Canadian rock

REVIEW: Lee Aaron – Radio On! (2021)

LEE AARON – Radio On! (2021 Metalville)

With a long career travelling landscapes of rock, jazz and metal, Lee Aaron has returned on CD with 12 new tracks that represent some of her best work to date.  It’s called Radio On! and it’s an apt title.  These are radio-ready tunes built for summer purposes.  For best results, roll down those windows and hit the highway with Lee Aaron on your deck, loud.

Lee’s band with whom she wrote and recorded Radio On! include Sean Kelly on guitar, Dave Reimer on bass, and John Cody on drums.  With a guy like Kelly contributing licks, you know you can count on some smokin’ guitar hooks and that’s exactly what you get on opener “Vampin'”.  Hard hitting, but constructed with melody in mind.  Lee is one of those artists for whom time has not passed.  As she’s explored genres other than rock, she’s only gotten better and that shows on “Vampin'”.  It belies the jazz records in her discography, but make no mistake, this is rock!  Kelly’s solo break ensures it.

A collection of vintage-sounding riffs on the mid-tempo “Soul Breaker” lend it a melodic base.  Lee uses that to springboard into hook after hook.  Future classic potential.  A memorable solo is like a maraschino cherry on top.  Things turn slightly pop-punk on “C’Mon”, a brilliant single that will be lighting up stereos all summer long.  Check out John Cody’s cool drum pattern and the jabbing stun-gun melodies that Lee delivers.

A diverse album this is, with “Mama Don’t Remember” sounding like a rocked-up roadhouse blues.  You can picture a band playing this number in a seedy bar with dusty beams of light leaking through the walls.  Then it’s the title track and the memorable hook “I wanna die with the radio on”.  Me too, Lee!

“Soho Crawl”, backed by bouncy piano, rocks pretty hard in a different direction.  Another road is explored on the dark “Devil’s Road”, with bass leading the way.  Burning slow, laden with some of Lee’s finest words, “Devil’s Road” has the potential to be the kind of song that makes an album immortal, like a “Black Velvet”.

Picking up the pace, “Russian Doll” has the “Radar Love” rocking boogie, while Lee belts line after line of sticky sweet vocal candy.  Kelly dives right into parts unknown for the wicked solo.  Live, this is the song that will get people up and dancing.  But this album doesn’t linger in the same places too long, and so the mid-tempo “Great Big Love” takes a different road.  Opposites attract in the lyrics, and the music leaves lots of room for Lee to do her thang.  Her lyrics just keep getting better.  “It all comes down to chemistry, the science is in babe and science don’t lie.”  There’s a swing and a country feel to it.

“Wasted” goes to dark territory.  Serious subject matter, but wrapped gently in some of the most beautiful music Lee Aaron’s ever sung.  All before it explodes punkily in the middle for a rousing chorus.  Shifting into a funk groove, “Had Me at Hello” has some wicked rhythm.  Lee’s playful words are an instrument to their own as the band jams on.

Finally closing on a piano ballad, Radio On! feels like a journey.  The last leg is “Twenty One” which is likely to take you back in time.  “Always in my mind, I’m 21.”  It’s a vocal tour-de-force, ending an album full of ’em.

It’s worth celebrating any time a beloved artist from our past puts out a truly great album these days.  For it to be one of the best albums of their career, that’s something very special.  Respect to Mike Fraser for another perfect mix.  Summer 2021 just gained another mainstay for its soundtrack.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

#920: Wild in the Streets – Helix – Center in the Square, Kitchener, 1987

RECORD STORE TALES #920: Wild in the Streets
Helix – Center in the Square, Kitchener, 1987

We simply could not wait to see our first real concert.

As soon as the date was announced, we got tickets:  Helix with a band called Haywire opening.  Center in the Square, downtown Kitchener.  We were second row mezzanine.  Bob and I were so psyched to finally see our first real rock concert.

We wanted to bring a banner that said “HOMETOWN HELIX”.  We dreamed big.

