country music

REVIEW: Johnny Horton – Battle of New Orleans (1981/1990)

JOHNNY HORTON – Battle of New Orleans (1981/1990 CBS Select)

I grew up with my father’s cassette of this compilation album, which only had the first eight songs.  Each one was a keeper, and we rarely skipped any songs (though side one was stronger than side two).  We played that tape every Saturday night in the car, when we were up at the cottage.  When it was released on CD in 1990, it was expanded to 12 tracks of Johnny Horton’s greatest hits.

The banjo and marching drums of “The Battle of New Orleans” set the stage for an irresistible tune.  I used it myself for a highschool project on the War of 1812.  I learned that many Canadian historians do not consider the Battle of New Orleans to have been a part of the War of 1812, since it was a raid that took place after the Treaty of Ghent was signed.  When reading American historical accounts of the war, I discovered that they included New Orleans in their books.  Why?  Because it was one of the few decisive American victories in that war, which is considered by Canucks to have been won by us and the British Empire.  Neither here nor there:  This song is unforgettable musically and lyrically.

Yeah, they ran through the briars,
And they ran through the brambles,
And they ran through the bushes,
Where a rabbit couldn’t go.
They ran so fast,
That the hounds couldn’t catch ’em,
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

The British retreat enabled the United States to put a happy ending to their part in this war of empires.

The marching drums return for “Sink the Bismarck”, another story of history and victory, this time the Second World War.  The Bismarck was the biggest battleship the world had seen yet, and when it sunk the British ship the Hood, the Royal Navy went in pursuit.

We’ll find that German battleship that’s makin’ such a fuss,
We gotta sink the Bismarck ’cause the world depends on us,
Hit the decks a-runnin’ boys and spin those guns around,
When we find the Bismarck we gotta cut her down.

The song is ambiguous about how the ship went down.  Filmmaker James Cameron and experts discovered that after a British torpedo (fired from a Swordfish biplane) damaged the ship’s rudder (jamming it and rendering it useless), the Bismarck was scuttled by her own crew.

The Great Sioux War of 1876 is the setting for “Comanche (The Brave Horse)”.  Comanche was one of only three American horses to be given a full military funeral.  Johnny does the horse proud with a sad but beautiful tune and minimal accompaniment.

Picking up the tempo, “Honky Tonk Man” is purely fun.  When I think of country music, it sounds like “Honky Tonk Man”.  I remember flipping the tape here as a kid, and hitting play on side two.  “North to Alaska” tells of the gold rush with a catchy tune, but not quite as good as to those on side one.  “Whispering Pines” is a pretty ballad that we didn’t have patience for as kids, but is a flawless song for grown ups.  Marching drums and banjo returns as we visit the Civil War.  “Johnny Reb” is a symbol of the south, a controversial subject in 2017, but a good song regardless.  Our childhood cassette copy ended with “Rock Island Line”, a fun fast-talkin’ song performed live.

Four more songs included on the CD act like a “third side”, all a little less familiar.  “When It’s Springtime in Alaska (It’s 40 Below)” is a actually ballad of love and murder.  “All Grown Up” is a rock and roll tune, and unfortunately a skipper.  “Sleepy Eyed John” is back to banjos and better for it.  “I’m a One Woman Man” is a fine song to end the CD on, upbeat and easy to remember.

There are a few different Johnny Horton hits CDs to choose from, but for nostalgia and quality, Battle of New Orleans is still recommended.

4/5 stars

 

 

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5 stars

 

#433: Top 15 on the 15th (by LeBrain)

15

Getting More Tale #433 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th

This is an event spanning many sites and writers in the World Wide Web today!  I will link to as many as possible.  A few months ago, the challenge was thrown down to all comers:  List your top 15 albums of all time!  The date September 15 was chosen for the deadline.

