Canadian rock

REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – “Day After Day (Rose-Coloured Glasses)” (1987 Remix single)

BLUE RODEO – “Day After Day (Rose-Coloured Glasses)” (Remix) (1987 Warner 7″ single)

Blue Rodeo were off to a hell of a start.  With a debut LP produced by Terry Brown (Rush), the uncategorizable band eventually went four times platinum in Our Home and Native Land.  Their first single, “Outskirts” didn’t do much, but the followup singles sure did.  Because of its unforgettable chorus, “Rose-Coloured Glasses” was renamed “Day After Day”, with the original title in parentheses.  It was also remixed for the 7″ format.  The 7″ remix remains exclusive to the single, despite a massive Blue Rodeo box set released not that long ago.

Purchased for 99 cents by Dr. Kathryn Ladano somewhere out in the boonies (possibly Radio Shack in Port Elgin), this copy looks like it was marked for clearance.  There is a telltale burn mark on the inner ring of the record.  Anything with non-album tracks or versions was on our radar for collecting and we didn’t care about little burn marks if the record was 99 cents!

The remix isn’t drastically different; some minor changes.  The song didn’t need any help.  As one of Blue Rodeo’s best from the early days, it’s still pure delight.  Greg Keelor’s lyrics are that of a lovestruck poet, something he does very well.  He often finds himself entranced by new love.  “But there’s something in those eyes that keeps me hanging on, I’m hypnotised.”  Still he’s always grounded in his own reality.  “See a world that’s tired and scared from living on the edge too long.  Where does she get off telling me that love could save us all?”  I love everything about it.  The music is full of joy and hope just like the object of Greg’s affection.

The B-side, “Floating”, is an unlisted edit version.  Cut down from 7:53, this version runs at 7:28.  There’s about 7 seconds of noise missing from the opening, and the rest seems to be taken off of the end.  That’s means you’re not getting all of Bob Wiseman’s nutty organ soloing, but who are we kidding, you already have the album anyway.  In contrast to the A-side, this is one of Greg’s more nocturnal explorations.  Are those waves crashing that I hear?  Blue Rodeo jam on this long bomber, the title of which is descriptive of the music.  “And I feel like William Holden floating in a pool,” goes the line that gives the song its name.

This is a band that has it all:  writing, playing, and singing.  They don’t use outside writers and their live shows feature jams that go on for days.  I’m going to get a little preachy here.  If you’re going to jump on the Blue Rodeo train, may as well start at the beginning with songs like “Rebel”, “Try” and of course “Day After Day”…or “Rose-Coloured Glasses”.  It doesn’t matter as long as you get it in your ears.  Hell, Bob Wiseman on his own is a brilliant and entertaining artist.  Throw in the rest of the original lineup and you have a formidable contender for Canada’s greatest band.  Greg Keelor’s guitar playing has always been underappreciated, though Jim Cuddy’s golden voice gets all the praise it earns.  Basil Donovan’s bass is in-demand due to his innate sense of rhythm and melody.  And Cleave Anderson, the former punk drummer who went country, just has a “sound”.  It’s simple and it’s his, just like Johnny Fay.  Though the band today is larger and more versatile, original Blue Rodeo was a special thing.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Sloan – “Stood Up” / “Same Old Flame” (1995 7″ single)

SLOAN – “Stood Up” / “Same Old Flame” (1995 murderecords 7″ single)

Though those without the syrup of the Mighty Maple flowing through their veins might not be familiar with Sloan, there are some who consider the east-coast quartet to be Canada’s greatest rock band.  With four writers / singers / instrumentalists, it’s an argument with some merit.  Though some say they are too sloppy live, in the studio they have some truly shining diamonds.  Some of those gems aren’t even from albums.

1995 was a difficult time for Sloan.  After receiving no support from Geffen for their shoulda-been breakthrough album Twice Removed, the band either broke up, or were about to break up, or considered themselves broken up even though they weren’t.  The double A-sided “Stood Up” and “Same Old Flame” single comes from this murky period in their timeline, released on their own label murderecords.  (In Japan, these two songs were included as bonus tracks on their third full length CD, One Chord to Another.)