Helix were hot on the road for their new album, Wild in the Streets.  We’d seen the video and knew what their stage show was going to look like.  The stage set played on the brick wall artwork from the album cover, with two ramps on the sides, that resembled the “fangs” in the Helix logo.  We thought those ramps were absolutely badass.  We couldn’t wait to see Brian Vollmer slide down mid-song,

We were not interested in Haywire — too pop.  The two girls in front of us were obviously Haywire fans.  They had the shirts and were going nuts for singer Paul MacAusland.  Bob and I didn’t think much of him, especially when he laid down flat on his face on the stage.  “That’s his stage move?” we questioned.  Bob liked the guitarist, but I wanted to hear some “real” rock, not this.

A kid from our school, Brian Knight, was there in the loges on the side.  He boasted the next day at school that Helix were not that good; he had seen better.  Ironically he later went on to roadie for Helix.  He could be seen in the 1991 MuchMusic special Waltzing with Helix.  He was also acknowledged in Brian Vollmer’s book Gimme An R, albeit his name was misspelled “McKnight”.  Sadly, Brian passed away this year.

What Brian claimed was simply untrue.  It might have been our first real rock concert, but it was a hell of a first.  We didn’t know a lot of the songs but we knew the hits and some of the deep cuts from Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge.  They certainly played everything we wanted to hear, including the new single “Dream On”, “Wild in the Streets”, “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'”, “Rock You”, “Heavy Metal Love”, “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”, “Kids are all Shakin'”, and “Deep Cuts the Knife”.  They also played a new tune that we found amusing.  It went, “Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye” (“Kiss It Goodbye”).  Fritz Hinz took a drum solo, and turned around and shockingly revealed his bare bottom with nothing but a jock strap.  We laughed – we were easily entertained!

The highlight of the show was when Vollmer climbed the loges, and then ran all the way across the mezzanine, right past our noses!  We could hardly believe it.  Bob reached out his hand but Brian didn’t slap it.  I simply made a fist, like “right on man”!  It was amazing how we’d been watching this guy climb up, and then make his way in our direction…and then he ran past and it was over in a second!  Before we knew it he was on the other side, and climbing back down to the stage again.  We knew he had a reputation for climbing on top of things and doing somersaults, but we sure didn’t know that was going to happen when we bought our tickets!

Helix didn’t make as much use of the side ramps as I thought they would, but they did put on a hell of a show.  Doctor Doerner played that big doubleneck that we wanted to see so bad, and of course the “Wild in the Streets” guitar.  We got to see all their stage moves and tricks, and yes, the women in the audience were unlike any we’d ever seen before outside of a video.

We got all the songs we wanted, plus a few we didn’t know like “Dirty Dog”.  They put on one of the most energetic shows that I’m ever likely to see.  It was the MTV/MuchMusic era and all we had seen before were music videos.  The quick cut-and-paste editing of a music video is hard to compete with.  Helix had to work hard on stage, and they went above and beyond that night.

Not a bad “first”.  What I did notice was that Vollmer’s voice sounded thinner than on album.  I wondered if all concerts were like that?  I couldn’t believe how deaf I was afterwards!  Both of us were experiencing this for the first time.  It was a strange sensation and we must have been yelling in the car the whole way home, when my dad came to pick us up.

We couldn’t stop talking about Helix for days.  Weeks.  They didn’t really have to win us over; they were hometown heroes to us.  Instead Helix just cemented our loyalty.  It is said that a great rock show can change a life.  In this case, it simply affirmed everything we had hoped.

Rock Candy reissue

REVIEW: Suicide Star – Isolation (2021)

SUICIDE STAR – Isolation (2021)

If you are looking for something classic but modern, with lyrics that matter, then cease your quest.  Suicide Star’s debut called Isolation should be the salve that your soul is craving.  From the ashes of former band Step Echo, with new lead singer Rob Barton, this band is ready to kick 2021’s ass.

CD buyers get a bonus that streamers and downloaders do not — an intro before the lead track “I Survive”.  This intro, complete with air raid siren, explains the “suicide star” concept (with a shout-out to Neil DeGrasse Tyson).  It’s an explosive astronomy lesson!  Isolation is available now, just give the band a shout on social media and it’ll be in your hot little hands before you know it.

