Canadian rock

REVIEW: Raw M.E.A.T 3 – Various Artists (1992)

RAW M.E.A.T 3 (1992 M.E.A.T Magazine)

It took a while to be able to review this CD for technical reasons.  From day one, this disc would not play smoothly in any computer.  Most CD players could handle it, but no PC could without skipping horribly.  Independent CD production had iffy quality in the early 90s.  Now using external components I’ve finally been able to rip the album to PC.  I have not played some of these songs in decades!

Raw M.E.A.T 3 was different from the first two volumes.  The first focused on hard rock, the second on thrash.  One band from Raw M.E.A.T 2 went on to big things, that being Varga.  Volume 3 combined all genres of heavy music together on one disc.  From the heaviest of bands (Mindrape, Sinister Fiend, Hanker, Vertical After) to pop rock hooks (Deadline, Raw Trixx, Tryton) and progressive (Destiny, Justin Sane), all bases are covered.  The bands span several provinces from British Columbia to Quebec, whereas the first CD only had groups from southern Ontario.

Highlights are numerous.  Perhaps Russian Blue came in strongest with opener “Mama’s Love”, a modern twist on hard rock.  Deadline were right up there too, with a re-recording of “Friction Addiction” from their excellent first CD.  Raw M.E.A.T 3 is the only place you can get the re-recording, which is slicker and punchier than the original.  Tryton, the only female-fronted band, kicks serious ass on “Burning the Cradle”.  Singer Nina Zzo had the lungs for it!  (They later made an album as Loudshine.)  “A Wonderful Day” by Tempted Fate is another genius track, sounding a bit like “When Death Calls” by Black Sabbath before exploding into a punk rock chorus.

It’s a very diverse CD.  The bands Raw Trixx and Stone Valley both put in strong entries with “Time” and “Forever Gone” respectively.  These groups employ older hard rock sounds in spite of the changing tides of rock.  Slam Glory’s “Say It Like You Mean It” also fits that mold.  Fans of early Queensryche and Scorpions might enjoy Destiny’s “Man Alone” which brings to mind the trademark sounds of those bands.  Old-school thrash fans will dig the traditional speedy chug of Hanker and Vertical After.  The Cult-like No Morals had an enjoyable, unconventional 90s edge.  For Faith No More funkiness, it’s Sinister Fiend.  Overlord’s “Never Enough” has a tough metal punch but with punk-like recklessness.  “And if I sound bitter, it’s because I am!”  Even Christian rock makes an appearance.  Thunder Rider’s “For Christ’s Sake” isn’t bad, but the Quebec band had an early unfortunate image including swords, shields and hammers.

My favourite track of them all is “Illusion” by Justin Sane, which should have become a massive hit in 1992.  The four piece band combined modern metal grooves with quality lead vocals and musicianship to create a nearly seven-minute behemoth of a song.  It was recorded (like several of the songs here) at the renowned Metalworks Studios in Mississauga.  Shame the band had a jokey name, as it does not accurately depict their music.  There is a Justin Sane EP out there, reissued in 2006 as a split album with a band called Native Tongue, but it’s impossible to find.

I also approve of the names of the members of Vertical After:  Kick, Stu, Rhys and Odd.  I definitely want to be friends with anyone named Odd.

For the variety of quality hard rock, heavy metal and miscellaneous good stuff, Raw M.E.A.T 3 serves as an enjoyable listen and gateway to some bands you’ve never heard of before.  Off to Discogs to look for more!

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Feel – “I Become You” video (1994)

FEEL – “I Become You” (1994 independent VHS tape)

Not all great bands make it, and Feel was a great band.  Formerly Russian Blue, Feel were active on the Toronto rock scene in the early 90s.  When things went grunge, they adapted their melodic rock to the times.  The result was dark, not-quite-mainstream hard rock that could appeal to both sides of the aisle.  Their album This (get it? Feel This?) had a number of memorable tracks.  They also released a home video for lead song “I Become You”.

The video arrived personally autographed by all four band members; a nice touch.   In addition to being a top quality song, “I Become You” is also a slick looking, well-edited music video.  It utilises tricks like slow and fast motion, still photos, and plenty of camera movement.  The result is a briskly paced video with a band always in motion.  The guitar solo segment is particularly good.  Feel were television ready, if only the chips had fallen differently.  Frontman Joe Donner had the chops and certainly appeared ready to be the next rock sensation.

