Author: mikeladano

Metal, hard rock, rock and roll! LeBrain's Record Store Tales & Reviews! Poking the bear since 2010.

REVIEW: Loudness – Hurricane Eyes (1987, 2017 30th anniversary 5 CD reissue)

LOUDNESS – Hurricane Eyes – 30th Anniversary Limited Edition (originally 1987, 2017 Warner Japan)

In most timelines and biographies, they’ll have you believe that the original lineup of Loudness had already peaked by 1987 and were creatively and commercially going downhill.  While the commercial side of things was out of their control, creatively Loudness were still writing great songs.  Though they did have one more EP in them, Hurricane Eyes is the final album of the original Minoru Niihara era of Loudness.  It was recorded by Kiss and Jimi Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer with one track by Andy Johns.  Though not as heavy or complex as Disillusion or noteworthy as Thunder in the East, it is thoroughly enjoyable from side A to side B.  The commercial bent is obvious on some songs, but it doesn’t really blunt the impact.

Like most Loudness albums from the classic era, the band recorded lyrics in both English and Japanese and both versions of the album are included in this luxurious 5 CD box set.  In Japan, the Loudness catalogue has been treated reverently but this is the beefiest of all their deluxe sets.  Along with both versions of Hurricane Eyes (including minor musical differences), the set includes a disc of album demos, and another disc of alternate mixes and rhythm tracks.  The fifth CD is a live set from the Hammersmith Odeon from 1986.  Like any set of this nature, you’ll be listening to the same songs in four or five versions, but fortunately they stand up to such immersion.

Though Hurricane Eyes represents a peak effort to break into the American market, and some songs verge on Dokken homages, it’s a strong album loaded with hooks and enviable guitar theatrics & riffs.  And regardless of some of the more radio-friendly material, it also boasts the thrash-like “S.D.I.”, a speed metal riff-fest that remained in the Loudness set list long after after Minoru was let go.  The technical playing on “S.D.I.” is outstanding, and that’s laid bare for you to hear in the instrumental mix on Disc 4.  The guitar solo is pure Eddie meets Yngwie.  “S.D.I.” opens the English version of the album, but closes the Japanese.  It works excellently in either configuration.

The English album continues with “This Lonely Heart”, a hook-laden hard rocker anchored by a solid riff and soaring chorus.  Lynch and Dokken must have been jealous they didn’t write it because it’s right up their alley.  The album title Hurricane Eyes comes from a lyric in “This Lonely Heart” but what you’ll remember mostly is that indelible chorus.  Keyboards are poured into “Rock ‘N Roll Gypsy”, an obvious choice for a radio single.  Though it didn’t hit the charts you can certainly hear the effort in it.  On the Japanese version of the track, the keyboards are present but not mixed in as prominently.  It’s the better of the two mixes, with more of that Akira Takasaki guitar up front.

“In My Dreams” is the first power ballad, with focus on the power part.  Akari has some sweet anthemic guitar melodies in his pocket for this very Scorpions-sounding track.  This gives way to another blitz of a song, though not as over the top as “S.D.I.” was.  “Take Me Home” has similar urgency but more deliberate pace.  “Strike of the Sword” is in similar metal territory with a fab Akari riff.  The vocal melodies sound a little disconnected from the song though.

Don Dokken’s turf is revisited on “Rock This Way”, a mid-tempo ditty within hit territory.  You could imagine this being written for the concert stage, so you can have a singalong chorus — “Rock this way!”  Picking up the pace, “In This World Beyond” is a bit more complex though retaining an insanely cool chorus.  The Loudness guys really developed an absurdly good chorus-writing ability by this point!  But stick around to be strafed out of the sky by Akira’s machine-gun solo.  “Hungry Hunter” returns us to mid-tempo rock ground, though it’s not their most remarkable song.