Hashtag it:  #top15onthe15th

You might have to wait for some of these to go live, but here are the links I have so far:

J at Resurrection Songs – Top 15 on the 15th
Uncle Meat – Top 15 on the 15th
Iron Tom Sharpe – Top 15 on the 15th
James at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Sarca at Caught me Gaming – My Top 15 Music Albums of All Time
Deke at Arena Rock – DeKEs All Time Top 15 (Kinda,Sorta)
Geoff at the 1001 – Top 15 Albums
Aaron at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Danica at Living a Beautiful Life – My Top 15 Albums of All Time
1537 from 1537 – Top 15 Books About Music
We Left This World Today – 15 is not enough…
Andytallman from A Hole in the Head – Top 15 Albums of All Time
Pop Culture Forays – Top 15 Albums
Brian from Boppin’s Blog – Top 15 on the 15th
Ovidiu Boar at Tangled Up In Music – Top 15 on the 15th
80sMetalMan – My Top 15 Albums
Jimmy at kingcrimsonblog – Top 15 on the 15th
Another Bad Conversation – My Top 15 on the 15th
Nick from Nick Green’s Reviews – Top 15 on the 15th
Zack at The Audible Stew – #top15onthe15th
Quirky T at The Guitar Train – The Guitar Train’s Top 15 Albums
Ian at The 80s didn’t suck – Top 15 Albums (Plus 54 Others)


Oh, how I loathe lists! Readers seem to love “Top Whatever” lists; different kinds, but I sure do hate making them.

However, I don’t like doing things in half-measures either. So for this, the Top 15 on the 15th, I’ve gone one step beyond. Not only do you get my Top 15 on the 15th, but also a list of the Top 15 tracks to listen to from these 15 amazing albums.

As of today, here are my Top 15. These will change periodically, probably tomorrow, and again the day after. See why I hate lists?  In the end I decided that I wanted to fairly represent some of my favourite artists.  But enough whining from me — let’s rock.  Spin these little bastards for a good time!

LEATHER15. Judas Priest – Hell Bent for Leather (Killing Machine)

VACATIONS14. Max Webster – A Million Vacations

NEWS13. Queen – News of the World

SCHOOL12. Alice Cooper – School’s Out

BEATLES11. The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

JOHNNY10. Thin Lizzy – Johnny the Fox

HOUSES9. Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

SAN8. Johnny Cash – At San Quentin

ANGEL7. Faith No More – Angel Dust

MOVING6. Rush – Moving Pictures

19845. Van Halen – 1984

Let’s stop here for a moment.  The thing about my top albums list is, the top four never change.  Four of these five albums have been in my top five for a long as I can remember making lists for.  The order may change, but that top four have been my top four, forever.  They are indelibly heat-stamped onto my grey matter.  These are as much a part of me as my left arm!

PIECE4. Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind

HOTTER3. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell

FIREBALL2. Deep Purple – Fireball

BORN1. Black Sabbath – Born Again

Right there are 15 incredible collections of music, both studio and live. But let’s not fool ourselves. Nobody is going to listen to all 15 of those albums just because some guy on the internet who goes by the name of “LeBrain” said so. I have chosen to distill these 15 amazing records down into 15 key tracks. I’m sure nobody needs an introduction to the big hits, so here are tracks you may not have heard. If you have ever cared about rock music, then you need to listen to these Top 15 Songs from the Top 15 Albums, on the 15th!

1. Rush – “Vital Signs”

2. Black Sabbath – “Disturbing the Priest”

3. Queen – “It’s Late”

4. Iron Maiden – “Where Eagles Dare”

5. The Beatles – “Dear Prudence”

6. Johnny Cash – “San Quentin”


“If any of the guards are still speakin’ to me, can I get a glass of water?”

7. Led Zeppelin – “The Ocean”

8. Thin Lizzy – “Massacre”

9. Alice Cooper – “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets”

10. Deep Purple – “Fools”

11. Iron Maiden – “Revelations”

12. Judas Priest – “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)”

13. Alice Cooper – “My Stars”

14. Queen – “Spread Your Wings”

15. Deep Purple – “No No No”

Astute readers will realize that one singer appears on two albums. Ian Gillan was fronting Black Sabbath in ’83 for Born Again, and of course is best known as Deep Purple’s lead howler. Does this double appearance make Ian Gillan the greatest rock vocalist of all time? No. But the greatest does appear, with Queen on News of the World – Freddie Mercury!

REVIEW: Greg Keelor – Gone (1997)

KEELOR_0001GREG KEELOR – Gone (1997 Warner)

On Greg Keelor’s solo debut, he kicks back with some mellow tunes and invites the listener in on a personal trip. Blue Rodeo has always done some slow material, but this album is even slower, to an extreme. For example, the lead track “When I See You” starts with some extremely sluggish brush drums, before some spare piano chords come in. When Greg’s voice comes in, he’s whispering.

