Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Big Wreck Danforth '14 part 2 - Bet gets the Eh-bola!

So after a magnificent evening, exhausted to the bone, climbing into that queen sized bed at the hotel was heaven. Visions of breakfast with Brian in the am danced in my head.

I got up at 8:30, right as rain, ready to take on the day, but my Betty was not have’n it. As tough and sharp as she is, a headache can sideline her. I gave her one of my super-Tylenol pills that the doc had given me for my torn rotator cuff and it then made her nauseous. Some time in the bathroom….. and much to our horror we discovered…. she had the Eh-bola a VERY mysterious affliction native to Canada. There was NOT gonna be breakfast with Brian. Like the loving, dutiful, dedicated husband I am, I stayed with…. ahhh, who am I kiddin’…. I left her nursing the Eh-bola and drove to the Danforth for breakfast with Bri!

Our mission on this trip was to bring Brian some authentic NY/NJ style pizza. I bought two pies, individually wrapped the slices, bagged them, and packed them in ice, smuggled them across the border like a heathen terrorist and FINALLY got them into Bri’s hands. My work was done there, mission complete. Now for the fun.

I parked in the alley behind the theater (this will be significant later) and took the walk from backstage to the entrance in the cold empty theater, in the light of day. How they ever get their stuff in that place is a wonder to me! AMAZING crew these guys have!

Back to the bus for some coffee and quiet convo (‘cause the boys were sleeping) in the front lounge. After a few minutes, the door slides open and out strode “Il Bruce”, fully awake, geared up and ready for the day! “G’morning Mr. Bukowiec!” he says. “’Mornin’ Bruce!” Now no one ever calls me Mr. Even my grandson’s friends call me Granpa Jimmy! Never mind attempting to say my last name. I was quite honored and taken aback! (This story IS all about me innit!)

B and I go off to have a wonderful breakfast and catch up at the “New York Cafe” around the corner. Just a couple of Jersey/NY boys catching’ up. After, Brian’s got some stuff to do, so I leave him off at the bus only to see Dave, hanging outside. He and I stand and shoot the shit, me interviewing him about influences (Jaco, JPJ, Brian Beller and the like), his love of R’nB, his P-bass vs the others (I REALLY wish I knew more about it all…. I’m SUCH a musical dufus) and his adventures with Beiber. What a talented musician he is! He’s highly desired for sessions and the like, just soaking it all in, balancing family life and the industry….. great things ahead for Davey for sure. He shared that he stumbled upon the “Another One Bites the Dust” riff and the audience reacted so strongly; he was like “Yes!” But of course the next thought is looking to top it, so keep an eye out for what TidalDave has up his sleeve! Paulo and Chuck had also by this time begin scurrying about and Brian and I figured it would be a good idea to check out Factory Girl in advance of the meet up. They were super nice and took my reservation for 12 for that evening (shoulda planned this well for the previous night).

By this time, I had spent a few hrs with Bri and figured I should check on Bet back in the room with the Eh-bola. The Danforth crew let me walk through since it a like a mile to walk around the block and down the alley to my car. They had also blocked me in and had to find the tech manager to move before I could leave. In the meantime I hung out with the man, the myth the legend, Bruce Nichol. He was stringing Brian’s Deusenberg lap steel. We talked of family heritage, lineage and his bravery for attempting my Polish name. Found out he LOVES Kielbasy (My family used to sell it commercially - Bukowiec Kielbasy baby!) Seems that his best friend’s gramps used to smoke his own! That’ll be our next smuggling operation… or perhaps I can leverage some favors from friends in Pittsburgh! Lotsa Polish peoples there! Anyway, Bruce is a sweet, hard working brother with the full weight of the Big Wreck sound on his shoulders. The more complex the chain of effects the more that can go wrong…. and you KNOW Ian’s rig is complex! I wouldn’t want that responsibility…. EVER! Thank God B’s tough as nails!

By this time I was beginning to worry. I had phoned Betty like 5 times and there was no answer. Maybe this Eh-bola was for real!

I hurried back (after 3-4 hrs) thinking the worst! I parked the car and ran into Frick and Frack (Melanie and Bev) unloading a case of beer from the car into their room. Go figure! Being the chivalrous gentleman I am, I carried it in for them and proceeded to get lost in conversation in their room for half an hour. These two art the BEST! They clued me to the levels of fandom ranging from casual to stalker class. We all assured ourselves that we were in the “safe, reasonable” range… HA! They regaled me with Rush stories and I laid some old Zep/Floyd/Rush gems on them…. we were all getting along wonderfully…. and I realized OMG! BETTY! I FORGOT ABOUT BETTY with the  Eh-bola! I made a hasty exit upstairs, expecting the worst!

