Friday, October 28, 2016


The dean of Canadian singers tackles the Great Canadian Songbook, and truly we should start looking at it as such. When you're talking the level of writers such as Mitchell, Cohen, Young, Robertson, and Lightfoot, this is top-tier no matter where you live.

Clayton-Thomas does a very interesting take on things, on what could have been a very safe project. Half of it is the standards, from Heart of Gold to Early Morning Rain to Both Sides Now to Suzanne. But his secondary choices are unexpected, adventurous and even oddball. He calls on his jazz chops and a smart arrangement for a brand-new vision of Sarah McLaughlin's Angel, almost unrecognizable but still beautiful. He reminds us of the greatness of Montreal-born Alex Kramer, who along with his wife Joan Whitney from the U.S. wrote the Bing Crosby hit Far Away Places, as well as Ain't No Body Here But Us Chickens, and many more. The master Canadian jazzman Guido Basso joins in on flugelhorn for that one. A couple of other huge hits by later writers are also featured, Sackville, N.B.-born Shirley Eikhard's Something To Talk About, a #1 for Bonnie Raitt, and Up Where We Belong, co-written by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

What makes the album a success is surprises. Heart of Gold with a reggae beat is certainly one, and the biggest is a crazy calypso version of Rush's Closer To The Heart. Pause. Let that one sink in for a second. What could have been the same-old same-old is Canada like you've never heard it from Clayton-Thomas.

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