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REVIEW: I Mother Earth – No One (1993 promo cassette)

“No one leaves the caravan.” – IME

I MOTHER EARTH – No One (1993 EMI promo cassette)

M.E.A.T Magazine was such an awesome resource for Canadians.  Their exclusive metal content really was second to none.  M.E.A.T was on top of virtually every new Canadian band on the scene.  Thanks to them, we knew all about I Mother Earth well before they were signed to EMI.

Then one day in early ’93, M.E.A.T arrived in the mailbox slightly thicker than usual.  Inside the envelope was a free cassette tape, a promo provided by EMI.  Time to see what this I Mother Earth band sounded like.  Would they live up to the hype that M.E.A.T was creating?

The full length album Dig was not released until later that summer.  Even the music video for “Rain Will Fall” hadn’t come out yet.  This EP, titled No One, was all brand new to me.  It received a lot of play.  Out walking with the Walkman, in the car, at home or at the lake:  I Mother Earth swiftly consumed me.  I felt pretty cool hearing all this music before the masses did.  They were gonna love I Mother Earth.

The cassette (repeated both sides) wisely opened with the chiming guitars of “The Mothers”.  Softer and more psychedelic than I expected.

“Listen…to the Mothers…” sings Edwin.  The track meanders on a little bit, not quite a full song but also more than just an intro.  “A surreal sound of eight-legged groove, a serving of today’s psycadellicasy.”  The clever words were written by drummer Christian Tanna, although I certainly couldn’t make them out on my own.

After a long 10 second gap, the uberfunk of “Basketball” crushes the speakers.  It’s almost too fast, but surely demonstrated that these Torontonians could play.  It’s more than just rock music.  The exotic percussion coupled with the tribal-sounding drums really took it all to another level, whether they were playing funky or psychedelic.  There’s always room for exotic percussion.

I called “No One” the centrepiece of the album, and so it is also the highlight of this tape.  Rather than hyperspeed funk, this one is built around guitar riffs.  There are two riffs in particular on this song that just steamroll.  When joined with the full-on groove of I Mother Earth, the riffs dominate your brain.  Then it gets quiet as Edwin chants “No one leaves the caravan…”, and this serves as a reset before the song comes back full strength for the kill.  Listening today, it seems almost impossible for a band to have a song this advanced on their first album.  It’s seven minutes of riff, percussion and melody yet there’s no fat to trim out.  You’d expect something like this on a third album, not a debut.

Interestingly, none of the songs on this EP were singles.  Dig ended up producing four singles.  Consider the strength of this promo tape, and you can extrapolate that Dig is probably a really strong album.  You would be correct.

5/5 stars

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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: I Mother Earth – Dig (1993)

THREE REVIEWS FOR THE PRICE OF NONE!
For Aaron’s review click here.
For Boppin’s review, click here!

I MOTHER EARTH – Dig (1993 Capitol)

Toronto rock fans were ecstatic when local heroes I Mother Earth signed with Capitol and went to record a debut album with Mike Clink (Guns N’ Roses).  The goal was to take I Mother Earth’s long and meandering jams and turn them into recordable songs, and this was a success.  With an intense mixture of metal, alternative, funk, world music and everything else, the debut album Dig was a head-turner.  Loads of exotic percussion mixed with funky bass turned it into slow-burning hit.  Eventually the record buying public pushed the album gold, with comparisons to Blind Melon and Jane’s Addiction.

The opening music, “The Mothers”, introduces a psychedelic bent that continues through the album.  “Listen! To the Mothers!” yells lead howler Edwin, with echoey 60’s guitar behind him.  This is all a fake-out:  “Feel heavy!” are the first words of the next song, “Levitate”, heavy as plutonium plated bullets.  The intense grinding riff and groove of “Levitate” are the perfect example of early I Mother Earth:  heavy, rhythmic and intense.  Edwin’s voice at the time was compared to Perry Farrell, but the two artists are easily distinguished.

