National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Album Review: The Band – Music From Big Pink(1968 LP)

Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a day to honor the survivors of Canada’s residential school system, and those that did not. It was a black mark on Canada’s history and this day is a step toward repairing the damage that was done. I chose today to honor Robbie Robertson, whose mother was both Cayuga and Mohawk. Robbie would often visit Six Nations Reserve to visit family and it was there that he learned to play guitar. So we have the peoples of Six Nations to partly thank for the incredible music Robbie has given us.

Songs From Big Pink by The Band. No, not the band Steel Panther, although that title suits them perfectly, but The Band. They began as The Hawks, the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins, then later were the backing band for Bob Dylan. In the late 1960’s Bob Dylan lived in Woodstock NY and The Band took up residence in nearby West Saugerties NY. The siding on the West Saugerties home was pink, hence the nickname Big Pink. Not only this album but also Dylan’s The Basement Tapes were first played there. In fact 100’s of songs were conceived there in a short period of time. The talent level in that home may have been unlike any other home ever. The Band went to studios in NYC and Los Angeles to record this album but they wanted it to sound just like it did in the basement.

Tears Of Rage – One of 3 songs on the album that Dylan had a had in. Robbie’s guitar wails so amazingly on this one I could swear it was an organ. The keys work is amazing, the drums so pronounced, the horns hauntingly creepy and even the rattlesnake-like tambourine set this album off on an amazing musical journey.

To Kingdom Come – The bass is more pronounced here. It has both piano and organ work, both excellent. The vocals are amazing of course. It is The Band. However, I think Robbie’s guitar work may be the best part of this song, and that’s saying a lot.

In A Station – Old timey keys start this one off. It could have been a throwback song played in a western saloon during the gold rush. However it was more modern. A mix of clavinet and piano that sounds very psychedelic at times but 100 years old at others.

Caledonia Mission – I’m always happy to see the name of a Canadian town in a song title. Not surprising since 4 of the 5 members are Canadian. Again Robbie’s guitar may the best part of this song, but the keys and vocal harmonies are really great as well.

The Weight – What can I say about this song that hasn’t been said? A perfect song that we’ve all heard a million times.

Time to flip the record over folks.

We Can Talk – Thankfully it’s not a Joan Rivers song. It’s just a song with great vocal harmonies and even a shuffle beat.

Long Black Veil – A haunting song originally done by Lefty Frizzell. Lefty has that old man whistling ‘s’ sound that reminds me of the creepy old dude on Family Guy though. Johnny Cash does an amazing version. However, this version is perfect. SOOO GOOD!! One of those few examples of a cover that is better than the original.

Chest Fever – Those keys. Those amazing keys. The wicked drums. The unique guitar work. Another perfect song. The vocal harmonies and amazing production by John Simon are enough to make Brian Wilson go crazy. Sorry(how Canadian of me), bad choice of words. One of the heavier songs in The Band’s repertoire, and one of the best.

Lonesome Suzie – This one has an almost Motown like soul sound to it. Robbie switches up the guitar tone (I assume he used a unique guitar on this one).

This Wheels On Fire – Early wah pedal funkiness and psychedelic keys mixed with Bob Dylan co-writing credits can never be a bad thing.

I Shall Be Released – The album closer is the only one written entirely by Bob Dylan. As usual it is written wonderfully. A different version was used on The Basement Tapes, however I much prefer The Band version. Richard Manuel’s vocals here are so high and so right.

Since today was also called Orange Shirt Day I wore my orange Miami Dolphins jersey while I wrote this. I suggest to all my fellow Canadians to don your orange shirts and play some music by indigenous artists. This one might be a great place to start.

9.95/10

Album Review: Toronto – Get It On Credit (1982 LP)

Toronto were a short lived Canadian band from the early to mid 1980’s. While they were around they had a succession of hits on Canadian radio and one from this album that made the U.S. charts. After 1985 the band was no longer and lead Holly Woods was left twisting in the wind. It’s too bad because they had the chops. If Ann & Nancy Wilson can still be plying their trade 45 years later, then Holly should be as well.

