Daniel Mansilla

REVIEW: Edwin – Another Spin Around the Sun (1999)

EDWIN_0001EDWIN – Another Spin Around the Sun (1999 Epic)

Having followed I Mother Earth since before their first album Dig, I was disheartened when Edwin left the band for a solo career.  It is true that songwriting in I Mother Earth was dominated by the Tanna brothers, but nobody likes when an original singer leaves a band.  Edwin was first (by mere months) to get a new album out, and Another Spin Around the Sun couldn’t sound less like I Mother Earth!

The liner notes shed a lot of light on the album.  Lots and lots of studio musicians, different writers, keyboards and programming.  Expectations for anything band-like should be dropped.  The opening song “Theories” has big echoey guitars, but also very-90’s programmed drum beats and modern “funk”.  The 420 references tell us what the lyrics are about, and then the very next song is called “Trippin'”!  Maybe Edwin was also high when he quit I Mother Earth.

“Trippin'” was a single, but I remember one of my co-workers “Criss” being incredibly annoyed by it.  Even more irritating is another single, “Hang Ten” which sounds like…oh fuck, I don’t know?  Sugar Ray meets Edwin?  Something indigestible anyway.  Edwin’s going for a lounge crooner vibe on the verses before hitting us up with a “big rock chorus” but stumbles under the weight of  its own ambition.

EDWIN_0003Daniel Mansilla, who plays percussion with I Mother Earth as an “unofficial member” lends some class to “And You”.  The real percussion stuff is more my speed than the trip-hoppin’ beats Edwin laid down on the first few tracks.  Unfortunately what “And You” has in percussion, it lacks in memorable hooks.  There’s nothing lazy about it though, especially when it goes into a dreamy Beatles section near the end.  At least you can say that Edwin made the most of his solo debut.

The lullaby-like “Screaming Kings” has a psychedelic vibe and a big chorus (enough anyway).  As such it’s one of the few that I still remember.  I also remember “Shotgun” but not because it’s good.  It’s Edwin trying to buy modern punk metal rock or something.  Edwin mixes up the genres quite a bit on his album, but I don’t think they always turn into great tunes.  “Shotgun” is that noisy rock that frankly kinda annoys me.

Every CD in my collection has a reason for being there.  In normal circumstances, Edwin would not have survived a CD purge this long.  The only reason I kept the CD is the song “Alive”.  This magnificent — nay, majestic — big ballad is the one song that does sound world class.  The lyrics are uplifting, the music a perfect fit. Edwin finally gets a big chorus to bellow, and it’s about damn time. It’s also the perfect place for the strings that permeate the album. In some respects, it reminds me of David Coverdale’s “Last Note of Freedom”.

The rest of the album is largely a mirror of the first. There are the dusky pseudo-funky tracks that sound so dated to the late 90’s. There are the darting guitar parts that never coalesce into solid hooks. There are the drum samples. Even the song called “Rush” fails to be one. “Take Me Anywhere” ain’t bad.

In final 90’s fashion, there is a hidden bonus track. Can you guess the genre? “Another Drink” is a lounge song! It’s actually a pretty decent lounge song, with LP scratch added for authenticity, but it didn’t help my impression that Edwin was chasing trends and styles. One tequila, two tequila, aye carumba. (Those are some of the lyrics.)

Edwin followed this album with Edwin and the Pressure in 2002, but it did very little in terms of sales. Edwin returned to a solid rock form with new band Crash Karma in 2010. Another Spin Around the Sun remains essentially a one-song album for me.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: I Mother Earth – Blue Green Orange (1999)

This one goes out to Patrick Dynamite!

I MOTHER EARTH – Blue Green Orange (1999 Mercury)

When Edwin left I Mother Earth for a solo career, many fans (myself included) were disappointed with his wishy-washy not-rock of his solo debut, Another Spin Around the Sun.  Sure the song “Alive” was incredible and epic, but the rest of the album was so middle-of-the-road and lukewarm.  It was with great relief that I Mother Earth only went from strength to strength by hiring on unknown singer Brian Byrne to replace him.

I Mother Earth didn’t scale the top of the charts with Blue Green Orange, but what an album it is!  Byrne has enough of the rasp and power that Edwin possesses, so he is a natural fit and the sound is pure IME.  The opener “Love Your Starfish” immediately proclaims that the band are back!  Back to playing longer, more complex song structures with interesting drum patterns, bellowing vocals, and riffs.

But it’s not all just hammering away.  “All Awake” brings back the spacey, quiet side of I Mother Earth.  The psychedelic textures and exotic percussion are reminiscent of a song like “So Gently We Go” from the first album.  Drummer Christian Tanna is joined by longtime I Mother Earth percussionist Daniel Mansilla, and Armando Borg on additional percussion.  Jagori Tanna remains one of the most underrated and interesting guitarists to come from the Great White North, and his work here is exemplary.  His willingness to explore reminds me of other progressive players such as Steve Rothery.

“Gargantua” is one of the shortest songs at 4:34.  Most of them are in the five to six minute range.  Appropriately “Gargantua” is the most radio-friendly.  Its pop melodies and straightforward beats make it the most immediate, all it lacks is a great chorus.  For that, go for the ballad “When Did You Get Back From Mars?”  I don’t know if we can call it a “ballad” but it’s a quieter acoustic tune with a plaintive chorus.


Video edit version of “Summertime in the Void”

You wouldn’t usually pick out a track that is seven minutes long for a first single, but that’s “Summertime in the Void”, one of the best tunes on the album.  It’s also one of the most rocking, though like all I Mother Earth tunes it’s full of twists and turns including loads of percussion.  I’m a big fan of Bruce Gordon’s intricate bass.  Even so, I do have a favourite bass player in the world, and that’s Geddy Lee.  And guess who turns up on the song “Good for Sule”?  Geddy frickin’ Lee!  (Alex Lifeson played on the previous IME album, Scenery & Fish.)  “Good for Sule” may well be the best tune on the album.  Gentle piano helps make it the most laid back track on the disc.

I’ll stop here — I don’t want to review Blue Green Orange song by song, because it’s all variations of “wicked guitars”, “awesome percussion”, and “challenging twists and turns”.  Blue Green Orange is not an instant pleasure, but one that reveals layers the more you listen.  As such it’s my second favourite I Mother Earth album, after Dig. Reception was mixed at the time however.  Some fans did not embrace the new album, others preferred the old singer.  Fellow reviewer Deke from Arena Rock – Thunder Bay and Beyond said, “I did at one point have it, but after one listen I gave it to my bro, and never seen nor heard from it again!”

The packaging for this CD is cool.  You could choose between blue, green or orange covers.  The inside booklet is layered with pages of different sizes and lyrics for all the songs.  Packaging like this on a standard edition CD is something we collectors appreciate.

4/5 stars