Itch

#870: You Can Be My Lemon Wedge, and I’ll Be Your Tequila

GETTING MORE TALE #870:
You Can Be My Lemon Wedge, and I’ll Be Your Tequila
(Part One of a two-part review of Kim Mitchell’s Greatest Hits)

The leaves turned colours, and were starting to decorate the ground.  I had been working at the Record Store for over a year.  I was well over my first relationship that went south, and was now seemingly hard at work wrecking the second.  Everything started lovey-dovey in the summer.  The first two months were bliss.  It started to sour in September and October.  “People are always on their best behaviour at the start,” she used to say in regards to “new love”.  Now that things were going bad, was it my fault?  It had to be.  What was I doing wrong?  It was in this emotional environment that Kim Mitchell released his first solo Greatest Hits CD in 1995.

As things started to go south, I anticipated that I’d need some new Kim music to get me through.  This compilation had two new songs, one rare remix, two re-recordings, and some surprising bonus music.  Decent value for a hits set.  “Ooh, it’s a messy breakup,” sang Kim on the new track called “Rainbow”.

The relationship was hitting the rocks and taking on water, and so the arguments were increasing.  Making things more uncomfortable, she was hanging out with my ex from the first bad breakup.  A lot.  I didn’t have a lot of experience, but that was weird, right?  They talked a lot.  It was obvious to me that she wasn’t happy with the way things were going and I was in no way prepared to deal with this added twist.

In October we went out on our last movie date:  Virtuosity, a terrible Denzel Washington sci-fi thriller featuring Russell Crowe as the killer.   I didn’t pick it.  I haven’t seen it since.

I was the driver that night.  Kim Mitchell’s Greatest Hits was in the tape deck.  I purchased the CD (and still own that copy) but I recorded everything to tape so my music was always mobile.

I will tell you one thing I remember:  she hated the song “Lemon Wedge”.  I wasn’t keen on it either, but it was a very popular tune with old school Max Webster fans.  It’s different.  T-Rev at the Record Store absolutely loved it; it was one of his jams.  “Lemon Wedge” is funky, horn-laden and mental.  Not at all like “Patio Lanterns”.  I was more indifferent to it.  I was puzzled that it was included on Greatest Hits at all, instead of one of the songs from Itch that I thought were better.  But I don’t skip songs; I play albums all the way through.  We’re heading home from this shitty movie and on comes “Lemon Wedge”.

You can be my lemon wedge,
And I’ll be your tequila.
I just wanna have a dance,
And I just wanna feel ya.

“This song is terrible!  Why do you listen to this?”  I didn’t think it was worth explaining that I don’t skip tracks.  That wouldn’t help.

Then, as if on cue, I made a wrong turn in the car.  I have a terrible sense of direction and didn’t know my way around town like she did.  She was really mad at me now, so I pulled over into a parking lot on Fairway Road.  Then I sat there and just took it.  This in turn frustrated her even more.

“You never stand up for yourself!” she complained.  “Whatever shit people say, you just go with it!  You can’t just keep bending over all the time!  You need to grow a backbone and start sticking up for yourself!”

I wanted to, but I was afraid of getting dumped again, so I preferred not to argue.   Getting dumped was no fun and I was not eager to do it again.  But I got her point.

“Well, I like that Kim Mitchell song,” I lied in a half-assed rebuttal.  She was not very impressed with my comeback.

My head was spinning.  This was supposed to be a movie date.  How did it turn into this lecture about me growing a spine?  I can relate to the episode of Big Bang Theory where Penny dumps Leonard.  “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it,” he said before she walked out.  But that isn’t what she wanted.

“I’m pretty sure it’s already over,” said Leonard with the wisdom that I was lacking.*

It really was curtains; all over except for Kim’s singing.  There were a few more arguments, but it was toast after Halloween.  I can’t remember what our last argument was about, but she was hanging out with my ex again and wasn’t answering her phone.  The ex was in fact the final “Lemon Wedge” that pushed us apart for good.  And it’s good that it happened for reasons that are obvious to anyone who is not me in 1995.

Instead of trying to win her back like I did with my last doomed relationship, I moved on decidedly.  I deleted my electronic contacts so I wouldn’t be tempted to email her.  I selected a variety of rock albums that I tailored to my listening needs.  She was into a lot of current music – Dance Mix ’95, the new Smashing Pumpkins, Lisa Loeb.  I chose to dive deep into classic British hard rock, the stuff she wasn’t into.  Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath.  Ozzy had a new album out and so did Iron Maiden.  There was plenty of music that didn’t remind me of her.

