Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Ram
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Donald A. Guarisco [allmusic.com]
After scoring a major hit with ''Black Betty'' in 1977, Ram Jam returned in 1978 with another punchy set of hard rock tunes. Though Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ram failed to produce any hit singles like ''Black Betty,'' it actually improves on their previous album by managing to broaden the group's sound without cutting back on the hard rock firepower that got them noticed. For instance, songs like ''The Kid Next Door'' and ''Please Please (Please Me)'' add keyboard textures that flesh out the group's sound without distracting from their guitar-driven attack. Ram Jam also makes an interesting departure from their trademark twin-guitar rock sound on the dramatic power ballad ''Turnpike'': this lost-love lament alternates a hard-rocking chorus with moody piano-driven verses to create an surprisingly ornate blend of AOR melodicism and hard rock bombast. However, the majority of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ram is devoted to straightforward guitar rock; ''Wanna Find Love'' and ''Saturday Night'' blend pop hooks and metal riffs as effectively as anything on Ram Jam. Other tunes up the ante by presenting a frenetic level of energy that borders on punk rock: ''Just Like Me'' and ''Hurricane Ride'' both toss out slashing guitar riffs over double-time rhythms to create songs that sound like the Ramones gone metal crazy. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ram further benefits from short, tight song structures that keep things from getting too excessive (the ambitious ''Turnpike'' is the only song that runs over 4 and a half minutes). All in all, this is a fine hard rock outing that is worthy of its cult reputation and a treat for anyone who likes hard-driving 1970s rock music.