4/5 stars

Make sure you watch the video to the end, as I added some bonus content!  In 1993 Feel released a sampler cassette called A Taste Of….  I included the “Introduction” track at the end of the video, as it has a sampling of the album and even an unreleased riff that didn’t make it.  Check it out and let me know what you think of Feel!

 

VHS Archives #52: Deadline – “Donna (Do You Wanna)” music video (1992)

I am pleased to present the best quality copy of this video available.  It’s complete and in stereo!

You can read a review of the first Deadline mini-album (from which “Donna (Do You Wanna)” was the single) right here.  From Sarnia Ontario, this quartet was primed for the big time but failed to launch.  You can tell from this video that they spared no expense in looking and sounding like pros.

This video was recorded from MuchMusic’s Start Me Up program, in early 1993.

From M.E.A.T Magazine

REVIEW: Devilsradio – The EP (2019)

DEVILSRADIO – The EP (2019)

Here’s a new Canadian three-piece with some hard rock for your ears!  Their new three track EP has potential.  They’ve kept the songwriting short and to the point.  There’s a distinct 90s groove to the EP, without resorting to direct references or ripoffs.  When we say “90s groove” we’re referring to rhythm front-and-center, and a singer who does it from the guts.

Opener “Fear the Monster” has a pretty immediate chug, perhaps from the Stone Temple Playbook.  This track is the clear winner of the three.  As soon as it hit, my right hand started doing the air guitar motion.  Chug chug — the riff is the key.  Good song, and probably really good live.

“Lost in the Dark” and “Great Day” make up the rest of the EP, good songs both.  The edge is on the dark side, these are not party songs but good ones for those angsty days.  They could use some guitar embellishment, but the grooves crush.  Get your headbangin’ on.

The EP sounds like a good first outing for DevilsRadio.  There’s room to grow but they have a solid foundation from which to build.  I’d like to hear them write more songs and add more to their sound, be it backing vocals or instrumental flourishes.  There is good material here and “Fear the Monster” should get you movin’.

3.25/5 stars

1. “Fear the Monster”  2:57
2. “Lost in the Dark”  4:43
3. “Great Day”  3:37

 

Check out the EP here!

Sunday Chuckle: Homeless Honey?

There is a new local punk group I’m excited about.  They’re a trio; fans of Blink 182 will dig them.  Their tunes sound like the album Blink should have made instead of Neighborhoods.  I’ve heard most of their new album which will be out mid-November.  Great production, and even a couple guitar solos.  Good tunes.  Good singer.  I like them

In November, I’ll be showcasing them here on this site, so watch for a great new band called Hello Hopeless.  Of course this afternoon when I was writing this, I had a brain fart and couldn’t remember their name.  I asked the singer, “What’s the name of your band again?  Homeless Honey?”

He just stared at me.

Fortunately he’s not mad!

Fucking embarrassing, though!

#627: Pete and Repeat

GETTING MORE TALE #627: Pete and Repeat

 

When I get sick, I go all-in.  No half-measures.  Whatever the illness may be, I go deep.  The Great Flu 2017/2018 is no exception.  I may be back at work but I’m still a mess.

Ever since I was a kid, I used to get annoying songs repeating in my head when I was sick.  It still happens today, and I cannot do anything to get the annoying songs out of my head.  It prevents me from sleeping.  It drives out any other songs I may try to use to change the soundtrack in my brain.  I’ve tried everything.  Nothing haunts me worse than a bad song in the head when I’m sick.  Laying there in bed for sleepless hours, with one verse and one chorus on repeat, as my head pounds in agony.

This time, there was a slight twist on the “sick repeating song” experience.  I didn’t realize it in the fever of non-sleep, but my one repeating song was actually two songs this time.  Two annoying songs by the same band:  The Wild!

The Wild! are another one of those AC/DC-like party rock bands.  They have funny names like “Dylan Villain”, “Boozus”, “The Kid” and “Reese Lightning”.  Their song “Livin’ Free” has been on regular radio rotation and even several days after unplugging, it was still stuck in my head.  On repeat.  But there’s more.

Turns out there, my brain actually had two songs stuck in it, joined together into one.  My sleepy sick self couldn’t tell.  Only after hitting Youtube, trying to banish this melody from my brain, did I realize there were two songs in there.  The other song, also by The Wild!, was the soundalike track “Ready to Roll”.  So similar are they that they both got jammed together into one endless loop.

The Wild! might be right up your alley.  They’re AC/DC and ZZ Top and they call themselves the “God Damn Wild Boys”.  I have no real objections to the band, except that they’re trodding a path that has already been well explored over the last 45 years.  Maybe that’s your kind of thing.  Unfortunately I can’t be objective on The Wild! because I associate them with several days in bed suffering from the plague.

