Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Rising Sons - One For The Road

One For The Road
(Nite Hawk NH-1002)

I’m not sure where they were from (I’m speculating Melville), but The Rising Sons were a trio from 1973-1986. They also released a double live album, which I’ll write about at a later point. Member Len Gadica has been performing as a “1 Man Band” since 1987 and is still going strong.

I’m going to come clean immediately and confess my relative ignorance with regards to polkas/waltzes/etc., though I’m working on changing that with this site. Side A of One For The Road features a handful of such songs and the prospect of coming across ones similar to “Gajdzica’s Kielbasa” has me looking forward to wading through my backlog of SK records. Call me crazy here, but the (mostly) restrained drumming is pure motorik and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Neu! record. The song gets unexpectedly heavy in its short running time and I’ve found myself revisiting it way more often than I could have imagined. The accordion-led version of “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” features vocal harmonies throughout and nice guitar playing, while their take on Frankie Yankovic’s “Hu-La-La-La” hints at raucous nights spent in bars and nightclubs.

“Old Man’s Song” is the only Len Gadica original on the album to feature vocals and lyrically it’s in the same vein as Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle,” as covered on Side B. Whereas I’m yet to hear a version of the latter I enjoy, “Old Man’s Song” is understated and gorgeous, propelled by light accordion, soft drumming, and tasteful guitar. Wordless background vocals weave in and out and there are harmonies on the chorus, but the real highlight here for me is the harpsichord-sounding keyboard. Three other instrumentals make up the rest of Side A.

Side AA is the rock and roll side of One For The Road, with a playful version “Drivin My Life Away” starting things off. Murray Zimmer’s drumming is again on display, paired here with fantastic lead vocals and another appearance from the harpsichord sound-alike. “Rockin Pneumonia” continues the fun and brings the guitar to the forefront for the first time. The aforementioned "Cats in the Cradle" proves the album's only misstep to my ears.

Penned by non-member Lonnie Piller,“Storms Of Life” is Side AA’s only original, and my favourite song on the record, but I’ll allow it to speak for itself below. A requisite cover of “Hang On Sloopy” and the nightcap “Goodnight Sweetheart” round out the album.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Saskatchewan Wheat Pool . . . Is "On Record"

Saskatchewan Wheat Pool . . . Is "On Record"
"Fifty Years Saskatchewan" b/w "Keep The Wheat Pool Rolling Along"
(no label SWP-1)

Here's a single commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool's founding.

Side 1 features Jim Roberts putting his civic pride songwriting chops (see: "Saskatchewan" from the first RFS mix) to work for the wheat pool, with a shifting narrative condensing fifty years of history into less than two minutes. There's a lot to love here, though I'm especially fond of the backing vocals and the strings.

Side 2 is an a cappella number by Mel Friesen & The Mel-O-Tones covering much of the same ground, albeit with a look to the future. Unfortunately, my copy is slightly warped and will not play through.

Packaged in a gorgeous (and functional) one-sided picture sleeve with pasted on centre labels.