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Blue Rodeo – Casino (2CD RM, 2012)

This is (probably) my biggest score of this Taranna trip, and it may not even have happened. We were approaching the end of the day, and were heading back to the car as parking runs out at 6. But we had about half an hour to kill, so I suggested a quick pop into She Said Boom! (always an excellent shoppe for music AND books) as I was wanting a copy of a Collected Works of William Blake (I didn’t find it and am still looking. Alas). Anyway, I also had a quick dig though the music and, you guessed it, found some treasures. Especially this one…

I Wanna Taranna Pt. 34: She Said Boom! #1: Blue Rodeo – Casino 2CD RM (2012)

First off, what do I need to tell you about the album proper of Casino? Surely you know all the here: Til I Am Myself Again (my son’s favourite Blue Rodeo song, I can hear him learning the words in the back seat of the car), What Am I Doing Here, 5 A.M. (A Love Song), Montreal, Last Laugh, Trust Yourself, Two Tongues, Time, After The Rain and You’re Everywhere. 

Seriously. Stone cold classic.

The extra meat on the bones here, as if the album proper wasn’t enough, is the second disc of this 2012 re-release (part of their 25th anniversary boxed set, Blue Rodeo 1987 – 1993). It’s a disc of demos (awesome), but it also has two previously unreleased songs! When I saw what I held in my hand, I let out a little gasp of joy and immediately clutched it to my chest so no one else would get it from me!

If I Had A Heart, a previously unreleased demo, features Greg Keelor singing for a straight-on BR rocker with elegant slower bits as only they can do it. Then it’s Always Have A Place For You, the other previously unreleased demo, and it’s Jim Cuddy’s turn to swagger in the lead of a swingin’ funky rock tune that sounds like Saturday night down in the cowboy saloon. Maybe these two didn’t fit the flow of the album proper, or something, but both of these should have / could have been album tracks. 

Then we have demo versions of Til I Am Myself Again, What Am I Doing Here, 5 A.M. (A Love Song), Montreal, Last Laugh (which has accodion in the intro instead of guitar), Trust Yourself, Two Tongues, Time, and After the Rain. Oh man. All of them sound great. I can hear differences in them (slight lyrical differences, the way things get sung/phrased musically), almost like they might do it in a concert setting now, just to keep things interesting for themselves. I will say that hearing the intro to After The Rain done with tremolo guitar instead of the piano (as it is on the album) was eye-opening. There are differences in all of the tracks, some larger than other more subtle ones, but the point is clear: this was a band nailing it no matter what approach they tried. What a band of pure players.

Finally, there are two other demos that were released on later albums, but recorded at the time of Casino. Photograph (which found a home on Five Days in July) is a much faster tilt through bluegrass with mandolin and banjo… instead of the sweet country swing of the album version. And lastly, Is It You (later found on Lost Together) is a slow, big and deep echo of a track, with Keelor’s vocals right there in your ear above the musical swells, while the album version is much sweeter with acoustic guitar and sweet steel in the background… 

Yup. This was the score of the trip. I love Blue Rodeo, and it was a real treat to get to hear Casino again, as well as all of these demos and unreleased tracks!

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Blue Rodeo – In Our Nature

I Wanna Taranna Pt. 5 BMV #5 Blue Rodeo – In Our Nature

Four years after the stellar The Things We Left Behind double album, Blue Rodeo graces us next with their 13th studio album, In Our Nature. As you can guess, I think it’s fantastic!

I stole this from the Amazons, because it pretty much covers it:

In Our Nature was produced by Blue Rodeo, primarily at Greg Keelor’s farm studio. While at Keelor’s farm, the band had each musician set up and perform in separate rooms around the house giving the record a very warm and communal character. 

“Recording at Greg’s farm was key to the groove of this record,” says Jim Cuddy. “I was a little unsure at the beginning whether it was a good idea to encamp at Greg’s as we have a great studio in downtown Toronto. But by the time we got comfortable at Greg’s, after a few days, it was obvious that being in his farmhouse and being surrounded by the great outdoors was having such a positive effect on the collective spirit. It was very unifying.” 

