the group continually tried to live up to, with Rocket to Russia being the all-round classic, featuring "Cretin Hop," "I Don't Care," "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" and "Teenage Lobotomy." If you're not enticed by the idea of digitally re-mastered Ramones over your old scratchy vinyl, the bonus material included on each CD, along with the detailed liner notes and photos, are good reasons to pick these up. Ramones features a handful of early demos, Rocket to Russia and Road To Ruin contains a mixed bag of alternate versions and demos, while the least essential album of the four, Leave Home, contains the best bonus material: a cleaned up version of the historic Live At The Roxy bootleg, featuring 16 live cuts from '76, highlighting the band in their prime. (Rhino)