The world still rocks to his mid-60s hits such as “Jenny Take a Ride,” “Devil With a Blue Dress On,” “Sock It To Me, Baby” and “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” but Mitch Ryder has a full plate of new music — and more — coming this year.
On Feb. 13 the veteran Detroit rocker will release “The Promise,” his first U.S. album since the John Mellencamp-produced “Never Kick a Sleeping Dog” in 1983, on his own Michigan Broadcasting Corporation label. The 12-song set, released last year in Europe as “Detroit Ain’t Dead Yet (The Promise)” was produced by Don Was — who used Ryder on Was (Not Was)‘s 1983 album “Born to Laugh at Tornadoes” — and includes a cover of Jimmy Ruffin‘s Motown hit “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” along with 11 originals, some of which have appeared on Ryder’s European releases.
“I think it turned out really, really well,” Ryder, who financed the album himself, tells Billboard.com. “If you go back and look at all my albums over the years, it’s really like a kid in a candy store picking out all these different flavors and styles of candy more than a dedicated R&B specialist — which I’m very good at. But it gets broader than that, and there’s always going to be one or two (songs) on there where people say, ‘What the f*** is that doing in there?’ That’s what makes it interesting for me.”
Ryder acknowledges that Mellencamp steered him in a mainstream, 80s-sounding rock direction on “Never Kick…,” but he feels that “The Promise,” while decidedly R&B-oriented, retains some of the more expansive and experimental traits of his overseas albums. “It’s marvelous that it’s in the marketplace,” says Ryder, whose band on “The Promise” includes legendary drummer James Gadson, Was (Not Was) guitarist Randy Jacobs and, on the ballad “Crazy Beautiful,” keyboardist Patrick Leonard ( Madonna, Elton John, Roger Waters, Toy Matinee). “That could be the end of the story; whatever happens from now on out is totally understandable given the climate of the music industry in America. But there’s a slim chance it could take off. Nobody can say for certain exactly what’s going to happen, so we hope for the best.”
“The Promise” is also available as a free download for purchasers of Ryder’s new autobiography, “Devils & Blue Dresses: My Wild Ride as a Rock and Roll Legend,” which was published in late 2011. The 256-page tome, which Ryder wrote entirely on his own, pulls few punches as it offers a frank and revealing look at Ryder’s life and career, including a hardscrabble upbringing marked by sexual molestation, the extreme peaks and valleys of his musical endeavors, and tough portraits of those he encountered along the way.
“I tried to be as honest as I could about the events in my life,” Ryder says. “I wanted to make it clear where I came from, where I belong. I wanted it to be truthful.” He adds that “there are a lot of deletions, but they weren’t made by me. They were made by attorneys and editors. What I submitted is a much more dangerous book than what’s out there now. It was so brutally honest…When I handed my publisher the project he said, ‘OK, what’s it about?’ I said, ‘It’s about this f***ed-up life that’s totally repulsive, and the main character is a f***ed-up individual, but eventually he’s able to redeem himself. That’s the long and short of it.”
Ryder says he was “so excited” by “Devils & Blue Dresses” that he’d like to write a novel next. But while he’s planning to record another European album this year he’s also focused on a stage musical he’s been working on for a couple of years with a Beatles-inspired working title of “Hide Your Love Away.” “The topic is love, which is huge,” says Ryder. “This isn’t a rock musical, which I consider stupid. It’s not a Four Seasons/’Jersey Boys’ thing, a musical based around my musical accomplishments. That’s not theater. This has nothing to do in name value with Mitch Ryder.” He says he’s “very close to finishing” the story and has written “about half of the songs” but knows he still has “a long way to go.”
Consider the album, book and play, Ryder says that, “It’s a relatively prolific period for me, and it’s exciting. It’s hard but it’s fun, and that’s the way I believe it’s supposed to be. I was asking myself the other day, ‘Why did I wait this long to become so inspired?’ But I think it’s just the natural evolution of things.”