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The Tragically Hip – Up to Here (1989)

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When I was young enough to know everything, I despised the song Boots or Hearts.

Despised.

Country? Hip? To borrow the opening line from the despised song, “Well I think that there’s a problem here!”

Come on guys, I only have the Up to Here cassette, I have to fast forward the side B opener in an attempt to skip it…and fast forward to 2016, it’s now my favourite Up to Here track of course.

Not to mention the finest side B opener in The Hip catalogue.

Also a lovely choice for the opener at the tour-opening Victoria concert on Friday night.

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If you’re a cover band in Canada, you play The Hip.

Or you’re simply not a cover band in Canada.

Up to Here features a few staples to have in the rotation:

New Orleans is Sinking, preferably with a paraphrased Killer Whale Tank rant

38 Years Old, to demonstrate some acoustic versatility

Blow at High Dough, ideally changing the “Elvis” name-check to something topical/another celebrity/someone in the audience. Like these young lads did in this remarkably Hi-def clip from 2002, sometime between hating & loving Boots or Hearts:

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“He was a coal miner in the spring…”
– TTH, Another Midnight

When I think about it, no other quote has had a bigger impact on my teaching career.

As a grade 12 student, I was in an American History class one morning, singing that line to myself, likely over and over again. Not unlike that scene in Tommy Boy, where Chris Farley & David Spade keep up with Michael Stipe for “6 O’ Clock TV hour” and then trail off dramatically.

Perhaps on my 3rd rendition or so (I really should have learned the next line), our Teacher Candidate, Mrs. Hall, turned to me and said, “A little Tragically Hip this morning?”

I was flabbergasted.

This was in ‘98/’99, she did not have convenient access to a search engine (Netscape Navigator?) to look up what lyrics I was singing.

She was however able to identify this obscure album track based solely on my wandering, incomplete-at-best mumbling. She wisely avoided the perils of trying to appear cool; she merely played an impromptu game of name that tune, hit it out of the park, and moved on with life.

That’s how it’s done.

Needless to say, Mrs. Hall had my undivided attention and enthusiastic participation for the remainder of the course.

Almost two decades later, when the 11 tracks on Up To Here were playing this week, my attention was equally undivided, my sing-a-long participation equally enthusiastic.

As a personal bonus, I’ve also finally memorized the follow-up Another Midnight line to mumble:

“He was a coal miner in the spring…blinded with its dusty resolutions”

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hipThe Hip Tour/My Post Schedule

Jul 22 2016 The Hip played: Victoria, BC. I played: The Tragically Hip (1987)
Check out these TTH (1987) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Jul 24 2016 The Hip plays: Vancouver, BC. I play: Up to Here (1989)
Check out these Up to Here (1989) reviews by: Brian, Aaron

Jul 26 2016 The Hip plays: Vancouver, BC. I play: Road Apples (1991)

Jul 28 2016 The Hip plays: Edmonton, AB. I play: Fully Completely (1992)

Jul 30 2016 The Hip plays: Edmonton, AB. I play: Day for Night (1994)

Aug 1 2016 The Hip plays: Calgary, AB. I play: Trouble at the Henhouse (1996)

Aug 3 2016 The Hip plays: Calgary, AB. I play: Live Between Us (1997)

Aug 5 2016 The Hip plays: Winnipeg, MB. I play: Phantom Power (1998)

Aug 8 2016 The Hip plays: London, ON. I play: Music at Work (2000)

Aug 10 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: In Violet Light (2002)

Aug 12 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: In Between Evolution (2004)

Aug 14 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: World Container (2006)

Aug 16 2016 The Hip plays: Hamilton, ON. I play: We are the Same (2009)

Aug 18 2016 The Hip plays: Ottawa, ON. I play: Now for Plan A (2011)

Aug 20 2016 The Hip plays: Kingston, ON. I play: Man Machine Poem (2016)

 

The Tragically Hip – The Tragically Hip (1987)

TTH 1987

Few would argue The Hip’s eponymous debut EP is the band’s career peak.

Fewer still would say it’s to be avoided completely.

I’m certainly pleased to own The Tragically Hip on tape, CD, and vinyl.

Why so many formats? Being an EP, it was likely the finest cheapest Hip album I could buy at the time(s)!

