Ride Away: Media Reviews

"I must confess I always watch with great interest for the follow up albums, the second releases, from artists who have impressed me either positively or negatively with their initial efforts. I was impressed very positively with his first album (Yondering), but based on what I've just heard in Rich Flanders' second CD Ride Away, I'm ready to say he should definitely be considered to be one of Western Music's A-List performers all the way!!

What a treat you're in for this time! From the inspired mix of rare film music ("Man Without A Star," "The White Buffalo"...an early Alan Bergman song from, get this, an episode of Rin Tin Tin!), newer works (Joyce Woodson's "Call Of The Wild") and debuts (player & co-producer Ken DeAngelis's "My Shadow & The Moon" and "Thirteen Voices" with Amy Ober) to the thoughtful and well-executed arrangements, "Ride Away" is top notch. As the title suggests, Stan Jones' theme from "The Searchers" is here, too. Flanders also isn't afraid to veer off the rigidly Western trail a little when the occasion demands. All will appreciate that fact and be thankful for it when they hear his take of the Burl Ives release "Mah Lindy Lou" or the Newman/Webster theme from "How Green Was My Valley." Fourteen tracks. Rich Flanders' Ride Away is a brilliant album, and I mean the kind that could and should earn Classic status."

CDs: $16 through cdbaby.com/cd/richflanders or by mail $16 plus $2 s/h from Rich Flanders, 374 County Highway 48, Thompson Ridge, NY 10985; (845) 361-4726; www.richflanders.com
© 2009, Rick Huff

"Ride Away is the follow-up album to Rich Flanders' Yondering, featuring primarily music of the American West but also some original songs by Ken DeAngelis. This is not "country" music, but "western" music and there is indeed a difference. Highlights include The White Buffalo, written for an episode of Rin Tin Tin in the 1950's and the wonderful Thirteen Voices, a trbute to the Thirteen Grandmothers, a council of indigenous elders form around the world, but I truly enjoyed every song on this CD. Rich's voice is perfectly suited to these songs and his Broadway background serves him well. I highly recommend both Ride Away and Yondering. You wil not be disappointed! "

Frank Lowell, Radio Host, "Anything Goes," WTBQ, Warwick, NY

"Ride Away is a worthy companion to Rich's previous album, Yondering. This one is a mixture of old familiar Sons of the Pioneers' songs and new creations, all tasting of the American West. The instrumental arrangements instill a mystical feeling to the Native American songs and make an exquisite setting for that little gem, Colorado Trail. Two of Bob Nolan's greatest songs are included - one joyful, the other melancholy."

Elizabeth Drake McDonald, co-author "Bob Nolan: 1908-1980"

The true test of a recording artist is not the first great disk: it's coming up with a second disk that is as good as or better than the one that got the first acclaims. And acclaims are exactly what Rich Flanders received for his first album, Yondering, which culminated in not one, but two, coveted awards from the Academy of Western Artists in 2008: Best Western Album of the Year, and Best Song of the Year, for the album's Blue Prairie track. (Slight correction: Yondering won for Best Song, and was nominated for Best Album, for which I felt deeply honored. Rich)

Ride Away, Flanders' second album, fully deserves to be in line for the 2009 edition of the awards.

In a very real sense, this album has been in gestation for four-and-a-half decades - since Flanders was a high school student riding horses across the fields in San Mateo, California, and imagining what it would have been like to be doing that very same thing a century earlier. And since he watched, and heard the soundtrack of, arguably the greatest of John Ford's many great films, The Searchers, and the height of John Wayne's acting career as well - not the cardboard cutout stuff, but a tour de force for an actor in any genre.

The fine first thirteen tracks of the album lead up to a very steep challenge: Flanders take on the Sons of the Pioneers' platinum classic Western performance of Stan Jones' Ride Away, the song that plays as the opening credits for The Searchers unfold. If you were the curator of the Smithsonian Institute's music program, and putting together an anthology of American music that had but one place for a classic twentieth century cowboy song, this would be it. It takes chutzpah to tackle this icon.