There are several tracks that play with this tempo on Gone. The first song that breaks pace is “Blue Star” which has some nice mellow tremolo guitar and a typically sweet Greg vocal melody. The next track, “Home” is A capella, a track that I have seen Greg sing live with Blue Rodeo (on the 1998 Tremolo tour). It’s an amazing performance. Greg’s voice, while imperfect, is full of character. It’s the best song on the album, just due to sheer passion. A personal favourite.

“No Landing (Lucknow)” is what you would expect for a Blue Rodeo ballad, another strong track. “White Marble Ganesh” is the one that might leave listeners scratching their heads. As the title suggests, Greg is experimenting with Indian sounds and tabla drums. Very strong vocal hooks abound. This should have been a huge hit! Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world.

Of note to Sarah McLachlan fans: Sarah appears on vocals, piano and even lead guitar on several tracks!

So why only three stars? This CD has five very good songs, those being “Home”, “No Landing (Lucknow)”, “Blue Star”, “Star Of The Show”, and “White Marble Ganesh”. The rest are all in the slow mode, and are just too similar. It’s a great album, a powerful statement, and a glimpse into what Greg Keelor is all about, but unless you are in the right mood you may be bored with the slow stuff.

3/5 (blue) stars

#351: Three Concerts in One Week

IMG_20141223_080222

RECORD STORE TAKES MkII: Getting More Tale
#351: Three Concerts in One Week

I love digging through old journals. I don’t get out to concerts very often anymore, but these journals bring back memories of an awesome week featuring three different concert experiences. Dig it! Some interesting autobiographical facts:

1) These journals record the date that I met Brent Doerner of Helix, thus beginning a long buddy-ship (December 1 2006).
2) I noticed that there was something in here about the flu shot. I got sick immediately afterwards. I was feeling it during the Jim Cuddy concert and got full-blown flu right after. Never had the flu shot since.


 

IMG_20141223_075645

Date: 2006/11/29 06:13

Tonight we have second row seats to see BRENT BUTT! (Corner Gas) I’m sure it will be awesome and I’ll be sure to write about it later.

Then Friday is Helix…

Then Sunday is Jim Cuddy (Blue Rodeo).

Talk about an awesome week.

Date: 2006/11/30 06:55

Brent Butt was awesome, hilarious, 90 minutes of pure Canadian humour. True stuff, like, “In America, there’s no corresponding word for ‘touque’. I could understand it if they had their own word for it. Like, ‘oh, that’s what we call a nurn!’ But no, they say, ‘hey you got one of them wool knit winter cap things!’ If we said that in Canada, our brains would freeze by the time we could get out the door. ‘Honey, could you get my wool knit winter cap thing?’ zoink, you’re frozen.” So true.

There was an opening act by the name of Jamie Hutchison, guy from the Maritimes. Equally hilarious!

 


IMG_20141223_075813

Date: 2006/12/01 06:14

Tonight Helix! We’ll be giving them an R around 11 o’clock at Molly Bloom’s. Helix are one of the best shows I’ve seen, and this will be my fourth or fifth time seeing them. Hopefully they’ll play their new single “Fill Your Head With Rock” which is garnering some record company interest….

Flu shot today too. Ugh.

Date: 2006/12/02 00:39

Helix were AWESOME! Right when we walked in the door, there was Brian Vollmer. He saw my vintage-style Helix shirt, walked up and said “hi”. He was so cool. He said, “I just have to go make the rounds and say hi to everybody here, but thanks for coming and have a good time tonight!”

So we wandered around, saw a couple old friends (The Infamous Taylor Brothers) and lo and behold…there was Bruce Arnold (original Helix drummer 1974-76)! A glance around the room revealed the Doerner brothers and Keith Zurbrigg as well! There were five current Helix guys on stage and four ex-Helix in the audience! I introduced myself to Brent and told him how much I liked his new CD.

Track list, to the best of our memories:

  1. No Rest For The Wicked
  2. Get Up
  3. Baby Likes To Ride
  4. Running Wild In The 21st Century
  5. Heavy Metal Love
  6. Boomerang Lover
  7. Dirty Dog
  8. You Keep Me Rocking
  9. Make Me Do Anything You Want
  10. Deep Cuts The Knife
  11. Wild In The Streets
  12. Kids Are All Shakin’
  13. Animal House
  14. I Believe In Rock And Roll
  15. Does A Fool Ever Learn (dedicated to some schmuck at EMI (“Every Mistake Imaginable)
  16. Rock You

I know I’m missing a couple in there, but it was a totally awesome hits night. Right now my ears are ringing and I’m buzzing!