But I’m glad I held on to all 3 formats, as each offers a little something different:

TTH

Regardless of the format, you get:

-A solid opening pair (Small Town Bringdown, Last American Exit)
-Lead Guitarist Bobby Baker in fine form throughout
-The curious track, I’m a Werewolf Baby, which earned the bronze medal on my “Top 5 Great Bands, Dismal Songs” list a few years ago (but I’ve since started to enjoy the song’s ridiculousness!)
– A promising Debut EP, with hints of greatness on the horizon

Alas, none of my formats featured the undisputed best track from this album: The live, double-suicide rant, version of Highway Girl.

Want a reliable friendship test?

If you find yourself in a conversation about interior design, say something about decorating ‘your apartment in the Santa Fe tradition.’

If the person replies, ‘well, that look is dated, but I see more of the world than you do,’ that is a friend worth keeping!

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hipThe Hip Tour/My Post Schedule

Jul 22 2016 The Hip plays: Victoria, BC. I play: The Tragically Hip (1987)

Jul 24 2016 The Hip plays: Vancouver, BC. I play: Up to Here (1989)

Jul 26 2016 The Hip plays: Vancouver, BC. I play: Road Apples (1991)

Jul 28 2016 The Hip plays: Edmonton, AB. I play: Fully Completely (1992)

Jul 30 2016 The Hip plays: Edmonton, AB. I play: Day for Night (1994)

Aug 1 2016 The Hip plays: Calgary, AB. I play: Trouble at the Henhouse (1996)

Aug 3 2016 The Hip plays: Calgary, AB. I play: Live Between Us (1997)

Aug 5 2016 The Hip plays: Winnipeg, MB. I play: Phantom Power (1998)

Aug 8 2016 The Hip plays: London, ON. I play: Music at Work (2000)

Aug 10 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: In Violet Light (2002)

Aug 12 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: In Between Evolution (2004)

Aug 14 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: World Container (2006)

Aug 16 2016 The Hip plays: Hamilton, ON. I play: We are the Same (2009)

Aug 18 2016 The Hip plays: Ottawa, ON. I play: Now for Plan A (2011)

Aug 20 2016 The Hip plays: Kingston, ON. I play: Man Machine Poem (2016)

 

The Tragically Hip: The Completists

There’s a funny recurring sketch on Jimmy Kimmel’s show where he keeps running out of time & has to keep ‘bumping’ Matt Damon.

While I’m not anywhere near as funny as Mr. Kimmel, I’m afraid the Nordic Countries are quickly becoming my Matt Damon.

So my apologies to the Nordic Countries, I have to ‘bump’ you, again.

This time, it’s to make room for The Hip!

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Over the next month, my beloved Tragically Hip will be touring Canada.

To coincide with their 15 Canadian Tour Dates, I’ll be reviewing the 15 Tragically Hip albums in my collection.

If you would like to join in & co-ordinate reviews during this catalogue revisiting, the hip tour/my post schedule is below.

Or if you’ve already done reviews, please send links to 1001albumsin10yearsATgmailDOTcom and I’d be pleased to include them here!

Hip Hip Hip!

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Jul 22 2016 The Hip plays: Victoria, BC. I play: The Tragically Hip (1987)

Jul 24 2016 The Hip plays: Vancouver, BC. I play: Up to Here (1989)

Jul 26 2016 The Hip plays: Vancouver, BC. I play: Road Apples (1991)

Jul 28 2016 The Hip plays: Edmonton, AB. I play: Fully Completely (1992)

Jul 30 2016 The Hip plays: Edmonton, AB. I play: Day for Night (1994)

Aug 1 2016 The Hip plays: Calgary, AB. I play: Trouble at the Henhouse (1996)

Aug 3 2016 The Hip plays: Calgary, AB. I play: Live Between Us (1997)

Aug 5 2016 The Hip plays: Winnipeg, MB. I play: Phantom Power (1998)

Aug 8 2016 The Hip plays: London, ON. I play: Music at Work (2000)

Aug 10 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: In Violet Light (2002)

Aug 12 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: In Between Evolution (2004)

Aug 14 2016 The Hip plays: Toronto, ON. I play: World Container (2006)

Aug 16 2016 The Hip plays: Hamilton, ON. I play: We are the Same (2009)

Aug 18 2016 The Hip plays: Ottawa, ON. I play: Now for Plan A (2011)

Aug 20 2016 The Hip plays: Kingston, ON. I play: Man Machine Poem (2016)

Röyksopp – Melody A.M. (2001)

NordicCountriestunesNifty Nordic logo by Sarca @ Caughtmegaming

Nordic Artist #1: Björk
Nordic Artist #2: ABBA
Nordic Artist #3: Röyksopp

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[Album 468/1001]

I fear I’m losing the ability to fall in love (or utterly despise) new-to-me albums.

