Canadian music

#638: BNL

GETTING MORE TALE #638: BNL

First year of university involved “frosh week”.  All the new students would have events and basically just party for a week.  I wasn’t into that and I only attended the first night.  It concluded with an Australian comedy band playing some amusing novelty songs.  Wish I could remember their name.

My friend Andy, who was accepted at  the University of Waterloo, had different entertainment for frosh week.  “We had this shitty band called Barenaked Ladies,” he told me.  Barenaked Ladies?  The fuck was that?

Barenaked Ladies were an acoustic group from Scarborough Ontario who specialised in quirky and often humorous original songs.  Little did I know that their Yellow Tape demo was making waves.  I was focused on what was happening in Canadian metal.  It didn’t take long after that Waterloo gig for the band to gain national awareness.  Their excellent cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” got a nation wide release on a tribute album called Kick at the Darkness. The quintessentially Canadian music video was in constant rotation.

And for comparison:

The Cockburn cover was impressive.  It showed off the central vocal harmonies of Steven Page and Ed Robertson, and it was obvious the band were schooled on their instruments.  Barenaked Ladies didn’t focus on mainstream instruments, preferring double bass and congas.

My sister became a fan quickly, and when their first official album Gordon was released in ’92, she dove right in.  Before long she had a vast collection of Barenaked rarities, including a bootleg tape she recorded herself at a Kitchener show.  Some of the bands’ most popular songs with fans were not on Gordon, such as “McDonalds Girl” and the Public Enemy cover “Fight the Power”.

I casually followed the band along with her, appreciating their lyrical cleverness and occasional emotional depth.  I helped her collect rarities at record shows.  She sent pianist/percussionist Andy Creeggan a vintage 1977 Darth Vader sticker to put on his congas.  And he did.  And it can be seen in some video footage if you look hard enough.

I went to see them with her on their 1996 Born on a Pirate Ship tour.  I was impressed with a lot of their new songs, especially the intense “Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank”, a track about an Anne Murray stalker. They played it live at that show (which featured Mike Smith aka “Bubbles” in opening band Sandbox).

As soon as Steven Page hit the stage, he seemed to be simmering.  He was dressed in his goofy shorts as usual, but he seemed…angry?  Intense.  It really came out in “Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank” which boiled over.  I gained a real appreciation for the band that night, and also for Steven Page as an artist.  Whatever was bothering him that day (if that was indeed the case), he poured it into the show.  It was an incredible night.

Unfortunately for us, Barenaked Ladies evolved into the mainstream over the years.  Both of us lost interest as they changed.  Andy Creeggan left the band after their second album Maybe You Should Drive, which meant the congas were gone.  Jim Creeggan traded his big stand up bass for an electric more often.  The emotion seemed to drain from their albums as time went on.

I wasn’t very surprised when Steven Page left the band in 2009.  As their music became more campy and often aimed at kids, Page was less comfortable.  His drug bust in New York was the real shock, since he was caught doing cocaine.  That certainly clashed with the band’s family friendly image.

The band carried on and Page went solo, but there’s a new twist.  On March 25 2018, Barenaked Ladies will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  It’ll be done during the Juno Awards broadcast, and Steven Page will be returning to perform with them.  “I hope it’s fun,” said Page.  “I honestly haven’t been in the same room as the other guys – all the other guys at once – since I left the band. It’ll be good to see them all, but it’s going to be odd. It’s not like we’re getting back together.”

Odd indeed, but stranger things have happened.  Will you be checking out the big reunion on March 25?

 

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REVIEW: Paul MacLeod – Close and Play (2006)

PAUL MacLEOD – Close and Play (2006 Busted Flat)

This CD was given to me by Uncle Meat for the purpose of reviewing.  Unfortunately I was too slow and Paul didn’t live to read it.  For that I’m sorry.

