Explaining why he chose the colourful caricature of Rick Bryant as the cover of his seminal Stranded In Paradise publication, John Dix noted (back in 1988) that, ‘As much as anybody, Rick Bryant represents the spirit of New Zealand rock’n’roll. ‘You Can Be The Boss’ does a bloody good job of living up to that considerable hype.
Opening his new album almost conspiratorially with the lyrics, “Time is passing…” Bryant quickly steps up the intensity and urgency, leaving no doubt the passing of 30+ years since has done little to diminish his ability to write and perform classic Kiwi rock’n’roll. Health challenges notwithstanding, he still has that strong baritone-centred voice that’s rich in character, and as well suited to rock as it is to the more soulful and RnB numbers making up most of ‘You Can Be The Boss’.
As Bryant tells it he “…finally got busy with writing and budget recording in the 1990s, after the live scene got munted.” Maybe the ‘budget’ part of that explains why we’ve had to wait until 2019 to get to enjoy this collection of songs he’s mostly in cohorts with guitarist Gordon Spittle. Old mate Bill Lake also gets a writing credit, as do Johnny Kempt and John Malloy, while the rich list of musicians involved serves as further testament to Bryant’s stature and musical history.
Ed McWilliams did most of the recording, engineering and mixing, as well as playing guitar, bass, drums and percussion. The thorough credits also include seven backing vocalists, whose contributions help immeasurably in colouring the RnB tracks particularly.
Lyrics are mostly personal in a universal way, “…didn’t we used to be friends?” “…you’re the only reason I love getting up in the morning”, “…if you still wanna pretend, I will too” etc. Such simple lyrical/musical honesty, in combination with that voice, the musicianship and carefully varied tempos across the 12 tracks make ‘You Can Be The Boss’ an album that will be your friend forever, in the way that classic albums are. This is a fine album, a collection of potential personal favourites and almost-as-good album tracks, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.