cottage rock

#907: Lake Listenin’

RECORD STORE TALES #907: Lake Listenin’

These days, I like playing music at the lake that takes me back in time.  Maybe that’s the curse of getting older.  Everything reminds me of something else.  Since that’s the case, I might as well make the most of it.  If I’m having a good time at the lake, there is nothing better than music that reminds me of having a good time at the lake.

I set the scene with a very relaxing drive, to the 80s tunes of Kim Mitchell’s self-titled EP, plus Shakin’ Like a Human Being, and The Sport of Kings by Triumph.  It was golden.

Instead of diving right into the nostalgia pool right away again upon arrival, I officially started the weekend with some music that is new to me:  Coney Hatch and Andy Curran.  My current favourite Coney Hatch tunes are “First Time For Everything” from Outa Hand, and “She’s Gone” & “Wrong Side of Town” from Friction.  Arriving Thursday night, these tunes, along with Curran’s “No Tattoos”, led our evening on the porch, watching the sun set.  Not only did the tunes get us psyched for the weekend, but also next week’s LeBrain Train.  Andy is our guest again, so I am preparing once more.

I closed the night studying up for the next day’s episode:  the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Judas Priest albums.  This “remastered” episode was an update on one that Harrison and I did on Facebook Live a year ago.  I re-watched the episode from the previous year, very much enjoying myself.  Harrison and I had a great time the first outing, though the second one surely topped it!

When I’m at the lake, I try to keep the volume to a reasonable level.  I like to take a walk to the end of the driveway and down the road and check the levels.  A little music at the end of the driveway is OK but I don’t want to hear myself down the road.  However, I said “to hell with that” for the rest of the weekend, when the neighbours had a loud party on the Friday night.

“I hope they enjoy ‘Detroit Rock City’ at 6:00 am,” I said.

So that’s how my Saturday began:  Destroyer, cranked.  Destroyer has never been my favourite Kiss album by a long shot, but for some reason it just clicked with me that morning.  The cool breeze coming off the lake, the birds and squirrels bickering over my head; and Kiss Destroyer on the speakers.  Things you don’t think would go together, but in my brain, actually do.  I would have played Destroyer at the lake as a kid — many times.  The difference was, now nobody was telling me to turn it down.  Apparently that “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” thing doesn’t apply.  As I get older, I love it loud.

After Destroyer came Rock and Roll Over, Dynasty, and the complete audio to the video Exposed.  This included all the studio tracks from the music videos, all the live tracks exclusive to the video, and even that little nugget of Paul and Gene harmonizing on “I’ll Be Back” by the Beatles.  As a kid, I made something similar on a cassette.  I recorded all the live stuff and “I’ll Be Back” from the VHS tape and made an album out of it.  I left off the music videos.  Today, I ripped all the music from the DVD directly to mp3 and made a double album out of it!  I sat there in wonder listening, imagining what my younger self would have thought of such an audio miracle.

That’s a lot of Kiss though; solid Kiss with no other bands breaking the streak.  When I did finally need an intermission from Kiss, I chose Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind.  I actually bought that album at the lake in the summer of ’85, at an old record store that used to exist on the main street.

As far as volume goes, keep in mind I’m blasting my music on a $24 pair of speakers from Amazon.  The guy partying across the street must have had something stronger because I could identify “The Impression That I Get” by the Bosstones easily from my seat on the porch.

“I hope they like Star Wars,” I said as I cued up The Empire Strikes Back on my Disney Plus.

I had another revelation while watching Empire.  Objectively, it could be the best Star Wars, but because nostalgia is my thing, I flashed back to 1980.  1981.  1982.  1983.  The golden era of Star Wars fandom.  For a long time, at that ripe age, we were left with two major cliffhangers.  What would happen to the frozen Han Solo, and was Darth Vader lying about being Luke’s father?  Hard to believe but we spent years — an eternity of a child’s age, a significant fraction of our lives — not knowing the answers.

We also had to spend this time making up things to do with our Han Solo figures.  He was frozen in carbonite at this time.  Sometimes I took my Solo figure and froze him in ice in the freezer.  We used our imaginations.  Empire was such a huge part of our childhood.  For me the Empire era ran from age seven to just before age eleven.  It was the Star Wars for which I had all the collector’s cards (first series), the soundtrack, the “story of” record, the comic, the novel, colouring books, and just about everything else you could buy.  The bedsheets — check.  Dixie cups — check.  Burger King glasses — also check.  We had a good chunk of Kenner figures from that era.  We had everything we could possibly get our hands on.

Except the movie itself.  That, we could not recreate on a whim.  We brought our toys, our comics and our cards to the lake so we could re-imagine the movie.  But we could not watch it.

That was a luxury that was not lost on me as I sat on the porch watching the Battle of Hoth.  I smiled ear to ear knowing this.  Something unimaginable during the actual Empire era.  Though, we did indeed see The Empire Strikes Back at the lake.  And it wasn’t the special editions.  We saw the original, at the drive-in.  It was in a double feature with a bicycling movie called Breaking Away, which we slept through.  My sister slept through most of Empire, too!  She was only three.

I took a break in the middle of The Empire Strikes Back to take a dip in the water.  But the Sooners had come.

“Sooners” is how my dad refers to the people who show up to go to the beach for day.  I wondered what “Sooners” meant so I looked it up.  He must have got it from one of his cowboy movies.  Sooner:  “a person settling on land in the early West before its official opening to settlement in order to gain the prior claim allowed by law to the first settler after official opening.”

I don’t see how that applies to the beachgoers, but the name stuck.