With Hawksley Workman in the production chair, one expects great sonics and perhaps just a touch of “weird”.  The opening track “Ghosts” has a familiar piano-based “bop” that is reminiscent of Workman.  This delightful little track is upbeat with just a slight sense of melancholy.  Moving on to “Cruelty”, the song has a strange aura that sounds as if you’re playing it on vinyl.  This electric song really showcases how versatile MacLeod’s voice was.  “Cruelty” does not easily escape from the memory.

Sadness and loneliness are two prevailing feelings on “Schopenhauer’s”, a beautiful acoustic tune.  “Gloat” adds a base of electric guitar for a rock solid foundation.  On top of this, Paul sings his soul out.  “All I could ever do was, was be but a crutch to you.”  The mood flows into the next tune “Pools of Blue” which speaks of regret.  This changes to anger on “Broken Wing”.  “She’s feeding the bullshit, a mouthful at a time.”  A tense little guitar lick goes on until the brilliant chorus releases it.  “Broken Wing” is an easy contender for best track on the album.

After the emotional peak of “Broken Wing”, it’s nice to go back to mellow on “Listen Mary”.  Its love acoustic guitar solo is a definite highlight.  “Giants”, another upbeat catchy number, would also be a peak point.

Closing the CD is “Stanley Steamer”, initially a shock as it begins with uncharacteristic electronic sound effects.  This soon turns into a humourous look back to an era long gone.  Paul’s song sounds as if it could have been born in that past decade.  One thing Paul had a talent for was tapping into the musical feelings of the past, like a human time machine.

Check out this fantastic CD by Paul MacLeod the Musical Tardis.

4/5 stars

 

#534: Klassic Kwote – “b4-4”

GETTING MORE TALE #534: Klassic Kwote – “b4-4”

Unfortunate Canadians will recall boy band b4-4 (also known as Before Four). They were a trio, had two brothers in the group, made two albums and faded away quietly.

Courtesy of former store owner (now road manager for Steve Earle) Mike Lukacs, here’s a classic quote that shoulda been in Record Store Tales:

“Back in the record store days, some people came in the store looking for these guys’ CD. One of the dudes that worked for me asked them why they wanted such garbage. ‘They are our sons’ replied the people…”

Whoops!

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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)

#483: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

GETTING MORE TALE #483: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down,
Of the big lake they call gichi-gumi.
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead,
When the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more,
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed.
When the gales of November came early.

Living in Southern Ontario, we have easy access to three of the five Great Lakes. Many children spent time holidaying on Huron, Erie or Ontario. In school we learned to memorize the names of the Great Lakes with the acronym “HOMES”: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. The Ojibwe called Superior “gichi-gami” meaning “big sea”. When I was a kid we spent our summers at the cottage in Kincardine. Kincardine is located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, or as my dad used to call it when I was a toddler, “big water”. Some things are universal.

We are surrounded by nautical activity, from the great locks at Welland canal, to the legendary shipwrecks on the Great Lakes.   Just a few kilometers south of Kincardine is Boiler Beach, so named because a few meters from the shore sits the boiler from an old steamer that exploded in 1883.  The Erie Belle was a tug boat sent to rescue another ship that had blown aground after missing Kincardine harbour and attempting to turn around.  It could not budge the freighter, and the Erie Belle’s boiler exploded when the engine overheated and seized.   The piece of history is still sitting there partly due to the cold fresh waters of Huron.  You can see it clearly even from the road.  If that kind of sight doesn’t instil in a kid an interest in nautical Great Lakes history, nothing will.  And then there are glass-bottom boats that do tours, and in clear waters to view shipwrecks.

We also weathered quite a few storms that rolled in off the lake, taking down hydro poles and trees.  All you can do is sit tight and wait it out.  We always kept several oil lamps at the cottage, ready to go, and we had to use them annually.  It was easy to see how a even a huge ship could come to harm in such a storm.