Surely I cannot be the only one who experiences annoying song repeats when sick in bed.  Am I?

 

REVIEW: Max Webster – A Million Vacations (1979)

MAX WEBSTER – A Million Vacations (originally 1979, 2017 Anthem remaster)

Why are Max Webster still held in such high esteem by their devoted fanbase?  Possibly because they concocted an ideal mixture of humour and incredible playing and composition.  Much like Frank Zappa, Max Webster felt that humour does indeed belong in music.  It’s “smart kid rock” but never taking itself too seriously.  From playful musical sections to the words of lyricist Pye Dubois, Max could also be counted on to poke you in the ribs.

A Million Vacations is certainly one of their best albums, if not their absolute magnum opus, but that’s all a matter of opinion.  At this stage of the game, Max was really cooking.  The 10 songs within represent some peak level songwriting, and several are still on the radio today.  Through the airwaves, “Paradise Skies”, “Let Go the Line”, “A Million Vacations” and “Night Flights” might be speeding over Canada somewhere as you read this.

“Paradise Skies” indeed!  One of Max’s most immediate tracks is the party opener.  Total mainstream Max: catchy hooks, insane playing, and a chorus that’s ready to blast off.  Terry Watkinson’s “Charmonium” is more complex but no less catchy.  The keyboardist wrote the song and does the lead vocals as well.  Dig into those flurries of notes making up some tasty solo sections.  Losing no momentum, “Night Flights” keeps a jaunty pace.  Pye Dubois’ poem about the love of touring reminds us how important Pye was to the band.  How many bands have a touring lyricist?

Breaking the fun-loving character for just a moment, a day-dreamy “Sun Voices” has connections to the next songs, “Moon Voices” and “A Million Vacations”.  “In my chair, chaise lounge…” and how many songs can you think of with a chaise lounge in the words??  “Sun Voices” is a meditative poolside view.  Perhaps then the side-closing instrumental “Moon Voices” is the loud party, after the sun goes down?

“A Million Vacations” (written by drummer Gary McCracken and Pye Dubois) on side two is a party-ready Canadian summer anthem.  Part of being Canadian is hibernating for our cold, dark winters.  Once we have endured the freeze, and life returns with the spring thaw, it is like a celebration.  “A Million Vacations” has that feeling.  “Throwin’ out all kinds of fishing line, Friday Friday is a good time to shine.”  Yes indeed, hitting the outdoors is a Canadian weekend tradition in the summer time.

“Look Out” is an often forgotten buried gem.  The chorus is written around a catchy keyboard riff, which suddenly gives way to a conga jam.  It’s Max as only Max can do, daring but never fearing.  But side two’s centerpiece is undoubtedly the magnificent ballad “Let Go the Line”, with Watkinson back on lead vocals.  Kim Mitchell orchestrates a guitar chorus for the main instrument hook and it’s instant love.  For sheer smart pop songwriting, “Let Go the Line” is Max’s finest.  The new 2017 remaster from the recommended box set The Party really reveals a lot of nuance in the back that were hard or impossible to hear on previous CD editions.

Kim gets a little goofy with “Rascal Houdi”, an undeniable party rocker.  “I’m switching out, I’m out to lunch,” and it’s a teenage blast.  But the party finale, “Research (At Beach Resorts)” takes it to the max (pun intended).  “Line up crowds at the pavilion, Max is playing ‘Vacations'”.  It’s a beach party, and Max is “in Newport for research, to get abreast of things…”  What about Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay?  Already taken care of, friends.  “We’ve just researched Wasaga Beach, bonfire pits at midnight.”  But what the heck are they “researching”?

“What is it that we stare at?
Is it the passports and campsite stars?
Or the monogrammed bikinis and cars?
Or maybe we just need some perspiration ’cause we’re frostbitten Canadian boys!”

There are few bands better than Max Webster, folks, and Max’s A Million Vacation is an easy album to love, so flip it over and play it again like I’m about to.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Raw M.E.A.T 1 – Various Artists (1990)

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RAW M.E.A.T 1 (1990 M.E.A.T Magazine)

Drew Masters’ legendary metal magazine M.E.A.T took a lot of pride in promoting Canadian talent.  The next logical step was putting out a CD featuring the best of the best in unsigned Canadian rock and metal.  The flagship band was Toronto’s Slash Puppet.  On this first volume, only groups from the province of Ontario signed up.   Even though the talent all came from a small region in and around Toronto (with one exception), it’s a surprisingly diverse selection of styles.