“Stood Up” is a Chris Murphy number with a catchy tremolo guitar hook.  The lo-fi recording is so tasty.  Sloan’s usual vocal harmonies create the melodic blend you expect, but that relentless guitar groove is center stage.  Not dark, but shady, with energetic shouts.  By contrast, Patrick Pentland’s “Same Old Flame” is light and upbeat.  The fun verses set up a more plaintive chorus, all danceable.  Though both songs are equally strong, it’s “Same Old Flame” that you will singing and tapping your feet to.

For only $7, I found this single at yet another record show in Guelph with my buddy Peter.  Today it sells for twice that.  Though I hoped to find more than just one Sloan single that day (“Rhodes Jam” still eludes me), at least I left with what I came for.  A great single for any Sloan collection, big or small.  An essential one in fact, now that everybody is into vinyl again as their primary format.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Storm Force – Age of Fear (2020 Japanese import)

STORM FORCE – Age of Fear (2020 Japanese import)

If 2020 is indeed the Age of Fear, then at least Storm Force have brought us the album that we deserve for all our suffering.  Released before the pandemic but with some eerily relevant lyrics to our current time, Age of Fear is one of the most kickass discs you are going to hear this year.

Storm Force features the stellar talents of former Brighton Rock guitarist Greg Fraser, powerhouse singer Patrick Gagliardi, drum monster Brian Hamilton, and groovin’ bassist Mike Berardelli.  Fans of Brighton Rock (R.I.P.) will recognize the tone and stylings of the six-string magician they call Fraze.  That said, Gagliardi’s arena-sized vocals cords are what will draw you in to this band immediately.

Storm Force waste little time cutting to the chase.  The single-ready “Because of You” opens with some epic sci-fi keyboards that might have you feeling you’re at the intro to a progressive concept album.  But then Fraze hits you with a cool stuttery riff, and Patrick’s in your ears with a classic hard rock voice with grit and range to spare.  But you want hooks?  Storm Force deliver on “Because of You”, a song that would have been a massive hit in an earlier time.

Without letup it’s the title track “Age of Fear”, ushered in by the mountainous drumming of Brian Hamilton.  He and Mike Berardelli are locked in.  The riff has a bit of Darkness and the melody has shades of Dio. It’s an uptempo blast through midnight, but even that is just a warmup for the third track “Breathe”. With guest vocals from Serena Pryne, it’s a full-on epic. Keyboard accents lend it appropriate drama. This song is massive, powerful and perfect.  In another universe, a hit. Watch for a music video coming soon.

“Ember Rain” gives us the first true ballad. The ringing acoustics and storytelling guitar solos recall some of the best of late 80s Whitesnake. Listen to the bass roll, and how the sparingly and effectively the drum fills are used. After a ballad, it’s best to chase it with a heavy headbanger. “Ride Like Hell” is a vicious road tune that Axl Rose wishes he wrote. The chorus nails it home, and the solos are eloquent.

“Dirty Vegas” was the first Storm Force video and you can hear why.  With a title like “Dirty Vegas” you can count on a party tune.  With bite, and a chorus that goes on for days.  Music like this is what we need right now.

Storm Force know you need a comedown after a track like “Dirty Vegas” so an upbeat acoustic-based tune called “More Than You Know” is there to sooth your aching rock hangover.  But it’s only temporary as “Marshall Law” has come to bust the door down!  It takes a real singer to deliver on a track like this and Gagliardi is world-class.  Truly one of the hottest on the scene today and one listen to “Marshall Law” is all it should take to convince you.

These guys know how to pace an album, and a piano ballad called “Different Roads” occupies the all-important second-to-last track.  The vocals on this one are on a whole ‘nother level!  Gagliardi can do so much with his voice that I could probably convince you that he is actually two singers.  For penultimate tracks, “Different Roads” is one of those ballads that could close a record in its own right, but actually sets you up for one more knock to the skull.  “Ringside”, like its title suggests, is not a ballad.  It’s a high velocity adventure in heavy metal histrionics.  And that closes the album with a slam!…

…Unless you’re one of the lucky who owns a Japanese CD (or an iTunes download).  The bonus track on those formats is “Weight of the World”, a song certainly equal to the others on the album.  A solid rocker, “Weight of the World” might express how some of us feel right now.  “The weight of the world is tearing out the heart of me.”  Ever felt that way?