IMG_20141223_080119

Date: 2006/12/04 06:19

The Cuddy show was awesome, thus ending my three-concert-week. It was a three hour show. The opening band were a part of the whole show as Jim brought various members back out to augment his own songs. He played two songs from his first record, most of the second record, and about six Blue Rodeo songs. He threw in a Neil Young cover, bassist Bazil Donovan sang one of his own, and they also performed one by the opening band!

So terrific show, there were even two Blue Rodeo guys in his backing band. However the real star of his band was violinist Anne Lindsay. She was on fire!

Tom and Meat’s Top Whatever of 2014

For my Top Five of 2014, click here.

For Dr. Dave’s Top Ten of 2014, click here.

For the Top Whatever of No Pre-Determined Amount from two of Canada’s most knowledgeable rock gods, stay tuned right here.  From Meaford Ontario, weighing in at XXX lbs, it’s Iron Tom Sharpe, who turns it up to 11.

SAM_2973

Tom’s Top Eleven of 2014

BEN WARD11. Various ArtistsRONNIE JAMES DIO: This Is Your Life
10. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – Single Mothers
9. MASTODON Once More ‘Round the Sun
8. EARLY MAN – Thank God You’ve Got the Answers For Us All
7. OPETH – Pale Communion
6. JOHN GARCIA – John Garcia
5. ST. PAUL & the BROKEN BONES – Half the City
4. sHEAVY – The Best Of sHeavy – A Misleading Collection
3. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – English Oceans
2. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From The Abyss


Saving the best for last, here’s Uncle Meat.  For added rocket sauce he’s also given me his top movies of 2014.

SAM_2788

Meat’s Top Eight of 2014

Copy of IMG_20140706_0857128. MASTODONOnce More ‘Round the Sun
7. ECHO AND THE BUNNYMENMeteorites
6. FOO FIGHTERSSonic Highways
5. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC – Mandatory Fun
4. FLYING COLORSSecond Nature
3. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
2. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS English Oceans
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From the Abyss

Meat’s Top Twelve Movies of 2014

WHIPLASH12. Lucy
11. X Men : Days of Future Past
10. St. Vincent
9. Interstellar
8. The Lego Movie
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
3. Get On Up
2. Birdman
1. Whiplash


REVIEW: Stone Country – The Songs of the Rolling Stones (Various)

The sixth review from Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto…Again!  This CD was given to me by A himself.
This is also a SIMULTANEOUS REVIEW!  The far more Stones-knowledgeable Aaron has reviewed the same album today: take a look!

STONE COUNTRY – Country artists perform the songs of the Rolling Stones (1997 Beyond Music)

STONE COUNTRY_0005Country artists covering the Stones? Sure, why not?  You might be surprised by the common ground exhibited here on Stone Country.

You can’t mistake “Honky Tonky Woman” right from that opening cowbell.  Travis Tritt sounds natural performing this one, because it’s already so country.  I dig it.  Travis Tritt’s always been one of those country guys who I respected.  He didn’t seem like a sell-out to me.  And he’s never cut his hair either, so fuck yeah!  This is a very rocking country version, and it sounds very alive in the studio.  It has some serious thump too.

Tracy Lawrence on the other hand, I wrote off years ago, because if you hit a woman, you lose my respect.  However I gotta be honest — I dig his version of “Paint It, Black”.  I told Aaron a while ago, “I never need to hear another cover of that song,” but I was wrong.  I can add this one to my library without shame.  It’s cool how the exotic and country sides meet without conflict in this version, and there are cool solos (organ and guitar) to boot!

STONE COUNTRY_0003“Ruby Tuesday” by Deana Carter, on the other hand, doesn’t “rock” per se, but it’s “Ruby Tuesday” and it doesn’t suck!  It’s softer and has some twang in the vocal and fiddle, but the strings are still there pumping up the chorus.  Up next, “The Last Time” is transformed into a bar room country chug by The Tractors.  There’s plenty of cool  guitar playing to keep you satisfied, but this isn’t one of my favourite Stones tunes to begin with.