“Doing a lot of touring while making this record helped a lot,” says Greg Keelor. “Everybody was getting along and the band was playing well together. I think it’s a good crop of songs and everyone just played it right and they played it beautifully.””

What else can I add? Another stellar effort perfectly realized, and proof positive that this band always delivers. Song after song envelopes you, pulls you deep into the pocket with the band, and holds you there so you have no intention of ever leaving. In other words, another perfect Blue Rodeo album. Thanks, boys!

Blue Rodeo – The Things We Left Behind

I Wanna Taranna Pt. 4: BMV #4 Blue Rodeo – The Things We Left Behind

For some reason, as much of a fan of this band as I have been for years, there are still albums I just never grabbed. This 2CD set of new songs, their 12th album and their first studio double album, was one of them and, holy mackerel, I have been lacking without this collection of genius in my collection! 

Everything you love about Blue Rodeo is on full display here, tastefully done and so much fun. Just put it on and let it go. When it ends, start at the top and go again. This is exactly what I’ve done over the past couple of days, just letting these tunes wash over me, letting them absorb and become part of the Blue Rodeo collection already stored in my head. 

It occurred to me that whatever is wrong in your life, by the end of listening to a beautiful set like this, you’ll have a better perspective on the world and you can go forward with calm, clarity and cool.

Essential. 

Grail List Success!* Blue Rodeo – Daze In America

*Subtitled: Would Have Been A Grail List Item Had I Known It Existed!

That’s right, I’m a pretty big Blue Rodeo fan, and I’d never seen or heard of this release before. Maybe I wasn’t trying all that hard, but if I had known, you can bet I’d already have owned it long ago. Thankfully, though, I was recently enough trolling around the web site of Mike’s old store and boom, there was this promo CD listed… That’s an instant ordering, lemme tells ya!

Released on Discovery Records in 1995 (PRO-74504) during the Five Days In July tour, here we have one studio track, as well as live versions of 6 tracks, from Five Days In July, Casino and Lost Together. See what I mean? This one’s a keeper already! Now, I had a wee dig around the interwubs to see if I could figure out where and when the live tracks were recorded, but to no avail. That should bother me, being an information completist, but then I decided it hardly matters, they were recorded on tour and that’s that, I guess!

Here are the tracks:

1. Head Over Heels *
2. Hasn’t Hit Me Yet ^
3. Bad Timing ^
4. Til I Am Myself Again ~
5. Rain Down On Me #
6. Last To Know #
7. Trust Yourself ~

* Five Days In July studio version
^ Five Days In July   
~ Casino
# Lost Together

What a set list of songs, eh? All solid hits. Oh man. And how does it sound? Surely you know all of these tracks already, so you can just imagine that warm, close feeling a live setting would bring to what these already warm and wonderful songs offer! Here are some quick-take impressions…

The vocal harmonies on the intro to Hasn’t Hit Me Yet made the hairs on my arms stand up, it’s so good. And the steel solo is soooo great. When Cuddy’s vocals come in on Bad Timing, it just blows you away, and it’s such a sweet slow dancer version… Then again, Til I Am Myself Again rips in faster than the album track and sounds fantastic, and the Neil Young-esque guitar solo rules. Rain Down On Me sounds somehow even more country while still rocking solidly, loved it. Last To Know is another sweet slow jam version with a wonderful solo section. And finally, Trust Yourself turns into a driving rocker with great pounding drums and that organ giving it a carnival swirl, the guitar buzzing through a killer solo, and the whole track crashing the CD to a close beautifully. Goddamn that was beautiful.

Seriously. This was awesome.

Blue Rodeo – Outskirts

Total score yesterday… a beautiful copy of Outskirts, on LP! It’s a promotional copy, but as you can see from the pictures, the promo stamp is partially worn off already.

It even still has the label’s promo letter inside the sleeve!

Glory.