The American album ends with “So Lonely”, a re-recording of “Ares’ Lament” from 1984’s Disillusion, also in the closing position.  Disillusion didn’t get a lot of attention outside Japan, and “Ares’ Lament” was a clear highlight.  Though the structure is essentially the same, “So Lonely” is a tamed version” of the more traditional metal original.  Keyboards are added, replacing the Akira-shred of the original.  The chorus is beefed up and placed front-and-center.  It suits Hurricane Eyes and though it’s merely a blunted version, it’s still quite excellent.  It’s a demonstration of how you can take a song and tweak it into a different direction.

“So Lonely” isn’t present on the demo CD, presumably because they didn’t need to demo their own classic tune.  Instead there are two tracks that didn’t make the album, but would be finished in the future:  “Jealousy” and “Love Toys”.  The 1988 Jealousy EP would see the first track released (but only in Japan).  This is the most Dokken of all the songs, with one of those concrete riffs that George Lynch was prone to writing with ease.  Maybe when Dokken broke up, Don should have given Akira Takasaki a phone call.  The more frantic and metal “Love Toys” was revisited in 1991 with new lead singer Mike Vescera, for the On The Prowl album of re-recordings.  Both tracks had potential in the unfinished demo stage.  In fact all the Loudness demos on this disc are nearly album-ready.  They’re rougher but also appealing for that same reason.

Disc 4, Behind the Hurricane Eyes is a hodgepodge of alternate mixes and rhythm tracks.  The eight rhythm tracks (essentially mixes without vocals and solos) include another version of “Love Toys”.  The mercilessly tight rhythm section of Munetaka Huguchi and Masayoshi Yamashita come to the fore on these tracks, as does Akira Takasaki as the riffmaster.  “S.D.I.” is present on this CD twice, in rhythm track form and as a straight instrumental.  You will be getting plenty of “S.D.I.” in this box set!  You’ll also enjoy the brighter “Top 40 Mix” of “Rock This Way”, a really good remix that sounds perfect for the hits of the era.  A mix of “So Lonely” with an earlier fade-out isn’t that interesting, but still desired by the collector.  “Hungry Hunter” and “This Lonely Heart” are present in “old mix” and “rough mix” respectively.  Differences are minor.

You could find yourself with a bit of ear fatigue after hearing so many versions of the same songs.  Fortunately Disc 5 is a live set from the previous tour with none of the same songs.  Buckle up.  Opening for Saxon at the Hammersmith Odeon, Loudness went straight into “Crazy Doctor” from Disillusion after a glowing intro from Biff Byford.  It’s right to the throat from the start and this CD has their full set.  “1000 Eyes” from Lightning Strikes follows, the album for which they were touring.  Loudness could have used some backing vocals live to beef up the chorus, but Minoru does a remarkable job on his own, givin’ ‘er all over the place.  It’s also cool to hear Akira go from rhythm to lead so effortlessly live.

There is honestly something charming about someone who isn’t a native English speaker really giving their all to talk to an audience in English.  Minoru is clearly happy to be in “London rock and roll city!” and the audience lets him know he’s welcome.  The awesome “Dark Desire”, also from Lightning Strikes, follows and Akira lays down a mesmerising solo.  Then a long dramatic intro opens “Ashes in the Sky / Shadows of War”, a highpoint of an already great set.

The big Loudness single in 1986 was “Let It Go“, a truly special pop metal song.  This version opening for Saxon at the Hammersmith might be the best live recording if not the most energetic.  Afterwards the late Munetaka Higuchi takes a drum solo (presumably to give Minoru’s voice a rest after this workout!).  There’s a brief segue into Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, and Minoru introduces the band.  That pumps up the crowd for Loudness’ biggest hit “Crazy Nights” complete with crowd singalong.  “MZA!”  After smoking through this one, Akira takes a blistering solo break.  The set closes with “Speed” from their third album The Law of Devil’s Land.  They saved the most aggressive song for last.  Couldn’t let Saxon have it too easy, right?

