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.