Leave Home (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition), and Rocket to Russia (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Sire / Rhino)
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., Dec. 8, 2017
In 1976, the Ramones reduced rock & roll to a high-speed chase defining both them and punk rock. On the releases that bookended the genre's mythic year of arrival, 1977, January's Leave Home and November's Rocket to Russia, da brudders' methodology was perfected.
As demonstrated across 3-CD/1-LP anniversary editions, the production team of Tony Bongiovi (cousin to Jon Bon Jovi) and Ed Stasium gave the Forest Hills, Queens, four a more conventional production than Craig Leon's guitar-in-one-channel-bass-in-the-other first LP mix. Leave Home's "Babysitter," "I Remember You," and even "You're Gonna Kill That Girl" tipped the scales toward the band's pop side, at times evoking doo-wop and girl groups. By contrast, Rocket to Russia pogos furiously with "Cretin Hop," "Teenage Lobotomy," and "Rockaway Beach," although "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" documents Johnny Ramone's first encounter with an acoustic guitar and Joey Ramone at his most Ronnie Spector. The Tommy/Dee Dee rhythm section's stripped-down swing lies fat and sassy underneath.
Like last year's deluxe repackaging of the group's eponymous debut, an alternate mix of the original record comes included with each unit's trio of CDs. Not much revelatory about the Leave Home vinyl, but Rocket's "tracking mix" includes different versions of "I Don't Care" and Road to Ruin's "It's a Long Way Back to Germany." Demos, outtakes, and session roughs cobble together their own discs, and both boxes come with unreleased live shows, although neither rival the Ramones' own It's Alive.