Fort Worth’s melodically full-bodied Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts – Nowhere To Go But Everywhere (drops Sept 18 – Wicked Cool Records) opens their sophomore LP with the integrated pop gasoline of “Only a Dream,” that tilts back its head to a new wave era when singles were filled with catchy hooks & melodies to gain top 25 attention. This has it. This is loaded.
“Only a Dream,” reminds me vocally of the cleverness & instantly enjoyable music of the 80’s group The Korgis (“Everybody’s Got to Learn Some Time,” & “If I Had You”) by two former members of the monster-sized genius UK band Stackridge (once produced by The Beatles’ own George Martin).
In addition to The Korgis — the track “Oh No,” & “Jesus & John Lennon,” skim the edges of another whacky terrific melodic band who were Dutch. 1976’s Gruppo Sportivo (still performing) issued ingenuous songs & lyrics like “I Said No,” in playful melodic piano-heavy Beatle-oriented new wave style. The addition of blistering saxes gave them a lift & airplay.
Every track was a different flavor & that’s what Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts provide on their 11-track LP – Nowhere To Go But Everywhere. It’s instantly likable.
By the time they get to “Can I Get An Amen,” they’re swimming in the same pool as Deaf School — a madcap group of exceptional musicians spearheaded by female vocalist Bette Bright (“All Queued Up” & “What a Way to End It All”). If you can remember any of these bands & have one favorite song in their large repertoire then Ryan Hamilton’s musicians will strike a chord — but most importantly, not nostalgically. They just pick it up from the past, dust it off & modernize it…
Most importantly, they carry it. Their effort is one long rollicking, rousing crafty melodic fortified presentation. Maybe what they lack is a showman like Fee Waybill (The Tubes) who took this music to another level (“Turn Me On,” “Talk To Ya Later,” & “She’s a Beauty”). No matter, the musicianship here is precise, superb & if they need some edge & theatrics it will come.
This fine band is made up of Ryan (vocals/guitars), Mickey Richards (drums), Rob Lane (bass) with Dave Draper (guitars/keys/programming), Kay Hanley (backing vocals on “Oh No”), Emily Ewing (backing vocals), Dave Little (pedal steel), Ryan Taylor (Hammond & keys), Carol Hodge (piano on “Southern Accents”), Ben Marsden (slide guitar) & countless other backing vocalists.
Many of these bands flew under the radar in their heyday but the fact they all continue to record & perform today means they have a dedicated following. Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts are deserving. They have the excitement, creativity & spirit of the approach to a piece of melodic rock that doesn’t have the added ingredients of novelty.
The LP was produced by Dave Draper (not the famous Arnold Schwarzenegger hero bodybuilder of the same name).
The music is available at Bandcamp & https://ryanhamiltonmusic.com/