The Second Ten

One of the comments I received was a statement that I did not include songs from some of my favourite artists. This is indeed true, although I unapologetically enjoy all the artists included in my top ten. Sometimes I find to many great songs by an artist, but in all honestly, despite my constant ravings about an artist, they do not meet my desire where I put the record on simply for this song or that. Most of the songs on this list, again, no more than one song per artist, are imbedded in great albums but with many great songs and the particular song rises to the top and always provides great feelings as I listen.

11) Safesurfer – Julian Cope from the album Peggy Suicide. This song is in the similar format as the song “No Trains To Heaven” by Be-Bop Deluxe. The lyrics are almost strictly another instrument to the music as except for the first spoken word part, they keep to a repeating chorus of – “You don’t have to be afraid, love, ‘Cause I’m a safesurfer, darlin’, You don’t have to be afraid, love, ‘Cause I’m a safesurfer, darlin'”. Over this chorus is the amazing guitar work of Julian Cope that is more than mesmerizing. Again, with my penchant for lead guitar, to me, the song sparkles. This long track, clocking in at over eight minutes begins with feedback guitar that morphs into the lead guitar melody of the song. It is not until well into the third minute of the song when the narrator provides his commentary, of what, I am not really sure, but when it comes to Julian Cope, does it really matter. There is an interesting patter of piano in behind the repeated chorus and as the last repetition of the chorus comes to its final breath, the keyboard comes streaming in and then upon the last line, the lead guitar explodes onto the scene and drives us to the musical climax.

Julian Cope

12) Fascination Street – The Cure from the album Disintegration. When I first purchased this Cure album upon its release in 1989, I could not believe the progression of the Cure from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me to this superb album. Of course, I am a big Cure fan and that prior album had rarely left my CD player in the past year (good thing I had a five disc player), but Disintegration would replace it and become my go to album for many years. This album is awash in hits and this includes songs that were used for HP commercials (Pictures Of You) and songs that were copiously covered (Love Song). But, for me, the song that struck me immediately on the album was “Fascination Street”. The song on the album comes in at over five minutes, but I love the extended mix that came in a box set of singles which came on four CD’s. I have always enjoyed songs that have long intro’s and this song does not disappoint as the intro comes in a 2:18. Then Robert Smith takes over with his unmistakable vocals pressing the listener to take a journey to journey with him to fascination street. I once had a friend complain that Robert Smith always sang off key, but that is not an issue with him at all. It is his vocal stylings and the unique style that he brings to the bands’ music. The singing is not off key if it fits with the music. If all artists sang the same way, music would be very boring indeed. One of the things that makes pop/rock music so interesting is the different singing styles, from the high pitched wail of Brian Johnson or Bon Scott of AC/DC, the screaming of George Petit of Alexisonfire, to the clean singing of Dallas Green from the same band and City and Colour.

The Cure, Robert Smith centre

13) Grace, Too – The Tragically Hip from the album Day for Night. The Hip have been for over thirty years and despite their demise due to Gord Downie succumbing to cancer, they will continue to be one of my favourite bands. Their first six full length albums may be the finest set of first six albums since any band after the Beatles, my opinion of course. Their fourth, Day For Night and their sixth, Phantom Power stand out for me, but it is the radical sounds of Grace, Too that really sets the grade for great composition and performance. The simple drum beat followed by the incoming rhythm guitar and bass, then Rob Baker gives a gentle lead. Gord Downie slips into his role as narrator and seems to entice a friend to feel safe with his approaches. The great thing about the song is the vocals, as the backing vocals reiterate the statements made by the singer. The back and forth seems to be perfect and the music grinds its way as the main melodic theme. The lead guitar, though subtle, is captivating. When the band played this song during the final concert in Kingston, you could hear the passion in the screams that Downie emitted as he knew, well he just knew and it was killing him, no pun intended. Other great songs from this album include, well every one is great. The album Phantom Power also had two of my faves, “POETS” and “Fireworks”. If you are not familiar with the band, I assume all of my Canadian readers are familiar, but this is a band worth hearing. Although the bias of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will doubtless never recognize the Hip as HOF material, they are. They are the second finest band to ever emerge from Canada and they set the tone for hard rock leaning into ballads at one end and punk at the other.

Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip
Gord Downie

14) Starless – King Crimson from the album Red. Well, it was meant to be, a return to the long songs and the anthemic plunderings of Robert Fripp and his crew. The song starts son beautifully with the mellotron building the song to go along with the lean guitar. Mel Collins on saxophone and Ian MacDonald on Alto saxophone. John Wetton sings the opening lyrics, which includes such great lines like “Starless and Bible Black” which always makes me think of a dark windowless room in a basement. the song trips through the song and arrives at the typical junction of a long King Crimson song as it starts to explore the louder and more intense rhythms of the prog rock that it intends to be. Coming in at over twelve minutes the song builds to a fury as it gets into its eighth minute. Mr. Fripp ploughs the guitar field as we start to enter the climactic final stage of the song with Bill Bruford pounding in his jazz-rock style accompanied by Mel Collins on sax. When I saw King Crimson in September of 2019, this song provided me with the climactic event of the concert. There is an awful lot going on in this song and this truly is a song that requires active listening, as the musical theme continues to present itself right to the triumphant end.

King Crimson at the time of the album Red

15) Space Oddity – David Bowie from the album David Bowie. David Bowie released an album in 1967 called David Bowie, so the this similarly titled album had the name Space Oddity added to it in 1972 differentiate it from the earlier album, but this was originally released in 1969. This song may be the most influential song in creating the music listener that I am today. Most of us are readily aware of the song. It was a hit in Canada before it gained popularity in the States. Whether this was a backlash from the general population due to the happiness that was being derived from the moon landing is something that can be debated. The song itself tells the symbolic story of an astronaut who is so blown away by what he is experiencing that he decides to make this his permanent and final journey. There has been considerable debate about what Bowie was trying to actually put across, is it alienation, is it depression at the thought he he has to face people because of his fame, or is it really about what the song is saying. I tend to see deeper meanings in the story and the idea of fame as an alienation appears to seem very understandable. The musicianship on this song is stellar. There is the constant feel of the mellotron, played by Rick Wakeman is so perfectly placed within the song and gives it a very spacey feel. Terry Cox of Pentangle fame played drums with Mick Wayne adding guitar and Herbie Flowers adding Bass. As the song reaches its climax, with ground control failing to contact the astronaut, the mellotron fixes space and time and slowly we fade away with the astronaut and feel the dream of floating. I had other choices that were high om my Bowie list including “Rock and Roll Suicide” from Ziggy Stardust, Station to Station from the album of the same name, the excellent final production of “Lazarus” Blackstar. The most interesting rocking runner up for me is “Black Country Rock” from the Man Who Sold the World.

David Bowie at the time of Space Oddity

16) The Ballad of the Night the Clocks All Quit (And the Government Failed) – Tonio K. from the album Life in the Foodchain. There may not be a better side of music for story telling than side one of this very interesting album. But, of course, this is the long song on the side, but it is a lyrical dynamo. The story tells the story of a group of friends who went on a adventure to watch as authoritarianism was coming down on top of society. This is a song that is all about the lyrics and steady rhythm that gets broken down near the end as the climax reaches for us. I have listened to this song so many times trying to completely understand what he is trying to say. There seems to be religious anti-theme as the supreme leader/being is watching the mayhem that is being brought upon the world, from the leading of destruction by the Austrian son (Hitler) and Attila the Hun. The USA does come away unscathed in this blistering attack as Uncle Sam gets name checked several times. In the end the boss (God) takes down the breeders of violence against society. It really is a shame that this is only a parable and violence continues in the world to this day. But Tonio K. wanted us to know that he abhors violence and built this lyrical track around the musings of ridding the world of war. He also seems to want to insist that behind all of the violence is religion and how it is part of the issues that cause war. There is a lot of hard drumming and slide guitar going on in the background, but as I stated this a song filled with intense imagery and the actual musical construct is not the main thing going on in the song.

Tonio K.

17) Paradise/The Spell – Uriah Heep from the album Demons and Wizards. Back to my favourite song style, a long story in multiple parts. This another song that clocks in at over twelve minutes and it begins with a great strumming guitar from Mick Box. The bass and drums fill the background and give the song its mellow beginning. David Byron sings during the first part about a relationship that seems to be disintegrating. As we move into part two, the musical theme continues to drive the melody as the protagonist of the song seems to be talking and answering himself as he tries to decide where to go from here. He is looking for paradise, an ideal that may not even exist. The song transforms to a fast song mainly filled with the keyboard of Ken Hensley. This very melodic middle section implores the listener to believe that they can find happiness deep within as long as there is no pretending. But, it becomes a dark song, as we transition with the piano and guitar that bring the mood to a more bleak outlook. As the song moves into the second last transition, it brings the listener to a bleak place and out look, but all is not lost as we again transition to an up tempo section where we find that the protagonist can follow his heart which has been placed in a spell that may provide happiness as long as we follow our heart as our heart will be watching us. My interpretation is definitely out there for debate. But it is a great song in many parts with a strong melodic theme meandering around the different paces of the song. Other great songs from the Heep include “Bird of Prey” from their first album, “Rain” from Magician’s Birthday and “July Morning” from Look at Yourself.

Uriah Heep

18) La Villa Strangiato – Rush from the album Hemispheres. I think that Rush was the hardest band for me decide which song would make it to the top of my list. In the end, I decided that this astounding instrumental from Rush’s sixth album was the track that I appreciated the most. There are so many perfect musical themes running through this song. Rush also found this very complex song a struggle to play live, but they worked incessantly at it until it became perfection. The song has an incredible run of Spanish guitar to open it up before the guitar theme comes in along with the keyboards/synthesizers as it slowly builds along with the quiet drumming of Neil Peart. They slowly build along with the guitar to meet the main theme that pulls this song into a strong centre. Alex Lifeson gets his guitar into the melodic middle section solidly dragged along by Geddy Lee’s bass and the drum theme. The fact that the band could pull this off shows the kind of musicianship that exists with these three great artists. Rush would go the instrumental route several times in their career, and this track sets up the template for them. This song also compliments the album which only had three other songs, one of which I contemplated for this list, “Trees”. Lifeson has a great guitar theme for this song and the rhythm is astounding, as Geddy and Neil keep Alex honest in the over riding melody. Rush was one of the greatest musical outfits in my estimation. Many people are down on the band because they did not appreciate the style of singing by Geddy Lee, or because progressive rock which requires active listening is not their forte. If you are one of those who just don’t like Geddy’s voice, give this track a listen and you will appreciate the musicality of the band.

Rush live in Halifax

19) 2000 Light Years From Home – The Rolling Stones from Their Satanic Majesties Request. This was the first album I ever purchased and this song has always been a favourite of mine. I have actually owned this album four times as the first copy I had (Boy imagine a first pressing and how much it may be worth) I had to sell it to my babysitter, I was twelve and did not have enough money collected to pay paper route manager. However, this song is the second last on the side two of the record and starts with a very spacey feel. From what I have learned, this album took a long time to record. The band were not getting along well and Brian Jones made this album his pet project and when other members of the band would drop in from time to time, they would add their parts to the song. This song does not have a lot of similarities to other Stones” songs, but if you listen carefully, you can hear the makings of “Gimme Shelter”. There is some wonderful throaty guitar in the song as well lots of spacey sounds that back up the spacey nature of the song. There are other good songs on this album that is so far removed from their prior album, Between the Buttons and their subsequent album, Beggars Banquet. Songs like “She’s a Rainbow” which was recently featured on Ted Lasso. Also, “2000 Man” and “In Another Land”. As I had this longstanding grudge against the Stones, it did not allow me to see some of their other great songs until recently. I always liked “Gimme Shelter”, but I have to add “Sympathy For the Devil” and “Midnight Rambler” to the list of songs I admire by the Rolling Stones. I now give them adequate space in my collection and am able to readily listen to many of their seventies’ albums. However, do not play “Start Me Up” in my presence. To me, this is one of the worst and simplistic pieces of musical trash on the airwaves.

The Rolling Stones in the late ’60’s

My good friend Doc, indicated to me that a top ten is difficult to contemplate, and asked about some bands that I omitted, but this is a list of songs that I deem to be essential for me and I do believe that of you may find a few of these as so obscure or unknown that it is hard for you to understand their ramifications to my musical life. But they are my choices and I do agree, there are so many songs that I love that this actually just scratches the surface. So with that being said, let me get to the last song on this ten song list, again only one song per artist, so here we go.

20) Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd from the album The Wall. I probably had as hard a time on deciding my Pink Floyd song. I originally put the song “Echoes” from the album Meddle, but as a lay in bed thinking about it, I knew I was wrong and had to change. “Echoes” is a wonderful piece of music, but for sheer musical perfection, nothing in the Pink Floyd catalogue really comes close to musical strength that this song provides. Clocking in at over six minutes, this powerful rock documentary seems to have very little to do with the main lyrical theme of the album, but that is fine as it stands alone as a great progressive rock tune. The lyrics, written by Roger Waters, were sung by both Roger and David Gilmour as the song also contains some of the best lead guitar solos ever performed. There are actually two solos, the last of which is the outro and is simply stunning in its musical perfection. This song is great to just lay about and enjoy on a mellow Sunday after noon played at high volume. Although many consider The Wall to be a masterpiece, I feel that without this song, it would simply be another concept album offering some good music, but nothing over the top, until you hear this song.

Pink Floyd

So there you go, another ten songs and some honourable mentions for you to either discover or have further appreciation for. I have more songs and bands to talk about, but I will go back and continue with my top three songs by artist from the ’80’s to the ’90’s. So many songs, so many decisions, but I am sure I can illuminate some other new music for you.

The Top Ten

How many times do you find yourself telling somebody that this is your favourite song. Then a few days later, you make the same commentabout another song. With my previous blogs, I have listed artists from the 60’s and 70’s and my favourite songs by each artist. I still need to carry on with that story and move into the 80’s and ’90’s, but I decided to distill my musical loves down to a top ten.

Now, I will be the first to admit that this is a very difficult thing to do, as there are so many songs that seem to be my “favourite”. So I spent a considerable amount of time listening to many songs over the past few months and I think I have been able to successfully complete this list. I did make one definite decision as to the makeup of the list. There would be no more than one song per artist. I decided to do this mainly because two of my favourite bands/artists could have two or even three songs. I will honourably mention these songs as I go through the list.

For each song, counting down from number ten, I will describe what I like about the song and other reasons why these tracks have a special place in my heart.

10) Eyes – Garfield, from the album Strange Streets. This song would never be in my normal top three by artist because Garfield is just too obscure for many of you to know. Garfield, led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Garfield French was a band that began in southern Ontario (Toronto) in the early seventies. While working at the University of Waterloo radio station, I came a across a stripped down version of a song called “Sundown” which mesmerized me. I got lucky and was able to snag an interview with Garfield for my radio show I was producing called MusiCanada. It was my first interview and I was beyond horrible. It never made it out of the cassette recorder, but I did learn a little about the band. Garfield had funded the instruments, set his brother up as the drummer and brought in several local musicians that were of top talent. When their first album came out in 1976, it contained a couple of sure fire hits (in my estimation) including “Give My Love To Annie”, “Old Time Movies” and “Nanny’s Song”. But it was the final song on side 2 that grabbed my attention. First off it was long (8:46), it was a song that required active listening and it had elements of the song “Sundown”. It starts its journey with a extended drone and a bell going off in the background and builds to an intensity. The drumming in the song is incredible. It is pounding and drives the song in its flute drenched intensity. The musical elements remind you of an intense nautical movie. The middle section features the main lyrics and a wonderful flute led melody. The ringing of the chimes in this section moves us to into the intense climax and the drum crashes and that is it.

Garfield

9) Since I’ve Been Loving You – Led Zeppelin, from the album III. In Led Zeppelin’s early days, there was a lot of consternation about the way that they ripped off songs by the great Chicago and Delta Blues artists, Willie Dixon and others, and with great reason. The songs were appropriated by Jimmy Page and Zeppelin tried to make them their own. Today, it is widely known that many of the songs were borrowed, and I have heard that there have been shared credits added to some off their songs on their first album. By the time of III, the band was definitely penning their own tunes and when they didn’t, they were either credited as traditional (Gallows Pole) or credit was shared. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is what I term “white” blues. Not that any artist not immersed in the cultures of the south or Chicago would really know how to copy, but this track is absolutely solid in its blues tincture. The opening lead, which I am trying to learn to play, sets up the song perfectly. This is not a song to listen to for any deep lyrical meaning, it is simply a great track with simmering lead guitar and Robert Plant’s vocals bring the “white” blues style to its knees. As is typical for me, it is a long song coming in just over seven minutes. Jimmy Page’s guitar is perfect and it is driven by John Bonham’s drumming and John Paul Jones perfect simmering keyboard. Page’s solo in the middle of the song is a stinger and it derives a lot of tension in the way the sound is shaped. Plant’s vocals build to the intense peak then to a tapered guitar finish that Bonham and Jones finish with a little keyboard and cymbal.

Album cover for Led Zeppelin III

8) Something’s Got A Hold of Me – Lindsay Misiner and the Seventh Mystic. I first heard this song at a house concert at my friend, Doug Taylor’s Codapop studio. Lindsay had brought her entire eight piece band with her so the stage was packed, but the band had enough room to spread their musical wings. The horns on this song, trumpet and trombone, give this soul filled track a great bluster and the lead guitar simmers in the middle of the track. The second time I heard the song, was again at Codapop and with the full band, they performed an even stronger interpretation of this song that peaked with a great middle lead guitar then it morphed into All Along the Watchtower. I feel very fortunate to have a video of this performance. The studio track keeps very faithful to the live performances, but without Dylan’s song. Lindsay sings to this R & B soul tune with the intensity rarely seen since Janis Joplin. I truly love the horns in this song and they are perfectly punctuated by the lead and rhythm guitars. Lindsay recently returned to Halifax where she literally, put the band back together. When they played this track at the Derby Club, I was in seventh heaven. This is a band that is wonderful to see live as the musicianship as seen on this track is exemplary on all corners.

Lindsay Misiner (second woman from the right) and the Seventh Mystic

7) Feel the Benefit – 10CC from the album Deceptive Bends. It actually kind of funny that I am putting this song from 10CC ahead of what I listed as my favourite 10CC song. But when it all comes down to it, this is it. So I changed my mind, I’m human and am allowed to do that. Also to be noted, that as we look to be going on a trip to Europe at the end of September, I have spent a lot of time listening to another great 10CC song called “One Night in Paris”. I thought of listing this song, just because, at this time, because of my impending trip. But I know that the multi part “Fell the Benefit” will actually always be my favourite 10CC song and one of my top ten. This song, in multiple parts and listing at almost twelve minutes in length benefits from a great lyrical palette. The song starts innocently enough, not really standing out at first, but after part one drifts into part three and we start to get a calypso feel for the music, we know something special is happening. The drumming is perfect and actually takes front and centre from time time. There is lots of lead guitar to keep me constantly happy. One of the ways that this song feels superior is the way it slides into different musical themes so seamlessly. I do think that Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman must have been listening to “A Day In the Life” by the Beatles. There are similarities in the way the song flows, but it is definitely lyrically different and incorporates a lot more guitar. The song enters into the last phase of the song which brings us back to the beginning. It is a song that calls for us to become a race free thinking and friendly people to all. As the song enters its final stage, the lead guitar takes over and fills the song with the needed sonic strength that delivers us to the abrupt end. 10CC is one of those artists that have provided me with many favourite songs and I would be remiss if I did not call out “One Night in Paris” and “Blackmail” from The Original Soundtrack and “I’m Mandy, Fly Me” from the How Dare You album. All of the first four albums with the lineup of Stewart/Gouldman/Godley and Creme are outstanding and should be given a good “active” listen.

10CC Original lineup

6) Life and Life Only – Al Stewart from the album Love Chronicles. Early in Al Stewart’s career, especially his first four albums, his major lyrical theme was talking about love. He transitioned on his fifth album to become a teller of history. This is not always the case and it would be incorrect to separate his music this way. On the album Love Chronicles, the title track tells us his story of loves lost and found. Side one, though, tells many different stories. my favourite being this track featuring lead guitar by Jimmy Page. This is another song that I have worked hard on learning the introductory guitar theme that follows the song from beginning to end. Each verse tells a different story of a perfectly normal person living their life normally, hence the ongoing theme of life and life only. The way that Al Stewart creates the rhymes is stunning, for example – “Mr. Willouby, whose only luxury, is the sugar in his tea, teaches history, …” On another of my top Al Stewart songs, the title track of the same album, Love Chronicles, maintains this stellar way with the rhymes and the pace of the song. As we reach the end of the song, Al sings “It’s life and life only” a couple of times setting up the perfect minute or so of Jimmy Page playing the lead guitar keeping to the musical theme. Another song from Al Stewart which tells a great story of meeting a long lost friend at a party, is the song Modern Times from the album of the same name.

Al Stewart and the Love Chronicles album cover

5) Baton Rouge – The Town Heroes from the album Please, Everyone. I first heard about the Town Heroes by accidently downloading their second album and immediately finding a venue where they were playing. There was a song on this album called Cambridge which I thought was a pretty good song and they played that first time that I saw them. After a few more times seeing them live, they were approaching the release of a new album and I saw them play the song Baton Rouge. As soon as the song began, my ears perked up and I knew that I was hearing a song that was both a melodic and lyrical masterpiece. Michael Ryan’s singing sets the passion of the song and the errors that the character of the story had made in his life. Bruce Gillis provides a perfect back beat for the song. The song starts softly with a perfect acoustic guitar intro, then the masterful lyrics kick in with the description of picking a fight (a mistake) in Baton Rouge. But, it is the melodic strength that makes this song one of my all time favourite songs.

Michael Ryan and Bruce Gillis of the Town Heroes

4) A Day In the Life – The Beatles from Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Many consider this the greatest song in the Beatles catalogue which makes it one of the greatest songs in music history. There are two other Beatles songs that could have made this top ten if I had not restricted it to one song per artist. Those are “I Am the Walrus” and “In My Life” which some afficionados also consider one of the great songs of the pop/rock music era. However, I decided on “A Day In the Life” because of the incredble lyrics, ripped from the headlines of the London newspapers by John Lennon. One of the things about this song is the way it is in three parts, of which one and three use the same musical theme, separated by Paul’s middle section abnout a normal day in the life of the singer. This is a similar theme as from Al Stewart’s “Life and Life Only”. One of the great things about this song is how it set up a structure for other long multi-part songs like 10CC’s “Feel the Benefit” or even shorter songs that set up the same multi-part theme such “Sleep That Burns” by Be-Bop Deluxe. “A Day In the Life” has great pacing and is almost perfect vocally. The great sustained note, at the end of part one, then again at the end of the song is something that I believe only the Beatles working with George Martin could perfect. Although, I consider this one of the greatest songs of all times, it does not make my number one because I do not put on Sergeant Pepper’s just to hear this song. It is a great way to end the album, but I play the album because it is a masterpiece.

The Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover

3) No Trains To Heaven – Be-Bop Deluxe from the album Axe Victim. This was the first Be-Bop Deluxe album and the only one featuring this lineup. Bill Nelson put together an entirely new band for their next album, but as he is the main songwriter, the vocalist and guitarist, I guess that was his perogative. However, this album contains two fabulous guitar laden masterpieces, “Adventures In a Yorkshire Landscape” and “No Trains to Heaven”. This song is one of the few songs on this list that have no real lyrical strength but is built upon the lead guitar fashioned by Nelson. As Bill Nelson sings, he lays his lead guitar in counterpoint to his singing then wanders off on a guitar trek through the backbeat driven landscape. Guitar licks continue from almost the first note of the song through the short verses and the ongoing statement that there are no trains to heaven. The song then meanders into some scat style vocals with the guitar keeping the melody and rhythm in pace before it wanders off into an extended lead guitar jam that is simply magnificent. I find it to be one of the most melodic lengths of lead guitar that you are able to find. This is and was Bill Nelson at his best.

Be-Bop Deluxe Axe Vioctim album cover

2) One Good Reason (Extended Mix) – The Northern Pikes from the album Secrets of the Alibi. This album was one of the first that I bought on CD without first hearing the record as this came out at the time that CD’s were beginning to replace vinyl records. Many artists were releasing CD’s with bonus tracks to try and entice the listeners to this new format and this song was the bonus track on this record. This album seemed to hit on a theme of planetary responsibility. “If we put all of our assets, into hunger instead of war” is one of the most socially responsible lines in any rock song. This song is a sad commentary of the priorities of the capitalist world. Brian Potvin, the main lead guitarist for the Pikes, riffs away through much of the song. The guitar never lets go of the song and the bass of Jay Semko and the drumming of Don Schmid drives the solid rhythm during the extended mix. Sound affects make a special treat what with helicopter blades spinniing and telephones ringing. The song ends with the phone answered with the following conversation – “What?”, “Why?”, “*I had my reasons, I had my reasons….”, a hard strum and the song is over. Another song well worth a listen is “Let’s Pretend” which lyrically is a very powerful commentary on where we could be as the human race if we only did things better.