Rodney Crowell then takes a challenge upon himself with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.  What an iconic song, and inherently youthful and edgy.  He changes the guitar riff to a fiddle one, and holy shit!  It works!  This track smokes!  There’s even a sax solo.  How rock n’ roll!  High five, Rodney.

STONE COUNTRY_0002Sammy Kershaw has sold a lot of records over the years, but I truthfully don’t know if I’ve ever listened to him before.  He chose to cover the ballad “Angie”, a bold choice, since it relies so heavily on the voice.  The gamble paid off.  “Angie” does not stray far from the original, and it’s amazing how well Mick’s idiosyncratic vocal delivery works with a little twang in it.   Well done Mr. Kershaw, you have a great voice.  Respect!

Blackhawk transform “Wild Horses” into a fast bluegrass ramble.  I’m reminded of Blue Rodeo in a big way, who have plenty of songs that sound this way naturally.  I’m not too keen on the vocals, but there is some serious pickin’ going on here!  I don’t think I had ever heard Blackhawk before this.  I can say the same for Collin Raye: heard of him, never heard him.  Raye takes on “Brown Sugar” which has a great guitar sound.  This sounds like a good bar band’s take on the song, which is all you really need.  It’s punchy, and would work great just before a bar fight in a seedy strip club in some Bruce Willis cop movie.

I’m on record with “Beast of Burden” being one of my fave Stones tunes of all time.  It’s untouchable to me.  So Little Texas (out of Nashville!) have a lot to prove to me.  But shit, they managed to do it!  The song still has that swanky sway, punchy bass, and it does not suck, until the “pretty pretty girl” breakdown in the middle.  Other than that, it’s pretty good.  Then country veteran Nanci Griffith does “No Expectations”, which was originally a B-side, so kudos to her.  It was originally a slide guitar country song anyway, but Griffith takes it up in tempo and mood.  Just one comment:  what a voice!

Saving the biggest name for last, George Jones sings “Time Is on My Side”, not a Stones original but a song they did make famous.  This slow dance is perfectly suited to Jones’ balladeering.  I can picture in my mind the ladies in the audience swaying to the sound of Jones’ spoken word section.

Aaron reckons that he found this CD for no more than $2.  In that case I say money well spent!

3.5/5 stars

STONE COUNTRY_0004

VIDEO: Steve Earle – “Dominick Street” and “The Galway Girl”

STEVE EARLE – “Dominick Street” and “The Galway Girl”

My old friend Mike Lukas has shot and edited this cool video with his new GoPro camera.  I gotta get me one of these!  He edited the video on his Mac and voila — “The Galway Girl” live on stage with Steve Earle. This is my favourite song from Transcendental Blues.

Mike tells me that John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin is visible at the beginning of the video.  See if you can spot him.

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

REVIEW: Kenny Rogers – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection

KENNY_0001KENNY ROGERS – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection (2004 Universal)

A CD like this, at this price point (generally around 5 bucks) is perfect for the non-fan like me.

I’ve always liked Kenny’s songs, but I was not a fan. My mom bought me a copy of The Gambler when I was a kid (well, it was for my grandpa but he already had it, so she let me have it). I only listened to the title track. I like a handful of Kenny Rogers songs, the rest I find too sappy. So this CD is perfect for me. It’s all the Kenny I need.

I can only review this CD based on my own likes and dislikes, and stuff like “Crazy In Love” is just too sappy. But “Lady” is cool, it has some drama to it. It’ll never make it to one of my road trip CDs, but it’s cool. “She Believes In Me” is another softy, but there’s something schlocky about it that I enjoy.  Let’s be honest, I bought this CD for “The Gambler”, “Ruby”, “Lucille”, “Reuben James” and one of the greatest psychedelic funk rock songs ever written, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”. They wisely sequenced the CD with this song last. Saving the best for last!

As with all 20th Century Masters CDs, there are some brief liner notes for the unitiated, and a brief running time. Good enough for me. I’m given to understand that “Someone Who Cares” is a non-album single, so that’s a bonus.  Unfortunately, it’s slower than molasses in January.  Thankfully, “Something’s Burning” by the First Edition has some upbeat parts to offset the ballads.

Normally I rank these 20th Century Masters discs no higher than 2 stars, but I’ll go higher this time, because I’ll never need to buy another Kenny Rogers CD.

3/5 stars