Opener “I Survive” is a positive start, with lyrics like “We’ve only just begun, this is the place where I wanna feel alive.”  Rob Barton’s got the pipes and the band has the heft.  Uptempo and heavy, this is the kind of rock we need right now.  The riff by seven-stringer Les Serran kicks, and bassist Aki Maris has the groove locked with drummer Brian Hamilton (also of Storm Force).  If you wanted something energetic and defiant this summer, here ya go.

The first video is for “Mercy”, another upbeat and catchy number.  Each one of these songs has hooks, both vocal and guitar, and “Mercy” just doesn’t let up.  “Have mercy on my anger,” sings Barton with intent.  Lots going on here lyrically, but framed in such a way that you can relate to the words in whatever way suits you.

After two sledgehammer tunes, the track “Suicide Star” delivers melodies that are more on the pop side, but with the heavy backing intact.  “Hold on, before you go too far, don’t you know who you are?  You’re a suicide star.”  Cannot get that chorus out of the skull!

The “power ballad” (if you will) is “Eye of the Storm”, but the emphasis is still on the “power” rather than the “ballad”.  It has a majestic guitar riff, and lyrics with some serious heart.  Barton sings ’em with passion, which is necessary when the band rocks this heavy behind.

Back to a tune with a classic metal vibe, “21 Guns” has kick and melody.  “Just say you will,” goes the unforgettable chorus, with some killer chords in behind.  Then comes the heavy “Follow” with a staggering riff, and Priest-like vibes.  The lyrics are fascinating and open to multiple interpretations.  It certainly could be about the last year!   “When the lie becomes the truth…”

“Love Me Like You Mean It” has a Darkness kind of riff; tremendous hooks.  This continues into “No Looking Back”, another lyric that could be about current times.  “I just roll with the changes,” sings Barton.  We can all relate to that.  The hooks don’t let up on “Fractured”, a more plaintive yet still heavy rocker.  The final track is appropriately titled “The Unknown” and concludes the album-length series of catchy vocals and guitar parts.

By the time you’re done the album, you’re still fresh to go in for a second listen.  There is enough going on in terms of guitars and lyrics that you’ll want multiple listens to drink it all in.

4.5/5 stars

Check out this interview by Deke and I with Rob and Brian from Suicide Star. Get an appreciation for the album and what it took to make it.

Sunday Screening: Trapper – “The Warrior”

This week we had Sean Kelly on the LeBrain Train. In order to highlight one of his many fun works, here is his version of “The Warrior” performed by Trapper with Emm Gryner on lead vocals.  The classic Scandal cover features a great guitar solo — a “composition within a composition” as Sean might say.  Check it some Trapper!

REVIEW: Coney Hatch – Live at the El Mocambo (2021 limited edition)

CONEY HATCH – Live at the El Mocambo (2021 limited numbered & autographed edition)

It only took four decades, but like a fine Chardonnay, time made it just parfait.  Coney Hatch’s first live album, recorded back in October 2020 at the legendary El Mocambo is, in a word:  perfect.

First, let’s define “perfect”.  “Perfect” doesn’t mean “exactly like the studio versions”.  Not when we’re talking about live albums.  It means there’s an exciting vibe, great songs, top-notch performances, and a band that sounds like they’re out for blood.  Coney sound as if there was no pressure — but they delivered their best anyway.

Four albums, 15 tracks, over an hour of tunes.  Live at the El Mocambo represents the entire career of Coney Hatch, including all your favourites like “Stand Up”, “Devil’s Deck”, “Monkey Bars”, and “Hey Operator”.  A couple great tunes from Coney Hatch Four (like “Marseilles”) prove that the Hatch lost nothing when they reunited a few years back.  While everyone will have their own highlights, “Wrong Side of Town” absolutely smokes.  The album is paced perfectly with more contemplative tunes like “She’s Gone” balanced out by bangers like “Boys Club”.  Lots of songs about “girls gone bad”, according to Carl.

Andy Curran discusses Live at the El Mocambo

The on-stage banter by Andy Curran and Carl Dixon is warm and humorous.  It’s clear that they appreciate where they are in their careers now, fortunate to have this amazing second run.  In the back, drummer Dave “Thumper” Ketchum gives us an idea of how he earned that nickname.  But let’s not forget the newest member, guitarist Sean Kelly, who proves why he is one of the most in-demand players you’re likely to hear these days.  His ripping licks on this record are hair raising.