Blue Rodeo – A Merrie Christmas To You

A gift from my lovely wife for this year’s Christmas, I am a bit torn. I surely do love me some Blue Rodeo. But I don’t tend to like Christmas music. How will I do with this one?

First up is Jesus Christ, a Big Star song. I’m not an overly religious guy, but I can respect those who believe in this stuff. It’s an OK tune, nice to hear Greg Keelor’s voice, as usual. The tune plods a bit, but no matter. A decent opener.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas  is next, and the boys keep it soft and gentle. Simple arrangement, low-key instruments and a great piano part. Jim Cuddy’s voice stands out on top, and that’s a great thing, here.

Up next is Merle Haggard’s If We Make It Through December. Blue Rodeo was built to play this song, and it’s a pleasing country run through. Gotta love Merle.

We move on to Joni Mitchell’s River, with its Jingle Bells teaser intro. This really is a beautiful version. Pretty hard to muck up a Joni song, they’re built strong.

And now it’s my favourite-titled Christmas tune of all time, O Come All Ye Faithful. Yes, ye faithful, come as often as ye can! Give ‘er! Ahem. Anyway, they rock this hymn up, Blue Rodeo style. Cool enough but I’m not likely to play it much. I have lots of other songs of theirs built like this that don’t have a church hymn as the lyrics.

Now we’re hearing Paul Simon’s Getting Ready For Christmas Day. You should know, I generally dislike Paul Simon’s music. And it’s a Christmas song. That’s two heavy strikes against it. And how is it? It’s a fairly straight-on rock tune with lots of the BR instrumental accents, but it doesn’t change much so it’s a bit monotonous. It’s alright.

Now we have a remake of Glad To Be Alive (from Palace Of Gold). It sounds like… well, it sounds like Blue Rodeo. Imagine that! Very nice, it’s one I’d play again. I don’t own Palace Of Gold, but I surely should. [I’m actually missing several of their albums, so I need to get on that!]

And here is a new song written for this collection, Home To You This Christmas, and it’s Jim Cuddy in front of a mid-tempo BR song, with piano and steel guitar accents. This is actually quite awesome. Even the “doo doo doo doo” solo at the end, haha!

Gordon Lightfoot’s Song For A Winter’s Night has a special place in our lives, at our house. It was one of the songs that would help our daughter calm down when she was a baby and we had to put her in the car and drive her around to get her to sleep. Keelor makes a decent job of it. I can still only hear Gord’s version. The song is so GORD, a cover seems almost superfluous. Still, good on them for including it.

And last is Robbie Robertson’s Christmas Must Be Tonight, which they turn into a Blue Rodeo song, basically. Again with the Jesus in the manger lyrics, but there you go, that was Mr. Robertson’s choice.

In Sum:

The boys are stronger on their own stuff. Some of the covers are good, some just OK, but one still gets the sense they’re aware it’s a cover tune so they’re approaching it that way. Yes, they make them sound like themselves (how could they not), but it’s when they’re playing stuff they’ve written where they really stretch their legs and sound comfortable. I (personally) still have a hard time with the Christmas side of it. I just don’t go there with all those bible stories. Again, that’s my own lack of need for it, you’re all welcome to believe whatever you like.

This is a very good CD. Reading this back myself, I may have seemed a little critical of it, but as I prefaced this whole thing, I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas music to begin with, so that is a factor here. And you have to know by now that even fair-to-middling Blue Rodeo is ten times better than a lot of other music that’s out there. These guys are a superlative band, there’s no questioning their abilities as players. I liked this, but I’ll probably reach for other BR first.  Maybe next Christmas I’ll give it another spin!

Hey Blue Rodeo! Which Is It?

One thing has always bugged me, Blue Rodeo.

Your classic I LOVE IT album is called Five Days In July.

Your song, the first track on that same album (and a BRILLIANT song it is), is called Five Days In MAY.

July. May.

