Wednesday, September 25, 2019


The heroes of Hamilton continue as a primal force in Canadian rock 'n' roll, nearing their fifth decade. There's even more excitement these days, with the group's music getting tasty reissues, led by 2017's Fun Comes Fast career best-of. Now the runt of the litter, 1983's mini-LP Tornado gets new life, and a serious upgrading.

The disc is now more than triple the original size, bulked up to 21 tracks instead of the original six. This accomplished by doing a full remix of the cuts, and giving us both the old and new versions. Plus the group was able to locate nine band demos for the set, those same six plus another three in contention. The remixes were a smart idea. Some of the '80's sheen is gone, while vocals, guitar and overall thump is increased, making them tougher. This was supposed to be the record to break them in the U.S., so some nods to commercial sounds were made in the production. While the remix can't change all of that, it does improve them.

These are good songs, and they fit in with the group's punkish party/early rock'n'roll style, particularly the fun, danceable "Tornado" and "Blood Boogie," even with the gloss. That's even more apparent from the demos, which were fully-crafted and show that the group knew what they were after. Better still, the three cuts that didn't make the album are prime as well, and make this collection stronger than the original. Perhaps they left their version of The Beach Boys' "Drive-In" off to avoid comparisons to The Ramones in their cover choices, but they do a bang-up job. That shows their true early r'n'r roots better than anything.

Extra kudos for the packaging, which features great liner notes, explaining the situation the band were in at the time. This was originally released as by Teenage Heads, the name changed as part of a new U.S. deal, to appease DJ's in small American towns. It was also those U.S. brains that demanded this be a mini-LP as well, thinking that would help break the band in the States. The irony was that a regime change in the U.S. saw the group dropped before they even got released there. The memorabilia is great as well, and vinyl may be the best way to go, in a delightful two-tone green.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Another gem from the talented Toronto jazz-soul outfit, lead by keyboardist/singer/composer Don Breithaupt, the group's fifth. His love of Steely Dan is no secret (mine either) and he continues to move that group's precision-with-swing sound along nicely, with catchy words and melodies, every tune impressive. Smooth but with lots of guts and glory, it hits the exact right mix of clever and skillful.

This set's a little more soulful than the previous Monkey House releases, so in Dan terms, more Gaucho than Aja. Breithaupt shows his writing chops on "I'll Drive, You Chill," a story-song about a woman who owns a pet-friendly pharmacy but steps out on her husband for a wild ride. "When The Mudmen Come" features a survivalist with a panic room who hears and knows what we don't, ready for the inevitable worst-case scenario: "You stand there just smiling, you should be stockpiling." For every line that makes you smile, there's a solo or part that tickles your musical brain as well.

Dan fans will appreciated guest soloists Drew Zingg on guitar, from the '90's era Steely band, and trumpeter Michael Leonhart, another longtime collaborator of Becker and Fagan. Also, there's a sly nod in the lyrics, "So there's money in your pocket, but you can't buy a thrill." The best guest award goes to Manhattan Transfer, who do their trademark thing in "The Jazz Life." But the Monkey House band is topnotch on its own, handling this hybrid sound that's such a joy when done right.

Monday, September 9, 2019


The Hurtin' Albertan tries on other people's cowboy boots for a change. Lund's picked eight cuts that mean something to him, his favourites from over the years, or songs he's done in concert. Some are big surprises, and most of them from the pop side of things rather than country, cowboy or outlaw.

The most fun comes on a cover of the old hit "Cover Of The Rolling Stone," helped out by his pal Hayes Carll. This one's a natural for Lund's easy-going side, and in fact he does a better job than the original Dr. Hook version, which always felt a bit corny. Lund and Carll are just having fun. Same goes for his take on "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me," it's fun but a little too close to Billy Joel's version, I'd like to hear it with some oomph.

Lund goes the other way on the most surprising cut, AC/DC's "Ride On," which he turns into a country-ish number. If that's not enough of a shock, it also features guest vocals from none other than Ian Tyson, Lund's mentor. It works great, with a twangy loud guitar a nod to the original. Covers always work best when they successfully re-imagined. No such luck with "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'," which I'll argue really sounds better from a woman, or at least Nancy Sinatra. Still, strong marks for this mini-LP, a welcome side-step while we wait for Lund's next move.