Though hard to get, these Loudness deluxe editions from Japan are really beautiful to hold in hand.  The thick booklet is printed on glossy paper, and though the liner notes are in Japanese, lyrics are provided in both languages.  The rest of the booklet is stuffed full of tour photographs whose only language is rock and roll.  Loudness certainly looked the part.  The set also includes a little reproduction backstage pass, but the main feature is the music.  Diehards are going to love it.

4/5 stars

#842: Three Times

GETTING MORE TALE #842: Three Times

Cottages were not meant to have all the niceties of city living.  No washing machines, no dishwasher, no cable TV, no telephones.  At least that’s how it used to be.  When we used to head to the cottage for a long two week vacation, we had to take our clothes to the laundromat.  If we needed to make a phone call, we had to go over to my Uncle’s place who had a phone.  If I was worried about missing some WWF wrestling, I had to set the VCR at home and hope it worked.  (It usually didn’t — programming those simple machines was very finicky.)

We only got two TV stations at the cottage so pickings were slim.  There was a station up in Lion’s Head and another in Wingham.  You had to turn the TV antenna in the general direction of those towns to get a signal.  I can recall that the two stations were exactly 90 degrees apart and almost in line with the cottage itself.  If you wanted Lion’s Head, you turned the antenna aligned with the front wall.  If you wanted Wingham, you turned it 90 degrees to match the angle of the side wall.  All done manually by twisting a pole in your hands.  Changing channels in the rain was something that happened too!  On a particularly clear day, we could pick up a signal from Michigan across the lake.  The old timers say that if the weather is just right, you could actually see the lights of Michigan from the shore of Goderich, Ontario — a trick of the refraction of light.

Between those two stations, we had very little television to choose from.  The one show that we watched every single day was The Price is Right.  I seem to remember watching Bob Barker and Barker’s Beauties after many morning swims, and just before heading back to the beach again.

One morning in ’87, we were watching a poor old guy named Fred up there on the Price is Right, and he was so uncomfortable.  “You can tell he really doesn’t want to be there,” I said to my sister Kathryn.  He ended up winning a bid and had to play a pricing game.  He looked so miserable and confused up there.  You just wanted the poor guy to lose and be out of his misery.  But that also demonstrates how dull cottage life could be for a kid — one of the most memorable highlights of that vacation was a goddamn Price is Right episode!  I can still remember Fred and his green hat!

The potential boredom of the cottage, and even the Price is Right, really sparked some creative moments.  Two things you needed at the lake at all times:  Some paper and pencils.  With those, you could keep yourself entertained through days-long rain spells and cold snaps.  The weather up there was colder and wetter than home, and you could find yourself stuck indoors with no respite.

Kathryn was always creative back then, which was shortly before she started playing music.  She invented her own games.  One of them was based on the Price is Right.

Do you recall that pricing game called “Three Strikes”?  You reached in a bag and pulled out a chip.  It could have a number, or a “strike” on it.  Pull three strikes and yer out!  Kathryn invented her own variation of that.  She called it “Three Times”.  Her version was far more challenging.  She put more chips and way more strikes in the bag.  It was unwinnable.  But memorable.  We still talk about her first prototypical game, “Three Times”.  Not a triumph, but certainly a good effort.

Another of her creations was more original and ambitious.  It was a Choose Your Own Adventure book.  She drew upon real life experiences for its storyline.  This book still exists; it is in a drawer at the lake.  It is fully illustrated and bound.

Inside, on a street that looked a lot like ours, a little kid was taking their dog for a walk.  A cute miniature Schnauzer, just like ours.  Turn the page.  You see a man approaching.  Do you:  1) Turn and walk the other direction? 2) Turn and walk towards the man.

I’m not sure what the two endings say about my sister.  In one, the man turns out to be your dad and walks with you.  In the other, the same man kills you with a knife!

This bizarre book was limited to a single copy.  Her latest work, The Improvising Musician’s Mask:  Using Musical Instruments to Build Self-Confidence and Social Skills in Collective Free Improvisation is less accessible but saw a wider distribution.  But would it exist if her Choose Your Own Adventure dog walking book did not?

We’ll never know!

