by Rob O'Connor
Why It's a Shame About Ray is receiving an expanded collector's edition now is anyone's guess. The album was originally released in 1992, so we're celebrating its 16th anniversary. In its original incarnation, Ray was a 12-track CD that barely lasted a half-hour. Coming at a time when albums were expanding to fill up the 80-minute capacity of CD technology, Ray's brevity was, if not a stroke of genius, at least an act of mercy. Its quick, catchy tunes never left you wanting less and if Evan Dando's hippie-stoner-slacker indifference made his music sound frustratingly vague and unfinished, well, that was pretty much what made it work.
The songs simply rolled off the back of the sound truck, upbeat where grunge was despondent, peppy and casual when serious and symbolic ruled the day. It would've sucked if he sounded like he was trying. Recorded before Dando had his dalliance with crack cocaine, "My Drug Buddy" sounds relatively benign and worth whistling to work. The title track maintains a key guitar hook and tunes such as "Rockin' Stroll," "Bit Part" and "Ceiling Fan in My Spoon" won't strain your brain.
A cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" was foisted on the "band" (through the years, Dando's the only recurring member) as part of the 1967 film The Graduate's re-release promotion (to try and attract a younger generation?) and, naturally, due to name and melody recognition, became their "hit" and was added as a bonus track to the album's future pressings.
This "collector's edition" adds a b-side ("Shaky Ground"), nine demos that sound better fleshed out on the proper album, and a bonus DVD — "Two Weeks in Australia" — that includes music videos, useless roadside chatter and several live cuts, including an acoustic in-store performance of "Ride With Me" where Dando looks to be performing in his underwear. The album didn't really need expanding. But like Dando himself, it's decently well-intentioned and relatively harmless. (Just lay off the crack, kids.)