Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #20 Spirit Of The West “And if Venice is sinking”

<< #21    |    #19 >>

Three important life events happened in the fall of 1993 and they will be forever linked in my thoughts and memories. First, after taking a year off after high school, I started my first year of post-secondary education at York University in Toronto. Second, I finished my road lessons with Young Driver’s of Canada and passed my road test in the sleepy town of Port Hope, Ontario, beating the implementation of the new graduated licensing rules by a mere two and a half months. Finally, I purchased a CD copy of “Faithlift”, the sixth and most recent (at the time) album by Canadian alternative folk rock band Spirit of the West.

The reason they are linked for me is because I decided to continue living at my parent’s home in Bowmanville while attending that first year of university to save money. And after getting my driver’s license, I switched my mode of travel from the long and tiring GO transit bus voyage to a sturdy and slightly more comfortable Chevrolet Chevette borrowed from my mother. It was a trek I made three times a week and took more than an hour each way by car, so almost 20 hours of music listening time. That CD was pretty much immediately recorded to cassette tape to be played on the deck in my mother’s car and it was on many of those trips in October and November that I fell in love with “Faithlift”.

My introduction to Spirit of the West came with their previous album, 1991’s “Go figure”, an album that saw the group add a drummer and transition from a mostly folk-influenced outfit to something that blended the sound with rock. “Faithlift” completed their transition to a rock band with only some hints of the folk sound remaining. It became the group’s best selling album and this, mostly off the back of least rocking tune on the album: “And if Venice is sinking”. It is their highest charting single, is these days runner up to their best known song*, and also happened to be my fifth favourite song when I counted down my favourites by the group on these pages back in 2017.

As I mentioned in that post, “And if Venice is sinking” is a joyful tune, perfectly reflecting the elation and wonder frontman John Mann and his new wife, Jill Baum, must have felt as they explored the winding laneways and bridges of Venice for their honeymoon. I can certainly attest to this feeling, given that my wife and I also spent part of our honeymoon there, exploring that living museum and falling in love with the galleries, the churches, and the piazzas – the trifecta of art, history, and food. Just like Mann and Daum, we didn’t want to leave, believing we might never see it again.

“And if Venice is sinking
Then I’m going under”

The song is as much a carnival as its subject. It dances and prances along the cobblestone streets, a parade led by the pace-setting tuba, but followed closely behind by Linda McRae on the accordion and Hugh McMillan on the mandolin. The rest of us just gather in behind, joining our voices to that of the incomparable and unforgettable John Mann.

*At least, here in Canada.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: The Rural Alberta Advantage “The wild”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Rural Alberta Advantage
Album Title: The wild
Year released: 2017
Details: Yellow vinyl, limited to 200, signed by the band, OBI strip

The skinny: So this impromptu mini-series showcasing the vinyl releases of Toronto-based indie folk rock trio, The Rural Alberta Advantage, comes to an end at four posts (so far). In 2016, it was announced that founding member Amy Cole was replaced by Robin Hatch and the group immediately went on the road to tour new material. “The wild” is the result of these road-tested tunes and though you can hear more polish, with Nils Edenloff’s raucous strumming and hollering and Paul Banwatt’s ever present drum-pounding, these ten tracks are no less ‘wild’ than the band’s previous work. I admit that I was a bit apprehensive at the personnel change but found that Hatch was a worthy replacement when I heard advance singles on YouTube so I jumped all over this second pressing by Paper Bag Records. As usual, the Canadian label’s packaging is fun, complete with an OBI strip, a signed cover, and a pretty yellow disc. (As a post-script: It’s been four years since this album was released, Amy Cole has returned to the group, and given the activity on social media, I expect I’ll have to add a fifth instalment to this series at some date in the not-too-distant future.)

Standout track: “White lights”

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: The Rural Alberta Advantage “Mended with gold”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Rural Alberta Advantage
Album Title: Mended with gold
Year released: 2014
Details: Black vinyl with gold flecked splatter, limited to 300

The skinny: Without planning it, I kind of started a mini-series on one of my favourite Canadian indie rock bands, The Rural Alberta Advantage. Over the last two weekends, I have given their first two records, “Hometowns” and “Departing”, the Vinyl Love treatment, mostly because I was in a mood to listen to them, but now that I’ve started, I might as well go the whole way. The Toronto-based trio released their third record on Paper Bag Records in 2011. I somehow missed out on pre-ordering the first pressing in black and gold striped vinyl that was limited to 300 units. Yeah, that one sold out super quick but I managed to get in on the second run, this one also limited to 300 and pressed to what looks at first glance as plain black vinyl, but if you look real close, you catch the glints of flecked gold streaks. And much like the first two, I fell for music on “Mended with gold”, pretty much on first listen. The production on this one is amped right up, giving the trio a real rocking sound, especially showcasing the spellbinding drumming of Paul Banwatt, whose work has always put this band in a class of its own in the indie folk realm.

Standout track: “Terrified”