Rock N’ Roll Duty

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Greatest Hits (1995)

KIM MITCHELL – Greatest Hits (1995 Alert)

Five studio albums, one live and an EP to boot:  Definitely enough music to justify your first solo Greatest Hits.  For added value, Kim included a bunch of new and unreleased music.  With 15 songs and over an hour of music, Kim Mitchell’s Greatest Hits is an easy buy for fans and collectors.  For new fans it’s not quite ideal, for reasons we’ll get in to.

Long time fans will remember that Kim’s prior band Max Webster issued a greatest hits called Diamonds Diamonds with two new songs.  This album follows suit with two brand new tracks recorded for this set.  “No More Walking Away”, co-written by Pye Dubois, is an electric ballad with stunning guitar tones.  This is in the same lane as some of Kim’s previous ballads from Rockland or Aural Fixations; very much a “later Kim” sound.  Long time fans will love hearing Peter Fredette on backing vocals.  The other new song, “Rainbow”, is a straight-on hard rocker.  With Andy Curran on lyrical duties, “Rainbow” is just good time Kim rock as you have grown to expect it.  It goes without saying that his guitar playing is tremendous.  The chorus goes all the way to the clouds.  “I’m bringin’ you back your rainbow,” sings Kim and you better believe it.

In addition to the new songs, this time Kim also included two re-recordings.  This is unfortunately where first-time buyers are going to be let down.  One of Kim’s biggest career hits was undoubtedly 1986’s “Patio Lanterns” from Shakin’ Like a Human Being.  This compilation includes a new arrangement, which is actually quite cool.  It’s twangy and has lots of guitar play.  But that’s not the version that old folks remember from highschool — not even close.  The tempo they used to dance to is gone.  This version, excellent as it is, unfortunately is only for people who already own the original.  The other re-recording is the less sacred “Lager & Ale”, originally from Akimbo Alogo.  The vocal line is slightly modified, but this one shouldn’t upset too many people.  The Akimbo original remains the best version.

What else is to be found on this disc?  We have the opening and closing bits called “Transcendental Soda” and “Hare Soda”, which are simply snippets from the live intro to “Go For Soda”.  Nothing too special, but elsewhere you’ll find some cool stuff.  “Expedition Sailor” is credited as “The Other Version” which is a remix from the music video, long unavailable to regular folks like us.  This fine ballad was a decent hit back in 1989-90 so it’s nice to own that elusive video mix.

That’s it for the special stuff listed on the back, but there are two hidden surprises within.  Between “Rainbow” and “All We Are” (the live version from I Am A Wild Party) you will find 30 seconds of a demo.  This is a demo for “All We Are”, and the tape could even date back to the Max Webster days since that’s when he wrote the tune.  That’s gold.  What a cool way to introduce “All We Are”.  The other surprise is evident by the track times.  Hit single “Rocklandwonderland” is missing the fade out, and runs out to its actual end.  It just ends — the guys just stop playing.  Really cool unlisted bonuses here.

As for the rest, it’s the hits!  All singles (though some only for radio), except for “Lemon Wedge” which was a hit with the fans.  Though it doesn’t suit everybody’s needs, Greatest Hits still plays well and scratches some of those big Kim itches.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Rockland (1989)

KIM MITCHELL – Rockland (1989 Alert)

This album was huuuuge in 1989. In Canada, summer time is Mitchell time. Cottages, brewskies, BBQ and Mitchell. That’s what it was all about! Shakin’ Like a Human Being was also a huge success for Kim, but he expressed a desire to use less keyboards and programming. Kim recorded in the US this time, and for budget reasons, did not bring along lyricist Pye Dubois with him. Pye had been in the studio with Kim for every album prior, and this caused a rift between the two that took years to heal. This was the last time they collaborated until 1994’s Itch.

The pseudo-title track, “Rocklandwonderland” refers to the “concert bowl” at Canada’s Wonderland.  “Listen to the music, listen to the voices, listen to my guitar,” sings Kim, although the song is a little light on guitar. “Rocklandwonderland” was a big hit for Kim, and although it’s not a heavy rock, his guitar playing on it is stellar. Perhaps he shouldn’t have followed a slow rock tune with a ballad, although “Lost Lovers Found” is a hell of a ballad, with just a hint of twang. Some felt that Rockland was too soft compared to Kim’s progressive rock past, but a Kim ballad has more integrity than most. Kim’s backup singer extraordinaire, Peter Fredette, is present here and he also serves to class up any song by several notches.

Other ballads on the record include “Tangle of Love”, which is quirky and experimental but not great. “O Mercy Louise”, which has a rocking chorus, is a fine song with cool lyrics. The “big one” however was the single “Expedition Sailor”. This introspective acoustic song is sparse and effective. Kim’s buddy Rik Emmett from Triumph drops by to play an excellent solo on classical guitar. “Expedition Sailor” is top drawer stuff.  (The music video received a remix, which you can get on Kim’s Greatest Hits album.)

The “big” song on the album, still getting airplay today, is the anthem “Rock N’ Roll Duty”.  The tougher direction of the song is exemplified by a “live” style music video in a seedy bar.  As a fan I really wanted Kim to come out with a tough rocking tune, with a killer chorus, and he did.

“I’m just doing my rock n’ roll duty,
Creating a buzz buzz buzz,
Some say I’m in it for the money,
Man, I’m in it for love love love!”

The phrase “I’m just doing my rock n’ roll duty,” is now commonly heard among music fans in Canada. The song just hits the spot, and the riff is now synonymous for summer in my mind.

Other highlights on Rockland include the joyful “The Crossroads” which opens side two. The guitar-heavy “This Dream” is another favourite. I could always identify with the lyrics. It’s just a stellar song, an also-ran that could have been a fourth single. The record is rounded out by “Moodstreet” and “The Great Escape”, two decent but unremarkable tunes.

MVP:  Drummer Lou Molino, a near legend in these parts.  Curiously, when you Google images of Lou Molino, you will also get hits for Lou Ferigno.

Overall I was pleased with the direction of Rockland, going a bit more raw and rocking. Unfortunately with the exception of a few tracks like “Rock N’ Roll Duty”, it feels very tame. Except for quirky moments within guitar solos, it doesn’t possess enough of Kim’s humour and idiosyncrasies. It feels as if it’s on a leash, but it’s also not straining to get off it. It feels like Rockland hits the mark in many respects, but plays it too safe.

3/5 stars

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