Northern Pikes live at Casino Nova Scotia

1) Ambition – City Boy from the album The Day the Earth Caught Fire. Here we have another long song in four parts. The song tells the story of a man whose ambition is being squeezed so tight that he is struggling to survive. There is a slow paced part where the protaganist is at a party and someone yells suicide. I used to love getting close to my volume control as the song played and briefly cranking the volume for that one word. It had the needed effect at my parties and gatherings. I loved this song from the first time that I heard it, but it was not until I went to see them play at the Danforth Music Hall that I realized the complexity of the song and the talent that it took Roy Ward, the drummer, to sing his part during the third section, Rev-On. This hard driving section pumps up the volume and the pace prior to heading into the climactic ending which declares that Ambition is there ’til the end. This song is number one on my list as it is one of the two songs on the list that I will actively pick out the record just to hrear the song. Although I feel this way about different songs from time to time, this is and has been my go to song when I want to hear classic rock in all of its many guises. Two other songs that were in the running for the City Boy song were “State Secrets – A Thriller” and “The Violin” both from the album Dinner at the Ritz.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire by City Boy
City Boy

So, that is it. My top ten. However, I want to let you know about the honourable mentions. Number one would be Safesurfer by Julian Cope from the Peggy Suicide album. This song has similarities in what it is trying to do with “No Trains To Heaven”. Next would be “Echoes” by Pink Floyd from the album Meddle. To be expected, this long (twenty-three minutes) song goes through many iteratioons while maintaining the feel throughout. Finally, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” actually had a strong hand in my love of music as I heard this in early 1970. Toronto was always faster than the States in recognizing new and upcoming British artists.

I hope you look at this list and start thinking about your top ten. It is not an easy task, but I found it very rewarding.

April Wine in Retrospect

On Thursday August 5, I was lucky enough to be one of about fifty people who got to see Myles Goodwyn of April Wine fame, play at the Carleton on the first night of his three show appearance. He was accompanied by original April Wine bassist, Jim Henman on guitar and Bruce Dixon on bass.

One of the things about this wonderful show by the Myles Goodwyn Trio was the variety of music performed during this show. There was, of course, the obligatory April Wine songs, but there were other songs, some country covers and a couple of new songs, including a song that I’ll call “Some of These Children” which talks about the Canadian residential school travesty. This song was sung by Jim Henman and there was a passion to the song that resonates as we continue to ponder our history of abuse of our indigenous brothers and sisters.

Myles Goodwyn Live at the Carleton

The show was an acoustic performance and as Myles indicated, almost all of April Wine’s self penned music was originally written on acoustic guitar. When you understand how loud and electric April Wine was, it actually exemplified how the songs originated. The songs that were played all fit right in as acoustic songs. I always looked at April Wine’s first hit single called “Fast Train” as a real rocker, but hearing it played acoustically, it just seemed right.

Now, April Wine had been a favourite band of mine ever since I discovered “Fast Train”, however, interestingly, I had actually purchased their second album first. On Record, April Wines second album was packed with hits. “Bad Side of the Moon”, “You Could’ve Been a Lady” and “Drop Your Guns” were concert staples and were songs that we used to love to play when we went camping. I remember my good friend Hillary providing a special dance for Drop Your Guns!

Myles rocking in the new millennium

The trio started the show with a wonderful version of “Say Hello” from the Harder…Faster LP. This was the second truly hard rocking April Wine album, following in the footsteps of First Glance. Not that previous albums did not have some hard rockers, but these albums and the subsequent Nature of the Beast established them as a truly valid world wide hard rocking band. These albums all came after the Live at the El Mocambo album. (I was on this album as my good friend Terry Lavery and I sat a couple of tables away from the stage.) An interesting story about this album, that was recorded during the Monday to Thursday performances by the band, is that the following Friday night at the El Mocambo was the infamous club performance by the Rolling Stones. Keith Richards had been busted at the US/Canada border for drugs which caused them to miss being able to play the surprise show on the Thursday. I keep thinking back and wondering what it would have been like to see the Stones live in a small club and sitting that close to the stage. Oh well, this further exacerbated my dislike (at the time) my dislike of the Stones.

After these opening songs, the songs moved into a series of songs that were written for Myles’ most recent recorded forays. Jim Henman sang a song, then Myles played a very country song complete with yodeling. They played a couple of covers including a Beach Boys cover, “In My Room”, then went into a couple of songs from his Friends of the Blues albums. One song that never made an April Wine studio album, but was on their first live album is the song “I’m On Fire For You Baby”. I remember hearing this song on the radio as I drove to my job as a lifeguard and knowing that I had just heard a great ballad. It was so perfect that Myles would play this song at this stage of the show.

Jim Henman

Once Myles pulled out his twelve string acoustic guitar, he planted himself firmly into the April Wine catalogue playing their first radio hit, “Fast Train”. Despite this being an acoustic show, they really rocked out on this song. “Lady Run, Lady Hide” from Electric Jewels and the “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” from Nature of the Beast came next. Until this show, I did not realize that this song was not written by April Wine but by Lorence Hud from PEI.

During the show, the Myles and Jim would expand on some of the stories of the songs. When they played “Tell Me Why”, they played the song first as the Beatles had originally recorded it then they played it as they recorded it for their album Power Play. I find it interesting that although, I was intimately aware of the Beatles version, I understood how well they had arranged it to not take away the Beatles sound but had processed it into a song that echoed April Wine’s roots.

Myles made sure that he played the songs that he had recently raised his local profile. He has recently released two albums, Myles Goodwyn and the Friends of the Blues and Myles Goodwyn and the Friends of the Blues 2 (as he explained, he could not think of a more original title). After re-listening to the video I made of the show, I decided to go back and listen to the most recent April Wine album, Roughly Speaking and there it was, the roots of his Friends of the Blues albums. April Wine had been moving into that direction.

Bruce Dixon on Bass

The set continued with a song that was the first song that Myles Goodwyn had ever written, called “Donna”. Funny, I thought I recognized it but I could not find it any of my albums. But now it was time to go to, what I consider one of the best April Wine songs and one that I played incessantly when my first girlfriend had broken up with me, “You Won’t Dance With Me”. The performance of this song from the Forever For Now album, brought tears to my eyes, not for lost love, but for the absolute beauty of the performance. One thing that I can state unequivocally is that Myles’ voice still contains the passion and clarity that was always seen on their albums.

I find it very enlightening when I hear songs that are considered classics played by other artists and Myles and Co. played “Put Your Hand In the Hand”. This song was written by the native PEI singer songwriter, Gene MacLellan. Both Anne Murray and the Canadian band Ocean recorded this song. Myles played it for this night and it was a wonderful down tempo pop arrangement that also showed the clarity of his voice.

It was a lot of fun to watch a master at work. Even when he screwed up the song, a self deprecating chuckle and an apology and he continues on. This occurred during a song that was unknown to me, but had a subtle religious feel, but it was very pleasant in its soft gospely sound and lyric. Now, Myles did insist that he does not consider himself to be a spiritual person, but the performance of this song could have fooled me.

April WIne from the late seventies

Moving back to April Wine, the band performed a great version of “You Could’ve Been a Lady”, brought to the band for their second album by their producer. The entire audience got into the feel of the song by singing along with the ending of the song. It is with no doubt in my mind that the majority, if not all of the audience were April Wine fans as we all knew how to join in with the song. It seems so appropriate that he was to follow up this song with another hit from the same album, “Bad Side of the Moon”. Again audience participation was mandatory.

“Just Between You and Me” ended their set (before the obligatory encore). To me, this show exemplified why April Wine continued to have a great success as they hardened and rockified their sound. This gentle ballad from the Nature of the Beast album, which may be one of their hardest album (next to Harder…Faster) shows that despite the rock success they could still pen a great pop tune for AM radio. The show finished with with two more radio friendly ballads, “I Wouldn’t Want To Lose Your Love”. The final song was a blistering acoustic version of “Tonite is A Wonderful Time To Fall In Love”. As he explained, shortly after releasing their their live album, they were requested to write two new songs by the producer of the Rascals and these were the two songs that they wrote. Both songs appear on their fourth album, Stand Back which is hit laden album.

Myles Goodwyn from the 90’s

April Wine had sixteen studio albums and several live albums. I must confess that I am not familiar with all of the studio albums as I had kind of moved on from hard rock while I was a DJ at the Bombshelter pub at the University of Waterloo. I had gotten into more new wave and alternate rock by the mid eighties, so I missed out on Animal Grace, Walking Through Fire and Attitude. but then I got Frigate and realized that the quality of the song writing had not suffered at all. They were one of Canada’s premiere outfits for almost forty years and the fact that they are still rocking (on tour now). They had many good producers that enabled their sound to develop and strengthen over time. My favourite album still is Forever For Now which includes the great songs “You Won’t Dance With Me”, a great reggae fashioned song, “Mama Laye”, “Holly Would” and “I’d Rather Be Strong”. I would recommend to any of you to use your favourite streaming service and check out some of the great tunes laid down by Myles and April Wine.

The album cover of my favourite April Wine album

Live Music is Just Great and the Stanfields Proved It!

Diane and I went camping at Murphy’s Camping on the Ocean, about a half an hour south of Sheet Harbour this weekend in expectation of a show by The Stanfields at Sober Island Brewery in Sheet Harbour. Now, in reality, the stage was set up with its back to the water of the harbour behind facing up to the Henley House pub which shares a parking lot with Sober Island.

So the plan was that seeing how the event was at a brewery, we wanted to ensure that neither of us was driving, so a shuttle bus was provided by the event and we were picked up shortly after two o’clock which gave us plenty of time to get to the show for five o’clock.

Good Friend Denise (Left) and Diane, my better half

With three hours set aside for the show, we surmised that there was to be an opening act and so it was. Andrew Beebe opened the show with several acoustic numbers. What really set me back was his second song. I knew it and it drove me crazy, I could sing along with it, but for the life of me I could not place it. After he had finished the song, I kept in my mind and kept singing it to myself. Joel Plaskett!! I had never heard Joel Plaskett covered before and I thought this was a great tribute to a great songwriter.

He continued on with several self-penned tunes and after several, he invited a second musician to join him on stage, Calen Kinney, the Stanfields fiddler joined Andrew on stage for several songs and I must admit, hearing an acoustic version accompanied by fiddle of “Back in the USSR” by the Beatles was a real stunner, but it was exceedingly well performed. Andrew played for almost fifty minutes and was an excellent warm up for the headliner.

Shortly after six o’clock, Jon Landry and company got on stage and started into a song that was not immediately recognizable. I did know it, but must confess that I had not heard it played live before. From the album Limboland, their last full length LP, “Carolina Reaper”. After this great warm-up song, they proceeded into one of the best greatest hits play list any band could play.

The Stanfields enjoying a well masked dance floor and physically distance crowd

The second song from their second album, Death and Taxes, was “Blacktop Blues”. For those of you in the know, The Stanfields have been having a music festival every year up to 2019 called the Blacktop Ball. Unfortunately, this is the approximate weekend that the festival is held, but due to COVID….. Anyway, this is the tune that started to get the odd person up to the dance floor (well actually a square gravel patch in front of the stage).

One of the things that impresses me about the songwriting of the Stanfields is the ability to pen a song that sounds like it is actually a traditional song arranged by the band, but none of that is true. They do write all of their own music. But, they are also big Creedence fans as shown by one of their appearances at Blacktop in 2019 when they played a set entirely consisting of CCR songs, a band they consider one of the great bands of all time. They did include in their set, “long As I Can See the Light”.

But, I digress. The reason for my comment about their songs that sound traditional was the third song of their set, Mrs McGrath, a true Celtic Rock specialty. It has the requisite sing along chorus and tells a great story. But it may well be a song that is heard in bars and pubs where Celtic music is enjoyed for hundreds of years.

They continued with their third of five songs from their second album, “The Road to Guysborough”. This is another example of a song that is so catchy and memorable, that you cannot help but sing the chorus at times when it comes to mind. Watching Calen fiddle along to all of the songs was fun. He is so demonstrative that you cannot help but focus on him and Jon on stage. Now, it must be stated that Jason MacIsaac, guitarist extraordinaire provides the melodic musical backbone of many of the songs. This is not to distract from the wonderful rhythm guitar that Jon Landry plays. Although I did not notice it at this show, I was a little surprised when at the last show the Stanfields played prior to this show, late February 2020, I got to see Jon play some solid lead guitar. Who says rhythm guitarists don’t have lead guitar chops in their veins. Usually, Jason plays lead, but, it just goes to show how much talent is in this band.

