Jagori Tanna

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: 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