Thursday, August 30, 2012


I suffer from many problems and have many issues both personal and impersonal. During my time getting to my goal of Montreal and my first real vacation in 3 years if I can even call the last trip which was me at my craziest/nastiest/worst a vacation has been quite an ordeal in my head. A record dealer who shall go nameless who runs the worst record store in New Jersey hands down has been what my more than partially fried brain has been inflicting me with visions of. He never gets good records in. He gets in garbage American private press records such as American Blues (absolute shite), August (ditto), Sainte Anthony's Fyre (complete rubbish) and other assorted bullshit and tried to pawn them off on me. I have issues with him going back to the late 90s and so I've ended and annexed him and he has done the same of me. Let's say the parting is acrimonious, but I'm not hurt even though I knew him before he was a bad guy when he first started out back when I was merely 12 years old. It had to be acrimonious and people once they begin to feel a sense of power often lose their complete ability to even be human. I personally have had an uphill battle in my life, but I'll never get a complex about it like I had some years earlier when I felt the whole world owed me a favor.
    That's not right. Music proves that to be very wrong when a band, an artist, or a musician get a fake sense of security and entitlement that leads to the dreaded egomaniac stance many famous musicians have both monetarily famous and cult-status famous. For instance, 25e Regiment formerly 25ieme Regiment (this means 25th Regiment as I have abbreviated in my heading) possessed the talents of the late Tony Roman who I never got a chance to know unfortunately and the also deceased Georges Thurston who I unfortunately got in touch with 11 years ago and who turned out to not be a nice person at all. He went on to be one of the most sought after session players in Montreal/French Canada. If you look at the background work of both Roman and Thurston what these guys did is staggering. Had Thurston been less headstrong he easily could have formed a French Canadian Toto with his unusual black/French Canadian background as a focal point. The problem with Georges is that he took the credit away from the mainstays of the band from their earlier pop/rock incarnation and gave them no respect whatsoever. That he and Roman were instrumental in the band's switch over to English lyrics and a more adventurous approach was slightly exaggerated, but they definitely helped nurture the band into making the album that brought my love of Canada into my life.
      - Digging Up And Digging In- Fighting The Demons: 25th Regiment and A Whole Army-
          Before I get to the stunning, absolute tres magnifique bar none Claire Lepage and Compagnie (their spelling not mine) I will fill you in on the most underrated record, the most perfect record, the most hard to categorize masterpiece there is for progressive pop psych/breezy melodic rock 25th Regiment's 2nd and last attempt ECOLOGY. Trans Canada is a label that must have had a really with it A&R man as they went from the highly ahead of their time The Rabble to 25th Regiment to Claire Lepage picking up along the way heavy hitters Sex and many other brilliant bands. The label was instrumental in bringing a lot of French Canada's finest to the music world. Signing the two best albums that are still overlooked and many other masterpieces is pretty impressive and shows how strong the music scene in Canada was back in the late 1960s/early 1970s.
     I have from the age of 16 been intrigued by soldiers. As different as we may be there are also many similarities and one of them is having the determination to fight under heavy pressure an enemy that won't go away to eventually triumph over it. To get to Canada I've been watching Canadian soldiers on YouTube and they have been an enormous help in my success. I think highly of the Armed Forces. I have many great friends in America and England who serve and I am hoping to make some more mates up in Montreal where I've been invited to an exclusive event by the very kind Richard (pronounce it his way- RIIIISHAAARD) and SGT Samuel Pepin of The Hussars. Soldiers are not like many other people. They tend to have a lot more good heartedness and a lot more to give other people and while some are no good as in any group the best tendencies many of us lack are very much integral to most of their personalities.
