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.
There’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.