ALIVE AND KICKIN'

Ricochet is back with a live album that showcases their hits, a powerful new love ballad and a controversial tune they were advised not to record

Ricochet's just-released first-ever live album captures the soaring harmonies of the group's hits - including their signature song, "Daddy's Money" - and two strong new songs point the way to the band's future.

"We are so excited about this album," declares lead singer Heath Wright. "It's been a while since we've had new stuff for radio and for the record stores. And we did this album right."

Ricochet - The Live Album is a two-CD set. There's a regular disc packed with the group's music, plus a companion CD-ROM showcasing a video for the album's first single, "Feel Like Falling." And there's also behind-the-scenes footage of the band on tour and an interview segment.

"In fact," declares keyboardist Dwayne Dupuy with a grin, "I sat in on the video's editing just to make sure of one thing - that it would include lots of shots of me. And there are!"

Drummer Marty Mitchell adds: "Viewers will even get a complete tour of our bus, including what our 'coffins' - or bunks - look like."

The new album is a benchmark event for the band that stormed the charts in the last decade, starting with 1995's "What Do I Know," followed by the No. 1 smash "Daddy's Money," "Love Is Stronger Than Pride" and "He Left a Lot to Be Desired."

"We recorded every note of the new CD during nine straight shows in the Wayne Newton Theater at Vegas' Stardust Hotel back in December," explains Heath. "And then we spent weeks selecting the best performances of each song."

Greg Cook, who contributes his baritone voice and bass guitar to Ricochet's sound, agrees. "It's a great, absolutely live compilation of our hits, plus two new songs" - "Feel Like Falling" and "That's Love" - "and 'The Star Spangled Banner.'

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Heath nods. " 'Falling' is a big vocal, which is perfect for us. There are a lot of long, sustaining notes that allow us to harmonize and do what we do best. The song is thick with music. It's thick, rich and creamy."

"That's Love" is a powerful song that touches on subjects splashed across today's headlines and woven into our modern culture. The lyrics deal with Alzheimer's, the crucifixion, unselfish love and a woman's decision not to have an abortion.

"A lot of music industry folks talked to us about not recording this song," admits Heath. "Since it deals with old-fashioned values, some people we consulted considered it controversial. They said we might offend someone.

"You know," he continues, "songs about abortion are recorded every day. They're almost commonplace. But artists hardly ever step up to the plate and record songs about things that are good, honest and moral. Some people think it's not cool to do that."

Shannon Farmer, who plays six different instruments during a Ricochet show, recalls the process of finding songs for the new album. "We listened to more than 1,000 songs over a 10-month period to select the new songs for the CD," he says. " 'That's Love' was put on the table at our very first meeting - so every other song that came along had to beat it out. And they didn't. It's just an amazing, awesome song. We all believe in it."

"We not only love the melody of this song," adds Dwayne. "We love what the words stand for."

And so do Ricochet's fans. "They'll come up to us after a show," notes Heath, "and tell us how moved they are by it. When you get that kind of response, you know you have something."

Greg smiles. "We've actually gotten standing ovations from crowds who have never heard the song before."

"I think since 9/11," explains Heath, "the people in America have changed the way they look at life. More people than ever realize that life doesn't end on this earth. And they also realize now, more than ever, that they want to make the most of each day they do have while here."

In addition to featuring the band's hits - including the harmony-driven "Seven Bridges Road" - the new album also has songs that weren't released to radio but that keep getting rave responses during live shows. " 'I Can't Dance' was a big club hit 'cause we had a great dance mix to it," explains Heath. "And to this day, we hear great remarks about 'You Still Got It and I Still Want It' from our second album. So we put them both on there."

Ricochet will hold a series of album-release parties at various venues across the country. For the latest info on the parties and shows, check out ricochetonline.com. And the new live CD set, released May 11, is available at record stores across the country, as well as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, plus on the Internet through iTunes and the band's website.

"The new album captures perfectly that we're a five-member band where everyone does their own part," declares Shannon. "We've got the best singer in Nashville in Heath, but he's humble enough to let every one of us shine. And when you leave one of our shows, you know every single one of us has connected personally with you. That connection is captured on the album."

Not only did Ricochet record the album in Las Vegas, but Shannon married Jacy Pettis during the middle of their nineday run at the Stardust.

"Yep, Shannon tied the knot while we were there - and we were all in the wedding, and I sang a song in it," notes Heath.

"Hey," he suddenly realizes. "We should have put the wedding on the CD-ROM part of the live album set!"

-- Larry Holden

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