BLUE RODEO – Nowhere to Here (1995)
This album, recorded during what I consider to be Blue Rodeo`s jammy psychedelic phase, is one of my favourites (it’s up there with Five Days and Tremelo, both of which are related). It isn’t an album to like instantly, but only through multiple listens. It suddenly clicked with me after seeing the band play these songs live.
This album began life during writing sessions in 1993, but the band was so inspired with some spontaneous new songs, they ended up writing and recording Five Days In July in, well…five days in July. That albun was released first, and the band later returned to the other songs written during those sessions.
Five Days was a huge hit, so when Blue Rodeo finally got back to making this album, the difference took fans by surprise.
(Some of the leftovers became the similarly jammy but acoustic Tremelo, such as “Moon & Tree”, which was once more psychedelic and electric.)
When I saw the band live on this tour, they blew me away. I hadn’t seen them live since the 1991 Casino tour, so this was my first exposure to the new six-man lineup. Greg Keelor was on fire, playing gonzo Young-esque feedback-laden solos that lasted up to five minutes. It was incredible. This album distills that kind of sound down to 5 and 6 minute songs.
The first two tracks, “Save Myself” and “Girl In Green” were not about to become hit singles, as both are slow and melancholy. “Save Myself” is painstakingly slow, much like Greg’s first solo album, while “Girl In Green” is funky with a powerful, almost yelled chorus, backed by James Gray’s organ. Both songs are winners to this listener, because they are completely uncommercial, while retaining melody and tons of emotion.
Interestingly: There was both a 12″ and promo CD single of “Girl In Green”, a rare trance-y “Space Knowledge” remix. Very cool, very weird — I have both.
“What You Want” sounds a lot more like traditional Rodeo, Jim’s first upbeat rocker of the album. Greg’s hit single “Side of the Road” is track 4, a moody 6-minute tour-de-force with an incredible chorus and plenty of solos.
Like a one-two punch, Jim comes back with “Better Off As We Are”, possibly the best song on the album, if not the best rock song that Cuddy’s ever written. I love Jim’s lyrics, conversations with his brother and recollections of young adulthood.
“Sky” slows things down a bit, a Jim ballad with a slow tempo that sounds more like something from Greg territory. That ended side 1 of the original LP,
and side 2 began just as slowly with Greg’s “Brown-Eyed Dog”. Great chorus, with comotose verses that may put the unprepared to sleep. Jim’s “Blew It Again” is a sad
ballad, lyrically similar to “Bad Timing”, but musically based on a catchy little piano line.
“Get Through To You” follows, which features Greg waking up and letting rip again with an uptempo rocker. This song, one of Greg’s best, is
kind of similar to Jim’s catchy tunes on side 1. Jim’s “Armour” is another plaintive ballad as only Jim can do, and perhaps should have been a single, as it
could have been a hit.
The album closes with two more slow ones, “Train” and the 8 minute + “Flaming Bed”. These songs drone off into the distance, meandering lazily, like the hot humid July that spawned them. This ends an album largely misunderstood as ignored but the general record buying public. And a shame that is.
As you can see, this isn’t the light-hearted countryfied Blue Rodeo of Casino or Outskirts. Greg’s health problems (diabetes) coincided with an interest in slowing things down, and that’s what this album is. It will either click with you, or it won’t, depending on the setting. Find the right setting, however, and you will enjoy a surprising listening experience, full of depth and emotion, melody and lots of meandering jams.
I suggest listening during an evening, on the porch. In July.
Of note, if there’s a third voice in the background thats sounds familiar, it should: It’s Sarah McLachlan.