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Mitch Ryder - Never Kick a Sleeping Dog (LP)

Mitch Ryder - Never Kick a Sleeping Dog (LP)

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IGenre: rock
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Title:  Never Kick a Sleeping Dog
Company: Riva
Catalog: RVL 7503
Year: 1983
Country/State: Detroit, Michigan
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: minor cover wear; includes original lyric inner sleeve
Available: 2
Catalog ID: 113
Price: $12.00

'm not sure what inspired it, but the early 1980s saw a slew of big stars reach back and lend 'helping hands' to '50s and '60s stars they'd long admired. Bruce Springsteen focused his attention of resurrecting Gary U.S. Bonds career, Tom Petty lent a helping hand to Del Shannon. Stevie Winwood reached out to Marianne Faithful. And in the case of Mitch Ryder, John Cougar Mellencamp stepped in. Produced by Mellencamp (his recording an touring band also provided support throughout the album), 1983's "Never Kick a Sleeping Dog" was simply one of the best 'comeback' albums of the era. It certain didn't hurt that Ryder's instantly recognizable voice retained all of it's edge and power. He simply shredded tracks like 'When You were Mine' and 'The Thrill of It All'. The collaboration also benefited from the fact Mellencamp's own sound matched up well with Ryder's rugged working collar roots. Had this been recorded a couple of years later, it's doubtful the two would have found so much common ground. So I pretty much enjoyed every one of these nine tracks (even the new wave-ish 'Code Dancing'). In fact my only complaint/caution on this one stemmed from the fact on a couple of tracks like 'B.I.G.T.I.M.E' and 'Come Again' Mellencamp appeared to try a little too hard to wrap Ryder in his trademarked sound.

- Baring more than a passing resemblance to Mellencamp's mid-1980 blue-collar recording catalog, 'B.I.G.T.I.M.E.' was a first-rate rocker. Ryder sounded fantastic on this one, but the song's secret weapon was actually drummer Kenny Arnoff who sounded like he was literally on fire. YouTube has a Ryder-Mellencamp performance of the song at the American Music Awards: rating: **** stars- Hard to believe that Prince wrote 'When You Were Mine', but this roughed-up arrangement of the song made for a near perfect song. Highly commercial, but retaining a gritty edge, it was the kind of song that was perfect for Ryder and it served to return him to the pop charts for the first time in 15 years (# 87). To this day I can't hear the song without starting to bop along. YouTube has a clip of the accompanying MTV video: rating: ***** stars
- A dark and slightly ominous duet with Marianne Faithful (herself still enjoying a career resurgence thanks to Stevie Winwood),, 'A Thrill's a Thrill' was a wonderful showcase these two rock and roll survivors. True, Ryder sounded like a choirgirl compared to Faithful's wreck of a voice, but the result was still one of the best performances on the album. rating: **** stars
- Co-written by Ryder and Mellencamp, 'Come Again' sounded very much like a Mellencamp outtake. A commercial rocker, the song certainly wasn't bad, but Ryder's own identity was somewhat lost on this one. rating: ** stars
- The mid-tempo rocker 'Cry To Me' managed to merge a '60s flavor with Mellencamp's then-state of the art production. With kudos to keyboardist Harry Phillips, the result was one of Ryder's best performances. He literally oozed blued-eyed soul on this one. rating: **** stars
- Yeah, the opening guitar figure had '80s stamped all over, but I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff and when the killer title track chorus kicked in all was forgiven. Perhaps even strong than 'When You were Mine', 'The Thrill of It All' is the song that should have re-ignited Ryder's career. Every time I hear this one I feel the need to visit a dive bar and have a cold beer. rating: **** stars
- Yes, it was insidiously catch, but like 'Come Again', 'Stand' suffered from a bit too much Mellencamp and not enough Ryder. Okay, okay I'll admit the song's rattling around in my head. rating: **** stars
- Even though Mellencamp wrote it, Ryder managed to take creative possession of the blistering 'Rue de Trahir'. Once again, Arnoff's drumming nearly stole the show. rating: **** stars
- I'll have to admit I originally though 'Code Dancing' was too new wave-ish for Ryder, but it's become one of my favorite songs non the LP. It is too new wave-ish, but Ryder makes it his song. rating: *** stars

As mentioned, the Prince cover was tapped as a single, appearing in both 45 rpm and 12" formats:

- 1983's 'When You Were Mine' b/w 'Stand' (Riva catalog number R 213)
- 1983's 'When You Were Mine' b/w 'When You Were Mine' (Riva catalog number MK 244)

A fantastic album that's been sadly overlooked.

"Never Kick a Sleeping Dog" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) B.I.G.T.I.M.E. (Keith Syke) - 3:00
2.) When You Were Mine (Prince) - 3:50
3.) A Thrill's a Thrill (Bill Amesbury) - 3:55
4.) Come Again (John Cougar Mellencamp - Mitch Ryder) - 3:14
5.) Cry To Me (Burt Russell) - 4:21

(side 2)
1.) The Thrill of It All (Mitch Ryder - M Williams) - 3:36
2.) Stand (Mitch Ryder - K. Levise) - 3:33
3.) Rue de Trahir (John Cougar Mellencamp) - 3:30
4.) Code Dancing (Mitch Ryder - K. Levise) - 4:50
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