     It was the name 25th Regiment that at the age of 17 in a list of Paul Major's intrigued me. My best friend Bill Pacquin (pronouced Pac-een) said ECOLOGY was a great record and 18 years ago in January or February of 1994 it was my first mail order received record. It alone has survived the dismantling long ago of my old collection. That tells you how much I love it and how important it is to me. For something to be an untouchable album through nearly 20 years of changes, upheavals, and major personality overhauls what resonates in those grooves must be pretty damned strong. And it is. I made the first and last mistake of sending Paul his records in a Jiffy Bag(!) which destroyed nearly all of the covers on them (and I had to send Mr. Major a lot of my album covers which I'd just designed), but thank Goodness I got 25th Regiment. More on this amazing record now.
    ECOLOGY has a running time of maybe AT MOST 25 minutes. It is one of the shortest full length albums on the planet yet paradoxically these guys were so progressive that they rival one of the longest full length producing masterminds' of early 70s full on symphonic prog Genesis for creative genius! A French Canadian band heavily influenced by The Beatles especially John Lennon this band are still rather enigmatic. I don't know how they came up with such an unusual sound, but they certainly made a very adventurous record in ECOLOGY. The album begins with the gentle, flowing, and then somewhat rockier passages of "I Do Remember" with phased harmonies, beautiful lead vocals, and strong emotive singing in the chorus. The instruments circle around each other in a jazzy kind of way whilst like label mates Sex there is no Over-Jazz. A sentimental lyric and very solid production help enhance what already is quite an opening track. "Forever" adds an echoing flute and more beautiful vocals bringing back memories of all the great vibes of the 1960s that had long since been decimated in the wake of horrible events like Altamont, Kent State, and People's Park in America. Yeah, while America went down the toilet in the early 70s except for lucky mistakes or a sadly for-the-most-part-lacking strong will here and there Canada, Northern Europe, Germany, what had been bubbling under in the 1960s slammed us down, yet didn't wake us up till much later. It would be truth undeniable that 25th Regiment are a perfect example of this phenomenon and so is the Claire Lepage record. Many others made it to the top of musical bliss too, but we became dormant. Since I have already expounded on the shocking decline in American music back then in a lot of blogs I'll get right back to the music of 25th Regiment. "Ecology" is the title track and a song of questioning where the earth will go when pollution and environmental devastation are ignored by the world's populace. I would say the front cover kaleidoscopic shot of burning matches in a golden tray forming a burning peace sign says right there what the concern is. Again there are beautiful psychedelic harmonies and strong lead vocals. There's the Beatles influence, but moving somewhere else into a European sound on the first 3 tracks like if the Swedish psychedelic rockers Blond or their first incarnation The Tages had lasted into the early 70s. You also will if you pay close enough attention hear the early stages of Yes, Jethro Tull, and the British underground come into play sans the heavy vibe of Tull or the long song format of Yes. They take themselves further and further away from America. An American band would have trouble coming up with such a shocking amount of bizarre time changes and cleverness that you find on here. Every song is under 3 minutes long! The song "Free" will have you feeling like you've left the earth! I always think of soldiers when I hear this record and it's not just the name. It's a physical thing and its an earthy emotional thing.  Hard for me to express, but the rhythms surge and never cease changing from one heavy mood/tempo shift to the next. "Free" if it were stretched to epic length would be on THE YES ALBUM. However, despite that similar harmony and Jon Anderson meets Paul McCartney as a French Canadian vocal it sounds purely 25th Regiment because of the very disciplined short time length. "Mother" is another environmentally concerned track with a Lennon to match "Free's" McCartney. You can also hear the influence of George Harrison in the subtle concern of the music and lyrics. A sort of dig deeper and you get deeper thing. "Mother" is beautiful, and sad. The lonely world weary vocals and lyrics end abruptly, as abruptly as "Free" ends in a scream and a whispered/half laughed "FUCK."