REVIEW: Triumph – Never Surrender (1983)

TRIUMPH – Never Surrender (1983 RCA, 2004 Universal remaster)

Triumph, the other Canadian power trio, scored multiple hits with their sixth album Never Surrender.  “When the Lights Go Down” was a popular music video.  “A World of Fantasy” was a concert staple.  The title track is an absolute (pardon the pun) Triumph of epic songwriting and performance.  It’s easy to hear why Never Surrender is so beloved.

Drummer Gil Moore opens the album with “Too Much Thinking”; steamhammer drums pumping hard.  Rik Emmett comes in with a slaying riff while bassist Mike Levine, the glue, rolls out some determined bass grooves.  Emmett’s talkbox solo is well constructed and extra cool.  This riff rocker has the silhouette of topicality, with Reagan samples and lyrics like “Prophets of doom fearful of the violence, preaching to no one at all.”

Triumph ballads were often too brilliant for their own good.  Not really “ballads” but more like melody-based compositions.  “A World of Fantasy” is one such song, a real accomplishment and unmistakably Triumph.  Triumph always had panache and they backed it with Rik’s strength as a guitar player.  Rik’s voice, sometimes compared to Geddy Lee’s, was well suited to heartfelt rock like this.

Rik Emmett also takes the lead vocal on a battle cry called “All the Way”, preceded by a classical piece entitled “A Minor Prelude”.  Get it?  The guy is a tremendous and monstrously intelligent guitar player.  Rik could have shredded circles with all the other lead guitarists, but that was not his focus.  He realized that you can play really fast as much as you want, but less is actually more.

“All the Way”, which sounded like a battle cry, is actually followed by “Battle Cry”, vocalised by Gil Moore.  It’s a slower, more determined metal track; the heavier side of Triumph.  Rik’s crystal clear chords keep it from being too generic.

Back when albums had sides, the second half opened with “Overture (Procession)”, a short guitar intro backed by Levine’s synth.  It sets the scene for the album centerpiece, “Never Surrender”, which itself is nearly seven minutes of pure undiluted awesome sauce.  Constructed with distinctly different sections, “Never Surrender” was just a tad progressive and more than enough song for the average mortal.

Out in the streets inspiration comes hard,
The joker in the deck keeps handin’ me his card.
Smilin’ friendly he takes me in,
Then breaks my back in a game I can’t win.
Jivin’, hustiln’, what’s it all about?
Everybody always wants the easy way out.
Thirty golden pieces for the Judas kiss,
What’s a nice boy doin’ in a place like this?

Gil Moore’s drums are sometimes considered simple, or basic.  That may be the case, but are they not the perfect backbone on “Never Surrender”?  Who can resist when Gil throws down a big, long drum roll from high to low?  Hey, he might not be Neil Peart, but he works those songs!  His fills here are just as essential as Peart’s in “Tom Sawyer”.  Meanwhile, Rik’s guitar chords can only be described as shiny.  One of the classiest players in rock can really do no wrong here, as he goes from funky chunky strumming to full shred, all within the confines of some damn catchy riffs.

As if that wasn’t enough, Triumph goes for round two on “When the Lights Go Down”.  This time, the acoustic intro is swampy, but soon that riff will hit you square in the face.  Gil Moore’s back on the microphone, so let’s not forget  how hard it is to sing and play drums at the same time.  They had to play this stuff live, and they did!  This is just pure rock, four on the floor.  “Let the party roll!” sings Moore in this paean to the concert stage.

Rik goes for the brightest of melodies on “Writing’s On the Wall”, a really “triumphant” sound, and great way to draw the album to a close.  All that’s left is a soft guitar outro called “Epilogue (Resolution)”.  This beautiful piece illustrates where Rik would go in his future solo career, decades down the road.  Hints of jazz and classical pointed the way.