The central character of The Searchers is Ethan Edwards, a disoriented and wandering Confederate veteran who makes his way back to his brother's farm in Texas, expecting respite, but having that prospect nullified first by the discovery that his niece has been kidnapped by raiding Commanches. And second, his love for his brother's wife has not died, a love which he is determined to keep latent.

So he takes off on years of searching for the little girl, a young woman who has become culturally Comanche in the interim, and doesn't want to be "rescued." That leaves Edwards, who has no love lost for native Americans, uncertain as to whether he should kill her or save her.

All of the above is pointedly anticipated by both the words to Jones' ballad and its plaintiff rendition by the Sons of the Pioneers.

"What makes a man to wander?
What makes a man to roam?
What makes a man leave bed and board
And turn his back on home?
Ride away, ride away, ride away.”

Flanders performs this ballad with exceptional aplomb, aided by his recording engineer, and accompanist on guitar and accordion, Ken DeAngelis. Flanders has an intimate lyric baritone voice, delivered with a palpable warmth that lets you know that this music is coming directly from a heart that is deeply rooted in roaming in horseback across the Western landscape - and probably wishing that a time machine could take him on frequent trips to the last century.

DeAngelis knows just how to capture that sound. And just how to overdub Flanders' voice so the singer can be digitally transformed into his own harmonizing chorus. DeAngelis is also an exceptional musician in his own right, as becomes readily apparent if one listening to the Ride Away disk focuses to what's happening on guitar and accordion. There's also an intriguing original song that DeAngelis penned for this album: Thirteen Voices, inspired by the native American "Thirteen Grandmothers" aiming to inspire people to rebalance their relation with nature.

The classic cowboy instrumentation is completed, and provided well, by Rachel Handman on fiddle and Barry Wiesenfeld on acoustic bass.

Flanders grew up in Midwestern and Western landscapes that he depicts as truly flat as a pancake. There was not even TV, much less anything akin to today's Internet. When he wasn't riding horses, he caught the latest Western films at the local movie theater, especially the Roy Rogers films that usually gave the Sons of the Pioneers the chance to strut their stuff.

To Flanders ears, that music incarnated the freedom of the vast horizons that he learned to love as he grew up, and eagerly wandered about and savored as a young man.

One final ingredient is, I think, part and parcel of why Flanders music excels in getting his intended message across so well. After getting out of the army, Flanders trained as an actor. Singing entered into the picture at a later stage. I've had the good fortune to hear Flanders sing his Western repertoire live. As someone who frequently writes on opera, I was struck right away by his poised integration of vocal warmth and quietly dramatic physical delivery of the music.

This is a man who knows exactly why he loves the music that he loves, and how to use his native talent and hard training to get into his audiences' ears, heart and mind. I'm looking forward to the third album.

Note: Ride Away can be purchased at www.CDBaby.com/cd/richflanders1 . Remember that when you're assembling your Christmas gift list

Philip Ehrensaft. The Delaware & Hudson CANVAS. December 2009

"The song, Thirteen Voices, written by Ken DeAngelis and Amy Ober, was performed by Rich Flanders. This song, one of the nine nominees, was hauntingly beautiful, touching and moving, and it seemed like the audience held their collective breath until the song was finished. That song is a piece of "western art"every bit as powerful as a Charlie Russell painting."

Don Cusic, Editor, The Western Way magazine, Winter 2011

"I am enjoying RIDE AWAY immensely. Terrific songs, perfect arrangements, and your oh-so-easy-on-the-ears vocals. Thanks for this lovely CD."

Alex Rybeck, Composer/Musical Arranger, NYC

"Rich Flanders' songs and singing offer a profound sense of yearning and remembrance, a sense that comes close to prayer. What riches he provides!"

Peggy Nash Rubin, Founding Director, The Center For Sacred Theatre, author of To Be and How to Be, Quest Books
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