There are a few possible explanations, but I’m leaning towards the Normal distribution.

Cheers to Wikipedia for this Normal Distribution Graph…

Normal Distribution

…and here’s my modified graph for the 1001 Albums:

1001 Albums Distribution

I’m starting to think these percentages reflect my experience with the 1001 Albums list.

And that’s good news because…

If the graph is accurate (it’s math-y AND on the internet, how could it not be!), I’m going to have a moderately positive experience with 68% of the albums. Over two thirds of the albums from this list will be somewhere between OK and Really Good. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad indeed!

If 99.7% of the albums fit on the diagram, that means only 4 albums will be outside the diagram, presumably 2 on each side. Therefore, there will only be 2 dismal records on the list that I’d rank worse than ‘despise.’

However…

If 99.7% of the albums fit on the diagram, there will only be 2 life-changing, food-tastes-better-after-listening records beyond the magical extreme.

Unfortunately, I’m worried I’ve already found those 2 beyond-magical records and I’ve yet to hear the 2 beyond-despicable ones!

Which means…

It’s statistically difficult for most albums to obtain a score out of that middle zone. I’m likely going to find enough redeeming in most albums to award a score of at least ‘OK’ but unlikely to be moved enough to move the score beyond ‘Really Good.’

And this is the curse (yet also nice problem) for Röyksopp & Melody A.M.220px-Royksopp_melody_am

On any given listen, I’m going to have pleasant things to say. It’s just never going to be too flattering or too insulting.

Strangely enough, that might be appropriate praise for the record, given that many of the tracks were licensed for use in adverts.

The goal of music in advertising? Be likeable, but not intrusive. Have positive associations but blend into the background.

And I reckon the Norwegian duo Röyksopp did somewhere between an OK/Good/Really Good job in attaining those goals.

Abba – Arrival (1976) and The Visitors (1981)

NordicCountriestunesNifty Nordic logo by Sarca @ Caughtmegaming

Nordic Countries Artist #1: Björk
Nordic Countries Artist #2: ABBA

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[Albums 466 & 467 / 1001]

With these 2 ABBA records, it appears you can somewhat judge an album by its cover.

On Arrival, the band is united.ABBA_-_Arrival

2 couples (both in the photo & in real life), sunshine straight ahead, sunny & bright enough to make one squint.

More often than not, the music fits the cover like an all-white, one-piece, 1976 outfit.

Has there been a more life-affirming hit than Dancing Queen?

An easier to chorus to sing along with than Dum Dum Diddle?

If you love ABBA, Arrival will only reaffirm your feelings.

The same is true for those who feel an antonym of love for ABBA. Approach Arrival with caution, ABBAphobes!

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However, on The Visitors, the cover contrast is stark.

The couples are no longer together (both in the photo & in real life), casting shadows in a dimly lit room.ABBA_-_The_Visitors_(Polar)

Though out of such personal adversity, ABBA still managed to produce a solid album, with a handful of superb singles.

The first three tracks are terrific: the synth-driven title track, the impossibly catchy Head Over Heels, and the optimally balanced sad vocal/joyful accompaniment in When All is Said and Done.

The penultimate track, Slipping Through My Fingers is an incredibly moving song; a friendly reminder for me to cherish the time with my kids as they grow up.

Some might call it mawkish or schmaltzy and that’s fine. Admittedly, I have a bias towards Benny Andersson/Björn Ulvaeus ballads (My Love, My Life was by far my preferred track on Arrival and the duet, I Know Him So Well, from their musical Chess, is among my favourite duets). And I suppose I prefer the Meryl Streep version of Slipping… in Mamma Mia to the one heard here.

But that being said, it’s a fine example of pop craftsmanship, and I’m glad they wrote it.

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I should also disclose my ABBA bias, in large part due to the film Mamma Mia.

For you see, in August 2013, our local Cineplex had a special summer screening.

Not meaning to brag, I went on a movie date with a pretty special gal (who already knew & loved the soundtrack).

If there’s anything cuter than this girl singing along with Meryl, I’ve yet to hear it!

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Björk – Debut (1993) and Medúlla (2004)

NordicCountriestunesNifty Nordic logo by Sarca @ Caughtmegaming

Nordic Countries Artist #1: Björk

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2 months ago, I decided to voyage (musically) to the Nordic Countries.

After a 2 month detour, it’s time to go back to Iceland/Norway/Finland/Sweden/Denmark.