There are several songs that you don’t want to leave out of your life.  Own Never Surrender.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Marillion – Crash Course – An Introduction to Marillion (2001 first edition)

MARILLION –  Crash Course – An Introduction to Marillion (2001 Racket Records, first edition)

Here is an interesting gimmick.  Starting in 2001, Marillion began compiling “Crash Course” CDs, offering them for minimal cost on their website.  The idea was that you could buy this CD for next to nothing, and send it off with to someone else with the intention of getting them into Marillion.  After the original discs were gone, they revamped the tracklisting in 2002, and again in 2006, 2008 and 2017 with new songs.  Let’s have a listen and see what Marillion thought their most immediately appealing material was 20 years ago!

Since their new album was the crowd-funded Anoraknophobia (a new idea at the time), one of those songs leads the pack.  They chose “This is the 21st Century” which I recall them really pushing at the time.  I still am not sure why that was one of the songs chosen to push.  It’s 11 minutes long and not very commercial.  It’s also quite slow and mellow and takes some time to absorb.  You’d think they would have gone with one of the singles — “Map of the World” is the track I personally put on my mix tapes when trying to get someone into this band.  That’s not to say “This is the 21st Century” is an inferior track.  It’s complex and demonstrates Marillion’s recent fascination with loops.  Instead of making them cheesy, Marillion made them trippy.  This one song is a lot to digest and new fans might be baffled by lyrics like “A wise man once said a flower is only a sexual organ, beauty is cruelty and evolution.”  And some macho dude in camo pants is absolutely going to be triggered by the line “He had denied his feminine side,” but I don’t think that guy was ever going to be into Marillion anyway.

The far more obvious song “Rich” from marillion.com is an underrated gem.  “Dot Com” as they call it is an overlooked album.  Marillion really dove into a commercial deep end with some songs, while going full acid trip on others.  “Rich” is pure pop, with a bangin’ chorus.  “No tears, no lies, no pain, no doubt, no darkness, no confusion!”  That’s how modern Marillion makes me feel.  “Rich” is an uplifting song.  “So talk about failing, to fall is not to fail.”  Get rich right now, says Marillion.  Mark Kelly has a hefty keyboard hook that anchors the song, while the verses slowly sway with a 2000s groove.

The oldest track is “Afraid of Sunlight” from 1995.  They were trying to stay away from things that sounded too dated.  No worries of that with “Afraid of Sunlight”, a timeless song if Marillion ever had one.  It is so basic, with one little melody that runs through, but then it absolutely explodes on the dramatic chorus.  If this track doesn’t win ’em over, nothing will.

Back to Dot Com and “A Legacy”, the song that opened the album.  Once you get past the slow opening, this song punches hard.  The distorted vocals are so 90s, but that’s nothing…wait until you hear “Under the Sun” from 1998’s Radiation.  That album was all about noise; everything banging and cranked up loud.  It’s also my favourite song on this disc.  From the haunting keys to the crashing chords, “Under the Sun” kicks all the asses.

Would this disc have appealed to newbies in 2001?  Some, certainly.  But like anyone, I think I could have done better!  There is no point rating a CD like this so we’ll just call it:

5/5 Barrys 

 

Sunday Chuckle: Skunked

I guess the guy across the road at the lake fancies himself a bit of a do-it-yourself-er.  He has all the accoutrements:  a pickup truck, some kind of four-wheeler ATV, and assorted doohickies.  This season there has been a skunk spotted running between his place to my sister’s.  Though the skunk hasn’t been bothering anyone, he decided it would be smart to try and catch this skunk.  Without assistance.

I came into this story when I was burning up my dad’s old rotten wood last week.  “Whew!” I said when I caught a strong whiff of skunk.  “It must be coming from the wood.”  It was so powerful, I assumed the skunk had its way with the woodpile and that’s what I was smelling.  I was wrong.  It was Tool Time With Tim across the street.  He might have caught the skunk, but in retaliation it unleashed its full fury and you could still smell it a week later.

Lesson here:  don’t be like Tool Time.  Call a professional, or just leave it the hell alone!

Addendum to Ballad Stream: The Kiss List

If you watched Friday’s live stream — Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Ballads — then you know I made reference to an early list I made that was all Kiss ballads. I thought I’d share this list with you as an addendum to the live stream itself.

