Review by Rusty W. Spell
The artwork is great. (The cover's lettering reminds me of something from the 80s made about the 50s.) The photo manipulations with the band behind the Group of 7 is cool. Let's get to business.
Here's my only major complaint, and I'll get it out of the way: I don't think so much time should have been devoted to Winchell Price. He's a great guy, and his stories are interesting, and I realize it adds to the feel of the time and subject, but it takes away from the music. Not only does it interrupt the music, but it sort of tells the listener, "Okay, he's talking about the thing that holds the picture together--time to play the main piano theme." (I realize, also, that it works well for the live performance, but I don't think it does for an album.)
Myself, I've created a CD where I edit out the Winchell bits, and I'm left with an album that flows wonderfully and tells the story better that way. The samples and everything are cool, on the other hand.
(During this review, I'll be using the alternate names I've given to the tracks instead of calling them "Three" or "Five" or whatever.)
"Earth (Almost)" is cool. The samples are done very nicely. You would think this song would seem too repetitive, but I never get tired of it. The way the "Sunlit Silence" part is recorded gives me the chills from time to time. (I do have to say, maybe the drums are a little loud... I haven't decided yet; leave it to a drummer to do the mixing: just kidding, Don.)
"Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans)" is a highlight. The first time I heard it, it reminded me of a riverboat more than a train. "Blue Hysteria" makes you smile when you first hear Martin. The song itself is about flawless... as is "Cello for a Winter's Day," which is maybe my favorite part of the whole record. By the time it gets to the "ahhh" section, I'm wanting to cry (I don't, of course, because I'm all manly and stuff).
"Northern Wish" is a very interesting remake. It was one of my favorite songs to begin with, and the cellos, etc., don't hurt a bit. And mixing up the order of verses and all so that it's not just the same song... I'll probably still claim that the first version is my favorite, but this fits the album wonderfully even though it's at least five years old.
I'm a sucker for noisy tracks. "Biplanes and Bombs" is noisily great. Of course, heart-ticklers don't hurt either... "Yellow Days Under a Lemon Sun." I wish this song could be made into a full version with full lyrics. Just the opening phrase "makes me feel like a little girl." Calling back all the main themes of the album was the only way to really end this album.
I know that the only real way to hear Group of 7 is to see it, but--as I've explained--I live in the Deep South, good ol' Mississippi, very close to the Gulf of Mexico... and that makes for a difficult time in me getting up to the Canadian way. Thanks for thinking of me.
Thanks to everyone who told me who the voices on the album were. It didn't strengthen or lessen my experience of the music (just an interesting history lesson) knowing it, which proves once again that you don't have to catch all the little references to like something (meaning: just because I've never been to the Albion Mall doesn't mean I can't love a song about it).
I like the actual paintings, too. Perty stuff.
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