Starting with Iceland’s most famous mononymous export, Björk!

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[Albums 464 & 465 / 1001]

Very few artists are capable of always sounding different, yet always unmistakably like themselves.Björk-Debut-1993

The only 3 solo artists that leap to mind for me? Bowie, Beck, and Björk.

That’s some pretty elite company.

The two Björk albums I’ve been exploring, Debut & Medúlla, couldn’t be more different. Nor could they have been recorded by anyone but Ms. Guðmundsdóttir.

Debut isn’t necessarily a consistent listen, but one could argue the strange juxtapositions (like the bouncing transition from the gorgeous Like Someone in Love to the dance-floor-filling Big Time Sensuality) keep things fresh.

Medúlla on the other hand, has little in the way of standout tracks. Alternatively, some might argue that makes for a more cohesive set, an almost entirely a cappella set no less.

So what to believe?

I believe in the Community episode, Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas, the speedometer on the train says it all:

Remember that scene in Spaceballs when the ship went so fast they went ‘Plaid’?

I like this update for measuring beyond light-speed in the 2000s: travelling at the speed of Björk.

She’s simply uncategorizable, a genre unto herself, but a moving target at that.

I can’t keep up, yet I won’t turn away, as I struggle to pinpoint why I’m a fan.

Thankfully, it occurred to me this week that her debut single (Human Behaviour) from her international debut album (Debut!) may offer the best answer to that riddle of what makes Björk so mysterious & marvellous.220px-Medulla

Q: What is Björk’s appeal?

A: Just replace the word “human” with “Björk”

If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready to get confused

There´s definitely no logic
To human behaviour
But yet so irresistible

There´s no map
To human behaviour

They´re terribly moody
Then all of a sudden turn happy
But, oh, to get involved in the exchange
Of human emotions is ever so satisfying

There´s no map
And a compass
Wouldn´t help at all

Human behaviour…

Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies (1973)

Windsor

Prologue
Artist #1: Pantera
Artist #2: Frank Black
Artist #3: Sleater-Kinney
Artist #4: Nas
Artist #5: Digital Underground
Artist #6: Alice Cooper

[Album 463/1001]

I found this baby for a mere 6 dollars last year, still shrink-wrapped(!), which is perhaps a first for my new-to-me 1001 albums purchases.

Naturally, such an unprecedented event had to be documented (from August 2015):

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For many moons, Alice has been among my favourite interviews.

He’s articulate, funny, and he always has something new & interesting to say.

Who else would donate one of the ‘O’s from the Hollywood sign in memory of Groucho Marx?

So the phrase, long-time fan, first-time album buyer applies for me here.

Would the art be as impressive as the artist?

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“A lot of folks look to School’s Out as the definitive Alice Cooper. While School’s Out is brilliant, it is Billion Dollar Babies that would have to make your desert island collection. Boasting four singles (“Billion Dollar Babies”, “Elected”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, and “Hello Hooray”), there is more firepower per minute in these grooves than the more eclectic School’s Out. BDB boasts everything weird and wonderful about Alice, from necrophilia to dental surgery. Yes, dental surgery! “Unfinished Sweet” is the coolest track about your molars ever recorded. Take it from LeBrain – this album is a must have, and that’s why it’s on the 1001 list!”
– Mike “LeBrain” Ladano, mikeladano.com

For many moons, LeBrain has been an articulate, funny blogger, always with something new and interesting to say. So the phrase, long-time fan, first-time-Alice-Cooper-album-review-quote-requester applies for me here, cheers Mike!220px-Alice_Cooper_-_Billion_Dollar_Babies

Mike is spot on with the weird & wonderful, firepower-filled, must-have nature of BDB.

Every time you think you know which way the album is going, the band switches gears.

For example, I certainly didn’t see the gentle, McCartney-esque Mary Ann coming in the tracklist.

Maybe I should have seen the next & final track coming, I Love the Dead (which is as cheerful as it sounds), but even by the end of the album, I was unable to anticipate the twists & turns.

Thus confirming that BDB is exactly how I hoped an Alice Cooper record would sound: intriguing, unpredictable, and above all, always theatrical.

He’s a performer, putting on a show.

A show I’d buy tickets to any day.

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Though I may not choose to make the Kingston-Windsor return journey many more times, I enjoyed turning an extended track & field commute into a productive trip & I appreciated the opportunity to immerse in these 6 albums.

I’ve also appreciated you folks coming along for the ride, thanks for reading/writing/participating in this series!

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