They jumped into their fourth long player, Modem Operandi, to perform “Fight Song” another great singalong. A lot of the audience pounced onto the the songs signature “Hey Ho” to pump their fists into the air.

The Stanfields third album, For King and Country, is an acoustic adventure that holds many valuable musical gems, but only one of the songs got the live treatment for this show, “Hard Miles”. One show that I saw a few years ago was an acoustic show and they did perform many songs from this album. Hard Miles is a regular at all of their shows.

Dillan, Jason, Mark, Jon and Callen of the Stanfields

Four of the next seven songs were all concert hits from their first album, Vanguard of the Young and Restless. Dagger Woods is just a great Celtic raunch that is also the first song on the album. Interestingly, one of the songs that gets a lot of play at Halifax Moosehead games is also one of their most popular rockers, “The Dirtiest Drunk in the History of Liquor”, did not make this shows setlist. However, “Jimmy No More” (They say that the crows got him!), “Ghost of the Eastern Seaboard” and Ship To Shore” were all included in this raucous grouping of songs that also included “Boston States” and “Run On the Banks” from the second album with “Let It Run” from Limboland. One of the things that jumped out to me at this stage was the strength of the rhythm section of Dillan Tate (Bass) and Mark Murphy (Drums). They really drive the songs and move them forward at a solid pace.

I know that during one of the songs, there was a little snippet of a song that I thought I knew from someone else, but it was brief enough that the contact with my brain was somewhat limited.

The Stanfields love of CCR was demonstrated during their only cover of the night, “Long As I Can See the Light”. This natural resting spot let us admire the versatility of the band and their ability to play most anything.

“Crocodile Tears” is definitely not the same song that the Northern Pikes had on their album, Neptune. This song is a perfect main set finisher as it implores the listener to get ready for the end – “So go, pack your bags, I’m not listening to you now, This is the last time, that I’ll say good-bye”. But no it is not. After the rousing end, with the crowd singing along, the band ends, wanders the stage a bit, then, ahem, comes back for a single song encore. By this time, 8:15, it is starting to get dark and there is no lighting system (except two red lights shining on the protective tarp over the band). So one song, it will be, so back to Limboland for the perfect last song, “How Long Is the Road”. The song that asks the question that none us really know the answer, i.e. when does it end? We don’t know personally, but the Stanfields knew tonight that this was it.

So, yes, it was fun and a great show. So fine to hear live music in the time of COVID which the band takes very seriously. At the beginning of the first lockdown, they wrote and produced a “ZOOM” call video for “Stay the Blazes Home”. No, I was not expecting them to play it. They wanted us there. But I had a couple of small issues and I guess it is because I have seen many of their shows, all of which came after the original lineup morphed into the current lineup with the leaving of the band of Jason Wright (Accordion, Bouzouki and other instruments) and Craig Harris (Bass) to be replaced with fiddler and occasional keyboard player, Calen Kinney and Dillan Tate on Bass. There were no songs from Classic Fadeout, their most recent studio release. It is an EP and only has six songs, but all of them are classic. Now I recognize that this was an up tempo show, and that is the way it was presented, so songs like “Laser Beam” and “Breakers in the Dark” but “Born On the Wrong Side of Town” and “Goodnight, So Long, Goodbye” would have been great additions and even set enders. Small complaint, I know, but, hey, I got most of what I wanted.

Jon and Calen at the acoustic show at the Carleton

Now for those of you have not heard the Stanfields, I recommend under the following contingencies, a) you must love good melody, b) you must love sing-along choruses, c) a love of rock, punk or heavy, is not necessary but can be helpful d) You must enjoy the addition of a Celtic folk sound incorporated into the sound and finally e) you must appreciate top notch musicianship. They are our hidden treasure on the east coast (although Germany is also acquainted with them). Give the Stanfields a listen and if you want to get a taste of what I experienced, seek out Welcome To the Ball their live document of the 2019 Blacktop Ball climactic performance.

My Favourite Songs Part 2, more of the ’60’s and ’70’s

There are many artists that I have enjoyed over the years and many of them are lesser known acolytes. Bands such as Barclay James Harvest, Traffic, Klaatu, etc. My goal today is to discuss some of the artists that are less well known but have produced some amazing music.

Uriah Heep were always a favourite of mine. Although, I must admit a little confusion about their first album, released in Canada as just Uriah Heep. The official first album in the UK was called “Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble”. The biggest difference between the North American release and the UK release is the omission in North America of the song “Lucy Blues” and inclusion instead of “Bird of Prey”. I find this interesting as until the release of the 2003 expanded edition of the album, Europe never got to hear this song that comes in at number three in my top three Uriah Heep songs. This song is a blistering rock attack that finishes in dramatic style with a repeating guitar bit and vocalizations. Uriah Heep is a band that has been around since releasing music since 1970 with their most recent release coming out in 2018. For me, the focus has always been the early years with David Byron on vocals. Although musically, Mick Box, the only founding member left in the band, keeps the sound to the pure hard rock initially realized on their first LP, vocally, David Byron gave the band their signature sound. So, understandingly, my favourite songs by the Heep are all from their early era. My second favourite song by Uriah Heep comes from their fifth release, The Magician’s Birthday album and is “Rain”. This song has one of my favourite lines in music – “Now it’s raining inside and that’s kind of a shame”. Raining inside, hmmmm… Coming in at number one is a song that is one of my favourite rock formats, the long, multi-part musical piece that has a lot going on. If you know the band, you probably guessed that I am picking, from Demons and Wizards, the song “Paradise/The Spell”. This song begins with the strumming on the guitar and the plaintive singing of David Byron. It moves into a second hard droning stage and finally drifts into the Spell and morphs into a piano piece that settles the mood and the passion of the vocals creates the platform for the dream.

Early Uriah Heep

A band that I discovered in the late ’70’s but had been around since the beginning of the decade was Barclay James Harvest. There were only four albums that I got to know well, Octoberon, Time Honoured Ghosts, Everyone is Everybody Else and Gone To Earth. From these four albums comes another one of my all time favourite songs, “Titles”. Interesting that this song was considered a traditional with arrangement by John Lees. It is interesting because the lyrics of the song are entirely titles of Beatles songs with connecting words for continuity. As a major Beatles fan, I think that you can understand how I am attracted to this song. “Child of the Universe” from Everyone is Everybody Else is a powerful song. The singing has passion and the lyrics state the obvious. Finally, Rock ‘n’ Roll Star finishes by BJH song flourish. For one thing, I am attracted to songs with Rock ‘n’ Roll in the title. This song from Octoberon is a fabulous song and blends rock with prog and gets full points for mastering it.

Barclay James Harvest

1969 was my first year in High School and during the year, the art classes produced a lot sketches, painting and other graphical depictions of rock musicians and records. One stood out to me and that was all of the different covers for a new band, Jethro Tull. Obviously a teacher had given the class a task of either improving upon or creating a different cover for the band’s first album, This Was. This was another way that I discovered a new band. Their next album was Stand Up and it was quite a departure from the blues rock orientation of their first album. This album also contains my favourite Tull song, “We Used to know”. This song begins almost as a ballad but evolves into a kick ass rocker complete with standout lead guitar. The funny thing about Jethro, kind of like Neil Young, is that they seem to have a lot of music in the archives. I am not sure if they still explore it in the same manner as Neil, but, of interest is that my second favourite Tull song did not appear on any regular release but was on a compilation called Nightcap: The Unreleased Masters. It has to be actually all of disc one that is labeled My Round: The Chateau D’Isaster Tapes. This was the genesis of what would become the one song album masterpiece, The Passion Play. But I prefer this as there seems to be more going on musically in these 13 musical vignettes. Finally, with my passion for long songs and the almost perfect musical theme that runs throughout it, I really have to pick Thick as a Brick. Not only did this single song album come in the most amazing packaging, the song itself travels the full distance from hard rock to ballad and the instrumentation is close to flawless. The only problem with psyching out to this song on vinyl, is that you have to get up half way through to flip it!

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

I became aware of the band 10CC when I heard the song “I’m not in Love” on the radio as I drove to work as a swimming instructor. I liked the song and this raised my intrigue. Shortly thereafter, I purchased their fourth album, How Dare You shortly thereafter and all I could think is WOW!! As much as I loved the commercial rock/pop sound as much as anyone, my love of something more eclectic was definitely my leaning. Although two of the songs from this album were released as singles, I did not see a large pop/rock audience going for it. In contrast, I saw people with musical tastes closer to mine going for them. Nevertheless, my third favourite song comes from this album, and it was one of the singles, “I’m Mandy, Fly Me” is almost the perfect. One of the things that really intrigued me about this song was it’s intro. I only had the one 10CC album and I found it interesting. But the lyrical story of a person surviving a plane crash in the ocean is just so cool. And the themes that range through the song led by a great spin of electric guitar. I did go out and picked up the first three 10CC album shortly thereafter, and the biggest problem I have is finding a second favourite song from the band. So let me explain and get to my favourite song. Shortly after this, a new song came out called “The Things We Do For Love”. No, this is not my fave, but it piqued my interest because I had read that the band had split, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had split to make a record based on a new instrument called the gizmo and Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman had retained the name and continued to record bringing forth this pop gem that landed at number one in Canada. So I went out as soon as it was available and purchased the band’s new album, Deceptive Bends. You could really see the influence of the departed members in the music so there was no doubt it was a 10CC album. The crown jewel for this band is the song “Feel the Benefit”, an 11:30 opus in three parts. Themes from part one are heard in part three, as the guitar signals the strength of the song. The Caribbean calypso/reggae feel of the second part propels it into new territory explored on later albums. For me, the guitar outro is outstanding. The fact that it ends abruptly suddenly expels the tension. Now, the final problem I have in identifying a second favourite is the number of outstanding on all three of the first albums (and How Dare You as well). But, I went to my love of a good lyric and ended up on “Blackmail”. The absolutely speed of the guitar riff meets the lyric of a set of nude pictures about to be published unless a blackmail is paid. Well, the guitar seems to let you know the answer as an emphatic, No as the protagonist is plainly happy for the publicity.

Early 10CC, Eric Stewart, Lol Creme, Kevin Godley and Graham Gouldman
10CC after teh departure of Godley and Creme

In the late seventies, I heard a song on the radio called “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Space” by a band called Klaatu. For those of you unfamiliar with this wonderful Canadian trio, they released five albums and it was not until album five when they unmasked themselves and we were presented with the names of the members of the band. They then did a few months of touring then disappeared from the music landscape. People who listened to their first album actually contemplated this a reunion of the Beatles. It was not. It was a talented group of Canadian musicians with a lyrical and musical sensibility to write solid pop songs with just a little bit of non-conformity. “Hope”, the title track from their second alum is wonderful song that really does fill you with hope. A beautiful ballad that finishes off one of the most eclectic albums I have ever listened to and is my third favourite Klaatu song. My second comes from their first album, 3:47 EST and is the song that introduced me to the band. “Calling Occupants” starts with the the sound of somebody walking in a dry field and then starts in with some keyboards before the beautiful vocals plead with the listener to accept new visitors to our home. The Carpenters covered this song and made it a hit of their own. My favourite song is from the album Sir Army Suit and is called “A Routine Day”. This song in melodic fashion follows the protagonist through his routine day that slowly becomes less than routine. I saw Klaatu twice, once as the headliner in Waterloo and the second time as the opener for Prism at the Danforth Music Hall. After the Klaatu set, some people left, however, early in Prism’s set, most of the audience started to leave. It was not because Prism were bad, but that Klaatu was so good, Prism did not have chance.

