Tag Archives: Steven Drake

T.G.I.F. – Oh, Canada!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Sloan blurb, two of my favorite bands are among the most underrated and unknown in rock, at least here in the United States. In their native Canada, of course, they are national treasures and further proof that while America is all too eager to pilfer their artists, sometimes our neighbors to the north know best.

The Pursuit of Happiness had a huge college radio hit with “I’m An Adult Now“, but most people never heard from them again, and even some of their own fans were unaware of the last two albums until after the band broke up. And while I hoped that “Someone Who’s Cool” would finally break The Odds far and wide, it merely buzzed a few radios for a couple of months. Every time either band released an album I would be convinced that radio would finally catch on, and every time I was left sadly disappointed…for them. Selfishly, I’m the beneficiary of their catalogue; a group of great albums I enjoy over and over again.

After saving the 90s for me, both bands sadly folded  but members have gone on to other projects; The Odds recently reformed and made another great record and hopefully will keep going. So get out your maple leaf and rock, here are Ten Oh Canada Tunes to brighten your day…if you don’t already know and love these bands you are in for a real treat.

(01) – The Odds: Someone Who’s Cool

(02) – TPOH: I’m An Adult Now

(03) – The Odds: It Falls Apart

(04) – TPOH: She’s So Young

(05) – The Odds: I Would Be Your Man

(06) – TPOH: Hard To Laugh

(07) – The Odds: Heterosexual Man

(08) – TPOH: Cigarette Dangles

(09) – The Odds: Fingerprints

(10) – TPOH: Young And In Love

Yes, I placed The Odds on the odd numbers on purpose.

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Under The Radar: Northey Valenzuela

 

Yeah, I go on mental tangents. 

The Olympics are on television, and the games are being held in Vancouver, which is where The Odds hail from. So out come the Odds albums, almost subliminally, and as I play them loud and long, I remember again what a great band they are and how criminal it is that the U.S. market just hasn’t caught up to them yet. 

But if the Odds albums are below their radar, imagine how stealth this 2005 pairing of Craig Northey and Jesse Valenzuela was. Any fan of the Odds and Gin Blossoms didn’t need to hear a note in advance. But even with the success of the Gin Blossoms in the States, radio programmers remained a tough sell for this type of music. 

But as usual, their loss, not ours. Northey is one of the best songwriters around, and Valenzuela is no slouch either. Their collaboration followed the premise that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts;  it played to their strengths and beyond. Meaning that while they brought the best out in each other, they pushed themselves as well. 

Northey Valenzuela is a joyous album chock full of hooks, melodies and charm with strong lyrics and inspired vocals and harmonies. If you haven’t grabbed this little chestnut, I implore you to do so immediately

Here’s my original review from Cosmik Debris

 

Northey, the soul of Canada’s Odds, and Valenzuela, the heart of the Gin Blossoms, combine for a pop platter that meets both players on common ground. Backed by criminally under-known musicians like axeman Colin James, bassist Doug Elliott and drummer Pat Seward (the latter two the formidable rhythm section of those late great Odds), Craig and Jesse make knocking out catchy songs seem effortless. Both musicians endured the demise of strong bands in an unforgiving industry, then spent time collaborating and touring with others before quietly releasing solo projects. Apparently they share a mutual love for Booker T & The MGs and blue eyed soul, for this new project is dripping with aural honey.  

Where Valenzuela’s songs tend to be familiar sounding (“See Through Heart” and “Hurting On The Outside” are both reminiscent of Tom Petty, for example), Northey is more likely to challenge with minor keys and introspective lyrics. “Something Good” (a nicer take than the Colin James version) is beautifully soulful, as is “Let It Go” – major kudos to Simon Kendall’s supportive organ playing on both. But they complement each other well vocally and musically. 

They’re funky – “Halfway To Happy” sounds like a kissing cousin to John Hiatt’s “Riding With The King”. And they can rock, churning up “Slow Goodbye” and exhuming the 70s era Ron Wood on the fiery “Borrowing Trouble”.  And if you are a fellow Odds fan, you’ll have a big smile on your face. “Not A Lot Goin’ On” sounds like the great lost outtake; everything from the intelligent lyrics to the counterpoint background vocals (think “Someone Who’s Cool”) is right on the mark. 

Northey Valenzuela has cut a great record that needs a wider audience. Gee, how about US distribution for starters?  

The Odd Blossoms

There has been plenty of activity since this collaboration came out, of course. The Odds reformed with a new guitarist to replace Steven Drake and released the excellent Cheerleader while Northey has been involved with television projects like Corner Gas and the brand new Kids In The Hall series. Valenzuela and The Gin Blossoms have reformed, released a live album in 2009 and have a new studio album slated for release this year. 

Sometimes opportunity produces magic. Here’s proof.

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