Expertly constructed songs.  Thoughtful lyrics.  World class production by Darius Szczepaniak.  Veteran performances by artists at the top of their craft.  An album we desperately needed in 2020.  Get Age of Fear.

5/5 stars

If you missed it, check out our live interview with Storm Force from September 4 2020 starting at the 0:16:50 mark.  Thanks to Superdekes for helping setting that up.

 

REVIEW: Helix – Eat Sleep Rock (2020)

HELIX – Eat Sleep Rock (2020 Perris)

If there’s one thing you can count on, even in 2020, it’s that Helix keep on keeping on. 46 years running, and a new compilation CD on the shelves called Eat Sleep Rock.  Sounds a bit like Brian Vollmer’s life story!  Helix have given us two new songs and nine previously released numbers.  As has been the case recently, the cover art is by former guitarist Brent “The Doctor” Doerner.

We love Helix, but opening with “The Story of Helix” is a bit of a misfire.  I get that it would be a great opener for Helix’s acoustic gigs (it even has band member intros), but it’s a sluggish start to an album.  On this track, Brian Vollmer takes us through Helix history, with the odd musical segues through “Billy Oxygen”, “She Loves You”, “Heavy Metal Love”, and “Lick It Up” among others as the story progresses.  Even “Teen Spirit” in the 90s, “when everything went to shit”.  But what didn’t kill them made Helix stronger and they’ve certainly made great albums since.  Some of their best in fact.  Eat Sleep Rock contains shining gems aplenty of post-grunge-era Helix rawk.  But “The Story of Helix” should have been left for the last track on the album.

The good news is that Vollmer proudly proclaims he will “NEVER” retire!  And if the second song, “Eat – Sleep – Rock” is any indication, that’s a good thing.  This is a HEAVY Helix.  Produced by Daryl Gray, with guitars aided and abetted by Sean Kelly, this one smokes.  There ain’t no rest for the wicked, as “Eat – Sleep – Rock” resoundingly demonstrates.  Long-time Helix fans are going to love this newbie that recalls the fire and fury of 1984 all over again.

As mentioned in “The Story of Helix”, the 90s were not kind to Kitchener’s favourite band.  That said, they still put out three excellent albums in that decade, the last of which was 1998’s half-ALIVE.  It was the first Helix release in five years and included some new material to go with the live side.  “Shock City Psycho Rock” and “Wrecking Ball” (both heavy hitters) are two of the best.  “Shock City” is an upbeat boogie, and “Wrecking Ball” just slams.  Giving these two songs fresh attention is a good thing.

Brian Vollmer’s solo album When Pigs Fly (1999) is a Helix album in all but name, so “I’m A Live Frankenstein” is a valid addition.  This grinder has a hint of industrial rock and Helix alumnus Brian Doerner on drums.  It sounds a little out of place, but as Vollmer alluded, the 90s were a weird time.

“Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved In His Hometown)” is a scorcher originally from the excellent Bastard of the Blues (2014).  That album is criminally forgotten, and it’s actually under-represented here.  The guitar hook and chorus melody will gnaw away at you until it’s right in your brain.  “Cyber Space Girl” (from 2007’s The Power of Rock and Roll) hasn’t been on a compilation before.  It’s another great tune from a tragically forgotten album.  The Power of Rock and Roll was loaded with heavy melodic tunes, and “Cyber Space Girl” definitely deserves a revisit.  Even better though is “When the Bitters Get the Better of You” from the superb Vagabond Bones (2009).  That was the first Helix album to feature Daryl Gray, Greg “Fritz” Hinz, and Doctor Doerner since the 90s.  They loaded it with top-notch songs and “Bitters” is just one of many.  It’s another boogie, so get down!

