Saturday, December 5, 2009

CD Odyssey Disc 63: Blue Rodeo

The Odyssey continues with more Canadian folk/rock, but this time it is an artist discovered for me rather than by me.

Disc 63 is...Diamond Mine

Artist: Blue Rodeo

Year of Release: 1988

How I Came To Know It: Blue Rodeo is one of a few bands that Sheila introduced me to. Sheila is a big Blue Rodeo fan, and it hasn't taken much to make me a big fan also. This album is one of their classics.

How It Stacks Up: We have 11 Blue Rodeo albums (and a twelfth on the way at some point). All have their moments, but "Diamond Mine" is one of the best. I'd put this one 2nd best overall.

Rating: 4 stars.

Blue Rodeo is Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor at their best. These guys are so different, yet they are perfect when combined. I think that each keeps the other from straying too far.

Cuddy is a folksy crooner who sings about personal relationships. Keelor is a bluesy rocker who sings about saving the world. This album captures them both at their best.

Keelor has songs lamenting false politicians (God and Country), and decrying war (Love and Understanding) and what I think is a bit of both, with some mineworker issues thrown in (The Fuse).

Cuddy contributes a nice body of divorce/break up songs with "How Long", "Girl of Mine", "Now and Forever" and "House of Dreams".

Both contributions are excellent, but a whole album of Keelor's protests would be preachy, and whole album of Cuddy's sad introspection would be monotone and depressing.

Put them together, and it really really works.

Some of Keelor's better protest lyrics are from one of my favourites, "Love and Understanding":

I live on this rock
Where the grass don't grow
Talk is cheap well I ought to know
And I'm not proud of this world we've made
Still it's a part of you and me
And we're the only ones who can
Make it change.

I love this song, which captures that while Keelor is angry at the world, deep down he dreams of something better. In the chorus he really personalizes how he approaches the problem, rather than preaching "Love and understanding are the best answers I've heard yet."

For his part, Cuddy is the master of the Fading Relationship Song, aptly summed up in the chorus to "How Long"

"How long will it take
'Til you open up your eyes
I've been gone for years
You never even realized

How long
How long"

I do have two small criticisms of this album.

First, the title track (and a hit), "Diamond Mine" is a clear example of Keelor's noodling not being reigned in by Cuddy. It is a goofy, bluesy Surfer sound that never quite comes together, but takes seven plus minutes trying.

Second, for some unknown reason, Blue Rodeo peppered this album with short 30 second or 1 minute tracks of them experimentally noodling. The tracks, called "Blues Piano", "Percussive Piano" and "Swells" are annoying interruptions to the music. Also, they are not listed so the track listings don't make any sense. When you go to upload songs, you'll find the short tracks make everything else not match up. Keep that stuff in the studios, boys.

I'll close by noting that these guys can both really play the guitar. Sheila and I have seen them twice in concert and I can attest first hand these guys wail. Cuddy is a more straightforward folk/rock player, but at a high level. Keelor is kind of harder to quantify - I'll call it a Surfer Guitar that got lost in the Prairies and had to resort to playing in blues clubs to pay bus fare home.

Of course that didn't happen, but if Blue Rodeo wrote a song about it, you'd believe it did, and you'd be glad to hear the story.

If you don't have this album you should get it - it should be the second album of their's you buy. What's the first? Hey - one review at a time.

Best tracks: How Long, Love and Understanding, Girl of Mine, Now and Forever, Fall In Line, Fuse


Sheila said...

Ooh, I know which one's first!

I like "Diamond Mine", noodling and all - they do cut that short when it's played on the radio.

Spock's Lunch Box said...

A fine album indeed. Their early work with Bob Wiseman on keyboards always gives me the shivers.