   Side Two is really, really short. Now most of the songs drop under 2 minutes, but you never feel like you've been ripped off because the album is so short on time. Unlike the horrible Sainte Anthony's Fyre where not only is the record ludicrously short in an unimaginative way and nothing going right there is no sense of lack of anything on ECOLOGY. In fact, if you will pardon the pun it sounds like as if nature intended it to be like this- a brief taster of sweetness, sorrow, dejection, and joy. It's like when you have a magical thought in your mind as a writer that you just have to get down. "Too Late" begins Side Two. It also nearly has you reeling out of your mind with shocking changes and all conventional structures thrown out the window. From "All You Need" on through "You See" Badfinger, Beatles, October Cherries circa DREAMSELLER, that is the prevalent vibe- sweet, soulful, evocative, and rugged. The Beatles turned music on its head. Their music hasn't aged with the years passing far off into the 21st century like so much music sounds stale, underdeveloped in America. Now, hey, I ain't gonna give no credit to us we had some really fine bands, but let's face the truth- Gandalf sits on the Throne and does anything else really match the magic of that and Kak? No. Not in that price range! For whatever reason up north we ignored or just criminally were robbed of the chance of a world of musical brilliance and that is all summed up by ECOLOGY and....
                               -Claire Lepage And Compagnie Masterful And Magical-
I'll come right out and say it. Are you ready for this? This is the BEST FEMALE VOCAL PSYCH RECORD EVER MADE. It's not got any of that Jefferson Airplane Grace Ick or Janis wannabe blues boom nonsense to it and a much more apt comparison would be the amazing first Earth And Fire record which is a Dutch corker masterpiece. Claire had begun as a pop/chanson singer and then she wanted to broaden her musical horizons and go hard rock. She hooked up with guitarist/vocalist Germain Gauthier, drummer/vocalist Richard Patri, and bassist/vocalist Bill Laguriuk as Claire Lepage And Compagnie. I had never heard of their album until my French Canadian friend Denis Lalonde turned me on to them. Thank you Denis! We both agree this is one of the best records in the world. I, in my last blog, wrote about a Canadian band called Rain with a female singer and said the word "Psych" didn't apply to their music. Here it is very different. Whether it is the heavy hard psych guitars, trippy multilayered female vocals, imaginative dexterity of soft and hard contrasts, or the very youthful and optimistic Northern Europe filtered through Swinging London and Canadian rock vibes of every track on the album THIS IS PSYCHEDELIC AND IT IS AMAZING. Claire Lepage not only is gifted with a beautiful, honest, unpretentious voice she also is a great writer. It's not a man behind everything here it's Claire with help when she needs it. The band themselves contribute 2 male vocal winners in the first two tracks on Side Two along with virtuoso yet rough, hard, driving, instrumental work. This album sounds like there is not a care in the world. It is far from "Sunshine Music" and is hard and heavy, but it has a lightness to it, a kind of Fuzzy Duck/Byzantium lightness whilst not resembling either of those bands musically. Maybe a little bit of Fuzzy Duck's organ/guitar rampant enthusiasm and a nod here and there to The Beatles especially a pretty good version of "We Can Work It Out" are the British contingent here. Overall, I would definitely say that in the French language songs even someone who doesn't speak a word of French would have to be out of their minds not to fall in love with these songs and the English language ones are sung with no accent and no problem. Everything dark and more resigned on ECOLOGY by 25th Regiment meets its polar opposite in the upbeat just take-life-as-it-comes vibe here. I usually find a lot of female led bands to have a strident element even some of the best ones, but not on this album at all. Claire Lepage approaches the vocals in a very together and also very melodic way. Her voice becomes part of the music and the music becomes part of her voice. She tackles a Quebecois take on "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes"in completely French lyrics and it works brilliantly! If you can put punch and Swingin' London into that you must be a genius of some kind! Even fans of bands like Queen and Sparks will find plenty of zaniness and things to love here however musically dissimilar this might be. Actually, Queen has the multilayered harmonies in a more operatic context and Sparks have the same sense of fun and capital FUN is the word here. Put this record on after a hard day and it will do the trick. I love the first Earth And Fire, but hands down no questions asked between their Jerney Kagman and Claire Lepage Claire has the better voice. She also isn't exotic looking and there is nothing look or fashion based at all about her. She's a beautiful looking woman, but she has that Carole King down to earth loveable quality even in the somewhat freaked out look she has on the cover. She looks like a cross between an old 1930s Chanteuse and a friend of yours who you've always known and looked up to just because she radiates something pure, warm, and affectionate. There is no strident screaming. There are no pretensions. This is just psych at its most creative, energetic, and exciting and nothing in the world can come close with a female vocalist. Come to think of it, most male vocal psych records can't even come within a few acres of this. It's just THE BEST. Take my word and seek out these two rare masterpieces. Sometimes my fight is hard, but with 25th Regiment and Claire Lepage And Compagnie and soldiers to help me I can win it.