Anyway there were a bunch of Sooners at the beach.  There was Man-Bun and his two girlfriends, and a family of seven who parked their bikes right in front of our place.  I know my dad would have had a fit.  The bikes were well out of the way, but it’s no fun trying to back your car out of the driveway with any kind of obstruction, so I get it.

The Sooners weren’t as bad as the renters.  They had a huge dog — the size of a small pony — that kept going after Jen any time we walked down the path to the beach on our own property.  They’d scold the dog but not put him on a leash.  I say “him” because his name was clearly Frank.  Who names their dog Frank?  Seriously.

I don’t know who held the party that night.  The salvos of US-grade fireworks began when I was sleeping.  Jen says they were still going off at 1 am.  I say “US-grade” fireworks because I know the difference.  There are the kind you can buy in the convenience stores here, and there are the ones you can’t.  This was the stuff you can’t.  On and on and on it went.  It seemed to be coming from the renters’ place.  When I went down to the beach the following morning, their firepit was still smouldering.  Late night party fire?

What could I do?  I woke up and blasted Aerosmith.  I played them while packing the car, on the car system, doors open.  I hope you like Toys in the Attic.

Sooners and renters aside, summer has gotten off to a tremendous start.  Maybe next time, I’ll play all new albums and make some new memories.  It doesn’t particularly matter — the setting is conducive to to anything you want to listen to.  And now that I can bring my entire music collection with me in my pocket, I am limited only by my own whims.

I am a lucky guy.

Sunday Chuckle: Nuclear Iodine Pills

How things have changed at the cottage in just two years. It is true that Kincardine is not far from Bruce Nuclear. What’s new is the mandatory early warning system (in case of meltdown) and government-issued emergency iodine pills! Welcome to the atomic age.  Cottage essentials used to be beach towels, a few candles if the power went out, and lots of card games.  Now it’s distant early warnings and nuclear iodine pills!

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Shakin’ Like A Human Being (1986)

KIM MITCHELL – Shakin’ Like A Human Being (1986 Alert)

Kim Mitchell really seemed to soften up on 1986’s Shakin’ Like A Human Being.  It’s Mitchell’s most successful album, featuring the massive hit single “Patio Lanterns”.  A lot of people are very fond of Shakin’ Like A Human Being, but I for one find it inferior to Akimbo Alogo in almost every way, especially production. Still, I haven’t played Shakin’ in a couple years, so let’s have a listen and try to be fair.

KIM_0004There’s certainly nothin’ wrong with the opener, “Get Lucky (Boys and Girls)”.  Kim wisely commenced the party with a rocker similar to Akimbo Alogo.  Synths are kept to a minimum, and a shout-along chorus that’s easy to remember is always a plus on a Kim Mitchell album.  Pye’s lyrics are as cool as ever.  “The more moral you get the more oral we get.”  I love that.  Kim tops the cake with a fun melodic guitar solo which is like the cherry on top — uber sweet.

Paul Delong is a fantastic drummer, and he gets a nice long (but clanky) intro on “In My Shoes”.   Unfortunately the song itself suffers from too much synth and programming.  It does have a nice little guitar lick to it and a great chorus, but the song is just too middle of the road.  “Alana Loves Me”, though a ballad, is better.  The chorus, featuring Peter Fredette, is stellar.  Too bad that synth is back.

“Patio Lanterns” sure does bring on the nostalgia.  The lyrics are so pure and perfect.  Even though it’s one of Kim’s softest moments, there is an integrity here in its earnest honesty.  Although Max Webster were a progressive rock band, as a solo artist Kim Mitchell definitely evolved into cottage rock.  This kind is song is the type that we hosers play on those warm July evenings on the cottage patio, outside speakers and beer at the ready.  It’s the kind of song everybody seems to like.

Side closer “That’s the Hold” is the hardest rock moment on the album.  It’s one of my favourite 80’s Kim rockers, and if didn’t have so much damn synth on it, it would be a classic.  The live version on I Am A Wild Party is much better.  Too bad.

The second side commences limply with “In Your Arms”.  This is just synthetic syrup.  This is the only song that isn’t written by the duo of Mitchell and Dubois: keyboardist Todd Booth co-wrote it, which might explain why I cannot discern any guitars until the song is half done.  But it gets worse:  I cannot stand “City Girl”.  There is no redeeming value to this steaming pile of synth and bad lyrics.

The fine country twang of the hit “Easy to Tame” is unfortunately tempered by…grrrr!…too much damn synth!  I should be able to hear Kim’s Fender clear and true, but it is buried beneath keys.  It’s still a great song, but all I really want is to hear what it would sound like without the keys. The music video, vocals and guitar solo are all great at least.  Incidentally, the music video is a completely different mix of the song.

“Cameo Spirit” is pretty cool, although it’s another slow keyboard song.  This is the kind of sentimental ballad that Kim became very adept at writing, post-Max.  His spare guitars are delightful, but I only wish for more of them.  The final track “Hitting the Ground” is equally good, but also equally drenched in keys.  The chorus is stellar, as are Pye’s lyrics.  Fortunately there are some guitars to sink your teeth in.  At least you end the album on an up note.

Sadly, Shakin’ Like A Human Being is the last Kim Mitchell album to feature his legendary O.P.P. (Ontario Provincial Police) baseball hat on the cover.  Shakin’ could have been a great album, equal or superior to Akimbo.  I place blame fully on the production.  Kim Mitchell self produced this album, so if anyone is to blame for all the synth and keyboards, it’s gotta be him.  Of note, Kim produced it at Le Studio, the same place Rush recorded Moving Pictures.  Too bad.  Oh what might have been.

2.5/5 stars