Klaatu

Neil Young has been a part of my musical growing up since the release of Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, which contained two great extended jams in “Down By the River” and “Cowgirl In the Sand”. Shortly thereafter, we driving to and from Florida for spring break, with mother driving and me running the radio. I would continually sweep through the AM spectrum looking for music and invariably, I found two really hot Neil Young songs, “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man”. I knew that he was a Canadian, but what I found out shortly thereafter was that I was reading both newspaper articles and youth oriented hockey fiction by his father Scott Young. Regardless, I became a fan. My good friend and hockey buddy, Paul Guilfoyle, loved the album Zuma and this album has my number one Neil Young song, that being, “Cortez, the Killer” which tells the story of the Spaniards conquering and decimating the native tribes of the Americas. The ripping guitar tears a hole in your heart as you can easily equate this to the death and despair that he brought to the conquered. Number two comes from the album Freedom, released in 1989. “Crime In the City (Sixty to Zero, Pt. 1)”. This is another hard hitting Young lyrical masterpieces. But the steady guitar strum with sax and other brass providing backing to the solid rhythm. To be expected, this is another song that has a length that keeps you interested. My third song, just moved into that spot after my recent purchase of Colorado by Neil and Crazy Horse. The song, “She Showed Me Love” is true hard rock testament. We were listening to this as we went camping and I said to Diane that Neil Young had really created a hard rock masterpiece and she agreed wholeheartedly.

Neil is showing his age

One band that I have only written sketchingly about is my first favourite band, even before the Beatles and that is the Jefferson Airplane. I first became aware of the Airplane in late 1967 when one of my grade seven classmates brought Jefferson Airplane Takes Off to school as part of our music Wednesdays, when my teacher encouraged us to bring in music we enjoyed. There was a time when, returning home from BC, I heard that they had a new album out called Bark and that CHUM-FM was going to play the album in its entirety. We only had one radio in the house at the time that could bring in the FM signal and for some reason, my parents hid this radio behind the curtains in the living room. I found myself with my favourite pillow, lying beside the curtains listening to this fascinating new album. With that in mind, I need to go over my top three songs by Jefferson Airplane. All of these songs come after that first album where Grace Slick replaced Signe Andersen as the female singer of the band. Grace, I felt, brought a great deal more passion to the vocals and for me, passion in the singing is paramount. So, what would be my three favourite songs by the Jefferson Airplane. Starting with number three it has to be “Bear Melt” from Bless It’s Pointed Little Head. This is the only album where this live specialty appears. Although, on the album, Live at the Filmore there is a track called thing that bears the genesis of this song. This long mournful song incorporates a wonderful lazy guitar solo, Grace sings passionately and the song meanders its was through a stream of consciousness. “war Movie” from the album Bark comes in at second. This is a steady growth of a song from the opening steady guitar riff to the climactic lyrics of the impending war where the common man rises up against tyranny. This brings me to my favourite Jefferson Airplane song, which is actually three songs under one banner – “Street Masse” from After Bathing at Baxter’s contains three songs in a medley format (as do the other four tracks on the album). These songs are “The Ballad of You and Me Pooneil”, “A Small Package of Value Will Come to You Shortly” and ‘Young Girl Sunday Blues”. The second song of this medley is mosatly musical gibberish, but it does contain right at the climax, before it transitions into “Young Girl Sunday Blues” one of my favourite lines of all times. “No man is an island, he’s a peninsula”! These are definitely three very different songs, the first providing a basis for future musical explorations and the latter is just a great pop/rock song. I did transition with them to Jefferson Starship. The first Jefferson Starship is not really the same band as the one that emerged from the ashes after the last Airplane album, but it was an album that I just love, Blows Against the Empire. This came as Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy were experimenting with their new band Hot Tuna. Jack and Jorma would return for the last two Airplane albums, then both groups of musicians went their own way. Until, that is, a reunion in 1989 which produced a wonderful final document in the Airplane canon, the self titled Jefferson Airplane album.

The early incarnation of Jefferson Airplane

I know that I have discussed one of my favourite artists of all time, Al Stewart and for brevity, I will quickly state my three favourite songs by Al Stewart. Number one is “Life and Life Only”, great lyrics and wonderful lead guitar by Jimmy Page. From the same album, title track, “Love Chronicles” is my second as it recounts the author’s sexual exploits of his youth. Then finally, “Modern Times”, the story of meeting a long lost friend at a party who does not want to be part of the protagonist’s past. Al Stewart has many great songs and ones that will wring the imagination due to his superb song writing and story telling skills.

The Al Stewart band at Jack Singer Concert Hall circa 1989

I am not sure why, but even though I absolutely love the band and they have provided me with my second best concert ever, I seem to always leave King Crimson to the last. To me, this band is the biggest travesty in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How a band (and artist, Robert Fripp) who have an immense influence over the rock landscape of the last fifty years can be ignored because the sponsor of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone magazine, has a hard time accepting progressive rock as a part of rock history. So be it. I love them and have followed them since the early ’70’s when I first got their classic, In the Court of the Crimson King. Although I love this album and consider it absolutely groundbreaking in its scope and depth, it does not contain any of my favourite Crim songs. Number on in my heart comes from the album Red and is “Starless”. This song travels between the soft mellow strummings countering John Wetton’s plaintive vocals and eventually explodes in thunderous guitar and bass. My second favourite comes from the album Starless and Bible Black and is the song “Fracture” This may be the only instrumental that makes any of my top three lists but this song pounds throughout. I remember taking the speaker grills off and watching the woofers thump away as this song hammers itself into your consciousness. Finally, “Indiscipline” from the first Crimson album with the new lineup which continued to include Fripp and Bill Bruford, but also added Adrain Belew on guitar and vocals and brought in Tony Levin on Chapman Stick and Bass. This is a frantic song that pleads with the listener to avoid distress as it can be a mountain left unclimbed. King Crimson is not a band for everyone and I accept that. Recently, good friends of ours, And and Joanne were over for a visit and they had heard me talk about King Crimson but were completely unaware of their music. So, I decided to play one of their albums. I do not think we made it half way through one side, when I was asked to find something more mellow. Then Joanne hit me with the word that I was always looking for to describe King Crimson’s music. Joanne called it intense, creating another category for me to catalog my music that I love. Intense perfectly describes King Crimson and I truly enjoy that intensity and I look for it in other music that I listen to.

The 2019 touring version of King Crimson

I urge you to look forward to part 3 where I finally start to leave the ’60’s and ’70’s behind and transition to the changes that took place in music in the ’80’s.

Music Formats

Note: I use the terms album, LP, EP, Record, Vinyl, etc. in different ways. To me, all collections of music regardless of format is an album, just like a book filled with photos is a photo album. So I will use this term when any number of songs are on the medium but it has to be over thirty minutes long. An LP is always a long playing vinyl record, but an EP (Extended play) is any format containing more songs than an single (1-3) but no more than seven and between twenty and thirty minutes long. A record is any recording released on any format and of any length as intended by the artist.

So, how do you like to listen to music? Records, CD’s, DVD, mp3’s, streaming, cassette tapes? For me my preferred listening is from records. I know that my hearing is not good enough to really note the differences of different formats, so I cannot use that as the reason. However, the entire LP package is superior to any other format. Reading the lyrics on the album sleeve as the record plays is a wonderful pastime. I know that CD packages things in the same visual format, but everything is smaller and harder to read. Cassette tapes, well, sometimes they were released with the barest of information and other times, so much information on the limited space provided made reading the information even tougher than CD. I do know that you can find lyrics on-line when streaming, but really, how many people really do this (I did once for one song, what a hassle!).

Let’s talk a little about the different formats. In June of 1987, we made a trip to Hawaii and met another couple on the flight and we ended up hanging out with them during our three days on Oahu. We discovered the Ed and I had similar music tastes and we found ourselves talking about formats as we walked on the beach one day. CD’s had just started to make inroads into the music format war and I had recently gotten a new CD player and my first couple of CD’s. Ed and I discussed our ability to hear the differences between formats and we both seemed to prefer records, but at the time I was more willing to give CD’s a chance. Both of us felt the sound of a record was “warmer” and more true to the sound that the artist was looking for, but the digital sound could could provide flawless listening. One of the first CD’s that I purchased was by an electronic rock outfit called Propaganda. I had heard the terms AAD (analog recording, analog mastering and digital media), and DDD (all digital) and I noticed immediately that all CD’s of artists from before the mid ’80’s would always be analog. On this CD it stated as to exactly where every analog related pop and buzz was on the CD. I think that there were seven. This was stated as a kind of apology. But knowing where these flaws were located actually created a game to find them.

One record that I have in my collection that actually belongs to my good friend Hilary, is Rough Trade’s first album, “Live” which was recorded using a process that omitted tape altogether and was called Direct to disc. As the musician is playing the recording equipment actually creates an acetate master that is used for producing more records. This type of recording tends to lift any ghost sounds that may occur on tape from time to time. This album has the incredible depth of sound and warmth to the recording that exceeds that of a regular LP record.

Rough Trade direct to disc LP

A few years a go, I went to my friend in Miami, Doug, and as we settled in, he showed me his incredible music room, 32 air suspended speakers within the walls and a subwoofer system. to beat them all. He had these wonderful theatre seats for listening pleasure and a big screen to watch DVD movies and music DVD’s. Doug asked me if I had any new music with me that he could hear. Unfortunately, I only had my iPod with me and all my music was on it. So he found a cable and plugged in and I played the latest Tragically Hip album. It was downright awful. The sound was muffled and the there lacked any crispness to the sound. I knew right there, that despite my reduced hearing over the years, I could still distinguish the poor sound from an mp3 compared to the wonderful analog sound of a record or even the digital crispness of a CD. For the rest of our visit, we listened to CD’s and DVD’s in this amazing listening atmosphere. I keep telling Doug that he should add a turntable to this system, although the volume he crank it up to (louder than an REO Speedwagon concert) could ultimately skip the record with the waves of sound the room could produce.

Finally, cassette tapes, well just for those who still have tape decks in their cars. I actually had one in my camper van, but it gave up the ghost last summer, so I upgraded to a CD deck. And, yes, I can hear the difference of a CD on this deck when compared with streaming from Spotify. Tapes have the legacy of not aging well. Tape can stretch, spoiling the sound by making it drag. Tapes can also break and over time the magnetic “memory” of a cassette tape wears down. A listener cannot actually scratch a tape, but the playback machine can eat the tape and once it is stretched or crimped, it really is game over.

So here you go, my choice of listening medium in order of preference: 1) Vinyl, 2) CD/DVD, 3) Streaming (mp3) and 4) Cassette tapes.

My Favourite Songs (Part one, the 60’s and 70’s)

There have been many times when a song comes on either on my shuffle mix or on the radio, where I will state that I love this song. My better half likes to remind me that I say that about a lot of songs. So, I decided to drift through several artists and describe my three favourite songs for each. I am sure that many of you that are familiar with these artists, will disagree, then again, you may agree with some selections. This is good. A good artist that can inspire the listener with more than one good song, is a good artist.

The Early Years, Brit-Pop, The ’60’s

So there were, in my unvalued opinion, four major artists that sustain a listenership to this day. They are The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and the Kinks. These four bands could not have been more different, from the vocal harmonies of the Beatles to the bluesy grunge sound of the Rolling Stones. The Kinks used a hard edged guitar sound to create rock melodies and then, of course, there is the Who with Pete Townsends bombastic guitar.

To be frank and honest, of these four bands, the Beatles are and will always be my mainstay. They had many great songs that were written in different styles. There were songs that would change key at just the most opportune time adding the strength of delivery to the music. “A Day In the Life”, a Lennon/McCartney masterpiece , I consider to be one of the greatest songs of all time, not just the greatest Beatles song. There are a couple of key changes during the song and also the wonderful middle bridge, McCartney’s input, before we get back to the stories from the newspaper. The sustained piano note in the middle and at the end are both described in depth as to their production in many Beatles books and articles. We can then move on to the second best Beatles song, “I Am the Walrus”, another Lennon composition with McCartney input. The song appears to have non-sensical lyrics, where in actuality they tell a mind bending story. The only video performance of this song is in the movie Magical Mystery Tour. The music is strong, rhythmic and typical of the changes the Beatles were going through at the time. The final song is not really a song at all, but the many parts of a great medley, the last half of their final side of recorded music by the Beatles on Abbey Road. It starts with the The Sun King and morphs its way through Mean Mr. Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came In Through the Bathroom Window, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and the End. It was a fitting way to end their career, a song that tells stories, talks about internal band strife, and wraps it up with a great instrumental jam with Ringo’s only drum solo, 23 seconds long, it puts an exclamation mark on a great band’s career.