The idea behind the list was to do something unexpected so I explored what an 11-song Kiss ballads list would look like for me. Since Kiss is my favourite band, I thought about claiming that all my 11 favourite ballads happened to be Kiss songs…but no “Forever” and no “Reason to Live” allowed.  What you see at bottom is the list I was going to present to you on Friday nights, until cooler heads prevailed.  In the end I only used one song — “Hard Luck Woman”.

I told Meat that I had something really messed up planned with my list, and he twisted my arm to revert back to something more conventional (thought still unexpected, I mean Wham!, right?).  I’m glad he did, as I don’t think a joke like putting all Kiss songs would have made for an interesting show on my part.

Choppy Ballady Live Meat Stream – Friday Live Show

Happy 4th of July to my American friends and neighbours!

Apologies for the awful quality this time.  Perhaps due to an overheating device, perhaps because of the whims of the Facebook gods, I could not keep a good stream going.  It’s worth enduring the video for the awesome lists.  Uncle Meat and I counted down the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Ballads, with six lists submitted by:

Dozens of songs from multiple genres.  A couple lists planted firmly in rock.  Enjoy the ballads!

To skip straight to the countdown, start at 0:22:00 of the stream.

 

Friday Streaming N’ Balladeering

Live streaming returns, and so does Uncle Meat!  This week’s theme was a challenge and there will be at least five lists.  On Friday night, tune in for a Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Ballads.

Barring the usual technical issues and assorted problems, the Meat Man will be co-hosting Friday July 3 around 7:00 PM EST.  The lists will be diverse and it won’t just be the usual suspects.  Meat has promised a very different kind of list for my show, and we have another list from a legendary rock fan who hasn’t had one featured yet.

Don’t be “Alone Again” on a Friday night.  Are you still loving lists?  Because the lists are “Still Loving You”!  You’ll be in “Heaven” with these songs.  Check out the broadcast right here from “Home Sweet Home”.  It’s “Just One Night” so don’t miss it!  It’s coming soon, you just need a little “Patience”.

Facebook:  Michael Ladano

 

REVIEW: Gordon Lightfoot – Complete Greatest Hits (2002)

GORDON LIGHTFOOT – Complete Greatest Hits (2002 Rhino)

You just have to laugh when you see something called “CompleteGreatest Hits.  Complete?  Says who?

I don’t see “Ribbon of Darkness” on Complete Greatest Hits, and where is “Bobby McGee”?  I do see 20 terrific songs that you shouldn’t live your life without.  Gord’s Gold is the benchmark, but because it’s missing Gordon Lightfoot’s best known song — “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” — it isn’t enough.  (Gord’s Gold also featured two sides of re-recordings because Lightfoot supposedly couldn’t listen to his early work.)  The best way to get “Edmund Fitzgerald” and Lightfoot’s other best known songs in one purchase is to go for Rhino’s Complete CD.

The experience starts with “Early Morning Rain” from Gord’s first LP Lightfoot! (1966).  Gord’s calling cards are two:  his baritone voice, and his songwriting.  “Early Morning Rain” shows of the perfection of both.  You’ll get chills.  “In the early morning raaaaaaain…”  Undoubtedly, Gordon Lightfoot is one of Canada’s greatest songwriters of all time, and “Early Morning Rain” is all the evidence you need.  If that’s not enough, there are fortunately 19 more incredible tracks.

“For Loving Me” from the same LP boasts some intricate acoustic picking and more of that voice.  The vibrato, the control, the expression…nobody could touch Gordon Lightfoot.  In recent years his voice has been reduced to a powerful whisper, but nothing on this CD dates past 1986.  His voice is double-tracked on “Go Go Girl”, another unforgettable song from 1967’s The Way I Feel.  His storytelling lyrics always make you wonder who and what inspired the songs.  “Only a go-go girl, in love with someone who didn’t care.  Only 21, she was a young girl, just in from somewhere.”  There’s so much there between the lines, while the acoustics pluck away in dense patterns.

