Back from Canada, Montreal to be exact, and finding it nigh on impossible to adapt to this wretched country with its selfish, high and mighty inhabitants who take everything they can and never give. Well, it's like that most places, including England which I've heard plenty about from soldiers who can't live with the changes for the worst in their own beloved country. Imagine joining an Army and then having to fight not just for a cause that doesn't have any value, but for a country you love that is dwindling and needs much more help on the home-front than abroad. Sound familiar?
I've noticed lately that only music, my wonderful family, and a few great conversations a day with Americans who are rare exceptions and Englishmen in the British Army are what is keeping me sane. Despite some rocky, bad lapses on my part my mother has not only been a huge help towards my trip to Montreal she has been much more patient, much more understanding than just about anyone else except my kind doggie like dad. See, I thought I'd get a bit lighter and let some sunshiny talk about a good home life prepare you for more ranting!
It seems that if someone gets in the way of things that are important to me, in fact nearly essential to my equilibrium, it is always a power hungry stupid woman who decides she is gonna run the show and wreck my relationship with a good friend or it is some stupid record dealer who doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. I wonder why the record business in the States seems to attract lying, cheating, backstabbing macho male chauvinists and if there were more female record dealers if it would be any better. Not just in America, but in general you get nearly 100 percent male record dealers and almost no females. I never figured that out, but there seems to also be a lack of interest when it comes to female collectors with only a scant few I know of who collect rare 60s/70s/80s music. Damned if I know why that is.
I don't fit into any category. I'm not someone you can pigeonhole or put into any description that is easy, simple, empty, and trite. And I'm proud of that. I'm glad to be a homosexual, yet I am in no way a "gay" stereotype. I just try to focus on the things that matter the most. Without music I'd be nowhere. This record along with a French band I'll write up soon called Ophiuchus is something that has been giving me a lot of joyfulness and making me feel more connected, more together, less alien and happier when it's just me and music. I don't need to have anything to do with the nonsense people throw at me when it's late at night and I'm spending hours listening to great music.
-Life: A Canadian Traffic/Procol Harum influenced group who do their own thing too-
You can't be a rock musician and be a racist. Peter Gabriel said that a long time ago, that the two are a contradiction in terms. All rock stems from African American music mostly and no matter what country you come from that solid foundation of blues, soul, R&B, jazz, and early raw Rock and Roll is essential to getting the music you play right. So you're about to say that Pink Floyd, what about them, a band who don't seem to have much blues or any foundation or grounding at all? Well, Pink Floyd began life with their name stemming from two blues artists and after their all too brief psychedelic masterpiece period which peaked on album 2 A SAUCERFUL OF SECRETS their dirgy self-loving self-pitying rubbish was only saved very occasionally by some great emotive blues derived guitar solos from David Gilmour. I bet even arrogant and nasty from his head to his toes Gilmour would agree with Peter Gabriel's philosophy.
Life are a real statement of truth to what Gabriel and many other great musicians have said. They are playing almost psychedelic soul/jazz/R&B with their two major most obvious influences early Traffic with Steve Winwood's voice and Procol Harum with the magic of Gary Brooker's voice and Mathew Fisher's unmistakable organ sound. It isn't "Whiter Shade Of Pale" Procol much of the time and is more around what that band were getting at on their 2nd and third albums (SHINE ON BRIGHTLY and A SALTY DOG), but the whole bluesy heavy organ and fuzz guitar psychedelic into progressive thing hits its peak on this album with not just the usual Traffic/Procol/bluesy jazzy soulfulness, but some nice little surprises thrown in.
When Life formed bass guitarist Danny Zimmerman's sister Lorri Zimmerman was their singer, but when they reached the typically Canadian singles-into-an-album's stage they numbered the following:
Michael Ship on organs and vocals, J.P Lauzon on lead guitar, Danny Zimmerman on bass, and Marty Simon on drums and vocals. They were all English Montreal musicians with help from another great English Montreal band Freedom North's Frankie Hart who beautifully sings "Strawberry Fields Forever" and some guest appearances from Freedom North's lead guitarist Bill Hill. "Yum Yum" is credited with recorder and that probably also is Frankie and Malcolm Tomlinson guests on flute.