For a variety of reasons, that relationship took some time to get over.  She married the next guy, which is exactly what also happened with the previous ex!  I was the guy people go out with before the meet the one they were going to marry.  So I did a lot of re-evaluation, both personal and musical.  I really wanted to like that “Lemon Wedge” song just because she hated it so much, but I couldn’t force it to happen.  You either like “Lemon Wedge” or you don’t.  I wish I could say it was my favourite song in the world because of this story.  Unfortunately not every story can be about your favourite song.  Some are just about the music that was playing at the time.

Full CD review tomorrow.

 

* Ironically, Kaley Cuoco otherwise known as “Penny” was in that awful Denzel movie as a child actor.

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Itch (1994)

This review is for Thunder Bay’s hardest rocker, Deke from Arena Rock – Thunder Bay and Beyond! Once a loyal reader, now a blogger himself, Deke has been laying waste to the internet lately with his hilarious stories and classic Canadian reviews. This is an official LeBrain endorsement!

ITCH_0001KIM MITCHELL – Itch (1994 Alert)

I used to get so excited back in the Record Store days, checking the purchase logs from the day before. Many times, people logged KIM MITCHELL – ST (self-titled) in the books, immediately catching my attention. The self titled Kim Mitchell EP, after all, was and remains a true rarity. CD copies go today for up to $120.  When I would check the purchase logs against the physical CDs, I was always disappointed that the Kim Mitchell EP didn’t come in; rather his 1994 album Itch did.  The graphics are laid out in such a way that a part-time employee who didn’t know better couldn’t see that the album was called Itch, within the name Kim Mitchell.  Truth be told, I couldn’t figure out what it was called when I first started at the store in ’94 either!  I was working the week it came out.  “I didn’t know Kim Mitchell had a new album out!”  Staring at the cover…”What’s it called?”  I bought it on cassette initially.

The mid-90’s were a confusing time to be a Kim Mitchell fan. His 1992 record, Aural Fixations, was pretty straightforward and for the first time lacked lyrics written by Pye Dubois. When 1994 kicked off, the new Kim single “Acrimony” featured Kim rapping. Yes, rapping. Inappropriate comparisons to the Red Hot Chili Peppers were bandied about in the press.  I did not like “Acrimony”.  Some people do; in fact some people think Itch is Kim’s best CD.  I am not one of those people.

So how good is Itch? Well, it’s OK. It’s not great, not like Kim’s past work with the near-legendary Max Webster, though it does return Kim to some mild musical experimentations. There are standard Kim rockers like “Wonder Where & Why” and some great grooves like “Lick Yer Finger”. “Stand” is one of those classic Kim anthems that are perfect for the car in the summer time.  There are also just just plain weird moments that just don’t work. “Acrimony” is one of them, and “Lemon Wedge” is another. “Lemon Wedge” is a cool funk tune with horns, but is ruined by some guy (possibly Peter Fredette?) screaming out the chorus in a weird falsetto. Strangely though, those two songs made onto Kim’s first solo Greatest Hits CD, so maybe I’m the one who’s just not getting it.

In general Itch is a more somber album from Kim than the good time rock he produced in the 80’s.  It was also bluesier (“U.S. of Ache” for example) and harder edged, but I don’t think it had the songs to back it up.  Kim’s playing is fantastic of course, but you can say that about any of his albums.  Kim can play circles around most rock and blues players in his sleep.  He also has a crack band, featuring Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve on bass who did time in a couple legendary Canadian bands such as Loverboy and Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. Notably, Pye Dubois returned to pen the lyrics, the last time he would do so.  I think the main problem with Itch comes down to the songs.

The best tune on this CD is the last one, “Cheer Us On”, a great campfire song that should have been a single. However, it wasn’t, so it’ll just have to remain one of those little-known album songs with a few diehard fans.  I wouldn’t hesitate to put it on a greatest hits CD, even though it has never been used on a greatest hits CD.

As it stands, Itch was a commercial flop.  It has its staunch defenders, and maybe you are one of them.  Who’s right?

2.5/5 stars

Footnote: Eagle-eyed readers will recall seeing Itch in Record Store Tales Part 187; a video called “A Day in the Life at a Record Store”. Yes, a customer really did bring this album to the counter and inform me that someone had ruined the cover art with crayon. I had to tell them that it WAS the cover art!

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Fill Your Head With Rock (CD/DVD set)

Happy long weekend, Canada! Here’s a bonafide Canadian content bonus review for ya! Party on.
FILL YOUR HEAD WITH ROCK_0001KIM MITCHELL – Fill Your Head With Rock – Greatest Hits (2005 Sweden Rock CD/DVD set)

If you’re gonna buy this, you’re gonna buy this for the DVD, not the CD.  There’s so little live Mitchell material out there, and it’s somewhat surprising that this great nugget of a live show (1989 Rockland tour) came out as part of a weird Swedish greatest hits set.  Included on the CD is a new song written for the Sweden Rock Festival called “Fill Your Head With Rock”.  It was later included on Mitchell’s studio album Ain’t Life Amazing, rendering this CD obsolete.  Since the CD is little more than an extra to me, I’ll start by reviewing the included live DVD.

