Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love (revisited): Spirit of the West “Go figure”

(I started my Vinyl Love posts pretty much right after the launch of this blog to share photos of my growing vinyl collection. Over time, the photos have improved and the explanations have grown. And looking back at a handful of the original posts in this series, I found myself wanting to re-do some of them so that the posts are more worthy of those great albums. So that’s what I’ll be doing every once in a while, including today…)

Artist: Spirit Of The West
Album Title: Go figure
Year released: 1991
Details: Original German pressing, signed, numbered, includes a signed certificate from the band, band photo from their final show (also signed)

The skinny: Spirit of the West is one of my all-time favourite bands and one that has a special place in my heart, given that my wife and I got together at one of their concerts. 1991’s “Go figure” was my first introduction to the Canadian folk rock group and the CD copy I had of it followed me from high school into university and beyond. After carving out a celtic folk rock niche in the 1980s, John Mann, Geoffrey Kelly, Hugh McMillan, and Linda McRae ventured into alt-rock territory with “Go figure”, enlisting drummer Vince Ditrich to fill out their sound. I had been dying to track down any of their albums for my shelves ever since I began collecting vinyl again, so snapping up a copy of this album from the band’s website when they put it up for sale back in December 2017 was a no-brainer. It’s an original pressing that they found a few copies of left over from long past tours. The band all signed the cover, included with it a ‘certificate of authenticity’, as well as a signed photo taken at the band’s last ever concert in 2016. This is a treasure indeed.

Standout track: “D for Democracy”

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1990: #4 Spirit of the West “Home for a rest”

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Happy Friday! At spot number four on this list, we’ve got the perfect song to end off the week: “Home for a rest”, easily Spirit of the West’s best known song. And though it missed out by one song to “Political” when I ranked my top 5 songs by the band back in the spring, I’m willing to concede it’s a very, very, very close second.

I’m sure it’s funny to the band now, after its massive popularity growth over the years and the accolades heaped upon it by Canadian music media, that it was never released as a proper single and the producer for “Save this house” even had to convince its writers, John Mann and Geoffrey Kelly, to record it for inclusion on the album. Imagine if he had failed? The Vancouver-based, Celtic folk rock band might have never gotten as big as they did. They would have had to find another track to close out all their shows since the early 90s. Canadian Saint Patrick’s day ceremonies across the country over the last three decades would have had a big gaping hole in their evening play lists. I would have had to have found another favourite drinking song, a song to request and dance to at weddings. And just maybe, I might not even be married to my wife Victoria, given that we got together at one of Spirit of the West’s concerts in the late 90s.

“Home for a rest” really is a rollicking good tune, regaling the stories, whether true or not, of the band’s first tour in England and their many visits to pubs across the country. It warns of the perils of too much drink and bemoans being away the comforts of home but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming so well-known as a drinking song. Indeed, the chorus is shouted along with like a badge of honour:

“You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not at my best
I’ve been gone for a week (month), I’ve been drunk since I left
These so called vacations will soon be my death
I’m so sick from the drink, I need home for a rest…”

The band incorporates the melodies of traditional folk reels into the song, fleshing out the vehemently played acoustic guitar with accordion flourishes and head-spinning flute solos. It begs to be jigged to with abandon on any dance floor anywhere and I’ve done so many times. I had gotten so proficient at it that I had proper dancers thinking I had the jig mastered and asking where I’d learnt it. It wasn’t skill, I assured everyone. It was just plain earnestness and plenty of beer.

So raise a glass with me to this iconic Canadian song, the now-defunct band who wrote and performed it so many times over the years, and to John Mann, the lead singer, who is now courageously battling early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Cheers!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1990: #25 Spirit of the West “Save this house”

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The first time I remember hearing Spirit of the West was one Friday night circa 1991, while watching Good Rockin’ Tonite. They were doing a feature on the Canadian music scene and the final video they played was the one for “D is for democracy” off “Go figure”. It initially caught my attention because the accordion player, Linda McRae, was wearing a Wonder Stuff (of whom I was a fan) concert T in the video but the song quickly grew on me as well. I would go on to fall in love with (what I would later learn was a reinterpretation of) “Political”, off that same album, and bought “Go figure” based on that. Months later, I procured “Save this house” as one of my many “9 albums for a cent” shopping sprees from either BMG or Columbia House and it would become a perennial mainstay in my CD player, most definitely during the summers of 93, 94, and 95. It wasn’t long before Spirit of the West was one of my favourite bands and to this day, they’re tied with Stars and Spiritualized as the band I’ve seen the most times live. I would see them again in a New York minute but unfortunately, they’ve broken up.

Spirit of the West were a Vancouver-based Celtic folk rock band that was formed in 1983 by John Mann, Geoffrey Kelly, and J. Knutson. The last of these departed three years into their run and was replaced by Hugh MacMillan and the aforementioned accordion player, Linda McRae, joined not long after. On a tour of England in support of “Save this house”, they met and played some shows with The Wonder Stuff. This meeting was the impetus behind SOTW adding a drummer and incorporating more of a rock edge to their sound (and also likely where McRae got her shirt). The group would go on to become quite popular in Canada in the 90s, not just on the strength of their albums but also of their energetic and fun live shows.

“Save this house” is the title track and the high energy opener off their major label debut, their last before they “went electric” with the help of drummer Vince Ditrich. At a mere three minutes in length, it’s a song that packs a wallop. It commences with a funky groove (if you can call celtic folk funky) but it’s not long before the chorus and the frenetic acoustic guitars kick in and you just want to jump up and save whatever house John Mann and crew are looking to rescue. In this case, though, it’s a rough task to take on because their target is the planet Earth. They’re calling for an end to the house party that’s been trashing our home for years.

“The welcome mat’s worn out, the roof will never mend, the furniture’s on fire, this house is a disgrace. Someone change the locks before we trash this place.”

Indeed.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.