Break Down The Barricades – The start reminds me of 70’s Supertramp meets 80’s Styx. Then a wicked female vocalist belts out the lyrics and you know we’re in for something completely different. Holly has that sweet spot right between Ann Wilson and fellow Canadian Darby Mills(Headpins) covered. The guitar work here is great and the keys are cool but not over the top 80’s.

Your Daddy Don’t Know – This is an uncommon theme in rock music with a female rock singer promoting female empowerment and sex. Hi Infidelity indeed. Also uncommon was a rock band that had not only a great female vocalist but an amazing female lead/rhythm guitarist in Sharon Alton. A really good rocker that still holds up today.

Start Tellin’ The Truth – Gary Lalonde(later of Honeymoon Suite) was the new bassist for this album and he asserted himself on this song. The guitar work was great and Holly does a great job as well.

You’re A Mystery To Me – New drummer Barry Connors'(later of Coney Hatch) drum work and Scott Kreyer’ keys are the heroes here.

Don’t Walk Away – The song has an almost crying effect to the guitar similar to The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald. That is one of my favourite songs so I’m all in. Holly proves she can do a ballad as easily as belting out a rocker.

Get It On Credit – This one picks up the pace. The mix of pounding guitars, drums and bass followed by quieter sections focusing mostly on Holly’s quieter vocals make this a cool dual threat song.

Sick N’ Tired – Not a bad song that has really good elements but the keys are a bit dated in 2021.

Ya Love To Love – It kind of reminds me a bit of a Bryan Adams song. In a good way. If the backing band for Bryan had joined with Ann Wilson this would be the result.

Why Can’t We Talk? – I know guys. This is the last thing a dude wants to hear from a woman. However, this one is actually worth putting down the remote to listen to.

Run For Your Life – There was only a split second between the end of the last song and the beginning of this one. Here we have a rocker that closes out the album in fine fashion. The keys are just right, not too much this time. The bass is a bit louder than some of the past few and the guitar is great, including really nice solo. Holly belts out the tune in her usual great fashion.

If you like female fronted rock bands that truly know how to play, you can’t do much better than this one.

8/10

Album Review: Max The Axe – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021)

Before I begin the review I will show you a rough copy of an email I am proposing to send to Kitchener City Council.

Dear Kitchener City Council. I am writing you today to propose that today (and moving forward every opening day of Oktoberfest) be Max The Axe Day. ‘Why should we do this?’ you ask. Good question. The answer is simple. Max The Axe rules. Do you have any more questions? ‘We already have enough fame and notoriety with Oktoberfest. Why do we need it to also be Max The Axe Day?’ you ask. This answer is also simple. Oktoberfest sucks. Max The Axe rules. No really. Oktoberfest has crap music. Stale Beer. Drunken idiots spilling their drinks and heaving. Loud obnoxious goofs. ‘Oktoberfest also has ladies in dirndls’ you say. Yes, that is pretty awesome, but if you add Max The Axe Day to that you would have a real party on your hands. Looking forward to hearing from you. I hope you can see my logic. Please do not make me send my legion of devoted followers (at least a half dozen at last count) to City Hall carrying a ghetto blaster playing the Nickelback’s Greatest Hit cd (it’s just one song on repeat).

Pygmy Blow Dart – Do you like Josh Homme’s music but detest his douchebaggery and his stupid face? Yeah me too. If so, then give this song a spin. The bass and guitar solos are wicked. The drums pound they way they should and the vocals are like a much less slappable version of Josh Homme. The “round and round” and “Dope” parts threw me off a bit but the song is still awesome.

Thirsty And Miserable – Like the way I always felt in the 3 mile lineups at Oktoberfest. The musicianship here again is awesome but a special shout out to Mike on the geetar. Really great. Eric does a wicked job as usual on the vocals.

Oktoberfest Cheer – Like the best 80’s Canadian punk band you ever heard. Imagine DOA, NOmeansno or Dayglo Abortions crashed the stage at Oktoberfest when Mike Ladano’s favourite old customer Walter Ostanek was up there schlepping his polka oom blah blah accordion. Instead of botting him off stage they let him join in. Big shot out for the guitar effects on this one.

Thanks to Max The Axe/Mike Ladano for gifting me a copy of this new ep. I really appreciate it. Hopefully as much as Kitchener will appreciate Max The Axe Day.