Who else but the Beatles

So, how about the Rolling Stones, that other famous rock band from the ’60’s. My buddy, Bob, in BC gave me the impression that they were his favourite band, or he liked them more than the Beatles. In the last few years, as he has taken up playing music, he understands the complexities of a good song. And he can see that in both bands. My songs by the Rolling Stones are all older ones, as only on a peripheral level have I really heard anything interesting in the last 40 years. So, here goes. My number one Stones song is from Their Satanic Majesties Request and is 2000 Light Years From Home. This psychedelia comes home to roost in a futuristic tale of leaving earth for a distant planet. My number two Stones song is Gimme Shelter, the oft covered masterpiece that I first heard done by Grand Funk Railroad (remember, I held a grudge against the Stones) on the album Survival. For the Stones, this is one of their most covered songs. My final Stones song was a hard one to decide between Honky Tonk Woman and Sympathy For the Devil, two radically different songs, but given my overall musical, I lean towards Sympathy. The bongos in the intro properly introduces you to shuffling song with a strong melody and a song with a lot of musical strength. Mick provides one of his best snorting, lashing vocals which gives the song its snarl.

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones

I found the Who to one of the most bombastic bands and after watching “The Kids Are All Right” my impression was verified. But given that, they did produce some great songs. With a few exceptions, the songs by the Who were written by Peter Townsend and his distinctive style allowed his hard rock voice simmer through some great pop melodies. To me, “I Can See For Miles” was my Who pinnacle and it came early, 1967. I spent a summer at camp Couchiching the following summer and it was still on the radio all the time. This was a very influential time for me as I had been introduced to Donovan, Hurdy Gurdy Man, the song In the Year 2525, which I still consider to be the best one hit wonder ever and Sky Pilot by the Animals. My next song from the Who is from Who’s Next album, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The interesting thing about this song and its live performances is the sustained synthesizer which is not played live but is a tape loop with a click track for Keith Moon to keep beat to. My final Who song comes from Tommy and is NOT the Pinball Wizard, which has an excellent cover by Elton John, but is the song Sally Simpson, a straight ahead rocker that details the life an attendee to a Tommy show and how she proudly wears a scar from her sojourn onto the stage.

The Who

Now the Kinks are a different band to quantify. It was only about four years ago that I decided to learn the music of the Kinks and add them to my record library. I had always had my favourite Kinks song in my collection, “You Really Got Me”. The Kinks released thisd hard rocking song in late 1964, but I did not become aware of it until I bought an album by the Canadian band, Thundermug, in 1972. Shortly thereafter, I purchased the first Van Halen album that also had a version of the song. I now have the original Kinks version in my collection. My second Kinks song is the one that actually got me interested in learning the band’s music, “Apeman”. Many reviews that I have read call this a pop throwaway and that is fine, but I find it extremely catchy. The first time I heard it was on Sirius/XM on Stevie’s Underground Garage. I thought I had heard it before, but until I watched the movie Club Paradise a second time and heard the song over the opening credits, I could not remember where I had heard it. My final Kinks song was “Lola” until I got the album, Arthur and the Decline and Fall of the British Empire. On this album is the song “Australia” which is not only one of the longest Kinks songs, it also features a blistering guitar solo worth listening to for those of you who like lead guitar.

The Kinks

The Bands and songs of the ’70’s

As most of you should realize by now, I am a rock music fan, but that alone does not define my musical leanings. It is my main musical focus especially when we think about the early years. So as we move into the main artists that I listened to in the ’70’s, they are basically rock bands. The two major exceptions are David Bowie and Elton John.

The main rock band hitmakers of the ’70’s, in my estimation, are Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. These were the hard rock to heavy metal style bands. Now, I know there are many other artists out there and it would be hard for me to address them all. And, of course, I understand that there are quite a few Kiss and Eagles fans that may be non-plussed that I am omitting their artists on this list, but this is my personal list, truly up mfor debate and discussion.

Let’s talk about Led Zeppelin, who gave themselves the name after hearing that there music would go over like a lead balloon. The former “New Yardbirds” consisting of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham, started with the bombastic self titled first album loaded with blues covers and rip offs that they have since acknowledged song writing credits to the actual blues masters who had created the riffs. That first album actually carries my second favourite Zeppelin song, “How Many More Times”. I remember getting the record at private school, second hand, from a fellow boarder. “how Many More Times” was originally listed on the record sleeve as 3:45 long, but is actually closer to 8:45. I think the printer mistook the 8 for a 3. This song meanders through several different parts before coming around to the beginning at the end. Robert Plant’s vocals are supreme on this track especially when he sings – “Oh Rosey, Oh girl….” It just strikes the right note and gets us amped up for more of Robert Plant. I enjoyed Zeppelin II but there were no tracks that led me to qualify them in the top three. That would have to wait until Led Zeppelin III and the great throbbing white blues of “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. My number one Led Zeppelin song features Jimmy playing an exquisite lead throughout the song. I even learned to play the opening eight bars (not well!). Robert Plant’s vocals are simply sublime on this masterpiece. My third song by this great hard rock band is one that may unfamiliar to many of you. It is the B-side to “The Immigrant Song” and is called “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do”. This song deals with infidelity and loss and is definitely not a song to bring tears of joy. But the narrator finally leaves the situation and gets on with his life and the song and the acoustic strumming slowly blends away into the fade with some great drum rolls by John Bonham.

Led Zeppelin

I first heard of Deep Purple when I went to Mike and Terry’s house and they had this record called Concerto For Group and Orchestra. Wow, this was different, rock and classical music together. What really impressed was the fact that the keyboard player for Deep Purple had written this fine piece of classical music that incorporated guitars and vocals. Shortly thereafter, I hear a song by Neil Diamond called Kentucky Woman performed by the group, Deep Purple. This sounded nothing like the group portion on that record and the next Deep Purple song I heard was Hush, again, not what I expected. I filed this away and went about my normal music listening bias. I was wandering around a record store in early 1970 and so this record with called Deep Purple In Rock. The members in the band were placed on a Mt. Rushmore type of carving. I had to have it. I took it home and was amazed at the heavy rock of and rush of “Speed King”. I was hooked. As I got further into the album I found a track that would become my all time favourite Deep Purple song, “Child in Time”. This long powerful song starts out quite gently then builds into a crescendo of guitar with Ian Gillan screaming over Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar wailing. This song can be heard in the movie “Twister”. Phillip Seymour Kauffman’s character turns this song on at full blast, blaring through speakers on his camper van as they streak down the highway towards an oncoming tornado. My second song comes from Machine Head, the widely acclaimed album that includes “Smoke On the Water” and no that is not the song, it is “space Truckin'” which is the perfect light hard rock song. Between In Rock and Machine head, there had been a mellowing (somewhat) of the metal guitar sound featured on In Rock and this song is a great example of this change. It is a fun rocker that just jams its way to the party. My third Deep Purple song comes from the previous album and is almost a noodling kind of song called “Anyone’s Daughter”. I simply love the lyrics of this song. It has great honky tonk piano and the song just sets the mood for a man trying hard to get the girl that the father does not want him to have.

Deep Purple

I spent one season at Brentwood College near Victoria, BC. My next door dormmate, Michael Deadman (oh the influencer, he also joined me for my first joint) loved a song called Jail Bate by Wishbone Ash. He would play this song ten times a day, at least. But it was a great song and it really turned me on to this band. Later that year, I picked a copy of Circus magazine, the in the know rock rag, and they had it down to Foghat or Wishbone Ash as the best new bands of the year. I sometimes find these awards funny as Wishbone Ash was currently working on their third album, to be the blockbuster, Argus! But I was already hooked on the Ash! As I think about my three favourite Wishbone Ash songs, I find it quite difficult, almost Beatles difficult as there is such a vast catalogue with so many great song. I am unfamiliar with Wishbone Ash’s last five albums, but that still gives me 18 albums to pull three songs from, so let us go three to one. Number three would have to be “Ballad of the Beacon” from their 4th studio album, Wishbone 4. There is a passion in this song that really brings me into it. The guitar riffs, though seemingly simple, bring a solid melodic content to the song. I love the echoing the word “echo” in the lyrics. This is a ballad, by title as well as performance and one that become a beautiful memoir of Wishbone Ash’s music. My number two song is the title track from their eighth studio album, Front Page News. Laurie Wisefield had joined Wishbone Ash after Wishbone 4 and stayed with them for 9 albums before Ted Turner returned. This is another mellow entry into the Ash cannon but is downright melodic. One thing that never escapes a Wishbone Ash song is their twin lead guitar attack. It is always lurking in the background ready to come forward and impress the listener. You cannot have a top three favourite Wishbone Ash songs and not have one from the big classic, Argus. “Time Was”, the opening song on side one starts slow and soft but builds to rollicking middle and blistering guitar bends it to the end. I seem to like long songs, don’t I. This one comes in at 9:42! Long songs seem to provide a greater opportunity for the musician to break out and show their talent and this song is no exception. When I bought records in my youth, I would think it amazing to have as few songs as possible. I came home one day with two records and said to my mother, “I just got two records with only ten songs!” She did not care.

Wishbone Ash

I was a Queen fan from the first time I heard “modern Times Rock “n” Roll from their first album. This song written by Roger Taylor, became the background as to why I was a Taylor fan. I have all of his solo album and one of the two albums that he made with the Cross. With that being said, it will be noted that two of my favourite Queen songs were written by Roger Taylor. However, my favourite Queen song was written by Brian May and is a good old fashioned rocker with a great back beat (I loved pretending I was a drummer when listening to this song in the car at a stop light). “Sleeping On the Sidewalk” from News Of the World is just simply a song unlike most of the songs in their catalogue. It is just perfect. Right after “Killer Queen” on Sheer Heart Attack is a great Taylor song called “Tenement Funster”. I love the first line, “My new purple shoes, been amazing the people next door”. It just proceeds from there gets ever stronger. Not the voice of Freddie and its operatic quality, Taylor sings with a gruff but pure voice. Lyrically great, this song comes in number two for Queen with me. The number three song, most people equate as a throwaway from the album the Works and is “Radio Gaga”. Sure the lyrics tend to be silly, but the song has a driving beat and a melody that cramps the mind. I have a couple of Roger Taylor solo live albums and he loves to showcase this song.

Roger Meadows Taylor of Queen

The two other artists from the ’70’s that I wanted to touch on are David Bowie and Elton John. Starting with David Bowie, I actually have to go to the late sixties for my favourite song by him. “Space Oddity” originally was held to be an example of a one hit wonder. Little did we know at that point that David was just beginning his incredible climb through the pop/rock music ranks to end up on top for several years. My number two Bowie song comes from the great Station to Station album and is the title track. When I saw the Thin White Duke tour, I was simply agog at how tight and powerful his music was. The third song comes from his career defining Ziggy Stardust album and is the song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”. This track ends the pseudo-concept album as the Ziggy commits the final transgression and leaves the scene to be reborn, which is exactly what Bowie did.

David Bowie

Elton John’s self titled second album contains some of his most breathtaking songs including “Your Song” and “First Episode at Hienton” but it contains my third favourite Elton song, “The King Must Die”. This is a simply powerfully built song that Elton passionately sings for the death of the king as the song reaches its climax. The piano playing is exquisite and this song shows the capabilities of the songwriting team of John and Taupin. My second Elton John song comes from the Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy album and is “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”. This slightly biographical song leans on a thin instrumental track anchored by Elton’s wonderful piano playing. But there is also passion in the way Elton sings this song. He means every word. Now, my all time favourite Elton John song comes from his Tumbleweed Connection album and is “Burn Down the Mission”. This album, the third in Elton John’s cannon is an album with a country folk lilt and this song powers its way through the stylistic leanings of the record.

Elton John

I trust that these songs and comments about them will elicit thoughts about your favourite songs. Never hesitate to say that you love a certain song or that it is a favourite. If you only ever had one, you would only need that one song. Fortunately, there is a great deal of variety in music, even within artists, that it is possible to love many songs of different styles.

To Remember the Original Canadians

I was born in Great Britain in 1955 and have spent all but four of my years living in Canada, two right after my birth and two more spent in the United States in the late ’90’s. I was a proud Brit and Canadian for most of my adult life, but about fifteen years ago, my love of my birth home started to wane. I bought a CBC box set DVD series called “Canada, A People’s History”. I wanted to learn more about my adopted home. The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that the Brits had impregnated blankets with the small pox virus and had offered them as gifts to the Algonquin people. WAIT! WHAT!! This is genocide at its most vile. My pride began slipping away. I started learning more and more about the great (?!) conquerors and how they exploited most of the planet during their hey days in the 1700’s and 1800’s. In 1830, the British government in collusion with the colonial Canadian government began the institution of Residential Schools in Canada.