The debut single “Rain Will Fall”, not that dissimilar from “Levitate”, focused on the intense heavy rock side of the band.  The complex beats and out-there lyrics are still there, but there is no denying the forward momentum of “Rain Will Fall”.  Either stay out of its way or get swept away; it’s your choice.  Edwin whispers the lyrics until the full-lunged chorus.  They really liked writing about themselves: “Four brothers make the Mothers, four brothers form the one!”  (Drummer Christian Tanna was responsible for all lyrics.)  But check out that funky wah-wah guitar, bass and percussion!  It’s worth noting that guitarist Jagori Tanna played all the bass on the album at the time.  Original bassist Franz had left and been replaced by Bruce Gordon, but that’s Jag playing all the funky shit on this CD.  “Rain Will Fall” has a long open jam section that shows off this incredible playing.

Time to get trippy.  “So Gently We Go” sounds like a 60’s Carlos Santana slow jam.  It was one of four successful singles from the album, in edited form, since the album track is seven minutes.  It’s a delightful journey of joyous vocals, psychedelic flower dancing and hippie jams.  Things turn intense on “Not Quite Sonic”, the most accessible of the album’s tracks.  Choppy guitars and percussion set the groove, then the bass drops in the low end.  “The sights are embryonic, say what you want, I’m not quite sonic.”  No idea what Christian is writing about, but Edwin sings it like he means it.  You can understand how this became a bit of a hit when it was released as a single.  It was great to hear music on the charts that really celebrated skilled playing and composition.

Super-fast paced funky guitar that sounds like Flea playing bass (jumping around joyfully naked) opens up “Production”, the most challenging of the songs. The sheer speed would knock most people for a loop, but I didn’t see that beat-poetry section coming! “Lost My America” is easier to swallow:  Big and grand Cult-like choruses, backed by laid back dusky verses.

The centerpiece of the album is the epic and heavy as fuck “No One”.  More than any, this one song combines all the band’s elements for maximum effectiveness.  The groove will initiate spontaneous leg-stomping, impossible to stop once started.  Edwin is on full intensity with his vocals.  I had this song on an early preview sampler cassette, and I played it relentlessly during the summer of ’93, treating locals to it quite loudly through the car speakers.  “No one leaves the caravan,” sings Edwin, but who would want to leave?  By the time the song has expired seven minutes later, if you are not dripping with sweat, then you haven’t been listening properly.

The album begins to wind down from “No One” to the end.  There are no more mindblowing songs, though plenty of jaw-dropping playing.  “Undone” is the quietest song on the album, stripped down and punctuated by congas and Edwin’s raspy singing.  Then “Basketball” is the funkiest of them all, blazingly fast, and hard to hold on to.  The final two songs, “And the Experience”, and “The Universe in You” blend together in my mind.  Is Dig perhaps overly long?  Ear fatigue sets in.   Your senses have been assaulted with a lot of notes and words to absorb and by this point, it’s overwhelming.  (And there were two more songs dropped from the album, “Subterranean Wonderland” and “Love from Revolution”, the former of which later turned up on a compilation CD called Earth, Sky and Everything in Between.)  “The Universe in You” ends the album on a bluesy Sabbath note, very epic indeed.

Dig is a mighty debut album indeed, but at well over an hour in length, perhaps they should have hung onto some of these tracks for B-sides.

4/5 stars

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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

REVIEW: Crash Karma – Crash Karma (2010)

CRASH KARMA – Crash Karma (2010 E1 Entertainment)

I wrote a review for this album back in 2010, not so glowing.  For me, the album just sat there.  Even though Crash Karma are made up of members of some of my favourite Canadian bands from the 90’s wave of alterna-hard rock, nothing happened.  I did the review, gave it a middling review and forgot about it.

About six months later, I’ll be damned if the whole thing didn’t just suddenly “click” with me. Rethinking my position, I had to re-write my review.  I think Crash Karma works best after a few listens.