I look at Raw M.E.A.T as a first tapping of an oil reserve.  It was a gusher.  So much untapped raw talent, unheard in suburbs.

“Slow Down” by Slash Puppet was previously issued on their indi tape, but Raw M.E.A.T 1 was its first issue on CD.  The track has been described as Motorhead meets Faster Pussycat and that still fits the bill.  Lead singer Anthony J. Mifsud was the sandpaper throat to go with the rough and tumble music.  You can hear why there was such a buzz around Slash Puppet.  They had pro-level tunes and performance. All they needed was a break.

Most Raw M.E.A.T buyers knew what they were getting with Slash Puppet. The rest of the tunes were uncharted territory.

Eiffel Power, from Taranna, knocked it out with “City Action”.  Singer Lionel Lois  had ample range and lung capacity for this fun metal shuffle, very current for the time.  Think of Extreme’s first album but with more muscle.  Then there’s the instantly likeable “Feel Me Sweet” by Brampton’s own Ragadee Anne.  Yes, it’s true:  coming up with names for bands isn’t always easy, but “Feel Me Sweet” kicks.  One reason they sound so professional is due to the production by Tom Treumuth (Triumph), surely an advantage in the studio.  Glam rock with bite and youthful innocence sure sounds good.

Blackglama (Toronto) take it to the streets with the rock/rap hybrid of “Playin’ Hardball (With the Big Boys)”.  This was just a year or two ahead of its time, though director Bruce McDonald used it in his 1991 film Highway 61  (but not the soundtrack CD).  The next group, Washington Wives, bring it to immaculately composed AOR rock.  “Memoirs, Etc.” has backing vocals from Phil Naro, from just across the border in Buffalo.  Naro is best known for Talas and his work with Kiss’ Peter Criss.  “Memoirs, Etc.” is vaguely familiar, as if you’ve heard its like on the radio before (Journey? Night Ranger?), but there’s no question this track was hit-ready.  Zero fat content, this is all meat of the most melodic variety.

Short Avenue has another “name” attached, that being “Scarpelli”.  Guitarist Gene Scarpelli is the son of Gino, of Toronto’s Goddo.  Short Avenue sounds nothing like Goddo, rather more like some tough street punks ready to mix it up.  With hindsight, they sound like precursors to The Four Horsemen.  “Push Comes to Shove” is right in the same vein as the Horsemen’s “Rockin’ is Ma Business”.  From the Horsemen to the Cult:  The Cult have always been big in Canada.  First impressions are that Trouble In Mind (Toronto) were very inspired by Ian Astbury.  Regardless, their track “Sweet Addictions” is album quality.  Lead singer Beau (just “Beau”) turned up on a later instalment of the Raw M.E.A.T series, but that’s another story.

We depart Toronto momentarily for a trip to the nation’s capitol.  Ottawa’s Antix had been self-releasing vinyl since 1986, and “Kick It Up” was a new track.  With a Van Halen shuffle, their track hits the right spots, but suffers from inadequate production.   It’s unfortunate that the most experienced band has one of the poorest sounding tracks on the CD.

Russian Blue received their first major exposure via Raw M.E.A.T, and thanks to their incredible song “Once a Madman”, they gained a cult following.  They were a double threat:  a magnificent singer and a terrific guitar player.   Vocalist Jo E. Donner found himself compared to a young Robert Plant.  Richard Gauci backed that up with memorable guitar hooks.  “Once a Madman” gets the job done in just 3:15, leaving behind an unforgettable and unique rocker that begs for repeat listens.  One reason it sounds so good?  Produced by a pre-fame Harry Hess of Harem Scarem.

The next band, Zyle, sound like they were going for a traditional metal sound.  The Scorpions come to mind immediately, as does fellow Canadian rockers White Wolf.  They needed a bit more originality.  The guitar solo directly quotes Randy Rhoads, too close for comfort.  But then it’s The Remains with something a little more street punk.  A variation of the classic Peter Gunn riff, “Too Much” is actually never enough.  It’s the right mixture of middle finger and middle eight.

Hanging out just down the QEW are Hamilton and Oakville, from which come the last two groups.  Cathouse prove that you can never have enough permutations of the classic Van Halen shuffle.  “In For the Kill” nails it, with a vocalist who seems like equal parts Skid Roper and Rob Halford.  Finally, Oakville’s Johannes Linstead is best known today for his flamenco guitar albums.  He didn’t start there!  Wildside (later to become Gypsy Jayne) are about that sleaze rock.  You can hear that the guitarist is something special, though you wouldn’t predict the future from this one track.

