REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Fill Your Head With Rock (CD/DVD set)

Happy long weekend, Canada! Here’s a bonafide Canadian content bonus review for ya! Party on.
FILL YOUR HEAD WITH ROCK_0001KIM MITCHELL – Fill Your Head With Rock – Greatest Hits (2005 Sweden Rock CD/DVD set)

If you’re gonna buy this, you’re gonna buy this for the DVD, not the CD.  There’s so little live Mitchell material out there, and it’s somewhat surprising that this great nugget of a live show (1989 Rockland tour) came out as part of a weird Swedish greatest hits set.  Included on the CD is a new song written for the Sweden Rock Festival called “Fill Your Head With Rock”.  It was later included on Mitchell’s studio album Ain’t Life Amazing, rendering this CD obsolete.  Since the CD is little more than an extra to me, I’ll start by reviewing the included live DVD.

What kind of solo artist opens his show with five minutes of drum solos before taking the stage himself?  I can only think of one:  Kim Mitchell.

This live DVD, recorded in 1989 at the Kee to Bala opens exactly that way.  Astoundingly, it’s a triple drum solo!  Three drum kits, from left to right, keyboardist Greg Wells, drummer Lou Milano, and bassist Peter Fredette! The stage is so crowded that Wells is hidden behind Mitchell’s amplifiers!  And the party-ready crowd loved it.  When Mitchell entered the stage at the start of “That’s the Hold”, they were already in the palm of his hand.  Mitchell sports his neon pink baseball hat, a duplicate of which I owned at the same time!  Mitchell’s guitar solo is extended and suitably gonzo.

A really bad edit goes into the single “Rocklandwonderland”, opened with yet another solo, this time on keyboards.  Keep in mind this is a radio-friendly commercial rock artist that appealed to old-school prog rock fans, but also every beer-slurping hoser in the 1980’s.  To their credit the audience seems to be digging every note.  But then again, this is no band of slouches.  “Rocklandwonderland” was a huge hit in Canada.  If the studio version is a little too light on guitar, Mitchell compensates live.

One of the more rocking new songs is next, “The Crossroads”, and no it’s not a blues.  While there’s no argument it’s a party atmosphere (beach balls passed around), it’s also an extravaganza of Mitchell’s always classy guitar.  Fredette is suitably solid yet goofy at the same time, and backing Kim up on vocals with range to spare.  In my opinion, Peter Fredette has always been the secret weapon of this band.

FILL YOUR HEAD WITH ROCK_0005“Crossroads” merges into the ballad “Lost Lovers Found”, not one of Mitchell’s best songs.  His vocal range on the chorus is still remarkable, and the duo of Wells and Fredette harmonize with just a hint of twang.  Once again the highlight is Kim’s soulful, brilliant guitar solo.  Yet all of this pales to the majesty of “Battle Scar”.  The three drum kits return for this Max Webster/Rush classic.  Fredette easily handles Geddy’s powerful vocal part.  “Battle Scar” remains one of Mitchell’s greatest compositions, heavy and relentless.

Another of Kim’s greatest, “All We All”, easily follows “Battle Scar”.  Once again, the solos are brilliant, as is Fredette’s lead vocal.  The Akimbo Alogo classic “That’s A Man” is a smooth showcase of Kim’s bluesier playing, on top of a cool ZZ Top style rock song.  Beers are hoisted into the air.  Fredette switches to guitar to accompany Mitchell on the lead solo, and several mustachioed audience members play air guitar.  One bearded man even attempts the air-drums.

“O Mercy Louise” isn’t exactly a standout, but the poodle-haired girls in the audience seem to like to bob and dance to it.  The whole room seems to sing along to the gleeful country of “Easy to Tame”.  Same story with the summer classic “Patio Lanterns”.  It’s nothing but the hits from here in, “Go For Soda” and “Rock N Roll Duty” inspiring plenty of sing-alongs.

