CD Review: Mickey Hart “RAMU”

When I saw that former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart had created a new album, something drew me to the album. I don’t know what it was, but I was curious about the release. Having heard a few of the preview tracks from the release before actually finding the entire album, I was drawn it and I had to search it out. And I am glad I did because the twelve tracks that make up RAMU from Mickey Hart create one hell of an album.

Mickey Hart brings together a group of talented musicians that help to create the album. Along with Hart, the musicians contributing to RAMU feature Zakir Hussain on tabla, bassist Oteil Burbridge, talking drum master Sikiru Adepoju, guitarist Steve Kimock, multi-instrumentalist Charles Lloyd, and Jason Hann of String Cheese Incident. Along with these artists the rest of the personnel on the album features Avey Tare from Animal Collective, and Tank from Tank and the Bangas as guest vocalists. To bring the entire project together, RAMU was co-produced by Michal Menert, formerly of Pretty Lights. Because of this rather impressive cast of individuals, RAMU ends up being an enjoyable listening experience.

For his 2017 album of RAMU (which stands for The Random Access Musical Universe), Mickey Hart created each of the tracks on the album using, as he put it, Pythagorean mono-chord, a series of chords tuned in order to create healing. Each track has the same basic flow and therefore the tracks segue into each other rather well. That helps to make the RAMU album one of the most solid and unified albums released within the year 2017.

The RAMU album from Mickey Hart begins with the track “Auctioneers”. The first thing that the listener will notice is the use of the “RAMU” that helps to add a whole lot of random sound bites into the track. Those sound bites are so random and unique that they combine to create a patchwork of noise that will make your ears tingle as you try to decipher each and every noise, word and musical note that all blend together. That patchwork of noise sits on top of a musical blend of Jazz, Folk and Blues(?) as well as African-inspired percussive effects that is just as strange and unusual as the patchwork of noise. Together, each and every musical and non-musical sound comes together to create a track that will intrigue you as much as it will bewilder you. “Auctioneers” is by far one of the most unusual (and unique) tracks created in 2017 by any recording artist. Prove me wrong!

After the head-spinning track of “Auctioneers” comes to an end, the RAMU release from Mickey Hart continues with the track “Wayward Son”. Where “Auctioneers” is bewildering, “Wayward Son” is quite the opposite. The track is one of the most commercial-sounding recordings on the new album from Mickey Hart. The track blends together Rock and Roll, Jazz and a little Folk music to create a track that contains a slow pace to the music but also contains a rather infectious melody that lasts throughout the entire length of the four-minute playtime. To help bring the track to life, Mickey Hart and the rest of the album musicians are joined by vocalist Avey Tare of Animal Collective. Tare’s vocals help to add a certain amount of psychedelic feeling to the track. “Wayward Son” ends up being easily the best track on the album.

RAMU from Mickey Hart segues from one track into the next to keep the feeling of the music flowing. That is precisely what happens between “Wayward Son” and the third track called “Big Bad Wolf”. The segue between the two tracks is made even more unifying with the inclusion of Peter Coyote’s vocals that help to bring words from The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda to life. After that intro by Coyote, the track takes on a most unusual style, especially when compared to the rest of the album. The track features the vocals of Tarriona “Tank” Ball of Tank & the Bangas who adds a solid delivery of Hip Hop vocals to the track. The “Big Bad Wolf” track is rather unusual, even when compared to the rest of the RAMU release.

After spending three tracks creating songs with lyrics, the song “The Lost Coast” finds Mickey Hart and the rest of the musicians on the track creating an instrumental track that contains a rather evident African vibe to the music. Mainly, the African feel of the music comes from the various percussion instruments that blend together in order to create the track. Along with the many percussion instruments included on the track, the song also includes the guitar from Steve Kimock that helps to add some texture to the mainly percussion track.

With how popular the musical style EDM (Electronic Dance Music) has become, it should come as no surprise that Mickey Hart would venture in that direction for his new album of RAMU. On the track “You Remind Me,” Hart and the group of musicians that helped to bring the track to life (Drum: Sikiru Adepoju, Bass Guitar: Oteil Burbridge, Sarangi: Sabir Khan, Sitar: Niladri Kumar and Drums: Jason Hann) combine their talents to create a sound that would easily rival anything that EDM producers are currently creating. In fact, with the inclusion of vocalist Avey Tare and the rather Multi-International feeling to the music, the track takes on the feeling of something that may have been created by the likes of someone like DJ Sammy or Robbie Rivera. “You Remind Me” contains a rather relaxed EDM quality to the music while still having enough of a beat that the listener will find it hard not to want to move to the beat. Like “Wayward Son” from earlier in the release, “You Remind Me” is one of the standout tracks on the RAMU release from Mickey Hart.

Having made a name for himself as part of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members The Grateful Dead, it should come as no surprise that Mickey Hart would eventually pay homage to one of the most important parts of the band, Jerry Garcia. On Hart’s song “Jerry,” he created an instrumental track that features some rather psychedelic elements. The song ends up being part Rock and Roll and part Jazz. The electronic flute in the track and sound bites that swirl throughout the track add a certain amount of sixties flavor to the song. If the song had been a lot longer and more free-flowing than the three-and-a-half minute playtime that it contains, that would have made the track even more Dead-like. However, because it contains only a rather short playtime, the track ends up being a short tribute to the leader of one of the most popular bands of all time.

Throughout the twelve tracks that make up Mickey Hart’s new release of RAMU, he and his band of musicians blend a lot of different musical elements to create a release that changes directions from one track to the next. As the songs change so do the influences used to help shape the music. And while the tracks all have a style of their own, Mickey Hart’s use of his Pythagorean mono-chord gives the album a solid foundation that makes the album feel unified in its musical direction.

To hear the music of Mickey Hart, check out the song “Wayward Son“. 

For more information, check out Mickey Hart’s PR Firm Grandstand Media.

To purchase a copy of Mickey Hart’s RAMU release, click on the album cover below:

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