Monday, January 23, 2017


Tom Cochrane was a pretty good-sized star as Canadian rockers went back in 1991. He'd had a bunch of hits with Red Rider in the decade before, with Big League and Good Times the biggest a couple of years before. He was even a known quantity in the U.S., where White Hot had seen some good chart action. But the success of Life Is A Highway was so grand, it has dwarfed everything else in his career. A Canadian #1 of course, #6 in the U.S., and the album Mad Mad World went diamond (a million copies), one of the best-sellers of all-time in this country. Everything since has had to answer to that one song, and I suppose Cochrane figured out a long time ago he can't fight that.

So, he's honouring it, after its 25th anniversary passed a few weeks ago. Cochrane hits the road for an anniversary tour for Mad Mad World starting in February. Before Christmas, this two-disc deluxe set was issued, and next month will also see a super deluxe version with a DVD and coffee table book attached. What should be remembered is that the album much more than just that song. It's top-loaded with strong guitar songs, with the first five tracks all hits, including the title cut, No Regrets, Sinking Like A Sunset and Washed Away. It's also a surprisingly thoughtful and engaging album, Cochrane ready to tackle big topics. Even ..Highway, on the surface a classic rock song with a road metaphor, came from his reaction to a trip to West Africa for World Vision. If only it hadn't been so damned catchy, the rest of the album might get it's deserved plaudits too.

The two-disc deluxe features a treat, the original demo for the big hit, when it was called Love Is A Highway. The lyrics aren't there, nor is the chorus, but that earworm beat sure is, even with a drum machine. The second disc is a very solid concert set from Chicago in May of 1992 with the U.S. audience won over by now. But the best moment is when Cochrane tells the story about an earlier gig on the tour when a fan told him they should do "more Red Rider covers." The super deluxe box arrives Feb. 24.

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