“Because we’ve all been there – that small town in Ontario of the heart and soul, all solitude and yearning. And learning. Which hurts at the time, but in the fullness of time, we come to realize it’s about as good as life gets. And nobody’s ever put it better than Mr. Neil Young in the song known as Helpless, and he never sang it better than he did one evening toward the end of 1976, the concert known as The Last Waltz, the band known as The Band bidding a proud and fond (though not exactly permanent) farewell. Even Joni Mitchell showed up in the background making for perhaps the most righteously Canadian thing that ever happened in a San Francisco ballroom (of course, it was called Winterland). It was even snowing (backstage anyway). Way better than hockey.” (Philip Random)
There’s a lot of autobiography in Neil Young’s discography, with Don’t Be Denied (found on 1973’s Time Fades Away, the deliberately raw follow up to the worldwide mega hit Harvest) particularly loaded in that regard. It concerns a weird kid from somewhere north of Toronto whose parents split up and he moves with his mom to a town called Winnipeg at the wrong age, pays the price in schoolyard beatings, etc. But to paraphrase an old German, that which does not destroy you only increases your will to pick up an electric guitar and not ever be denied again.
By 1973, The Guess Who were mostly on the wane, certainly as a commercial force. Randy Bachman was long gone, and what had been a outfit that couldn’t seem to help cranking out the hits now seemed more interested in just being an improper rock ‘n’ roll band, drinking and drugging and whoring around. Which doesn’t mean the music was dead – you just weren’t hearing it that much on the radio anymore. Musicione for instance. A smart rocker with a loose jammed-out feel that ends up feeling like a hymn toward something or other. Who makes the music when you die? Somebody else, obviously.
Ian and Sylvia being the Tysons (husband and wife) and that rarity among Canadian artists of their era – they made it before government-imposed radio play quotas became a thing. “Special thanks to my friend Andrew’s mom, because she was the only parent I knew who seemed to generally care about music, and thus had a few decent records. Nothing heavy mind you – just good solid easy-to-listen-to options like Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Moody Blues, and more obscure stuff, which Andrew and I spent many hours exploring – both of us still young and fresh enough to dig something even if it wasn’t driven by heavy guitars and appeals to Satan.” (Philip Random)
“In which Canada’s The Guess Who, on the verge of genuine BIGness (they’d be outselling the Beatles in 1970), smell the wheat and get cosmic, reference the Bible and otherwise lay down the elusive truth for all god’s children. Seriously, note the title. It’s not The Key, but simply, significantly, psychedelically KEY.” (Philip Random)
Chilliwack being a band straight outa Chilliwack, BC, which also happened to be the name of not just their debut album, but also its sprawling double vinyl 1971 follow up, the second half of which spaces out in all manner of strange ways, the first half of which is not afraid to rock, with Eat being the sort of nugget that would still sound strong in pretty much any garage, the world over.
“NoMeansNo, maybe the greatest Canadian rock based combo ever in the history of anything, weighs in with an epic number that can easily be dedicated to every sorry asshole that ever got his ass handed to him (or her) – in a poker game, in a sporting event, in battle, in love. Because it’s true, failure and humiliation are magnitudes more achievable than success. So eat them, digest them, then move on. And leave the vengeance crap to the gods – that stuff just eats mortal souls.” (Philip Random)