Later, in 2017, Helix issued a bitchin’ 12″ single for “The Devil is Having a Party Tonight” and “The Tequila Song”.  Both those songs resurface here.  I’ve said it before, but Helix have written a better song about tequila than Sammy Hagar ever has or will.  As for the classic metal sounds of “Devil”, it has a positively beastly bass groove.  These are both great tunes.  Now you can get them affordably on CD.  And of course, “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead” (from 2016’s Rock-It Science) still stands up.  It ran the risk of being a novelty, but holds up in the present.  Gene did proclaim rock to be dead, many times.  I’m glad he was wrong.  If he wasn’t, then Brian Vollmer couldn’t still Eat Sleep Rock today!  But he can, and so the Helix band keep putting out worthwhile new material.

The track listing for this CD was well chosen as there is minimal overlap with other compilations (with three in common with Rock-It Science).  It spotlights songs that haven’t have their rightful day in the sun.  The only thing I’d do is move “The Story of Helix” to the end.  Minor quibble aside, if you haven’t bought a new Helix album in a while then now’s the time.

4/5 stars

#860: We Stand Alone

This chapter is dedicated to Michael LeFevre

GETTING MORE TALE #860: We Stand Alone

On a recent road trip with Jen to the lake, I chose the music according to my recent modus operandi:  80s retro rock.  The stuff I used to listen to at the lake when I was 15 or 16 years old.  This time I decided on the Killer Dwarfs’ Big Deal album from 1988.  I didn’t get the cassette until the cottage season of ’89.  I have a lot of nostalgia for that year.  I turned 17, I had friends, and I even met a girl that liked me.  We held hands once!

The title Big Deal referred to the Dwarfs’ signing their big record deal with Epic.  This was their major label debut.  After two indies, they finally signed the “big deal”, and even made a music video lampooning the idea.  The album is a solidly hard rock album with a melodic side and a dash of dreams.  Big Deal‘s theme is dreaming, and making it come true.  Self determination.  It doesn’t sound like the band had to compromise too much in making the album. While a tad softer than the predecessor Stand Tall (1986), it sounds like a natural evolution from that point.  Better background vocals, cleaner production, and more considered arrangements.

Epic Records even funded a jokey video for “We Stand Alone”, though unusually dark.  It was very much a sequel to “Stand Tall (Stick To Your Guns)” from the prior album.  This time, the band sign to a label (in blood!) who forces them to change their image and name to the “Cuddly Dwarfs”.  They are forced to cut and style their hair.  They give it a go, but by the end Russ Dwarf breaks his puppeteer’s strings and re-emerges with wild hair, tricycle and goofy stage shenanigans.

As the album played in the car, my brain immediately began flashing back to those times (as has been routine lately). Like an old film projector, images appeared in my mind. I was sitting in the basement, hand on the remote control of the VCR, ready to hit “record” on the new Killer Dwarfs video. Bob Schipper may have been watching with me, or he may have come over later. Either way, we both enjoyed the song, which was their most melodic yet. I can remember my thoughts and feelings watching the video, which had a tenebrous edge. I seem to have a reaction to videos where people have goey stuff dumped on their heads, like in Gowan’s video for “A Criminal Mind”. Killer Dwarfs had similar imagery in “We Stand Alone”, when faceless record company suits issue new haircuts for the Dwarfs. As such I’ll always see the video, and thus hear the song, with a sense of…shadow.

As the Dwarfs themselves have said, the videos may have been comedies, but the music and lyrics have always been dead serious.  The album in general has a similar dark vibe for me. The records before and after were more aggressive, but Big Deal seems to have a different focus.  Songs like “Power”, “Lifetime” and “Tell Me Please” have a certain foreboding to them for me.  Others are different, like the accelerated “Burn It Down” which recalls the Dwarfs of old.  There are no real duds on the album, which is a workmanlike slab of granite to seek out if you like 80s metal or Canadian rock bands.

The Dwarfs did well enough but didn’t have a major breakthrough.  They were always respected, tending to get better album after album.  I read a few critiques of Russ Graham’s voice, calling it too nasal like fellow Canadian Geddy Lee.  If that’s a dealbreaker for you, it’s best to move on.  While Russ is more aggressive than Geddy, I do hear the resemblance they are referring to.  But don’t forget guitarist Mike Hall, who doesn’t get enough credit for his solo work and tasteful use of the whammy bar.  On drums, the Dwarfs boast the heavy hitting Darrell Dwarf (Millar), an animated character who provides the ever-important thump.  And of course Bad Ronbo Mayer on bass and backing vocals, keeping it together.

