Now enjoying a comeback with his John Cougar-produced album, Mitch Ryder sang both his newest songs and his mid-'60s Detroit hits at the Bayou last night. He still has that memorable voice that's so piercing in its shouting attack and so gravelly in its growling follow-through. Unfortunately, that voice had to compete with a young quintet--assembled by Cougar--that had no feel for Ryder's rhythm and blues roots and often drowned him out with arena-rock cliche's.
When Ryder could get a word in edgewise, his raucous vocals seemed ready to fly out of control but were too deeply rooted in the R&B tradition to do so. As a result, he stretched the material to new lengths. He reclaimed from Bruce Springsteen the "Mitch Ryder medley" of "C.C. Rider," "Jenny, Jenny," "Good Golly, Miss Molly" and "Devil With a Blue Dress On" with a sputtering roar. Then Ryder stripped the sleek funk surface off Prince's "When You Were Mine" and exposed the R&B guts inside the song.
Tex Rubinowitz, Washington's rockabilly cult hero, unveiled his new, stripped-down quartet in the opening set. Pushed by Steve Carr's clean, concise guitar fills, the band built a sharply focused dance drive behind Johnny Burnette's "Pair It Up" and Jimmy Lloyd's "Rocket in My Pocket." As always, Rubinowitz added his excited but dignified vocals.