Today, thanks to Gordon Lightfoot’s musical immortalization, the wreck of the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald is the most famous Great Lakes shipwreck of all time.

EDMUND

The huge freighter was hauling iron from Duluth, Minnesota to steel mills in Detroit, Michigan.  Its final destination of the season was the port of Cleveland. It was late in the year 1975, and the big ship had to traverse the entire length of Superior, the deepest and most northerly lake.  From there, to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, and then south down the entire length of Huron.  The Edmund Fitzgerald was a sturdy ship, launched in 1958 as the largest on the lakes.  She broke speed records, and then broke her own records.  She was a favourite to crowds because of the charismatic “DJ Captain”, Captain Peter Pulcer.  He enjoyed piping music in the loudspeakers, and entertaining crowds on the St. Clair and Detroit rivers with tales of the big ship.  But it was Captain Ernest M. McSorley who was command that fateful night in November.

There was a storm on the radar, but the weather service predicted it would proceed harmlessly south of Lake Superior.  The Edmund Fitzgerald departed on November 9, but by 7 pm that night, the weather reports suddenly changed.  The storm was crossing the lake, and they sounded the warning for gale-force winds.  Pounded by 60 mph winds and 10 foot waves, the Edmund Fitzgerald headed north for shelter.

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck,
Saying, “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya.”
At seven PM it grew dark, it was then,
He said, “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya.”
The captain wired in he had water comin’ in,
And the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when her lights went out of sight,
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Gordon Lightfoot was fascinated by the story and wrote the famous song around the disaster. His storytelling ability made it legendary, never to be forgotten.  It went to #1 on every relevant chart in Canada, and has been covered by artists as diverse as the Dandy Warhols and the Rhoestatics.  And in honour of the 29 men who died on that ship, he has revised his old lyrics. Formerly the words went, “At seven PM a main hatchway caved in.” However this implies the hatchway was not secured properly, and investigations showed that there was no crew error in the disaster. With respect to history, Lightfoot changed the line to “At seven PM it grew dark, it was then…”

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings,
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below, Lake Ontario,
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her.
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know,
With the gales of November remembered.

The Edmund Fitzgerald lies at the bottom today, 15 miles from the aptly named  Deadman’s Cove, Ontario.  It is now a protected site, but there are no conclusive answers to what happened in her final moments.  The way Lightfoot worded it was appropriately vague: “And later that night when her lights went out of sight, Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  What is more important today, rather than the cause of the wreck, is the fact that the 29 people lost at sea are now immortal.  Gordon Lightfoot ensured that.

In a rustic old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral,
The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine times,
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – Just Like a Vacation / “Joker’s Wild” bonus track (1999)

The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2
 Mike and Aaron will be doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!

BLUE RODEO – Just Like a Vacation / “Joker’s Wild” bonus track from Stardust Picnic  (1999 Warner)

I spent a lot of days in the summer of 1999 working in the Record Store in Cambridge. That was T-Rev’s store, normally, but he was out of town. He was Ajax, I think, helping build our next franchise. T-Rev is handy so his role was, in theory, supposed to transition to building new stores full time. That never fully happened, which in a way was a good thing, because they never had a plan for filling T-Rev’s time slot as store manager in Cambridge! In the interim, they sent me there and I was responsible for managing two stores. Not the first time and certainly not the last time.

’99 was a great summer for double live albums. There were two in particular I played daily: Sloan’s 4 Nights at the Palais Royale, and Blue Rodeo’s Just Like a Vacation.  Despite the added stress and mileage on the car, these two double live albums helped ensure that summer was hot and fresh with great music.  Blue Rodeo are one of the greatest live bands I’ve seen and I had long been awaiting a full-on double CD set of the live concert experience.

