By Keith Sharp
In approaching the recording of his 15th album, Nanaimo B.C’s David Gogo faced a quandary. Does he maintain his electric blues guitar approach or does he pursue a more acoustic direction, about 50% of his recent concerts had been in an acoustic vein.
“So I am listening to The Beatles’ White Album and I was aware that they recorded “Mother Nature’s Son” and then a few tracks later, laid down “Helter Skelter” so that kind of freed me up to take the blinders off”
The result being `17 Vultures’ (Cordova Bay Music) a collection of five Gogo originals and four key covers, split between his established blues rock approach and a more acoustic direction.
Calling in from London Ontario where he is on a brief tour of the province, Gogo is eager to chat about his five original tracks and covers of Doug And The Slugs’ “Tomcat Prowl”, Bob Dylan’s “From A Buick 6”, The Beatles’ “Don’t Bother Me” and an obscure cover of “YoYo Blues” by Barbeque Bob along with his own compositions; a Black Crowes/Faces blues rocker “Too Good To Be True”, the album’s title track; “17 Vultures”, “Sufitite Blues” (his ode to `wineflu’ supported by Monkeyjunk), a Nick Lowe/Rockpile inspired “Too Good To Be True” and the album’s centrepiece, a seven-minute opus which focuses on the opioid epidemic which is playing havoc with all ages, especially youth casualties.
Gogo chose to cover Doug And The Slugs’ “Tomcat Prowl” saying the original production was very much of it’s time (late 70’s) but at the core of the song is a dirty blues shuffle. “So I thought, let’s take it down to that core and that made It fun for me.”
An avid Beatles fan, Gogo selected “Don’t Bother Me”, George Harrison’s first single for the group because he thought that original version sounded like a Rutles/Beatles parody. “I listened to the lyrics and I realised that there was something deeper to that song. I think we found a different way to approach that song and that’s what made it interesting to me,” Gogo allowed.
Gogo knew that covering a Bob Dylan song would be risky but he acknowledged his former touring partner Johnny Winter used to include Highway 61 Revisited in his set. “This version is as much a salute to Johnny as it is to Bob Dylan. I had always had a feel for this song (“From A Buick 6”) and I pretty well nailed it in one take.”
Unless you are a real blues aficionado, you’ve probably never heard of Barbeque Bob, “He used to perform at barbeque pits in Georgia in the 1930s” Gogo allowed. “I was with David Livingstone in Quebec and he played me “Yo-yo Blues”, I wasn’t sure about this song at first but we needed one more for the album so we included it.”
Recorded in his Nanaimo home studio with engineer Rick Salt and a rhythm section featuring former Bryan Adams/The Odds drummer Pat Steward and guitarist/stand-up bass player Ben Dwyer, Gogo found his inspiration for the album title when taking a boat trip out along Vancouver Island’s West Coast.
“I had written about five or six verses to a song and then driving into Nanaimo, I noticed a large dead brush that contained 17 turkey vultures, so I thought that was an image I could work with,” explained
Gogo. “As times go by you feel that you are the same person that you’ve always been but obviously, major changes occur over the decades. People who are close, pass away, love happens, love fades.”
Gogo’s lyrics are rarely topical but with “Shake My Head” he reflects on the world’s growing opioid crisis with a moving seven-minute composition. “It’s a horrible thing that I wanted to address. It took me awhile to figure out the right approach but it was emotional for me.”
In recording the guitar solo that’s at the centre of this piece, Gogo told his engineer Rick Salt “Whatever you do, don’t stop recording. I’m standing up, I’m closing my eyes and I’m going for it,” he explained.
Gogo, who’s career goes back to a more rock oriented 1994 debut, has maintained a steady profile over the years, releasing albums at a steady interval, expertly mixing blues, blues/rock and acoustic.
“I just love playing, there’s nothing like it.” concluded Gogo. “It’s hard to explain but I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t do it. Tom Wilson once told me – “Gogo you are just like me – a lifer!”
Watch David Gogo In Concert Below