Another strength is that these guys have lost nothing in terms of vocal abilities.  It’s all there.  How Carl hits the notes he does, is actually unknown to modern science.  Andy Curran has just as much expression as ever, the ying the Carl’s yang.  When the band sing together on a big chorus, it’s arena-ready.

The first 100 copies came signed by all four members, and with a Coney Hatch can cooler!  If that’s not an invitation to get your buzz on with this great album, I don’t know what is.  It’s done in true bootleg style:  plain white cover, with logo stamped on the front, and plain white labels on the records.  The track listing is on a separate insert.   The non-limited version is available for you to purchase so get on that right now!

5/5 stars

 

GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: Chantal Kreviazuk – Friday, February 12, 2021 (Sessions Live) by Dr. Kathryn Ladano

Review by Dr. Kathryn Ladano

CHANTAL KREVIAZUK – Friday, February 12, 2021 (via Sessions Live)

I’m going to preface this review by saying that at the start of the pandemic, I spoke openly about how I didn’t like virtual concerts and didn’t think they could ever replace live concerts. While I still feel that virtual concerts can’t and won’t replace live concerts, now, after viewing a number of virtual events, I’m seeing that they are simply different animals. And the best virtual concerts I’ve seen are the ones that embrace the fact that it’s a different and new platform. In other words, the ones that aren’t trying to be replacements for live concerts. Friday night (February 12 2021) I attended Chantal Kreviazuk’s live-streamed concert presented by Sessions Live, which definitely falls into the category of digital concerts that embrace the platform, and in the process give you something new and innovative, and in this case, really intimate as well.

Chantal’s concert was streamed from her own home. We got to see her perform on her own piano with a simple black background with three of her own paintings in the background with a couple of candles in front (we learned during the concert that the artwork was all painted by Chantal and put on display for the live concert by her husband, Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace). There was a single camera being used that allowed the audience a side view of Chantal and her piano as she performed. The format was very unique: She had no pre-determined set list going into the concert. Instead, she asked for audience requests via social media leading up to the concert, and then also took requests via the chat option on the Sessions Live platform. You really felt that you were witnessing something new and special. Nothing was pre-planned, which meant that Chantal would get requests for songs that she hadn’t played in decades. What I loved about this was that instead of just skipping over those requests, she tried to play the songs anyway – even when she couldn’t remember the lyrics and wasn’t sure of the melodic or harmonic material either. As an artist myself, I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t have even attempted to play something for an audience that I wasn’t 100% confident in my ability to do – so I really, really admire her for doing this. The music was all about the fans – not her image, not her vanity, not to display her skills as a pianist or singer. I feel that this is exceptionally rare, and it was one of the things that made the night so special.

In addition, doing the concert from her home meant that you got a little glimpse into Chantal’s life. At one point she wanted some water, so she grabbed her phone and texted Raine upstairs, asking him to bring down a glass (during the middle of her live stream!). Raine arrived a couple minutes later with a glass of white wine instead of water. While Chantal wanted him to appear on camera, he refused and all we saw was his hand as he handed over the glass of wine. During her performance of “Before You”, which she sang right after receiving the glass of wine, and she referred to as Raine’s song, she tried to keep herself composed as her 12-year old son mimicked and did impressions of her off camera. These are the types of things that may seem trivial, but you’ll never see them as a part of a live show. As I said earlier, this show was just about the fans and what they wanted to hear, as well as creating an intimate and unique experience from home.