Monday, August 20, 2012


If it weren't for the winters we would have packed up and left for Montreal, Canada a long time ago.
I am going there very soon and will find lots of exciting things to post up here eventually some of which are already on hold for me.
Montreal is better than New York, Philadelphia, any city I can name in the States. It is not that I do not like America, but the amount of insanely stupid people and arrogance in this country makes me sick. That isn't to say that Canada also doesn't have crazy and nasty aloof people there as they do, but much less.
It's an exciting country to visit, very relaxed for the most part, but with a lot of life and vitality about it too. Montreal is hands down my favourite city bar none, but the band in question here, Rain, are from Kitchener Ontario- quite a long ways from Montreal and all of Quebec.
   Rain are a band often tagged by American and European dealers as "Psych" or "Heavy Psych" even. Well, this is not true. While there is a lot of fuzz guitar it's the early 70s distortion sound and not the late 60s buzzsaw fuzziness. Rain are far from just an ordinary rock band, however, and their songs are strong compositions which effortlessly go between melodic pop and power pop. It's definitely a very commercial sounding record, but in a good way.
  Formed in the early 70s and releasing THE RAIN ALBUM as it is known in 1972 they only managed one record- released on the the small Axe label which also had heavy band Thundermug.
Rain comprised 5 from Kitchener- Lead vocalist/pianist Phyllis Brown (born Boltz), vocalist/bass player/pianist Ron Hiller, organist Charley Hall,  drummer Chris Woroch and impressive guitarist Bill McLaughlin. Rain managed one power pop classic with a scant few progressive flourishes and some more obvious Motown influences which are not surprising as Phyllis Brown when she embarked on a solo career as Charity Brown would show that a white girl could sing as sweet as Diana Ross and as forceful as Aretha The Queen herself. The album begins with "Out Of My Mind" which does bear a strong resemblance to the pop psych British band Forever Amber this time around sans the psych edge and with female vocals. The infectious melodies, great powerful vocals from Brown, and driving twin pianos make for the first of many times you'll wonder how this band missed out on the big time. It's probably the dreaded "Canadian Content" laws or the simple fact that America has never taken Canada seriously. In fact, there is a lot of stupid animosity from the American right wing directed at Canada and you wanna know the main "reason" why? Because Canadians are polite and they think before they act. See my earlier point about scramming from here?
    It just may happen that one of these days our whole family takes a long vacation Up North, but back to the music. "Let The Love Begin" is one of those very 70s Canadian power pop songs. Again Phyllis excels with a brilliant powerhouse vocal and the harmonies are first class. The playing is just as energetic as on the first track, but there isn't much you can call psychedelic unless you want to label Eric Carmen that. I think you see my point. Eric Carmen himself or Emmit Rhodes himself would be knocked cold by the quality of this album and that is a big statement for me to make. There's a bit of difference Canadian power pop and American power pop, but so subtle a difference that unless you're really well schooled you won't pick up on it until you've listened quite a few times knowing there's something a bit more, well Canadian here.