What kind of solo artist opens his show with five minutes of drum solos before taking the stage himself?  I can only think of one:  Kim Mitchell.

This live DVD, recorded in 1989 at the Kee to Bala opens exactly that way.  Astoundingly, it’s a triple drum solo!  Three drum kits, from left to right, keyboardist Greg Wells, drummer Lou Milano, and bassist Peter Fredette! The stage is so crowded that Wells is hidden behind Mitchell’s amplifiers!  And the party-ready crowd loved it.  When Mitchell entered the stage at the start of “That’s the Hold”, they were already in the palm of his hand.  Mitchell sports his neon pink baseball hat, a duplicate of which I owned at the same time!  Mitchell’s guitar solo is extended and suitably gonzo.

A really bad edit goes into the single “Rocklandwonderland”, opened with yet another solo, this time on keyboards.  Keep in mind this is a radio-friendly commercial rock artist that appealed to old-school prog rock fans, but also every beer-slurping hoser in the 1980’s.  To their credit the audience seems to be digging every note.  But then again, this is no band of slouches.  “Rocklandwonderland” was a huge hit in Canada.  If the studio version is a little too light on guitar, Mitchell compensates live.

One of the more rocking new songs is next, “The Crossroads”, and no it’s not a blues.  While there’s no argument it’s a party atmosphere (beach balls passed around), it’s also an extravaganza of Mitchell’s always classy guitar.  Fredette is suitably solid yet goofy at the same time, and backing Kim up on vocals with range to spare.  In my opinion, Peter Fredette has always been the secret weapon of this band.

FILL YOUR HEAD WITH ROCK_0005“Crossroads” merges into the ballad “Lost Lovers Found”, not one of Mitchell’s best songs.  His vocal range on the chorus is still remarkable, and the duo of Wells and Fredette harmonize with just a hint of twang.  Once again the highlight is Kim’s soulful, brilliant guitar solo.  Yet all of this pales to the majesty of “Battle Scar”.  The three drum kits return for this Max Webster/Rush classic.  Fredette easily handles Geddy’s powerful vocal part.  “Battle Scar” remains one of Mitchell’s greatest compositions, heavy and relentless.

Another of Kim’s greatest, “All We All”, easily follows “Battle Scar”.  Once again, the solos are brilliant, as is Fredette’s lead vocal.  The Akimbo Alogo classic “That’s A Man” is a smooth showcase of Kim’s bluesier playing, on top of a cool ZZ Top style rock song.  Beers are hoisted into the air.  Fredette switches to guitar to accompany Mitchell on the lead solo, and several mustachioed audience members play air guitar.  One bearded man even attempts the air-drums.

“O Mercy Louise” isn’t exactly a standout, but the poodle-haired girls in the audience seem to like to bob and dance to it.  The whole room seems to sing along to the gleeful country of “Easy to Tame”.  Same story with the summer classic “Patio Lanterns”.  It’s nothing but the hits from here in, “Go For Soda” and “Rock N Roll Duty” inspiring plenty of sing-alongs.

As for the CD, I’m not sure if I follow the logic of its track selection.  While many of the biggest hits are included (“Rock N Roll Duty”, “I Am A Wild Party”, “Get Lucky”, “Go For Soda”), many are not.  Some of Kim’s best later material is included, such as “Kimosabe”, “World’s Such A Wonder” and “Find the Will”.  Even though the album concentrates on later Mitchell material, I’m baffled by the lack of inclusion of singles such as “America” and “Acrimony”.

There are, among the later songs, a lot of good tunes worth a revisit.  “Human Condition” is a grinding blues rocker, and “Wonder Where & Why” smokes from start to finish.  I think “Big Smoke” is one of the better tunes from the Aural Fixations album, an often overlooked record.

Of course we have to talk about the “new” song, “Fill Your Head With Rock”.  It’s very much in the mold of the later Kim Mitchell material included.  It’s hard, with a gritty guitar riff and slippery solos.  It won’t go down in history as a classic, but it’s a workmanlike Kim Mitchell rocker.  A year or two later, Helix wrote their own song called “Fill Your Head With Rock” for the Sweden Rock festival as well!

With Amazon.ca asking an absolutely ridiculous $124.75 right now, I would say snag this one if you find it used.

FILL YOUR HEAD

CD:  2.5/5 stars

DVD:  5/5 stars

Part 187: A Day in the Life at a Record Store (VIDEO)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 187:  A Day in the Life at a Record Store

Re-enactments of actual in-store events

DAY IN THE LIFE