Crash Karma consist of Edwin (ex-I Mother Earth) on lead vocals, guitarist Mike Turner (ex-Our Lady Peace), drummer Jeff Burrows (The Tea Party), and someone named Amir Epstein on bass.  They combine some of the best elements of the bands that spawned them. At first I saw a another faceless post-grunge band rocking past their prime, but now I’m getting it a little more. To the contrary, it sounds like these guys have some ideas to get off their chests. Wracked with Mike Turner’s angular guitar riffage and some mature and pensive lyrics by Edwin, this album rocks. Edwin is singing better than he has in years, pushing the voice to the limits we remember from the heady I Mother Earth prime. Turner is rocking much harder than Our Lady Peace, and much more straightforwardly. Burrows, freed of The Tea Party’s exotic leanings, lays down hard fast fills, recorded expertly by Turner. The result is a collection of songs that combines some of the best elements from the original bands, mixed in with some latter-day Rush.  (Edwin is a veteran of Alex Lifeson’s Victor album.)

Best songs include IME-like “Like A Wave” (the opener), “Awake”, and the furious “Fight”. Another track I begrundingly like is “Lost”, a slow one that sounds a bit too close to Edwin’s solo hit “Alive”. The melodies and vibe are suspiciously alike. However there is no filler on this album. It works better as an album, a single piece, than individual songs. Rather than make a road CD with your favourites on it, this one works as a front-to-back listen.

I still don’t like the cover.  The punk dude makes it look like I’m buying something from fucking Simple Plan or Theory Of a Dead Man.  It’s not like the guys’ faces are all that recognizable, even in Canada. It’s a shame because this album just disappeared. I never heard the tracks on the radio and back in the early 90’s, these guys were the kings of radio. I rarely saw it in the stores, I never saw ads for these guys on tour. It seems that this album will appeal to dudes from the post grunge era, not so much for younger kids.  They did release a second album in 2013, called Rock Musique Deluxe (co-produced by Terry Brown) — but I have not heard it yet.  (Send me a copy, E1, and I’ll be happy to review it!)

Crash Karma:  great musicianship, great songs, very good album.   Check it out.

3.5/5 stars
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Ignored Albums of the 1990’s: I liked ’em them…LeBrain’s List Part 6

Thanks for checking out my 88 underrated albums from the 1990’s that I believe deserved a second look.  There were a few albums that, had I written that series of articles in the 1990’s, would have made the list.  Today, they just don’t cut it.

Here’s a selection of albums that I felt were under-appreciated at that time.   Today, these very rarely get any play in my house.  The shine obviously wore off the apple.

Once again, this is alphabetical.

BIG WRECK – In Loving Memory Of…  (T-Rev teased me about it…it’s half decent, but only half)
BUSH – The Science of Things (good song: “The Chemicals Between Us”)
JERRY CANTRELL – Boggy Depot (Alice In Lite Chains)
CINDERELLA – Still Climbing (Never even upgraded to CD from cassette)
ALICE COOPER – A Fistful of Alice (Dunno…never play this anymore!  Good song: “Is Anyone Home?”)
EDWIN – Another Spin Around The Sun (Good song:  “Alive”. The rest? Suckiness.)
GEEZER – Black Science (only decent, certainly not great)
IOMMI – Iommi (too modern sounding, has some great tracks, but not enough)
MEGADETH – Cryptic Writings (T-Rev and I were into this big time! I can’t play it anymore)
METHODS OF MAYHEM – Methods of Mayhem (I fucking bought this one!)

MR. BIG – Hey Man (“Take Cover” is a good song…the rest I can barely remember)
ALDO NOVA – Blood On The Bricks (I’ll review this at a later date, just doesn’t cut it anymore)
NUNO (Bettencourt) – Schizophonic (One customer will never forgive me for recommending this)
SCORPIONS – Pure Instinct (pure lite-rock)
TWO – Voyeurs (sorry Rob, this just wasn’t a good idea)
STEVE VAI – Fire Garden (perhaps it’s just too dense for me)
VAN HALEN – 3 (no comment…)
VARGA – Prototype (I was trying to get into industrial metal. I grew out of it!)
VICTOR – Victor (Bought because it was Alex Lifeson, therefore my civic duty)