   The first of only 3 deviations from the power pop/melodic pop comes in the band's heavily progressive organ dominated cover of Carole King's beautiful "Child Of Mine" which must surely rank as one of King's greatest achievements on her first solo album. Charley Hall's huge organ sound coupled with Brown's strong, dramatic even vocals make for a really powerful version which is almost all just a big vocal and organ. Very progressive and very inventive. If Gandalf had lasted into the 70s era they just may have done something like this. That is if they hadn't blown everything with the posthumously released horrible single as Barracuda which was just Peter Sando solo and all the other assorted rubbish cobbled together for the exceedingly poor GANDALF 2 travesty. Yeah, it's a shame that the #1 go to best American psych record Gandalf was something that was just a one off masterpiece.
     There's 60s influences in Rain as I can't deny I've brought up here Gandalf and Forever Amber, but I just can't quite say it's psychedelic. To me psychedelic means a bit trippy at least and this isn't very trippy sounding. Maybe "Child Of Mine" stands alone on the album as a somewhat psychedelic, but ultimately more progressive effort. "Got To Get Away" composed by Brown and Hall is a thundering hard heavy rock number with wailing vocals, shredding loud guitars, powerful rhythms, and anti-pollution lyrical sentiments that are kept from overshadowing the song. This one is a hard rock heavy prog masterpiece with one of the heaviest guitar solos you'll ever encounter.
   Phyllis Brown's "Reason For Living" closes side one with the mellowest track so far. A very sweet Carole King alike ballad with beautiful soft vocals and sweet musical backing. Side Two however leaps right back into the power pop with "Caught Right In The Middle Of It." Obviously Rain wanted to be seen as a rock band and not just that Phyllis wanted to be seen as a rocker. She never once resorts to Grace Slick nastiness or Janis Joplin screaming, which is more than I can say for most American female led bands. Phyllis Brown really steals this album. The band are superb throughout, but her amazing voice solidifies their sound and defines who Rain are. Look at American power pop and even most Canadian or British power pop- there aren't too many bands that have a female lead singer. "Caught Right In The Middle Of It" also derives a lot of its prowess from the stunning instrumental work of Rain's rhythm section. "Here With You" is a soft contrasting ballad that is very commercial. It's the most commercial track on the album and not the best, but by no means a not good song. "I'll Write You A Letter" is the one song Ron Hiller sings lead on and is again Rain at their peak of power pop brilliance. There are few albums to rival this one. I would strongly say that 25th Regiment's ECOLOGY and Claire Lepage and Compagnie together with this record are much more psyched out variations on a pop/power pop/progressive theme and together the 3 (Rain, 25th Regiment, Claire Lepage And Compagnie) are three of the best albums in the world- and all 3 are Canadian.
    "Sad Colours Blues" is the one big mistake here. An awful lyric written from a good heart about racism that destroys a relationship because the black guy and white woman can't be together because of discrimination uses painfully ridiculous analogies and for the only time on the album Phyllis sounds like she is just going through the motions and nothing else. Thankfully, the album ends on a really strong note with the absolute brilliance of "I Don't Want To Leave You." Phyllis Brown is back to the top of her game and sounds like Diana Ross at her best meets Carole King at her best! There are definite soul and jazz vibes to Rain's music as with 25th Regiment, but unlike ECOLOGY this album doesn't deviate into anything really trippy, psychedelic, or very progressive and stays mainly a harder rocking power pop record. "I Don't Want To Leave You" is one of my favourites here and the whole band are just amazingly talented and together. It's a shame that this album has gone onto become quite rare and with an escalating price tag, but the strange thing is that in America in the same year one of the few really masterful American albums was released in a similar looking cover by a band bearing the same exact name of Rain! The two are very different, of course, but it's funny. Rain the Canadian band started to gain attention when copies started going over to Europe. Then American dealers have tried to jack the price up really high, but realistically this one should be under $100. I got mine for $30, but that was from a store in Canada. You need this album for your collection. It will strongly impress and very much move you if you are into power pop, melodic pop, or just great rock and roll. A nearly perfect album that has been a long time favourite. Keep on plugging on Rain and Canada! Pour some sweet cleansing power down on us here in beleaguered benided America.