(M.A.C.E. Music)


mwe3.com interviews Jimmy Ryan & music producer Vin Newman about 1989's Finally

Years before he rose to eminence as co-founder, with his brother Johnny Ryan, of The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers, guitar genius Jimmy Ryan blasted off as a solo artist way back in the late 1980s with his debut album, Finally. Recorded during what Jimmy describes as “an era with a tendency towards heavily processed sounds”, years before albums were correctly remixed and remastered for CD, the LP was still king. Although the vinyl version of Finally was released back in 1989, the CD didn’t arrive until ten years later. In his December 1999 liner notes, executive producer Vin Newman writes rather glowingly about the original album, comparing Jimmy to the likes of guitar heroes Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson.

Recalling that era when Finally was written and recorded, how did you meet Vin?

Jimmy Ryan: I first met Vin in 1974, a year after I graduated high school. I formed a band with my brother Johnny and some other guys from where we lived in Park Ridge, Illinois, called Westfall. Vin played bass, and we worked together in that band and many others through the ‘80s. He’s one of my dearest friends in life to this day.

Vin Newman: I had played in several rock bands with Jimmy between 1974 and 1988 prior to The Flyin Ryan Brothers forming. We were in Westfall, Axis, STS and Ryan/Newman/Hurley together and jammed constantly.

Listening to Finally years later, one thing remains clear: considering the vast output and discography he’s created over the past 33 years, Jimmy Ryan has continued to rock on in style as both a trendsetting guitarist and a composer. Finally is a time capsule that takes us back to where it all started. There are a number of brilliant moments, like “Velvet Hammer”, which is rife with hard-rock fretboard wizardry, a memorable, Celtic-flavored piece called “Dreamtime”, and “Experienced”, that features an excellent drum sound over a psychedelic bluesy jam that closes the album. For me, the showcase track is the pastoral and majestic “What You Are To Me”. Jimmy’s band on Finally featured Mike Kroell (drums & percussion), Gabe Sanchez (keyboards) and executive producer Vin Newman (bass on “Experienced”), with Jimmy playing all guitars, bass guitar, electronics and MIDI, percussion and effects.

Did you write all the tracks yourself? Tell us a few lines about the above 4 tracks – great stuff!

Jimmy: I wrote all the tunes except “Experienced”, which was a really cool jam Vin brought in with a Hendrixy vibe that we tightened up and recorded live in the studio, head to head. “Velvet Hammer” was an old idea I had back when I was touring with the band Freeze from 1976 to 1979, which I ended up reworking for the record – almost ten years later! “Dreamtime” was a stand-alone acoustic piece that evolved into the final recorded version, complete with Brian May-style triad leads. “What You Are To Me” is my favorite cut; I got married in 1979, and that one came together while my wife Katie and our 2 small daughters - ages 5 and 3 at the time - were together in the living room. I always had a guitar around, and while I was fooling around with the idea, I started whistling the melody. My daughters started singing it back to me; we were all laughing about it and it came together from there. It’s like a lullaby, a heartfelt musical gift to my young family.

Vin: I remember the sessions I attended well. “Experienced” was composed on top of a bass riff and progression I had come up with, perfect for Jimmy to do his thing. I remember listening to a lot of mixes and coming up with a good flow for the final order. I listen to the CD now. It’s a classic. The material and playing is some of the best my friend has ever done.

Do you remember your band on Finally from then?

Jimmy: It was primarily just me and Mike Kroell; I met Mike through Chip Altholz, who had managed and produced Freeze back in the ‘70s. Like Vin, I’m still very close to Chip to this day. In 1985, Chip asked me to record and gig with Ten-28, a really great band in Chicago at the time. Mike was their drummer, and when Vin approached me to record Finally in early ’87, I called Mike and asked him to work with me on it, which he did; a fantastic player and a wonderful guy. When we tracked the tunes, it was me on rhythm guitar and him on drums, live. I added in everything else later. Gabe Sanchez played the ethereal keyboard parts on “Song In The Air” and “What You Are To Me”. He was a referral into the project, and I only met him the day of the session. He came in cold; we just played him the tracks and he created his parts on the fly. Amazing. I never saw him before or after that session. I think he’s with the Dallas Symphony now, a virtuosic player, to say the least. Vin played bass on “Experienced” and executive produced the project.

Even though the LP release of the Finally album was overlooked in 1989, it proved that there were other budding American guitarist/composers that could hold up to Vai and Satch, two early signings of Barry Kobrin, founder of Relativity and Important Records, which was back then based out at JFK Airport in New York City.

I remember Relativity, when it was known as Important, when they had their office at JFK in Jamaica. It’s amazing how well they did with both Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. What are your recollections of those early years?

Vin: My partner and I worked for Barry Cobrin and ran the Midwest office in Chicago for Important and Relativity Records. We had the Satriani and Vai albums, along with Megaforce artists Metallica and Megadeth. As a side project, we had started a record label called Walkthrufyre which signed some of the best punk bands in Chicago. We also wanted to start focusing on top guitarists from the area, so we formed Feedback Records. The first artist I thought of to do an instrumental guitar album was Jimmy. The timing was perfect with what was happening in the industry back then, and Jimmy was right up there with the best of them. Finally was released on the Feedback label. Actually, the original Feedback logo featured a close up of Jimmy playing his Strat! The cover art was done by Guy Aitchison, who went on to become one of the most in-demand tattoo artists in the world. Unfortunately the record faded into obscurity. Ten years later, it was re-released on M.A.C.E. in CD format. All I can say is that to this day, I just love this album.

Following the LP release of Finally in 1989, Jimmy Ryan and Johnny Ryan would put together The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers and release a number of excellent instrumental progressive rock albums.

Tell us about re-releasing on M.A.C.E. Why did the CD take so long to come out after the vinyl?

Jimmy: Johnny and I originally formed The Flyin’ Ryan Brothers in 1991 and released our first 5 albums on M.A.C.E., which is Michael Angelo Batio’s label. After the releases of Sibling Revelry (1996) and Colorama (1999), I thought it would be a good idea to re-master and re-release Finally on CD format, which was the dominant delivery medium of recorded music at the time.

As proven in 2021, Jimmy would go on to reach his all-time zenith as a composer and guitarist on his 2021 CD release, Astral Café. It’s never too late to catch up with Jimmy Ryan’s debut Finally, where the early seeds of budding Ryan-esque guitar genius abound!





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