I decided to dedicate this week’s blog to a discussion about the British and Canadian complicity in the ill guided efforts to assimilate a peoples into the “western” culture come hell or high water. One of the instigators into my thought process belongs to Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. During their final concert in Kingston in 2016, Gord Downie took a moment to talk about the problems that Canada had created in their attempt to assimilate the indigenous population into Canadian society and although this began in 1830, Canada took the ball and ran with it upon confederation in 1867. Downie basically pleaded with Justin Trudeau, our Prime Minister, to make changes, to make this a country that accepts all people and allows them to live with pride.

Gord Downie during the band’s last concert in Kingston, ON, Aug. 20, 2016

In 1907, a study was done by Dr. Peter Bryce that indicated that about 42% of indigenous children died while in or shortly after leaving life in residential schools. With the recent discovery of mass graves at sites of former residential schools, this number can be confirmed as at least a minimum. I find it so distressing to be both a Canadian and British. I was so proud to be both growing up, and now I feel shame. I do not think that we have done enough to create a great country where the original peoples of this land are treated with dignity and acceptance.

On this birthday of Canada’s inception, being 154 years old, I feel it is time for all non-indigenous peoples of this country to realize that we share this great land with a great civilization that has been driven to the brink. We need to bring them back and make them partners in this land. Assimilation is not the goal. Partnership, sharing and equal status for all is the goal. We read all the time about reserves being under boil water advisories that never end. Transportation routes to the reserves are crippled and in need of repair, but are put on the back burner. The federal government, if they want the world to recognize Canada as the most welcoming country in the world, needs to put money, lots of it, into infrastructure for the people on the reserves.

One of the problems with European people is their belief in White Supremacy. Now I know that it is probably on ten to fifteen percent who actually believe this, but it is these people, particularly men, who use their “superior” status to abuse and kill many young indigenous women. Canada did try to dig deeper in the this with MMIWG (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls) commission which was completed a couple of years ago. Most of the findings confirm that this is a Canadian genocide and that the citizens of Canada, every one of us, must recognize that this is not acceptable by a civilized society. We must root out the evils of the belief of White Supremacy. Believe it or not, if you rip off our skin, we are all the same. Not only must we ensure that the legacy of treatment of the indigenous population be recognized by all of us, it is absolutely necessary that this history be incorporated into all texts for school children and it must be part of our educational curriculum.

I sit here today thinking about the great musicians that I have heard from this country that are indigenous. I need to start with a young man that my daughter dated for many years, Adrian Morris of Neon Dreams. Adrian is wonderful young man and along with his band mate, they have carved out their own musical niche. Although, he no longer dates my daughter, I think about his talent often. He is a formidable drummer and percussionist whose beats drive this innovative band. But, would they even exist if he had been born thirty years earlier? Would he have been forced into a school and his ambitions and talents driven out of him? I am glad of one thing, he is not thirty years older. He was able to start, first Hello Click and then morphed into Neon Dreams.

Frank Kadillac (Jamal Wellington) and Adrian Morris of Neon Dreams

It is because of Adrian that I was guided into learning more about indigenous musicians. I started listening to Leela Gilday, a beautiful voiced singer whose songs talk about bringing her people together.

Leela Gilday

One day, Adrian told me that he was to appear on the Candy Show which was an APTN talk show on which he would be playing drums for George Leach. First off, I was simply amazed at Adrian’s ability on the drums, but also by this great blues based singer songwriter, George Leach. I had to get his album, Surrender. I keep hoping to see him on tour, but alas, he seems to have reduced his public performances.

George Leach

Another world renowned indigenous singer/songwriter is Tanya Tagaq. I was simply amazed by the vocalizations of this performer. This native style of singing embraced with modern arrangements and instrumentations. She is also a strong defender of indigenous rites, ceremony and culture. This is one of the areas that, as Canadians, we need to understand their needs and rites. Just because you and I do not like the white baby seal cubs being butchered for their white pelts for fashion reasons, does not give us the rite to tell a people whose culture is based upon the seal for food, warmth and clothing, that they can no longer hunt seals because of the brutality of European cultures who only wanted white fur as a fashion statement. The people of the north deserve to have their culture protected and be provided with the ability to flourish as they did for centuries before the European arrival.

Tanya Tagaq

Buffy Sainte-Marie has been a Canadian indigenous folk singer for as long as I can remember and has released at least seventeen records during her recording career that began at the age of 23 with the release of “It’s My Way!” in 1964. Her music has been covered by everyone from Donovan to Roberta Flack and Barbra Streisand. Buffy Sainte-Marie was actually lucky as she was abandoned as a child and adopted by a couple from Massachusetts, thereby avoiding the residential school travesty that could have been the end of what became a great career.

Buffy Saintr-Marie in 2015

So this brings me back to my discussion about Canada Day and what we really need to remember and discuss amongst ourselves. Canada Day should be a memorial to the thousands of lost voices who entered the residential schools to never leave, and to those such as Chanie Wenjack, who died along a railroad track in the dead of winter trying to get home after escaping the travesty of what was erroneously called a school! The multi media project that Gord Downie put together and performed prior to his death, A Secret Path, does more than memorialize Chanie Wenjack, it sets out to memorialize all those children brutalized and forgotten in the name of assimilation. How many of those silenced voices could have become another Tanya Tagaq or Leela Gilday. It is critical that we Canadians of non-American heritage remember that we live on a land covered in the blood of the peoples who honoured this land from the time that humans first arrived on these continents. Unfortunately, we cannot go back and try this again. We are here and this is who we are. We now have to find a way to partner with our indigenous brothers and sisters to create a greater country, one that recognizes a critical partnership with all who are now here. I believe that we, as Canadians, can do this. I still believe that we live in the greatest country, but until we resolve to be a country of non-violence, inclusion and partnership, we will fall short of the ultimate goal of proving to the world that we are the greatest country.

CanCon

I sit here this morning listening to that famous ex-pat, Neil Young on his latest studio release, Colorado. I do accept the fact that Neil is releasing a plethora of archive material, live concert performances. studio outtakes and otherwise, but as I listen to Colorado, I am struck by the fact that this famous Canadian had to move to the States in the 1960’s in order to make it. With that ion mind, I wanted to talk about Canadian popular music and the impact that was made upon the industry in the early 1970’s with the introduction of the CRTC regulations calling for 30% Canadian content on popular music radio. The content was only required to be 10% on classical music stations.

I came to Canada in 1957 as a two year old. By the mid sixties, I had discovered music and realized that this is something to be enjoyed my entire life. At first, I did not care where an artist came from, the United States, Britain, Canada, or wherever. But that was to change when I started to understand how overwhelmed our culture could be with the monster south of the border basically consuming and spewing forth everything that the common person could want. But, wait, what if I do not want to be overwhelmed by another culture. There must be a way to listen to my fellow citizen’s talent!

I was not to become a Canadian citizen until 1971 the very same year that the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) brought in Canadian content regulation to TV and radio. They distinguished Canadian content through a symbol on the record. tape or other physical entity through a system known as MAPL. The M was for music written by a Canadian, A is the artist is Canadian, P is the production was from Canada and the L is the lyrics are by a Canadian. Although there are a few special cases, basically, two of the codes were required for the song to be considered Canadian.

In the sixties, the only artists that were known to be Canadian were Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, the Guess Who, Terry Jack and the Poppy Family and Gordon Lightfoot. Of those artists, Gordon Lightfoot had the most automatic universal appeal with his style of melodic story telling folk. And the Guess Who wrote a very stylish pop music and with Burton Cummings voice propelling it forward, well…. When they released American Woman, American radio took note. The Poppy Family slowly faded away, Gordon Lightfoot continues to tour and has just released a new album, Joni Mitchell continues to be hailed as a master songwriter and of course, I doubt Neil Young will ever slow down until his basement has been emptied! The Guess Who stumbled through break-ups, reformation and eventually a solo Burton Cummings. Randy Bachman would form BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive) which became a best selling band with hits like Taking care of Business.

Neil Young

Things started growing very slowly for the Canadian music industry, but there seemed to be growing local scenes. Now, I cannot talk for many cities except Toronto and Southern Ontario in my youth, but I could see a change I turned 18 (in ’73, that was the legal drinking age in Ontario). As I was now able to get out to see bands in bars, there appeared to be more choices. by 1975 I was seeing one of my all time favourite bands, Fludd, all around the Toronto area. I interviewed them for my show, MusiCanada which I ended up making 5 episodes.

Fludd

My first Canadian record was April Wine’s “On Record”, an album littered with radio friendly rock hits. Obviously, somebody had received the CanCon memo. This was the first time that I took note of the MAPL symbol and looked into it. As I also had added Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Deja Vu” to my collection, I was interested in seeing how this record handled the MAPL symbol. I was disappointed to note that there was no symbol, however, as I looked into it with my program director at CKMS at the University of Waterloo, we determined that Helpless was the only song we could safely call CanCon as Neil had written both the music and lyrics.

April Wine

As my record collection continued to grow, I would start to file records by country of artist (obviously, CSNY was a problem and eventually killed this idea) because my main goal was to try to have at least as many Canadian records as American records. Now of course this would prove difficult as my love for everything Jefferson had me having a complete collection of Jefferson Airplane albums, the emerging Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna. But, I would look at albums in a new light. As I was spinning music at the University of Waterloo radio station, it was incumbent on me to track the amount of Canadian music I was playing. In this way I was introduced to Quebec legend Robert Charlebois, Harmonium, Spirit of Christmas from Oshawa (thanks Steve), Heads in the Sky (A Pink Floyd clone), Offenbach, a blues rocking Quebec outfit and Streetheart who would eventually split with their guitarist, Paul Dean and drummer Matt Frennette who would leave to form the very popular band Loverboy.

Robert Charlebois

It was becoming obvious to me that something was happening to Canadian music since the Canadian content regulation had come into force in ’71. More Canadian artists were seeing the potential of having their music reach the public. Recording studios were popping up all over the country. What was also happening at the same time was musicians finding that they could survive on their talent and not need to cater to a recording industry that seemed to always rely on empty pop hits instead of fully fleshed out music.

To me the greatest example of a band that struggled to find its voice in its early days was Rush. They released their first album to quite a fanfare. This first album recorded at Toronto Sound and Eastern Sound, two of the new studios in Toronto, in 1974. My good friends Mike and JJ were listening to their first album for about the 20th time when we decided we needed to know if this was a one hit wonder or if new music was on the way, so I called Moon records (their label for their first album) to ask and I was told that the band was looking into new recording opportunities. I did not know at the time that the band was to drop their drummer, John Rutsey, and was to audition several new candidates finally arriving at Neil Peart to be their partner. I did not know it at the time, but the concert that Doug Marcille and I attended at Seneca college where Rush opened for Nazareth, was to be John Rutsey’s last show. It did not really matter as Rush literally blew Nazareth off the stage. Through most of Nazareth’s set, the audience would continue to chant “More Rush, More Rush!” Anyway, Rush did return to the studio and with new drummer/lyricist Neil Peart on board, they recorded Fly By Night. I gave this record to my brother, Mark, and this was to become his band, he saw all the shows, and has followed them ever since. Caress of Steel would come out later and would not advance their standing. Again, the problem of a radio friendly single (although Fly By Night, the song, had a modest success on local Toronto radio) was the big problem but undeterred, Rush knew they had one more shot to make it and entering the fray was the album 2112, not AM radio friendly by any means, but this was FM radio friendly! FM radio was really starting to take off at the time. CHUM-FM was the leader of the pack in Toronto as they would play complete albums and 2112 was exactly something they were looking for.

Rush in concert in Halifax 2013

By the ’80’s things were really taking off for Canadian artists. The ones that had established themselves as legitimate songwriters and musicians in the ’70’s continued to grow and grab a following, but new groups were emerging throughout the country. Martha and the Muffins, Rough Trade and Klaatu formed an emerging presence in Ontario. Bruce Cockburn would become one of the most powerful songwriters and performers in the world. His songs including, If I Had a Rocket Launcher and If a Tree Falls were immediate references for a growing humanitarian and environmental movement. Rush continued to flourish and new artists would take advantage of the CanCon standards including the soon to be Canada’s band, The Tragically Hip! The Parachute club were also to make their name with the great dance hit, Rise Up. I had this requested incessantly as a DJ at the Bombshelter. I moved to Calgary in 1985 and my exposure to Canadian music waned a little as I could not find much of a local scene, but this could also be a combination of being busy with a career and a family, because I obviously was missing the scene. I picked up a CD called “28 songs that say Howdy” a compilation of local Calgarian talent. The only band that had a little bit of a breakout was Forbidden Dimension but the CD was filled with good songs.

