13 years ago Kim Mitchell released Ain’t Life Amazing, his last studio album. He wasn’t exactly quiet in that time — there was his radio show on Q107 in Toronto, but then he had a heart attack! You can’t keep Kim Mitchell down, and his new one The Big Fantasize is a quieter collection of contemplative music. Some of it is rock, some of it is clearly not. And that’s OK. Whether or not he’s rocking, Kim’s songwriting yielded some pretty great material. There are nine new tunes, plus a bonus four live tracks for those who bought the physical product (CD or LP).
The gentle call of a clarinet is the first sound to be heard on the new Kim, a surprise to be sure. “Red Horizon” is a sparse acoustic ballad with clarinet accompaniment, and melody that tugs at the heart. It’s a brave way to open the album but also an honest one. “This is what I do now, so don’t expect ‘Rock and Roll Duty Part 2′” is what this track says as an opener.
That said, “2up2Bdown” has that guitar playing you love Kim for. It rocks but in a new slick way. It would have fit comfortably on an album like 1992’s Aural Fixations, but better than that. It’s a celebration, and if it’s the only track that sounds like “old Kim” then at least it does it well.
“Summer Lovers Autumn Wine” presents quiet electric guitars and pianos dancing in the twilight. Like much of Kim’s music, it paints an audio picture with his guitar. The mood turns bright on the delightful acoustic “Wishes”. Kim’s mastery of melody and expression is apparent. He gets the beat hopping again on “Georgian Bay”, a piano rocker with no guitar, maybe a little bit like the Guess Who? Or maybe that’s just a lazy comparison. It doesn’t matter, it’ll be perfect for your next summer deck party (whenever that is).
“Best I Never Had” might be laid back, but it has a strong dusky blues vibe. Soulful backup singing lends the right feel. “Montgomery” is a highlight song, mixing some skillful acoustic guitar pickin with the most memorable of melodies. Upbeat, but quiet and gentle with trademark Mitchell hooks. The acoustic solo is masterful. More masterful melody takes center stage on “Old Marriage Waltz”, the closer “Time to Stay” really overshadows it. A strong beat behind him, Kim picks away with intent. Great light rocker to end a terrific album, on an upbeat note.
CD and vinyl buyers get the four live bonus tracks: “Lager and Ale”, “Rocklandwonderland”, “Paradise Skies” (Max Webster tune), and “All We Are”. If you needed more rock, here you go. Firey live performances, captured in the studio in front of an audience. “Rocklandwonderland” stands out with a new piano intro and a passionate performance. However nothing can overshadow an epic “All We Are”, 8:13 of awesome.
After such a long wait, and an eventful one at that, it is a good thing to see that Kim Mitchell still has the creative spark to write a great song. These songs are different but just as unforgettable as “Patio Lanterns”.