LeBrain says they named it with July ‘cos that’s the month in which they recorded the album. James didn’t know, but guessed that maybe they needed to drop a syllable while recording the song? I don’t accept “artistic license” as an answer. That’s like saying “g-d works in mysterious ways,” which is a cop-out for not knowing, the religious equivalent of that old parental chesnut “go ask your mother.”

I have no guesses. But I know this conundrum has driven me crazy for the longest time.

So c’mon Blue Rodeo, which is it?

Blue Rodeo – Hasn’t Hit Me Yet

Last summer,

and I attended the Regina Folk Festival. Blue Rodeo was one of the headliners, and I was lucky enough to capture some of their set on video, which I subsequently uploaded to YouTube.

Tonight, my recording of Hasn’t Hit Me Yet received the following comment:

I am Canadian, my birthday is in December and I am a Officer in the Navy. During the 911 crisis my ship was in lake Ontario on a patrol. The actual night of 911 a friend and myself, both of whom play guitar, sat in the Wardroom (officers lounge) and played & sang this song over and over again as some strange, spontanious way of dealing with our feelings. I will never forget this song nor will I never forget that night.

I often say that I love the internet. Usually, I’m being facetious because I’ve just seen something hilarious that has to do with wieners or butts.

(I get lots of links from my friends – I’ve said many times when I shudder whenever I hear “I saw this and I thought of you” because it reveals some very sad truths about myself and how people perceive me. Not that they’re incorrect, and not that wieners and butts aren’t hilarious. But I digress.)

This time, though, I love the internet for real. I have no idea who this person is. From what little I know about him, I could narrow him down to  one of hundreds of people who are in the Canadian Navy and who have birthdays in December. This assumes I could get a list of Navy personnel with birthdays in December, which I’m guessing isn’t likely. For that matter, I’m making an assumption when I say “him.” I really don’t know. I’ll keep saying “him” because it’s easy and I’m lazy.

We’ve probably never been in the same city at the same time. Maybe not even the same province. I didn’t have him in mind when I saw the concert, recorded the video, or uploaded the video. By all rights, our paths should never have crossed. But here we are. I shared a slice of my life in the video. I got a story in return. And maybe I’m tired and overthinking things, but it just seems so cool that this is possible.

I guess the moral of the story is that I should bootleg more concert videos for YouTube.

Blue Rodeo – Small Miracles

When I think of Canadian music, there are a ton of artists that spring immediately to mind. All of them are well-known and loved within these far-flung borders, and Blue Rodeo is definitely in that list for me. They’ve been around long enough now, and had so many hits in this country that they are a part of the landscape, interwoven in all of our lives for good. And that’s awesome. I just hope we never take them for granted. 

I’ve heard people say that all of this band’s songs sound the same. Kinda country, kinda pop with an occasional rock song thrown in. Repeat. Yah, well, if you’re not listening closely enough that may be true for you. But spend some quality time with any of their records, Small Miracles is certainly no exception, and you’ll hear so much more going on. It’s in the arrangements, so skillfully constructed and executed. It’s in the interplay of the instruments, playful and purposeful all at once. It’s also in the vocals, shared between Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy and how each voice lends itself to each song perfectly, as required. Finally, the lyrics are telling the story of all of our lives in this great big lug of a country we call home, whether you admit it or not.

This is music about feeling, thinking and doing. It’s about being where we are in our lives right now and acknowledging that we’re just like everyone else in the most fundamental ways. We all have memories we cherish, times we wish we could change what we did or said, places we think we might rather be or lives we think we might rather be living. We all have to get up early in the morning to shovel snow because otherwise we’ll be late for work. We’re all a part of this country, and this music is an integral part of the soundtrack.

I heartily recommend this record. And you should own most (if not all) of their others by now too. Right? Right.
 

Track Listing:
01 So Far Away
02 This Town
03 Blue House
04 3 Hours Away
05 It Makes Me Wonder
06 Summer Girls
07 Together
08 Mystic River
09 Black Ribbon
10 C’mon
11 Small Miracles
12 Beautiful
13 Where I Was Before

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