It’s difficult to be objective, even though so many years have passed since Raw M.E.A.T 1.   Many (if not most) of these bands had potential.  Toronto in the early 90s was ready to explode as “the next Seattle”, but there was no “next Seattle”.  12 of these 13 songs are really fondly remembered, with one just needing a little more originality.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: I Mother Earth – Scenery and Fish (1996)

I MOTHER EARTH – Scenery and Fish (1996 EMI)

Some albums that mean everything to some, can mean nothing to others.  Take a look at Scenery and Fish.

I Mother Earth’s second album gets a slew of 4 and 5 star ratings on the Canadian Amazon.  Yet I don’t get it and never have.  I was on the I Mother Earth train very early, before their first album came out.  I loved the modern heaviness of the band.  With the tribal and funk influences seeping through, I Mother Earth put out a seriously impressive debut album:  a Canadian classic.  As any band should, they mixed it up a bit on the second album.

In early 1996 I received a promo CD for the first single from the second album, “One More Astronaut”, with the album version and a 4:35 edit.  It didn’t seem too different, maybe just a bit more concise than some of the first album’s longer jams.  This isn’t indicative of the album in general, which is a wild ride of different styles.

The exotic percussion (by Luis Conte and Daniel Mansilla) is still intact, melded with the funk bass, but the overall sound is very different.  Paul Northfield’s production is cleaner and slicker than Mike Clink’s on the first LP.  He still enables to band to exercise their instruments unfettered, but perhaps with a more radio friendly backing.

Although I’ve tried over and over again through the past two decades to let Scenery and Fish “click”, it just won’t.  Other fans certainly have their favourite tracks:  “Like a Girl”, “Raspberry”, “Used to be Alright”, “Another Sunday”.  These are indeed some of the best tracks on the album, yet I struggled to remember how they go.  “Another Sunday”, for example has an incredible blast of hooks for a chorus, but no memorable verses.  Maybe this album is too thick with musical ideas and passages for the average mortal.

But that’s just me.  You might think I’m nuts.  There are those who think I Mother Earth can do no wrong, but fans in general love Scenery and Fish, while I simply don’t get it.  I’ll always enjoy “One More Astronaut” and “Like a Girl”, which by the way features a friend of theirs named Alex from some band called Rush.

2/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Max Webster – Live Magnetic Air (1979)

MAX WEBSTER – Live Magnetic Air (originally 1979, 2017 Anthem remaster)

So you’re the canker banker?  They’re just Max Webster, here to thin the thickness of your skin.

Any good 70s act worth their salt had to have a solid live album. Max released theirs after four studio albums, a good basis for a fulfilling concert set. The 10 songs (plus one reggae jam) only begin to scratch the surface of their bizarre and rocking history, but a good 10 songs they are.

Want some rockers? Tap into “America’s Veins”. 70s radio rock? Take a lift up into the “Paradise Skies”.  Looking for some progressive rock?  You’ll find it “In Context of the Moon”.  The adventurous and quirky arrangements of some tunes are a direct contrast to the catchiness of others.  “Gravity” blends quirky and catchy into one successful gestalt.  “Charmonium” both challenges and pleases the ears at once.  Whether you’re soaring on “Night Flights” or biting into “Lip Service”, there is no filler on Live Magnetic Air.

One expects great playing on any Max Webster platter. Live Magnetic Air has plenty of that gonzo Kim Mitchell guitar work that he is known for.  Terry Watkinson’s keys explore different tones within single songs, never getting boring.  Yet it’s Gary McCracken’s drum work that seems to really shine, especially on the 2017 remaster from The Party boxed set.

It is difficult to throw too much praise at Max Webster, because surely they deserve it.  They were not as famous as Rush and not as worshipped as Zappa.  But those are the kind of names thrown about when speaking of Max Webster.  Each Max album is loaded with amazing material, but if you were looking to start with something, why not make it Live Magnetic Air?  The party atmosphere and ace selection of songs are the basic ingredients of a classic live album.  Now that it’s finally been properly mastered for CD, you can hear it the way you were always meant to.  For those who just wanna rock, the guitars have the crunch.  The discerning fan will enjoy the new clarity and depth that this remaster offers, without overdriving the levels.

Once again we wholeheartedly recommend The Party boxed set, but if you find Live Magnetic Air on vinyl, pick it up and hear what some genuine “Sarniatown Reggae” sounds like.

5/5 stars