Peak Dwarfs for me was 1990’s Dirty Weapons, a seriously good heavy rock album with attitude and riffs.  I have a whole different set of memories of that album, but not as nostagic.  Dirty Weapons came at Childhood’s End, a period of rapid change.  There it remains emblazoned in that part of my memory forever.

Storm Force! Greg, Pat and Brian join Deke and LeBrain in the Age of Fear!

Thanks to Greg Fraser, Patrick Gagliardi, and surprise guest Brian Hamilton of Storm Force for joining Deke and I Friday night!  It was a free-form chat tackling subjects such as:

  • The album Age of Fear
  • Memorable impact gigs
  • Canadian Rock
  • New music
  • Secrets to singing
  • Thunder Bay
  • Touring and touring and touring
  • Brighton Rock and Gerry McGhee

And much much more!

In addition I did a CD reveal for this week’s mail.  New music from Amazon and Buried On Mars!  The only thing better than new discs is new discs from friends.  These ones mean something to me, so check it out if you want to know what I’ll be spinning this weekend.

For the CD reveals, start at 0:04:15 of the stream.

For Storm Force, skip to 0:16:50 of the stream.

Thanks again to Greg, Pat, Brian and Superdekes for setting this chat up.  It was the first but won’t be the last.

REVIEW: Gowan – Strange Animal (1984)

GOWAN – Strange Animal (1984 CBS)

Strange Animal was only Lawrence Gowan’s second solo album, and one of his best sellers.  It’s also one of his most dated sounding, with programming and production honed in on the 1980s.  Regardless, you can’t knock the musicians:  Tony Levin (bass/Chapman Stick), Jerry Marotta (drums), and Chris Jarrett & David Rhodes (guitars).  Gowan basically lifted his studio band from Peter Gabriel.

Opener “Cosmetics” was a single, though just shy of cracking the Top 40.  It’s terribly dated sounding, with that wretched brittle synthetic sound that even Queen resorted to at one point.  So you might love it!  The piano is delectable and Gowan is as smooth as pie.  “Desperate” is darker, but I sure do hate synth hand-claps!  Fortunately this is a great song, akin to 80s Phil Collins.  Another really smooth one is “City of the Angels”, like a waltz at midnight.  Progressive rock invades “Walking on Air”, which lightly tip-toes from gentle rock to more aggressive guitars.

A delicate but powerful “Burning Torches of Hope” sits right at the middle of the album, and it is so very 80s.  Levin makes some animalist noise on “Keep the Tension On”, which sounds much like its title.  Taut, powerful, and even heavy in a certain way.  It’s melds right into a march on “Guerilla Soldier”, a killer song with terrific verse hooks.  Massive song!  It feels like this album builds to a close.  Especially when you consider the last two songs.

Finally, at the end of the album comes the familiar hits.  First:  a huge Chapman Stick groove, on the poppy upbeat title track.  “Strange Animal” is an awesome song: strictly fun, and incredibly so!  The melody stays in your head for days, and you’re hooked.  Ominous spiritus, ahh!  And then it’s his most famous song, “A Criminal Mind”, otherwise known as “the one that Styx play live”.  Solo, in the studio, “A Criminal Mind” is just as haunting, just as powerful, and just as unforgettable.  It also had one of the most disturbing music videos we had seen as young kids, and our reaction was revulsion.  On album, it is a capstone of a pretty terrific record.  It really feels like it should have opened.

Though ultimately it is up to the listener, unless you grew up with Strange Animal in the Walkman nestled in your back pocket, the programming and 80s-isms are a bit distracting.  It’s also strange how Gowan left all the big firepower stacked at the end of the album.  In the CD age, it just makes the whole thing more rewarding at the end!

3.5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Sven Gali – 3 (2020)

SVEN GALI – 3 (2020 EP)

Sven Gali have not had an easy ride.  Their debut Sven Gali was just a year too late to make them into the rock heroes they seemed destined to be.  Had it come out in 1991, they would have had a massive hit on their hands.  The second album Inwire (1995) was a reaction to the 90s alterna-metal scene.  The band reunited in 2007, but tragedy struck when cancer killed founding guitarist Dee Cernile in 2012.