Just Like a Vacation is the absolutely perfect document of the Blue Rodeo experience circa 1999.  Hard edged and jamming, Blue Rodeo were at this time a mixture of country crooning and long noisy Neil Young jams.  The set is taken from a variety of shows and assembled into a coherent running order.  Perhaps the first track, the upbeat country of “Til I am Myself Again” was recorded in Stratford; Jim warns the crowd they may be snowed in that night, a common threat at the Stratford festival during their annual show there!

The first seven Blue Rodeo albums, from Outskirts (1987) to Tremolo (1997) are all essential listening.  This live set is loaded heavy with some of the best songs from that era, from the tender Jim Cuddy ballads (“Try”, “After the Rain”, “Bad Timing”) to the more epic Greg Keelor blasts of power:  “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet”, “Diamond Mine”, “Girl in Green”.  There’s country jazz (“Piranha Pool”), songs for singalongs (“Cynthia”) and even comedic stories of heartbreak (“Florida”).  Jaw-dropping musicianship ensures there is never a dull moment.  Even the slow dance hit ballad “After the Rain” boasts a long, noisy guitar jam at the end.  Blue Rodeo are fearless on stage and this album delivers that.

Some fans noticed that earlier tracks from Outskirts such as “Rebel” and “Joker’s Wild” were seldom played as Blue Rodeo amassed more and more studio albums.  Thanks to HMV, one bonus track is available to add to this live collection:  “Joker’s Wild”, from their promotional Stardust Picnic Sampler CD.  The back cover of the Stardust CD claims there was no room left for “Joker’s Wild” on Just Like a Vacation, but that’s not true.  The first disc is under an hour, and the second is 1:07.  Lots of room on either disc for a four minute bonus track!  Regardless, here is “Joker’s Wild”, a rarity to be sure since it was never available for purchase.  “Joker’s Wild” is done acoustically, very different from the original version.  It transforms from a spy movie theme to a swampy jam with slide and fiddle.

Sure, you could go and buy a Blue Rodeo Greatest Hits CD with your hard-earned dollars.  That’ll get you 14 songs; this’ll get you 22.  Blue Rodeo songs are just as great live as they were in the studio, just different.  You won’t have to suffer through a too-loud audience track, so get Just Like a Vacation instead and experience Blue Rodeo in the venue they were intended for — the stage.  There are even liner notes with a story or two about every song.  It’s a package to be enjoyed for a long period of time, and years later you will still smile.

5/5 stars

 

R.I.P. Stephen Huss

PSYCHE

I had a customer at the old store named Stephen.  He used to quietly sell CDs, always in excellent condition.  He didn’t have much to say, but he was about the nicest guy you’d ever run into.  One of our staff realized that Stephen was the former co-founder of an 80’s electronic band called Psyche, with his brother Darrin.  He made several albums with them, starting in 1985.  Nobody ever bugged him about it though.  If he wanted us to know he’d have told us.

But the world is a funny place, and you run into people at the strangest places.  A couple years ago, I was going out with my wife to meet some of her friends for lunch.  She mentioned her friend Steve that was a musician.  Sure enough, it was Stephen, my old customer.  He recognized me, but misremembered me as working at a video store.  He and my wife became friends, since she relocated to Kitchener.  I just had no idea that her friend Steve was my customer Stephen!

She told me today that Stephen has passed away.  She’s just trying to absorb this news now.  I thought it would be nice to post some music for Stephen.  Rest in Peace.

REVIEW: Jaymz Bee & the Royal Jelly Orchestra – ClintEastWoodyAllenAlda (1997)

JAYMZ BEE_0001JAYMZ BEE & the ROYAL JELLY ORCHESTRA – ClintEastWoodyAllenAlda (1997 BMG)

Only one of the reasons that Jaymz Bee is totally awesome is that his name isn’t even really James B.  He’s actually a James D, from North Bay Ontario, and he is one whacky fellow.  A TV music veteran from the Look People (which also spawned Kevin Hearn, future Barenaked Lady) and the Ralph Benmegui show, the man is actually quite a musical genius.  After the TV stint, Jaymz teamed up with Jono Grant and immersed himself in lounge music.  I have to credit T-Rev for discovering this disc in the late 90’s and turning us onto it.  He was all about the lounge music at the time, and Jaymz was catchy and hilarious.

