THE BEST OF THE BEST (Singles) – Part Two

As the manuscript for my Music Express book is undergoing it’s final editing process in preparation for its April 2014 publishing date, I would like to spotlight a few chapters that were omitted from the final publication.

One of these chapters was a series of `Best Of’s’ from the time frame that encompassed Music Express (being 1976-1992). This first ‘Best Of’ list chronicles my personal favourite 12 single releases from that period along with an anecdote from each songwriter of that particular song.

Again, I stress this is MY personal list of favourites. Please feel free to send your favourite list and we will post a number of your responses.

If you missed the first 6, you can check them out here.

In no special order here are the second 6:

Single: `Round Round We Go’
Album: Thick As Thieves
Label: MCA
Year: 1978
Reason: Of all the great songs written by Ra. McGuire and Brian Smith, its keyboardist Frank Ludwig’s baritone vocals on `Round Round We Go’ which stands out for me. A great song, catchy lyrics and an outstanding vocal performance.

Comment: “We had been on the road so much , I felt I was missing my kids’ growing up so I started writing a song about growing up so fast which I wrote for our upcoming “Thick As Thieves” album. Ra, our lead singer had been in a minor car accident so Brian phoned me and asked whether I thought the rest of us should rehearse as we were getting close to studio time. So we ran through everything and we had some time left so I started singing `Round Round We Go’ . Our producer Randy Bachman came into the studio , asked me about the song , said he really liked it and wanted to put it on the album. By the next rehearsal I decided to the lyrics were a little hokey so I rewrote them to reflect a relationship that goes in circles. MCA released `Round Round’ simultaneously with `Raise A Little Hell’ and both proved to be hit singles.” – Frank Ludwig.

Result: `Round Round We Go’ went to No. 10 on the Canadian Singles chart.

Single: `Working Man’.
Album: “Reason To Believe”.
Label: Virgin. Year: 1988.
Reason: `Flying On Your Own’ may have been Rita’s breakthrough single but `Working Man’ , her ode to Cape Breton coalminers, struck home on an emotional level. Anyone privileged enough to catch her live performance of this song with The Men Of The Deeps choir at the 1989 Juno Awards concert knows just how emotionally powerful this song is.

Comment: “My heart was touched by the stories of these miners when I went on a tour of of a closed-out mine in Cape Breton. By the time the tour was over `Working Man’ was well on its way. That song came from my heart because they touched my soul.” – Rita MacNeil.

Result: `Working Man’ reached No.21 on Canada’s Adult Contemporary chart.

Single: `Goodnight Mrs Calabash’.
Album: “Mrs Calabash”.
Label: Anthem. Year: 1976.
Reason: Of all of Ian’s great hits (and there have been many) this haunting salute to classic American television and radio stars struck a special nerve personally. Just love the plaintive nature of this song and how Ian worked actual voice clips from Milton Berle, Abbott & Costello and Humphrey Bogart on to the track.

Comment: “Goodnight Mrs Calabash was a combination of heartfelt nostalgia and the ability to time travel through film and radio recordings, the latter of course is wonderful. How we can still let the voices of those long gone can soothe us to sleep through recordings or delight in the fast scripts of a Marx Brothers flick. I can still delight in the gift of Maria Calas or Pavarotti or John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Jimmy Durante’s phrase `”Goodnight Mrs Calabash wherever you are” was always a sweet mystery of lost love as he walked into the dark at the end of his TV show from spotlight to spotlight, as if to say it was a secret he would take with him to the end of his time.” – Ian Thomas.

Result: `Goodnight Mrs Calabash’ was never released as a single.

Single: `Rise Up’.
Album: “The Parachute Club”.
Label: Current Records. Year: 1983.
Reason: An exhilarating statement of sexual and political freedom delivered by an ensemble of performers whose rhythmic sound was a refreshing injection into Canada’s burgeoning new music scene at that juncture.

Comment: “My first recollection of `Rise Up’ was when Lauri Conger brought the instrumental line to our little practice area that we had set up in the dining room of the house that I lived in on Crawford Street – in the Portuguese area of West End Toronto. Over a period of time, Steve Webster and I worked up the rhythm (me being highly influenced by the Soca rhythms that I had learned when I was in Trinidad) while Lorraine Segato and (I believe) Lauri Conger developed the vocals based on a poem that our friend Lynne Fernier had written. I think the song was relatively intact by the time we arrived at Hamilton’s Grant Avenue Studios to begin working with producer Daniel Lanois. I distinctly remember when Daniel played us the final mix because he re-sequenced the song by putting a chorus right at the start of the song which, in retrospect, was the final step in turning `Rise Up’ into the anthem it became – Billy Bryans.

Result: `Rise Up’ went to No.9 on the Canadian Singles Chart and won the Juno for Single of the Year in 1984. Parachute Club won the Juno for Most Promising New Group that same year.

Single: `Can’t You See’.
Album: “Minglewood Band”.
Label: RCA. Year: 1979.
Reason: Rarely has an artist taken someone else’s song and made it so completely his own. Yet Glace Bay Nova Scotia’s Matt Minglewood achieved such a feat when he took Marshall Tucker Band’s `Can’t You See’ and by adding his own lyrical prologue turned this song into a unique anthem.

Comment: “We were going to release `Can’t You See’ on our first Red” indie release but we weren’t happy with our version at the time. Then Chilliwack’s Claire Lawrence , who was going to produce our first album for RCA, was flying in to Toronto to catch the band at the El Mocambo to get a feel of what we were all about. So I was going to sing `Can’t You See’ and I noticed these two guys from Cape Breton sitting in the front row, who looked like they’d rather be home – but they inspired me to do this opening monologue . So I talked about this guy from Cape Breton , being away from home, down on his luck and being forced to go home – kinda made everything up on the spot. Claire witnessed my improv performance and said `That’s it, that’s brilliant, You’ve got to go with that! “I thought it was too long and rambling but we kept it in and it’s become my anthem, a song I sing every night. Of course, we couldn’t release it as a single because (with the monologue) it’s over eight minutes long, but we did get some FM Radio airplay.” – Matt Minglewood

Result: Never released as a single.

Single: `Rock and Roll Song’.
Album: “Country Man”.
Label: Haida/A&M. Year: 1972.
Reason: The pure simplicity of the song is so effective and the imagery of a folk singer being harassed at a rock festival is a situation I am sure many performers have faced.

Comment: “ I was performing as a folk singer when I got asked to play at a rock festival in Aldergrove B.C. People there did not want to hear my type of song. They weren’t polite at all. They didn’t give me the time, they just told me to buzz off. So I kept playing until I heard one person clapping and then I ran off the stage. Still I got a hit song out of that experience. Come to think of it, I got an entire career out of that song.” – Valdy

Result: Rock And Roll went to No 17 on the Canadian charts and No 31 on the A/C charts.

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