While I am most certainly fan of Chantal’s music, I must be perfectly honest and confess that I am primarily a fan of her first two albums. I own the first four, but I mostly just listen to the first two. When she first emerged in 1997 with the album Under These Rocks and Stones, her music hit me hard at a pivotal moment in my life. I was in my early 20’s and the raw and angst-filled themes in those songs resonated with me in a way that no other music did. The first album does have some happier themes, but it also deals with loss, low self-esteem, feeling that one lacks in social prowess, death, unhealthy relationships, and feeling like one doesn’t deserve to be treated well by others. Chantal is only 2 years older than me, so I believe she was likely writing about what young women of that age feel and experience – and boy did it speak to me. Her second album, Colour Moving and Still was also a big favourite of mine. At this point in her life she was with Raine (she got married to him the same year the album was released), and you could begin to hear the influence of those “happier” themes in her music (such as in the song “Before You”). While this album wasn’t as dark thematically, it still had some very powerful material and still dealt with themes of death, loss, separation, and uncertainty. While the first album was more emotionally raw, the second album was more musically strong. Chantal is a classically trained pianist and you can really tell – there’s no doubt that she has chops. As someone who was studying music performance in university at the time, this was another reason why her music resonated with me. The music and the piano playing were so much more sophisticated than most of the other popular music I was hearing at the time. As I said earlier, the first two albums are what I’m mostly a fan of. That’s not to say her later music isn’t as strong, it just didn’t impact or resonate with me the same way, so I’ve found myself less attached to it (even though I love many of the singles from her third and subsequent albums). Chantal writes from within – from her own life. And I think that when she got into a happy marriage and had kids, her music shifted along with her lifestyle, and I just didn’t exactly shift with it. I couldn’t relate to it the same way.

That being said, last night’s concert was a real treat because many of the fans sending in requests were asking for songs from the earlier albums. While I think I may have forgotten a song or two, I do recall the following songs being performed: “Feels Like Home”, “Time”, “Green Apples” (she couldn’t quite remember all of this one), “Souls” (she also couldn’t quite remember all of this one), “Before You”, “Unforgivable”, “All I Can Do”,  “What if it All Means Something”, and “Surrounded”. She also sang a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to an audience member named Jennifer. This is where I learned that Chantal’s real name is Jennifer, and Chantal is actually her middle name. She mentioned that this concert was one in a set of three that will be coming up over the next little while. She also ran out of time and promised that the next performance would feature “Wayne” from the first album (the song that hooked me as a fan), and “Wings” from her most recent album. I also have a song named “Wings” on my latest album! But they couldn’t sound more different from one another.

In addition to the concert ticket, I also purchased a one-on-one meet and greet with Chantal following the show. It was very brief, but really great (each person had only 3-minutes, but she did go a little over with most people I think). I was very nervous and while I had several questions and comments pre-planned, I didn’t actually get any of them out. Instead I asked her about her dog who jumped into her lap during our chat. She is very personable though and I really appreciated even just having a couple minutes to talk to her like anyone else. I did want to tell her how much her first two albums impacted me, but I didn’t get that out either. All in all, it was a fantastic experience and I will definitely be attending the next live-stream in mid-March.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Triumph – “Spellbound” (1984 special promo 12″)

TRIUMPH – “Spellbound” (1984 MCA 12″ radio promo disc)

1984’s Thunder Seven was a big one in Canada, with “Spellbound” and “Follow Your Heart” both hitting the top 100 singles chart.  Triumph singles rarely offered up much in the way of non-album material, but the odd curiosity could be found.  This Triumph single for “Spellbound” was acquired by a friend, from Jerry’s Records in Pittsburgh back in 2013.

On the A-side, the standard 5:12 single version of “Spellbound” without edits.  You can really hear why this was a hit in 1984.  Triumph had learned to marry keyboard and guitar riffs for a bigger radio-ready sound.  With Gil Moore on lead vocals, “Spellbound” had huge chorus.  The track was also made into a cool video.

The B-side was specially designed for radio airplay.  Each track on Thunder Seven is given a brief special intro by the three band members.  You could look at this as an interview disc.  It’s nine minutes in length and not without value.  By listening we learn that “Spellbound”, for example, changed much from conception to release.  It was once titled “White Lies” before it was rewritten.  “Time Canon” was made up of 18 parts over 66 tracks.  Amazing stuff.  Their Canadian accents are adorable.

An excellent purchase for Triumph fans who have it all and need a little more.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Here Comes Jim – Where Evil is Afraid (1999)

HERE COMES JIM – Where Evil is Afraid – The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1999 Dark Star)

Full disclosure:  I used to know this quartet from Cambridge, Ontario Canada.  They were great.  When I first encountered Matt Greenhough and company, Faith No More had broken up and I was looking for something to replace them in my life.  Something heavy, non-mainstream and with bonkers lead vocals.  Here Comes Jim both terrified and delivered!  I wore their T-shirt, I played the CD in store, I flew the flag.  I loved this band.

