Ask Glass Tiger lead vocalist Alan Frew if his recovery from a near-fatal stroke, suffered August 20th,2015, has played any role in the band’s accelerated level of activity over the past couple of years (two album releases, two major national tours) and he will shrug off the mishap as just a major inconvenience.
But probe a little deeper and the affable Scot comes clean and admits that his scary confrontation with his own mortality has indeed jump-started the band resulting in a new album `33’ and a forthcoming 13-date tour with Corey Hart.
“My immediate answer would be, whatever I had to face, I was prepared to deal with it but if I really step back I have to say, `yes, I got dinged, I saw my own mortality flash right before my eyes. I thought I was going into a tunnel that I wasn’t coming out of and I was fortunate to come out the other end,” revealed Frew over the phone from his Toronto residence. “To say that experience hasn’t had a profound effect would be a fallacy. I am now in a higher bracket for a stroke to occur again so I have to take advantage of the fact that I am still able to perform whilst I can. My voice is still fine and the band is up to writing and performing again.”
It was fellow Scot and good friend, Johnny Reid who initially approached Frew about the therapeutic act of writing some songs together. “As part of my therapy, Johnny offered to work with me on some new material but I wasn’t in that right place at that time,” Frew allowed. “So he came back with the idea of re-recording some of our standard hits in a way that he envisioned.”
The result was ‘31’ a re-work of classic hits with vocal contributions from the likes of Julien Lennon (“Thin Red Line”), Alan Doyle (“My Song”), Veronic DiClare (‘Someday”) and an indigenous version of “Diamond Sun” with Susan Aglukark and David R Markle topped by a new duet with Reid titled “Wae Yer Family). And when Reid helped Glass Tiger promote this release by featuring Frew as a guest artist on his own national tour, Frew was on the road back to recovery.
“For me, the Johnny Reid tour was a perfect stepping off point for me, it put me back in the game again,” Frew enthused. “Performing in front of Johnny’s audience was like being in a living room with all my aunties, grannies and older cousins. Some of the crowd may not have known Glass Tiger but they have heard “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone”, my duet with Rod Stewart on “My Town” and our collaboration with The Chieftains on “My Song”
With Frew now fully rejuvenated, the band entered the studio for their first full session since recording `Simple Mission’ in 1991 and have released `33’ out May 17th which features six new tracks plus two versions of their debut single “This Is Your Life”
One track “This Is London” will surprise Glass Tiger fans with its raw punk intensity. “Growing up, I was into rock n roll. If I had my way, I would have been in bands like The Who or Free but the 1980s found me, I didn’t find the 80’s.
Other tracks are more like classic Glass Tiger polished, mid-tempo arrangements with songs like “Dying Is Easy (With You) and the single “This Is Your Life” alluding to his brush with death. “Yes there is a maturity about the subject matter but that’s who we are and this is the place we are at now,” Frew alluded.
Reflecting at a time when the band’s 1986 debut `Thin Red Line’ album went 4x platinum, went gold in the U.S, earning the band three Juno Awards and a Grammy nomination for best new band, Frew is aware that social media has totally taken over and that the days of multi-platinum sales are long gone.
“Some songwriters ask themselves, why bother, radio isn’t playing our new songs anymore, no one is buying our records, they talk about writing songs for their own vanity, but I would replace the v with an s and say I write new material to retain my sanity,” allowed Frew. “Social media has totally changed the music landscape forever. Old cats like ourselves may be cynical. We see our copyrights being ripped off and we don’t get enough money for our royalties any more but you have to totally erase that way of thinking. We have to direct our music to our fans and hope they find it. There are millions of people who have heard “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” but how do they get to know we have a new album and that “This Is Your Life” is a great single.”
Frew and the Tigers will be out to promote their new material when they head out with Corey Hart on his 16-date national tour which launches May 31st at Mile One Centre in St John’s Newfoundland and concludes June 25th at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
“Strangely enough, we’ve never previously crossed paths with Corey,” Frew admitted. “I first met him in New York when we were on the same U.S record label (EMI) but it was more recently when we both attended a Walk Of Fame event at Toronto’s Casa Loma that we actually got to chat. The tour is going to be a bit of 80’s music heaven. Corey is a dynamic performer and we’ve been trading emails to work out some performance ideas.”
Reflecting on the band’s legacy, Frew cheekily says that one item still on his bucket list is to perform a duet with Annie Lennox and notes that all the original members save for drummer Michael Hanson, (guitarist Al Connolly, keyboardist Sam Reid, bassist Wayne Parker) along with Hanson’s drummer replacement Chris Neill, have, for the most part, stayed together because they genuinely like each other.
“I’d be content if it ended tomorrow,” he reflected. “I’ve lived 1,000 lives and Glass Tiger has had a great run but we are still here and the band is still on top of its game and so we continue. What I haven’t done yet is the next thing that I’m going to do.”