8.5/10

Album Review: John Prine – John Prine (1971, 2021)

2020 was a tough year for the entire world. The musical world lost one of the best in John Prine. I wanted to write about him but I went on a sort of unpaid sabbatical. I just didn’t feel like blogging much. Listening to music and blogging are addictive though so luckily I’m able to get back into it with an album of this magnitude.

John Prine was a Vietnam Vet who was working as a USPS mailman. One night he went to an open mic night at his local Chicago watering hole and was drunkenly grumbling about the “talent” onstage. He was told if he thought it was so easy he should get up on stage, so he did. The owner offered him a job on the spot. Shortly there after Roger Ebert popped into the bar after reviewing a movie and saw John on stage. He never did music reviews, but he just had to write about the unknown John Prine. Shortly thereafter Singer Steve Goodman convinced Kris Kristofferson and Paul Anka to go see John Prine play. The 3 men sat in the empty bar and John played a few songs. Paul Anka flew him to New York to sign him to Atlantic Records and this album is the result.

Illegal Smile – “..will you please tell the man I didn’t kill anyone. No, I’m just trying to have some fun.” I enjoy stoner rock and this song doesn’t fit into that genre, but it is as much a pro marijuana song as any stoner or Willie Nelson song.

Spanish Pipedream – “Well, I sat there at the table and I acted real naive for I knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve…” Just the beginning of dozens of examples of amazing songwriting. My impression of this song is of a lonely patron at a strip club dreaming of running away with one of the young lasses dancing. Even imagining she whispered that she whispered that they could live together in a home in the country eating peaches and raising children. Pipe dream indeed.

Hello In There – “Old people just grow lonesome waiting for someone to say hello in there. Hello” and “So if you’re walking down the street sometime and spot some hollow ancient hollow eyes, please don’t pass ’em by and stare as if you didn’t care. Say hello in there.” I am calling my mom and dad after hearing that one.

Sam Stone – A song about a war vet that had become addicted to morphine after getting shrapnel in his knee. “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes and Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose..” The powerful lyrics remind me of people I know addicted to something or other and tears well up my eyes. A really powerful song.

Paradise – I song about the Kentucky town where John’s family grew up. The town is abandoned since the coal mine has closed up. As great a story about coal towns as Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton ever wrote.

Pretty Good – John was picketed by Women’s Rights groups back in the day because of the lyrics in this song. “..Molly went to Arkansas and got raped by Dobbin’s dog. Well she was doing good till she went in the woods and got pinned up against a log. Pretty good. Not bad. She can’t complain ’cause actually all them dogs are just about the same.” It was about a dog named Molly but this was never emphasized in the song. I’m sure religious folk didn’t care for the lyrics “I heard Allah and Buddah were singing at the Saviour’s feast and up in the sky and Arabian rabbi fed Quaker Oats to a priest. Pretty good. Not bad. They can’t complain ’cause actually, all them Gods are just about the same.”

Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore – I’m not sure that a flag decal will get you into heaven, if there is such a place, but John didn’t care about the pushback from the war mongers. By 1971 I’m sure most of his fans agreed with him anyway.

Far From Me – A sad song about a couple growing apart while staying together.

Angel From Montgomery – This song made me laugh, cry and get goosebumps..all at the same time. My dog looked at me and gave me that wtf look. It’s the song I swear. It is not just the best song on this album, which is saying a lot, it would be the best song on almost any album.

Quiet Man – I am a quiet man so I can relate to this song. “Last Monday nite I saw a fight between Wednesday and Thursday over Saturday nite. Tuesday asked me what was going on I said Sundays’s in the meadow and Friday’s in the corn” This time I was thinking wtf. I may be a quiet man, but I could never come up with stuff like that.

Donald and Lydia – One of the best songs about masturbation ever written.

Six O’Clock News – A song about an incestual relationship where James Lewis finds out his mother is also his sister. “..Come on baby, spend the night with me..” James Lewis finds out about this after reading his mother’s diary and commits suicide shortly thereafter. Heavy Stuff.

Flashback Blues – It has an older, Hank Williams feel that lifts the spirit to end the album on a lighter note.

If this album was the only one John had ever wrote he would still be considered a legend. It is amazing from start to finish and one I’ll never tire of. I miss you John. Thanks for this.

10/10