As for the CD, I’m not sure if I follow the logic of its track selection.  While many of the biggest hits are included (“Rock N Roll Duty”, “I Am A Wild Party”, “Get Lucky”, “Go For Soda”), many are not.  Some of Kim’s best later material is included, such as “Kimosabe”, “World’s Such A Wonder” and “Find the Will”.  Even though the album concentrates on later Mitchell material, I’m baffled by the lack of inclusion of singles such as “America” and “Acrimony”.

There are, among the later songs, a lot of good tunes worth a revisit.  “Human Condition” is a grinding blues rocker, and “Wonder Where & Why” smokes from start to finish.  I think “Big Smoke” is one of the better tunes from the Aural Fixations album, an often overlooked record.

Of course we have to talk about the “new” song, “Fill Your Head With Rock”.  It’s very much in the mold of the later Kim Mitchell material included.  It’s hard, with a gritty guitar riff and slippery solos.  It won’t go down in history as a classic, but it’s a workmanlike Kim Mitchell rocker.  A year or two later, Helix wrote their own song called “Fill Your Head With Rock” for the Sweden Rock festival as well!

With Amazon.ca asking an absolutely ridiculous $124.75 right now, I would say snag this one if you find it used.

FILL YOUR HEAD

CD:  2.5/5 stars

DVD:  5/5 stars

16 comments

  1. Actually this comp I dig as well Mike,for the most part I like the track order and the fact that its the rockers….
    Still a great guitar player as well….
    That solo on Rumour Has It is just sick!

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    1. I get that Deke…it is a rocker-heavy compilation. I think for me I prefer listening to the studio albums. I find with Kim, his studio albums are all different, and there hasn’t been a “hits” album of his that’s really done it for me.

      Awesome guitar player, one of the most underrated in the world! Jeff Woods from the Legends of Classic Rock has great Kim Mitchell stories.

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  2. I wish he would pump out a release of audio from the Akimbo tour…I remember the muchmusic big ticket he did for that tour,also thats the area he has not represented well with a solid release except for the Ep which to this day still baffles me!

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  3. Wow, I’m reminded of how many Kim Mitchell songs I know and like, never mind Max Webster!!….And $124.75 for a comp is all sorts of cray-cray. I mean, do I get Star Trek TNG season 1 with that?

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    1. Judging by my weekend trip to Best Buy, you could buy THREE Star Trek TNG sets on blu ray for that money. Sometimes I don’t know what amazon is thinking. This isn’t the only Kim CD that they were asking over $100 for either.

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      1. True about TNG…maybe because Kim Mitchell isn’t flying off the shelves? I remember looking up other Canadian acts from the 80s and 90s some time ago (Andrew Cash, Zappacosta) and those were pricey online. Maybe it’s because they are Canadian? Seems ridiculous.

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        1. I just checked Zappacosta. $30 for “Quick…Don’t Ask Any Questions”. I used to sell it for $6. Crazy! I guess these albums must be somewhat rare today? Discogs doesn’t even list that Zappacosta cd.

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        2. This is why I am in favour of spending quality time with bargain bins: I got Cash’s Boomtown in a bin in Montreal for $1. I get tons of stuff this way, a great way to backfill a collection.

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        3. The trick to bargain bins is patience. Yes, there’s A LOT of crap in those things. It oughta all be sent for recycling. And yes, I’m aware that one man’s shite is another man’s gold…

          But every once in a while, there’s that gold. And when you find it, you smile to yourself as you pay for it, knowing they could be asking so much more for this goodness. Like when I found the Metallica – Live At Grimey’s EP in Taranna, brand new, for $2. No tax.

          That Foos EP was brand new too, still wrapped and sealed. $1.

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        4. Patience is the key. You have to flip through 500 TLC albums to get to that one rare Metallica EP, or Foo EP. Or Andrew Cash, Zappacosta, or Kim Mitchell rarity!

          But it does pay off and your collection is ample proof of that.

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