That was 21 years ago.  I’m no longer the angry young man.  I wonder how this album sounds today?

It’s still sounds fucking great!  It’s noisy — lots of guitars fucking around.  “Unbridled Rock” meanders around but comes in to focus on the chorus.  The cowbell is a nice touch.  As remembered, the vocals really range from quiet sombering to full-on rage.  “Ran” combines a melodic sensibility with a noisy guitar drowning.  It’s a brilliant and unafraid mix of ingredients.

All the songs come flooding back even though I haven’t played this album in almost 20 years.  “Try to Keep it Clean” was always a favourite.  Melodic guitars and vocals against a cloudy backdrop.  Matty G (that’s what we called him) did the clean and shouty vocals equally well but he’s especially good when he’s singing clean.  He has a good handle on melody, but then at other times he just doesn’t give a shit about melody.  Sometimes it’s about volume, sometimes about atmosphere.  Many of the songs…float.  “Angel Has to Breathe” is one such song, hanging uncomfortably over you.  That is until the powerful chorus of “Who will save my soul?  Who will take my shit and go?”

One of my biggest favourites 20 years ago was the slamming “She Is”, perfect for thrashing out on air guitar.  The verses turn quiet and melodic, before the crash of distorted guitars return for an amazing chorus.  Then the next track negates all that with “Negator”, an absolutely insane thrash-o-matic scream-fest…with a drum solo!

“Negator” sample

Fun fact:  the feedback-laden instrumental track “5/5/2000” refers to an old book from the 1980s that claimed the world would end on that date, due to an alignment of the planets.  All I could think was, “Shit…we have to survive Y2k and then yet another doomsday scenario in May?  Come on!  Who comes up with this?”  The song is far more entertaining than the book from which it took its name.

I may not be an angry young man anymore but I get what I liked about Here Comes Jim beyond the friendship.  They wrote good, stabbingly aggressive, intelligent rock far off the beaten path.  I remember putting tracks like “She Is” and “Negator” on mix tapes and (later) CDs.  There are no songs that suck.  Only songs that rock.  Listening to Here Comes Jim is like going into the ring for 10 rounds and coming out with a concussion.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – The Big Fantasize (2020)

KIM MITCHELL – The Big Fantasize (2020 El Mocambo Records)

13 years ago Kim Mitchell released Ain’t Life Amazing, his last studio album.  He wasn’t exactly quiet in that time — there was his radio show on Q107 in Toronto, but then he had a heart attack!  You can’t keep Kim Mitchell down, and his new one The Big Fantasize is a quieter collection of contemplative music.  Some of it is rock, some of it is clearly not.  And that’s OK.  Whether or not he’s rocking, Kim’s songwriting yielded some pretty great material.  There are nine new tunes, plus a bonus four live tracks for those who bought the physical product (CD or LP).

The gentle call of a clarinet is the first sound to be heard on the new Kim, a surprise to be sure.  “Red Horizon” is a sparse acoustic ballad with clarinet accompaniment, and melody that tugs at the heart.  It’s a brave way to open the album but also an honest one.  “This is what I do now, so don’t expect ‘Rock and Roll Duty Part 2′” is what this track says as an opener.

That said, “2up2Bdown” has that guitar playing you love Kim for.  It rocks but in a new slick way.  It would have fit comfortably on an album like 1992’s Aural Fixations, but better than that.  It’s a celebration, and if it’s the only track that sounds like “old Kim” then at least it does it well.

“Summer Lovers Autumn Wine” presents quiet electric guitars and pianos dancing in the twilight.  Like much of Kim’s music, it paints an audio picture with his guitar.  The mood turns bright on the delightful acoustic “Wishes”.  Kim’s mastery of melody and expression is apparent.  He gets the beat hopping again on “Georgian Bay”, a piano rocker with no guitar, maybe a little bit like the Guess Who?  Or maybe that’s just a lazy comparison.  It doesn’t matter, it’ll be perfect for your next summer deck party (whenever that is).

