This review is for Thunder Bay’s hardest rocker, Deke from Arena Rock – Thunder Bay and Beyond! Once a loyal reader, now a blogger himself, Deke has been laying waste to the internet lately with his hilarious stories and classic Canadian reviews. This is an official LeBrain endorsement!
I used to get so excited back in the Record Store days, checking the purchase logs from the day before. Many times, people logged KIM MITCHELL – ST (self-titled) in the books, immediately catching my attention. The self titled Kim Mitchell EP, after all, was and remains a true rarity. CD copies go today for up to $120. When I would check the purchase logs against the physical CDs, I was always disappointed that the Kim Mitchell EP didn’t come in; rather his 1994 album Itch did. The graphics are laid out in such a way that a part-time employee who didn’t know better couldn’t see that the album was called Itch, within the name Kim Mitchell. Truth be told, I couldn’t figure out what it was called when I first started at the store in ’94 either! I was working the week it came out. “I didn’t know Kim Mitchell had a new album out!” Staring at the cover…”What’s it called?” I bought it on cassette initially.
The mid-90’s were a confusing time to be a Kim Mitchell fan. His 1992 record, Aural Fixations, was pretty straightforward and for the first time lacked lyrics written by Pye Dubois. When 1994 kicked off, the new Kim single “Acrimony” featured Kim rapping. Yes, rapping. Inappropriate comparisons to the Red Hot Chili Peppers were bandied about in the press. I did not like “Acrimony”. Some people do; in fact some people think Itch is Kim’s best CD. I am not one of those people.
So how good is Itch? Well, it’s OK. It’s not great, not like Kim’s past work with the near-legendary Max Webster, though it does return Kim to some mild musical experimentations. There are standard Kim rockers like “Wonder Where & Why” and some great grooves like “Lick Yer Finger”. “Stand” is one of those classic Kim anthems that are perfect for the car in the summer time. There are also just just plain weird moments that just don’t work. “Acrimony” is one of them, and “Lemon Wedge” is another. “Lemon Wedge” is a cool funk tune with horns, but is ruined by some guy (possibly Peter Fredette?) screaming out the chorus in a weird falsetto. Strangely though, those two songs made onto Kim’s first solo Greatest Hits CD, so maybe I’m the one who’s just not getting it.
In general Itch is a more somber album from Kim than the good time rock he produced in the 80’s. It was also bluesier (“U.S. of Ache” for example) and harder edged, but I don’t think it had the songs to back it up. Kim’s playing is fantastic of course, but you can say that about any of his albums. Kim can play circles around most rock and blues players in his sleep. He also has a crack band, featuring Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve on bass who did time in a couple legendary Canadian bands such as Loverboy and Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. Notably, Pye Dubois returned to pen the lyrics, the last time he would do so. I think the main problem with Itch comes down to the songs.
The best tune on this CD is the last one, “Cheer Us On”, a great campfire song that should have been a single. However, it wasn’t, so it’ll just have to remain one of those little-known album songs with a few diehard fans. I wouldn’t hesitate to put it on a greatest hits CD, even though it has never been used on a greatest hits CD.
As it stands, Itch was a commercial flop. It has its staunch defenders, and maybe you are one of them. Who’s right?
Footnote: Eagle-eyed readers will recall seeing Itch in Record Store Tales Part 187; a video called “A Day in the Life at a Record Store”. Yes, a customer really did bring this album to the counter and inform me that someone had ruined the cover art with crayon. I had to tell them that it WAS the cover art!