Wednesday, January 6, 2016
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: BLUE RODEO - VINYL REISSUES
Three classic Blue Rodeo albums get reissued on vinyl, a format they had missed in the first place, coming out in the early '90's, with the CD era temporarily wiping out vinyl. This are albums three, four and five, a crucial time for the group, and all among their very best, plus solid fan favourites.
Casino from 1990 was a run at the big time, produced by Pete Anderson of Dwight Yoakam fame. Country rock had become a cool genre and there was a strong feeling the band could replicate its Canadian chart success in the U.S. You can hear the band (and producer) trying to find that middle ground on several cuts, a little too much polish in places, some confusion on where to take Greg Keelor's more left-field material. But Jim Cuddy delivered some of his very best, and the album includes such long-time fan favourites as 'Til I Am Myself Again, a #1 Canadian country single, Trust Yourself and After The Rain.
If Keelor struggled to find his place opposite Cuddy on Casino, he blossomed on the follow-up, 1992's Lost Together. The title cut was his shining moment, and helped define for all what each frontman would bring to the band, each equal and necessary to the blend of the band. Cuddy was warmth, a positive voice for fans. Keelor stumbled through life at times, wild to Cuddy's mellow, unsure about how to get through it all and representing that side of the audience: "And if we're lost, then we are lost together." Further fan loyalty was established as the group made strong statements about who they were and would always be, leading the album off with the pointed Fools Like You, and its message, "stop stealing the Indian land."
Everything came together on the next year's Five Days In July. Recorded at Keelor's farm house, the band was in tip-top form, having been on a lengthy road trip before, and was thrilled to record in the relaxed setting. The album connected with fans on a new level, becoming the band's best-seller and biggest fan-favourite. The opening three tracks are as strong a trio as the group has made: 5 Days in May, Hasn't Hit Me Yet and Bad Timing. Cuddy's emotional tale in 5 Days mixes his own story of meeting his wive with that of the group's sound tech, who wrote his wife's name in the sand of each beach they would visit. Keelor wrote his single greatest line in Hasn't Hit Me Yet, which fans sing with joy at each show: "I stand transfixed before this streetlight, watching the snow fall on this cold December night."
Pressed on heavyweight vinyl, Casino comes as a single album, while the other two are doubles. Blue Rodeo has always had a roots, acoustic, natural sound at its core, so the music is perfect for vinyl. More and more as we go into the digital future, music fans are looking for a more permanent way to keep their favourite bands close, with physical collections. Blue Rodeo feels better bigger.