The Parachute Club

As a on air DJ at CKMS from ’81-’85, I continued to look for music to add to my ongoing need for Canadian content and I discovered two bands from the west, 54-40, who continue to record to this day and an Edmonton electro-beat outfit called NEOA-4. I always wanted to showcase new music on my shows, so these bands definitely intrigued me. When I was living in Calgary, I tried to see NOEA-4 but I always seemed to miss them. But one band that I still think is the one of the most melodic group of songwriters was the Northern Pikes, a group out of Saskatchewan. I saws them a couple of times in Calgary. When I was in Bloomington, Indiana on a work course, I went to record store (of course I did) and I found that they had a Northern Pikes album. I was presently surprised. I struck up a conversation with one of the salespersons and was discussing this. He put on the album Snow In June by the Pikes and before I left the store, another shopper asked what he was listening to and then bought it!

The Northern Pikes

As the ’80 morphed into the ’90’s, new bands would emerge and bands that had started to forge a career in the ’80’s would reinforce that success. Namely, The Tragically Hip, Crash Vegas, Change of Heart, Eric’s Trip, the Odds, Pure, Spirit of the West and others would take advantage of the infrastructure that had been built to support Canadian Content regulations. One of the heroes of Canadian music in the ’90’s was The Barenaked Ladies. They would become so successful, that they would be hired to write the theme song for the sitcom the Big Bang Theory in the early 2000’s.

The Bare Naked Ladies

In 2000, we moved to Halifax. Now Halifax was a conundrum. It had, by this time secured a strong music infrastructure for local and Canadian artists. This was a necessity as the big international acts generally missed coming down to the Maritimes. On an annual basis we would see three or four major acts come to town and these days, these are the dying hard rockers from the 70’s and 80’s such as Def Leppard and Journey. We got tthe Stones in Moncton and McCartney came to Halifax, but these were rare and usually major events or festivals. So this required a local music scene. The local music scene in Halifax is as strong or stronger than any other city that I have lived in. The Stanfields, Rawlin’s Cross, the Jimmy Swift Band, the Town Heroes, Wintersleep, Sloan and the Trews are all examples of the great talent in Halifax.

Tim d’Eon and Loel Campbell of Wintersleep

So with all this said, were the CanCon regulations necessary, absolutely! Would the Canadian music scene be as vibrant and as successful without them, probably not. A good friend of mine even had a recording studio that was quite a successful venue for recording artists. Is it still necessary? I think so, because the US is such an overwhelming influence over our culture and financial impetus from south of the border is much greater than what we could do to the US back without the regulations. But, they are also greatly weakened through streaming. There will still be successes. My daughter, Kali, seems to have a good handle on the local scene at this time but will it continue? There is no way to control Canadian content on the streaming platforms that I know of without the government actually stepping in and shutting off services that fail to comply and I do not see that happening as the uproar would be overwhelming. So, with all that being said, I can only count on my fellow Canadians to seek out Canadian artists and actively listen to them. CBC is actually a good medium to keep in touch with the cross Canada scene. Do not let down your guard. We live in great country with an abundance of talent, let’s help to keep it coming.

Daniel James McFadyen (new great Halifax singer/songwriter)

The Lyrics

Back in high school, I used to write poetry. There was no rhyme or need for this other than I was taking Creative Writing as one of my grade twelve courses and we were doing a monthly journal of the classes writings. One of my poems that I wrote for the journal was:

     Changes
Music shall rule
Over Mind and Soul
Until one day
Man shall find
An alternate route 
To free expression

I was into music in a deep way at this point. But it was not until I was at a pool party at a neighbour’s house and they had a juke box with the new single by Led Zeppelin that I started to think about lyrics. I was vaguely familiar with this new hard rock band and their sound but I had yet to become a fan. My friend Dan put Whole Lotta Love on the juke box and I was enthralled, however, one thing jumped out at me, what was it all about. The music was great, but the lyrics were basically every band’s easy way out. Sing about your baby and give her lots of loving. A few months later, at my 15th birthday, the same friend, Dan Bates, gave me the new single by Three Dog Night called “One”. It was a good song musically, but the lyrics struck me. They said something, it may have been simplistic, “One is the loneliest number”, etc. but they were trying to say something. (By the way, Three Dog Night did not write much, if any of their songs and this one in particular was written by Harry Nilsson.) I decided to pull out my latest (and last) studio release by the Beatles, Abbey Road, and listened more intently to what they were trying to say. Songs like “Something”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “You Never Give Me Your Money” said things. It might be about how a woman means something, or a story about a serial murderer, but it was more that just, “She Loves You” or “I want To Hold Your Hand”.

The Beatles at their lyrical best, Sgt. Peppers!

Now I was discovering song lyrics so it was time to look at other records in my collection. I already knew that there were some really interesting lyrics on the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request. Songs like “2000 Light Years From Home” and “2000 Man” were telling stories. Now I knew, I liked smart lyrics.

Over the years I have discussed and listened to music with many friends and there were some friends like my good friend from Calgary, Bill Ford, who could not care a lick what the lyrics said, the vocals were part of the music. In a way, he was correct, vocals are part of the instrumentation of a song, but a song can be more than just instruments.

My father used to play a lot of of big band and swing and there were a couple of songs that did stand out for having smart lyrics, for example “Pennsylvania 65000”. Songwriters could put a spin on anything. It must be remembered that music has always had songs that had lyrics, whether it was the slaves in the USA singing as they picked cotton, to the great classical masters who wrote operas that were resplendent in their story telling.

Benny Goodman and his band

When it came to rock in the sixties, I found that a few bands were trying to create what is commonly termed as rock opera, The best known of these early attempts was, of course, Tommy by the Who. All music fans that I know that lived through that era are fully cognizant of this record. For those of you unfamiliar, it is the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy coming of age. Pete Townsend wrote this rock opera and it was an unmitigated success. He followed this up a few years later with Quadrophenia. Although not as successful, it is far more powerful musically and lyrically. That may explain why it did not have the same commercial success as Tommy.

The who, Peter Townsend on the right

The Kinks tried the Rock Opera or concept albums several times, the first being The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. A loose thread binds this album together, but it gave the impetus to Ray Davies to expand on his thematic ideas. Their next album called Arthur or the Rise and Fall of the British Empire is not actually what you may think. It has nothing to do with Camelot but is the story of a normal everyday Brit who is a carpet layer, trying to make his way in the world. They were actually hoping to develop a TV play for this album, but it never was produced. The Kinks would also provide two more concept albums in the early ’80’s, Preservation Act and Preservation Act Part 2. There is a lyrical theme throughout, but is quite loose.

The Kinks

The band Genesis in an attempt to appease Peter Gabriel and to try to keep him as part of the band agreed to Peter’s concept for a rock opera called The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway based on Rael, a Puerto Rican lad in New York City. When I listen to this album nowadays, I am struck by the imagery that Peter evoked in his song writing. This was to be Genesis’ last album with Gabriel as he would set off on his own solo career shortly thereafter. After purchasing this album, it was becoming very clear to me that the rock music artists were getting more intelligent in their thinking through their lyrics.

Genesis

During this same time period, I had started listening to the artist, Al Stewart. Although, I cannot clearly recall where I heard the song “Nostradamus” and commentary about it, but it did two things. It made me go buy the album by him called Past, Present and Future with the song on it. I also went out and bought two books containing all of the quatrains by Nostradamus and the interpretations of them. The song talks about some of the quatrains by Nostradamus and how some of the prophesies were coming true, including Hitler, Napoleon and the Kennedys. This album by Al Stewart definitely elicited a need to learn more about his music. I went into downtown Toronto and at my favourite record story, I bought three of his first four albums. (The fourth would be added a few weeks later). The album that really struck me for its lyrics was Love Chronicles. The title track is a seventeen minute epic about all of the loves lost and found by the character created by AL Stewart. Interestingly, for an album released in 1969, it was a little risque as it was one of the first commercial rock albums to contain the word “fucking” in its lyrics, but it was perfect in the way it was used.

It became to feel less like fucking
And more like making love

Just perfect. There are several other lyrical masterpieces on this album, “Life and Life Only” and “The Ballad of Mary Foster” to name a couple. Al Stewart continued his wonderful trend of wrapping the perfect lyric around a song. But I am also sure that his main influence had been Bob Dylan. A song like “Desolation Row” evokes the image that the title intends. Bob Dylan’s intentionally vivid lyrics were to become a staple of the sixties and seventies. The Beatles list the expansion of their lyrical output to the songs of Bob Dylan (and marijuana). Could a song like “I Am the Walrus” have been written without the influence of the word structure used by the master from Hibbing, Minnesota?

Al Stewart, before and after

As great a start as the sixties gave of us lyrical power, they were to out done by some of the songs written in the seventies. In 1975, I heard this haunting song on the radio called “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC. I was intrigued, not as much by the lyrics in this case, but the song itself. I took note that they had just released a new album called “How Dare You” and not knowing too much about the band, I bought this, their fourth album and was a little surprised to find that “I’m Not In Love” was not on this album. Now that I had it, I might as well listen to it and was I ever blown away. These songs contained some of the wittiest lyrics that I had ever heard. Songs like “I’m Mandy, Fly Me” was a musical miracle and is the perfect segue to a song called “A Sea Epic” by Crack the Sky. Anyway, there were so many great songs that required attention to the lyrics such as “I Wanna Rule the World” and “Rock and Roll Lullaby”. As you are sure that you can anticipate what came next, yes I did go out and by their previous three albums, not all at once, mind you, but eventually I had them all. If you are a fan of lyrics, this is the band for you. I love to listen to songs like “Un Nuit A Paris” and “Blackmail” from the Original Soundtrack album and the “Worst Band In the World” and “Silly Love Songs” from Sheet Music. 10CC would break up after How Dare You into 10CC and Godley and Creme. The lyrical strength of 10CC seemed to diminish slightly but Godley and Creme were very happy to continue to hold that mantle. One song that they wrote on their album Ismism is called “The Problem” and the lyrics are exactly that. The old riddle of – If train left the station A at 12:00 traveling at 70 mph and train B left this other station traveling at 50 mph, where would they pass each other? Well that is not the problem they lay out but the final question is actually answered on their album Consequences, their first release after the split.

10CC original lineup

As the seventies moved on I became enamoured with City Boy, a band from Birmingham who my great friend Steve Barrett had introduced to me. It was a kind of funny introduction as he basically said, “Hey, Ewan, I heard this band on the radio that I think that you will like although they are not my cup of tea.” So, on Steve’s suggestion, I bought the first City Boy album and it was great, truly a hard prog rock super starter. Anyway, there were a couple of intriguing songs lyrically that stood out, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and “Surgery Hours (Doctor Doctor)”. Over the next six years, I would get every city boy album as it came out. I always loved the way they wrote their songs. Not sure if I would say they were built around the lyric, but some surely were. The song “The Man Who Ate His Car” is based on a true story. “The Violin” is a beautiful, sexually stimulating song with a wonderful violin performance. “State Secrets” is a ten minute spy story. and the song “Ambition” from their fifth album is the story of a social climber who doesn’t make it. The critics used to call City Boy, a poor man’s 10CC.

City Boy

It always seems to come back to the Cure for me. Their album, Seventeen Seconds was the first that I added to my collection, but shortly thereafter, I added what I thought was their first album is actually an early compilation called Boys Don’t Cry. The song that stands out for me and was also highly debated song is “Killing an Arab”. But, as Robert Smith makes very clear anytime he is asked, it is based on the novel “L’Etranger” by Albert Camus. Other Cure songs that stand out are “Love Song” and “Watching Me Fall”.

The Cure, Robert Smith in the centre

Sometimes, it is necessary to read the lyric sheet to comprehend what the artist is saying. To me, they may have interesting song lyrics, but if I cannot understand them as they are being sung, then, why bother with witty lyrics?! This was sometimes the case with Rush, strictly because of Geddy’s singing style. I can usually make out the lyrics and I must say that the lyrics for Rush songs are very important as they written by that brilliant drummer, Neil Peart. On the album 2112, the album references Ayn Rand as inspiration. Obviously, if you are a reader of Ayn Rand, there is a great deal of brainpower at work when producing the words to the songs. Probably my favourite Rush song for lyrics is “The Trees” which lays out a dispute between different types of trees trying to reach for the important sun light required for growth. A true metaphor for the struggles that continue on this planet on a daily basis.

Rush, master lyricist, Neil Peart on the right

So, with all that being said, it provides a great deal of pleasure to look for smart, intelligent and witty lyrics. Many artists try to do this. some with a great deal of success and others, well as Robert Plant sings, “It’s Been a Long Time Since Rock and Roll!”