“Man Can Fly” opens the album on a distinctly campy note, but listen to those bass chops and that flute solo!  T-Rev, who was always a jazzbo, gave this CD a few fair spins in-store and you can hear why.  It’s a great, bright sound that’s perfect for work.  “The Man in the Saucy Suit” could work as background music for a Bugs Bunny mapcap adventure, and the lyrics are quite witty.

Our favourite song was usually “You Put the Babe in Baby”, a fast dexterous jazzy tongue twister.  Freakin’ incredible, and now I need to pause for a cocktail.  Thankfully, the CD jacket has recipes for three suitable drinks: the Berlin Martini, the signature Jaymz Bee Martini, and a Rob Roy!

JAYMZ BEE_0005

“Amazon Sugar Pie” is a delightfully jaunty jungle journey with zoot suits and swing.  Then on “Tony Bennettless”, Jaymz advises us that no party can swing if it is Tony Bennett-less, and he makes a convincing argument.  “Free food and free booze, no it don’t mean a thing,” if a bash is Tony Bennett-less.  “A Dog Like You” is another chaotic tongue twister, lyrically hilarious and musically top drawer.

The most surprising track is “A Groovy Movie”, the most straightforward rocking-est of the songs.  The humour and swing is intact, but this time you can get down and dance like Austin Powers back in the 60’s again.  I think the most interesting song is the slinky, snail-y quiz show sounding title track.  It’s fun to try and figure out the compound names before Jaymz gives them away in the words… “BuffySaintMarieAntoinetteFuniCelloBiafra”?  “RickJamesDeanMartinShort”?

“Music to Watch Girls By” is yet another fun 60’s swing, and “The Future Keeps Kicking My Ass” is nocturnal and slinky goodness with a Tom Waits vibe…but the closer “Nails” is manic musical insanity.  It’s another lyrical masterwork of wit.  “Nails! You bang ’em with a hammer! Nails! You cut ’em or you grow ’em…” and you’d be surprised just how many things you can do with nails according to this song, but then we diversify to snails, whales, jails, and finally back again to nails!  Best line: “Whales: One swallowed Fred and Barney Rubble!”  (You remember that episode, I know ya do.)  And stay tuned for the hidden bonus track, in French.

Brilliant with humour like a great Zappa disc.  Buy it.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Jesus Christ – Jesus Christ (1994)

JCJC_0002

JESUS CHRIST – Jesus Christ (1994 Hypnotic)

Jesus Christ were formerly a glam band; a really decent glam band called Attitude. You may recall their video on Much for “Tear The Walls Down”. I still have their indi cassette, and some of the songs on it were pretty good. Grunge then came and went, and Attitude decided to toughen up, and go full-on metal. They changed their name to Jesus Christ for attention, which didn’t really work.

You can find this CD in just about every clearance bin in the province. I paid $24.99 at HMV in 1994 without hearing a note; a decade later I was clearing these out of my bargain bin for 99 cents.

Musically this is really heavy, poorly produced detuned sludge-thrash metal circa 1994 when you weren’t allowed to have catchy riffs or solos anymore. Lots of screaming vocals, not a lot of catchy parts or memorable songs. Downtuned guitars and pseudo-metal grooves are the norm here. It kind of reminds me of an early 90’s version of St. Anger. Headache inducing, harsh, not a lot of melody or songcraft.

Best tunes:

  • “Peace By Piece” (angry song…rahr!)
  • “I Hate” (another angry one, rahr rahr! but with some dynamics)
  • “Ace of Spades” (yes, a Motorhead cover)

And that’s pretty much it. The rest is one chugging detuned song into the other.

2/5 stars

SAM_1562

 

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