“Best I Never Had” might be laid back, but it has a strong dusky blues vibe.  Soulful backup singing lends the right feel.  “Montgomery” is a highlight song, mixing some skillful acoustic guitar pickin with the most memorable of melodies.  Upbeat, but quiet and gentle with trademark Mitchell hooks.  The acoustic solo is masterful.  More masterful melody takes center stage on “Old Marriage Waltz”, the closer “Time to Stay” really overshadows it.  A strong beat behind him, Kim picks away with intent.  Great light rocker to end a terrific album, on an upbeat note.

CD and vinyl buyers get the four live bonus tracks:  “Lager and Ale”, “Rocklandwonderland”, “Paradise Skies” (Max Webster tune), and “All We Are”.  If you needed more rock, here you go.  Firey live performances, captured in the studio in front of an audience.  “Rocklandwonderland” stands out with a new piano intro and a passionate performance.  However nothing can overshadow an epic “All We Are”, 8:13 of awesome.

After such a long wait, and an eventful one at that, it is a good thing to see that Kim Mitchell still has the creative spark to write a great song.  These songs are different but just as unforgettable as “Patio Lanterns”.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Greatest Hits (1995)

KIM MITCHELL – Greatest Hits (1995 Alert)

Five studio albums, one live and an EP to boot:  Definitely enough music to justify your first solo Greatest Hits.  For added value, Kim included a bunch of new and unreleased music.  With 15 songs and over an hour of music, Kim Mitchell’s Greatest Hits is an easy buy for fans and collectors.  For new fans it’s not quite ideal, for reasons we’ll get in to.

Long time fans will remember that Kim’s prior band Max Webster issued a greatest hits called Diamonds Diamonds with two new songs.  This album follows suit with two brand new tracks recorded for this set.  “No More Walking Away”, co-written by Pye Dubois, is an electric ballad with stunning guitar tones.  This is in the same lane as some of Kim’s previous ballads from Rockland or Aural Fixations; very much a “later Kim” sound.  Long time fans will love hearing Peter Fredette on backing vocals.  The other new song, “Rainbow”, is a straight-on hard rocker.  With Andy Curran on lyrical duties, “Rainbow” is just good time Kim rock as you have grown to expect it.  It goes without saying that his guitar playing is tremendous.  The chorus goes all the way to the clouds.  “I’m bringin’ you back your rainbow,” sings Kim and you better believe it.

In addition to the new songs, this time Kim also included two re-recordings.  This is unfortunately where first-time buyers are going to be let down.  One of Kim’s biggest career hits was undoubtedly 1986’s “Patio Lanterns” from Shakin’ Like a Human Being.  This compilation includes a new arrangement, which is actually quite cool.  It’s twangy and has lots of guitar play.  But that’s not the version that old folks remember from highschool — not even close.  The tempo they used to dance to is gone.  This version, excellent as it is, unfortunately is only for people who already own the original.  The other re-recording is the less sacred “Lager & Ale”, originally from Akimbo Alogo.  The vocal line is slightly modified, but this one shouldn’t upset too many people.  The Akimbo original remains the best version.

What else is to be found on this disc?  We have the opening and closing bits called “Transcendental Soda” and “Hare Soda”, which are simply snippets from the live intro to “Go For Soda”.  Nothing too special, but elsewhere you’ll find some cool stuff.  “Expedition Sailor” is credited as “The Other Version” which is a remix from the music video, long unavailable to regular folks like us.  This fine ballad was a decent hit back in 1989-90 so it’s nice to own that elusive video mix.

That’s it for the special stuff listed on the back, but there are two hidden surprises within.  Between “Rainbow” and “All We Are” (the live version from I Am A Wild Party) you will find 30 seconds of a demo.  This is a demo for “All We Are”, and the tape could even date back to the Max Webster days since that’s when he wrote the tune.  That’s gold.  What a cool way to introduce “All We Are”.  The other surprise is evident by the track times.  Hit single “Rocklandwonderland” is missing the fade out, and runs out to its actual end.  It just ends — the guys just stop playing.  Really cool unlisted bonuses here.

As for the rest, it’s the hits!  All singles (though some only for radio), except for “Lemon Wedge” which was a hit with the fans.  Though it doesn’t suit everybody’s needs, Greatest Hits still plays well and scratches some of those big Kim itches.

4/5 stars