Joey Ramone's first "official" solo album, "Don't Worry About Me," came out a year after his April 2001 death from lymphoma at age 49. It took 10 years, but, after protracted legal wrangling, this unrelated batch of unreleased recordings by the Ramones' lanky lead singer also finally has seen the light of day.
Expectations that this collection would consist of odds and ends of dubious quality quickly are quashed by the opening power chords of "Rock 'n Roll Is the Answer," a chunky, power-chord-driven rocker along the lines of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" with an equally ear-friendly chorus. It sets the tone for an album filled with punch and polish.
Its uniformly catchy tunes are sung in that inimitable Queens accent so familiar from his Ramones days, but they also testify to the growing adventurousness and surprising musical range he showed later in his career. Rockers such as the Eddie Cochran-like "I Couldn't Sleep" and the cool New York City drive of "Going Nowhere Fast" predominate, driven by crisp buzzsaw guitar riffs and crystal-clear production.
But that still leaves room for Ramone to stretch with the lively Dylan-like put-down number "What Did I Do to Deserve You?" the Spectorian girl-group homage "Party Line" and the joyous love song "Make Me Tremble," all of which show far more versatility than he ever was given credit for.
If hearing his familiar voice in such fine form didn't already make one again regret his untimely passing, the non-ironic "Life's a Gas" will do the trick. It closes the album on an emotional high, reaffirming that indomitable spirit that kept Ramone a true believer in the power of rock 'n' roll to the very end.