After three succinct beauties, here comes Gordon’s epic:  “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”.  The Canadian Pacific Railway was built on hardship and dreams, and Gord captures that and more in a multi-textured composition.   “An iron road runnin’ from the sea to the sea.”  Not only is this song his greatest lyric, but the diverse vocal parts could be his strongest work.  Hard to imagine that that he was only on his second album.

1968 brought the brooding ballad “Pussywillows, Cat-tails”.  Backed by strings, the dream-like song paints a picture rather than spelling out a story.  “Naked limbs and wheat bins, hazy afternoons.”  Then “Bitter Green” is brighter, though with similar countryside imagery and a story about lost love with a twist ending.  Moving on to 1970, “If You Could Read My Mind” is one of Lightfoot’s most renowned songs.  It went to #1 in Canada, and in 1997 it hit the dance charts in a cover version by Stars On 54.  Gord’s version is one of the most passionate laid to tape.  Written about a divorce, the feelings were raw.

1971 brought the bright “Cotton Jenny” and the uplifting “Summer Side of Life” from the album of the same name.  The latter features subtle organ and rich backing vocals, broadening the palette.  “Beautiful”, a soft and romantic ballad, came from 1972’s Don Quixote, and hit the Billboard Hot 100.  This CD then skips past the #1 album Old Dan’s Records (Complete Greatest Hits, huh?) and goes straight to “Sundown” from the album of the same name.  I always loved the front cover of Sundown, with Gord in sandals smoking a cigarette in a barn.  For the first time, there’s an electric guitar solo, but the song is most notable for the strong chorus.  “Carefree Highway”, also from Sundown, has lush strings and another chorus that is impossible to forget.  I highly recommend playing this one while driving down country roads on a Sunday afternoon.  “Rainy Day People” from 1975 (the same year he did the Gord’s Gold re-recordings) features more backing instrumentation than earlier material.  The lush, countrified music didn’t do him any harm when the track went Top 10 in Canada (and #1 on the adult contemporary charts).

All this leads to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, probably the greatest songs about a sea tragedy ever written.  With a big electric guitar as the main hook, the song is completely unlike all the Lightfoot hits that came before.  There is even a soft synthesizer part.  It went to #1 on every applicable chart in Canada, and #2 in the US.  Though simpler in structure, “Edmund Fitzgerald” is the only song to rival “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” as his greatest epic.  It’s also one of Gordon’s most chill-inducing lyrics, with a vocal part to match.

Everything after this can only seem anticlimactic.  “Race Among the Ruins” is the strongest track post-“Edmund”, as Gordon included country slide guitars and other accoutrements.  The final five (“Daylight Katy”, “The Circle is Small”, “Baby Step Back”, “Stay Loose” and “Restless”) are not slouches, but simply not as striking as the earlier songs.  Though the recordings are more sophisticated, it’s hard to top your earliest hits.

The liner notes to this CD point out that your first exposure to Gordon Lightfoot was probably via a cover.  Perhaps Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, or the Tragically Hip.  I suggest making “Edmund Fitzgerald” your first Gordon Lightfoot if you haven’t heard one of his classics already.  This CD is the best way to get it.

5/5 stars

 

* Deke, have you ever listened to the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald while sitting on the shore of lake gichi-gami?  That’s on my bucket list.  

11 More Tunes! (Happy Canada Day)

Because 11 wasn’t enough!

 

13. The Glorious Sons – “White Noise”

14. Anvil – “Metal On Metal”

15. Kick Axe – “On the Road to Rock”

16. Lee Aaron – “Shake It Up”

17. Gord Downie – “The Stranger”

18. Triumph – “Follow Your Heart”

19. Dayna Manning – “My Addiction”

20. Wild ‘T’ and the Spirit – “Loveland”

21. Saga – “On the Loose”

22. Sloan – “Losing California”

23. Stompin’ Tom Connors – “Canada Day Up Canada Way”