Against the odds, Sven Gali persevered and in 2018 added some heavy firepower to the lineup:  Dan Fila and Sean Williamson of Varga.  One by one, they began releasing new tracks.  Now in 2020 we have the first new Sven Gali release in 25 years:  an EP called 3.

Somewhat surprisingly, Sven Gali did not revert back to the hard rock anthemic sound that was the cornerstone of their debut album.  Instead they picked up where they left off on Inwire, with four new songs produced by David Bendeth who also produced their debut.  Incredibly it sounds like they haven’t missed a step.  Even more incredibly, it’s some of their best stuff!  Singer Dave Wanless has lost nothing.  The band is still rounded out by original members:  guitarist Andy Frank and bassist Shawn Minden.

The four songs all share melodic vocal hooks, heavy guitars and aggressive grooves.  With the addition of Fila and Williamson, the band have rebuilt themselves into a beast heavier than before.  Picking a favourite isn’t possible because this EP is not immediate.  Like many favourites that stand the test of time, 3 will take some listens to fully absorb and love.  Fortunately we have a whole summer ahead of us to do that.  The EP has the depth and potential to become a bit of a classic.  Even if Inwire wasn’t your thing, this EP is better.  The songs are more focused, heavier, with more hooks.  The vocal melodies sometimes veer into an old anthemic metal style, like on “Hurt”.  By taking their time, Sven Gali were able to make sure they had four excellent tracks for this release.

Good on Sven Gali for sticking it out, and not resting on their laurels.  Any band can get replacement members and reunite.  Fewer still put out new music, much less on a physical media.  Sven Gali have put together a slammin’ new lineup and a triumphant EP.  You just can’t write this band off.

4/5 stars

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: Trapper – “Illégal” / “Bye bye mon cowboy” (2020 single)

It’s a LeBrain/Superdekes two-fer! Check out his Trapper review by clicking here.

TRAPPER – “Illégal” / “Bye bye mon cowboy” (2020 iTunes single)

Trapper are a Canadian supergroup who gained a bit of extra attention when they got to open for Def Leppard.  Sean Kelly (guitar), Emm Gryner (vocals/bass), Frank Gryner (bass/guitar) and Tim Timleck (drums) impressed everyone with their version of “Illégal” by Corbeau on the concert stage.  Their only EP sold out long ago, but now Trapper are back with a studio version of “Illégal”.  The two-track iTunes single is backed by a surprising cover:  “Bye bye mon cowboy” by Mitsou.  Two Canadian covers, both in French…ballsy move for a single!

“Illégal” has a beautifully chunky riff, and Kelly captures that with a nice crunchy guitar tone.  Emm Gryner’s lead vocal is to die for, squealing in all the right parts, shouting it out loud, and delivering the goods.  She has depth, grit, power — the whole package.  The drums are huge.  When you hear it you’ll be wondering where this song has been your whole life.  And that’s all before you hit the guitar solo, a treat in itself, like something from a classic Bon Jovi track that you never heard before.

Now I’ll be honest about something here.  As a snobbish rock fan in the 1980s, I hated “Bye bye mon cowboy”.  It was on MuchMusic all the time and I grew weary of Mitsou.  But I like Trapper’s version!  I am pretty sure Mitsou didn’t have this much guitar.  Transformed into a rock song, “Bye bye mon cowboy” works!  The groove is perfect and Emm’s delivery is just right.  Big rock hooks, while still retaining everything important about the original.

As for that guitar crunch?  Sean Kelly says “Can’t beat a Les Paul and a Marshall!  (Actually the Headrush Plexi amp simulator.)”  There you have it, players!

I wholeheartedly endorse Trapper’s “Illégal” and “Bye bye mon cowboy” for your patio this summer.  I knew this was going to be good, but I didn’t expect to like “Bye bye mon cowboy” as much as I do.  They rocked it up, put it in my ballpark, and I’m pumping my fists to Mitsou!  Grab ’em on iTunes today, and cross your fingers and hope Trapper have more music coming in the future.

5/5 stars