Brian Byrne

REVIEW: Brian Byrne – Tuesdays, Thursdays, and if it Rains… (2006)

Scan_20160505 (2)BRIAN BYRNE – Tuesdays, Thursdays, and if it Rains… (2006 Kindling Music)

Strangely, I first heard Brian Byrne’s solo single debut, “Far From Good”, on a local lite-rock radio station that I usually try to avoid.  The song caught my ear for its upbeat, country-rock sound, with bouncy violin and piano on top.  A neat mix.  When they said it was by Brian Byrne, I stopped myself.  Couldn’t be the I Mother Earth singer getting played on a lite-rock station, could it?  But it was.  I promptly ordered the CD from the Record Store at which I formerly worked.  The disc arrived in a few days, great condition, except for the promo-cut jewel case.  They normally should have replaced the case before the CD shipped, but somebody missed it.  I didn’t want to ask for a new case, because I just left the place six months before and I didn’t want to become “that” customer!

But enough about me, what about Byrne?  Here he worked with near-legendary Canadian producer Tim Thorney, as well as former Killer Dwarfs guitarist Gerry Finn.  (Byrne and Finn both hail from Newfoundland.)  I Mother Earth were deactivated, and Byrne honed Tuesdays, Thursdays and if it Rains… into a pleasing acoustic rock album, very “singer-songwriter” in sound.

“Far From Good” is the highlight, being the most immediate and lively.  The album is diverse.  The opening track “Days Go On” has elements of country, funk, classic rock and soul.  The juicy organ parts really suck you in.  “Jen’s Song” is one of many ballads, this one reminding me of 80’s Phil Collins for some reason.  Byrne gets to let his voice speak more than he does in the louder I Mother Earth.  Then there’s a big chorus on “Sweet Love”, a better light country rock tune than Bon Jovi’s ever written.  This is like country-Jovi, but with integrity and feelings, and not a lot of flash.  “Nova Dashboard” is a lovely, bluesy country ballad along the lines of Blue Rodeo’s dusky favourites.  The guitars (by Thorney) get right under your skin.

I could go on and on, but all the songs have a quiet, smouldering power to them.  The light and shade of the album sounds quintessentially Canadian to me, and the calibre of the musicianship is above reproach.  Expect an album of diverse music crossing several genres, but do not expect I Mother Earth.  Byrne almost went as far in another direction as you could imagine.  And that is really cool, because he does it so well.

3.5/5 stars

Scan_20160505 (3)

Advertisements

REVIEW: I Mother Earth – Blue Green Orange (1999)

This one goes out to Patrick Dynamite!

I MOTHER EARTH – Blue Green Orange (1999 Mercury)

When Edwin left I Mother Earth for a solo career, many fans (myself included) were disappointed with his wishy-washy not-rock of his solo debut, Another Spin Around the Sun.  Sure the song “Alive” was incredible and epic, but the rest of the album was so middle-of-the-road and lukewarm.  It was with great relief that I Mother Earth only went from strength to strength by hiring on unknown singer Brian Byrne to replace him.

I Mother Earth didn’t scale the top of the charts with Blue Green Orange, but what an album it is!  Byrne has enough of the rasp and power that Edwin possesses, so he is a natural fit and the sound is pure IME.  The opener “Love Your Starfish” immediately proclaims that the band are back!  Back to playing longer, more complex song structures with interesting drum patterns, bellowing vocals, and riffs.

But it’s not all just hammering away.  “All Awake” brings back the spacey, quiet side of I Mother Earth.  The psychedelic textures and exotic percussion are reminiscent of a song like “So Gently We Go” from the first album.  Drummer Christian Tanna is joined by longtime I Mother Earth percussionist Daniel Mansilla, and Armando Borg on additional percussion.  Jagori Tanna remains one of the most underrated and interesting guitarists to come from the Great White North, and his work here is exemplary.  His willingness to explore reminds me of other progressive players such as Steve Rothery.

“Gargantua” is one of the shortest songs at 4:34.  Most of them are in the five to six minute range.  Appropriately “Gargantua” is the most radio-friendly.  Its pop melodies and straightforward beats make it the most immediate, all it lacks is a great chorus.  For that, go for the ballad “When Did You Get Back From Mars?”  I don’t know if we can call it a “ballad” but it’s a quieter acoustic tune with a plaintive chorus.


Video edit version of “Summertime in the Void”

You wouldn’t usually pick out a track that is seven minutes long for a first single, but that’s “Summertime in the Void”, one of the best tunes on the album.  It’s also one of the most rocking, though like all I Mother Earth tunes it’s full of twists and turns including loads of percussion.  I’m a big fan of Bruce Gordon’s intricate bass.  Even so, I do have a favourite bass player in the world, and that’s Geddy Lee.  And guess who turns up on the song “Good for Sule”?  Geddy frickin’ Lee!  (Alex Lifeson played on the previous IME album, Scenery & Fish.)  “Good for Sule” may well be the best tune on the album.  Gentle piano helps make it the most laid back track on the disc.

I’ll stop here — I don’t want to review Blue Green Orange song by song, because it’s all variations of “wicked guitars”, “awesome percussion”, and “challenging twists and turns”.  Blue Green Orange is not an instant pleasure, but one that reveals layers the more you listen.  As such it’s my second favourite I Mother Earth album, after Dig. Reception was mixed at the time however.  Some fans did not embrace the new album, others preferred the old singer.  Fellow reviewer Deke from Arena Rock – Thunder Bay and Beyond said, “I did at one point have it, but after one listen I gave it to my bro, and never seen nor heard from it again!”

The packaging for this CD is cool.  You could choose between blue, green or orange covers.  The inside booklet is layered with pages of different sizes and lyrics for all the songs.  Packaging like this on a standard edition CD is something we collectors appreciate.

4/5 stars