I have absolutely no idea why I hated Life so much when I first heard them 16 years ago in 1996 except that I was a horrible person then fast on my way to the dreadful period we refer to as "Fat Pig Ben." I was destructive, nasty, narrow minded, violent, and disgustingly fat and it was a really dreadful time to have to remember. At least I can be positive I'll never enter that nightmarish period of my past again- no I try to live as much as possible not even thinking about then.
This is only my third copy of Life and just to make you envious/tearing your hair out this album is VERY RARE. My guess is that despite a national Canadian hit with the brilliant "Hands Of The Clock" like many of these Canadian albums very few were pressed. Add to that the mysterioso cover look that would make anyone want to grab this and I think you know what's coming- not too many people even know about this and the few who do get turned onto it like me hold onto their copies.
The vocals are very appealing, if somewhat strange and effeminate sometimes, but thankfully Michael Ship is devoid of macho posturing and sings in a down-to-earth melodic powerful voice obviously influenced by Winwood. There are Neil Sheppard the producer's wonderful songs and great recording job and a lot of great psychedelic fuzz guitar and organ flourishes. The organ and a tight rhythm section are the soulful foundation upon which the scorching fuzz breaks and trippy vocals soar above and there is a lot of variety on the album too. For instance a song like Terry Reid written "Lovin' Time" has a dark yet beautiful vibe like a heavy US band Gandalf meets Traffic/Procol and "Desire" is a raunchy soulful pop rock number with enough psychedelic guitar pyrotechnics to make for an offbeat and fun contrast to the more deep, meaningful sounding material on the record. While there are no weak links or songs on the album Side Two is a little more commercial sounding in a good way with the notable exception of "Strawberry Fields" which is completely given a new life with the jazz/Spanish/pop Female vocal take- one of the most daring Beatles covers ever and Frankie Hart's vocals are beautiful. Also, the horns are used tastefully as they are throughout the album. Neil Sheppard also works some wonders with the strings. "Hands Of The Clock" is a great, stellar, wonderful song and its taking off for high in the charts is only a surprise in the all-too-common sense that America never heard of this band so it couldn't be a hit in the States. Then again, I kind of prefer it that way. Canada is kept separate from America and you have to dig for Canadian rarities like this really deep as Canadian records are imports that never were imported.
Don't waste your time on British Proto-prog boredom like Harsh Reality and Nite People which both go for way more dough than the consistency of the writing and performances and stay the fucking Hell away from the sick, twisted, unmusical, unlistenable, disgusting, disturbing rubbish of Warm Dust especially, Deep Feeling, and Beggars Opera- it is here on Life's record that the British are beat in the category of transitional jazzy 60s soul beat vibes into progressive rock and late R&B tinged psychedelic rock. The British bands who come close to Life's brilliance are actually plenty you've probably never heard of, but one band who definitely top everything and who are British to the max are, you guessed it, The Koobas. If The Koobas had continued and with a little help from Traffic and Spooky Tooth you're getting a good description of Life. Thing is, this is very Canadian. It's upbeat more than sullen and sounds like a friendly group having a good time. Search everywhere for a copy and when you get it you'll have one of the best ever from anywhere, especially Canada.
Canada is a country that has produced way more great music and great things than it is given credit for and I think the best Americans behave less like Yanks and more like Canadians, but I love the differences between the two countries. Let's face it- nice people anywhere are refreshing when most people are borderline intolerable or completely untrustworthy bastards. When I listen to Life and the French band I'll get to in good time Ophiuchus or any of the many brilliant records I own I know that music is where it's at and I can fight against the rubbish constantly pissing me off in a big way about most humans. Animals and nature are better, and so are the humans who make this heartfelt great music. Being a hermit can be a nice way of life believe that and try it yourself.