She was STILL shot out.. falling in and out of sleep… with a major migraine….. would I have to go it alone? Would I have to play nursemaid to typhoid Mary? Could I be NEXT with the Eh-Bola? A trip to Tim Horton’s and a bit of aspirin was in order. I first went downstairs to check with the Power Twins to see if they had any mom-strength Tylenol and sure enough Bev had nuclear strength Advil (she’s the besets!). Back, armed with a Tim’s french vanilla and the migraine stun gun I urged Betty to get her shit together….. within’ minutes she rallied! Jersey Strong, this girl is! She had beaten the Eh-Bola and we were off to soundcheck with the Rush Sisters!

We guest listed inside before the VIP’s again and had the place all to ourselves for about half an hour. They noodled around with How Would You Know and an instrumental version of All By Design before the VIPs came in. Got a chance to meed Andrew Auld’s Dad and a few other peeps before the meat of the soundcheck kicked in.

Well, this one is for you Kaitlyn Skaley (wink wink); they then proceeded to play an near note perfect version of Zep’s Kashmir… I mean jaw droppingly massive! I’m dancing around with my eyes closed, air guitarrin’ away, and JUST as it gets to the soaring Plant vocal part, Ian loses it in laughter…. “I can’t… I just can’t!” All the guys are cracking up!!! They are REALLY having fun on this tour!

The pictures were being taken and Bet and I FINALLY relented and got our pic taken along with our old buddy Paul Merryweather!

As we were shaking hands, Chuck nearly lost his pinky “ring”. It was made from that cymbal he had destroyed a bit back. It seems Bruce had hammered him out a ring in remembrance. It was then that I noticed his pinky, permanently at a right angle. I’m like WTF??? He say’s it’s the “Claw”…. he put his hands through a plate glass window a while back and severed the tendons in BOTH hands. He says it’s awkward shaking hands, but it doesn’t affect his drumming! I should say NOT! “By the way Buk, it’s Newfinlnd not New-Found-Land… agh, I’m just fukin’ with ya.” I LOVE this guy!  

It was time once again for the fan meet-up. Factory Girl was VERY accommodating and had us set up in a back room like a Chuck-E-Cheese party! Frick and Frack were there, Kris Masters, Kaitlyn Staley, Melanie Lee, Paul Merryweather, Feargal and his girl Grainne (I can’t pronounce her name) and the completely sweet Cerina Chiovatti! She had prepared little gift bags with Big Wreck logo pendants that she had made by hand for each of us! It was a VERY endearing gesture and our gift will be a cherished keepsake! 

Factory Girl was a MUCH better set-up! Brian came by and we chatted and kibitzed like old friends! Alas, the rest of the band was short on time and he was soon off to rest up before the show.

Feargal, the “Irish” guy (evidently there is only one allowed in TO at a time) and Grainne (the “Irish” girl… well you know) sat and talked with us for a good bit. Fascinating young couple who have come to Canada to make their lives. Feargal, a really good writer, wants to get into radio! So wonderful to see the young fans (he’s only 23) tell of their Big Wreck connection…. he was introduced to Ladylike at 10!!!! The same was true for the plucky Kaitlyn, who flew out to TO from Alberta and she’s only 22!!! There IS hope for the BW future!!!

The twins were wonderfully inviting and friendly and everybody seemed to have a good time! We hung for as long as we could, but it was SHOWTIME! 

This time we went in to actually SEE the opening band. Royal Tusk was pretty engaging in an indie band sort of way. All loosey goosey and fun. I forgot to mention that the night before I saw our own Podcaster John Mallon! We spotted each other in the crowd “I know you!” Love meeting our gang!
While we waited for the band to come on, the crowd was filling in and our area was getting tight. Melanie and Bev had foregone the rail for this show and hung back with us with the promise of some dancing real-estate! I had to bounce around a bit to scare away any of the crowders, but it worked like a charm! It always does (stay away from that sweaty unpredictable guy….)

Working the perimeter, I had Mel and Bev to my right and Bet to my left! All of a sudden, from over the top comes a brown shopping bag! And handing the bag to me was none other than Mr. Scott Thornley! I told him I had not read his books yet the night before and he brought me two of the four he has written! IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DARK CROWDED FLOOR! He introduces his wife Shirley and I offer my heartfelt thanks. Bet says “How did you find us?!” Scott says, matter of factly, “I just scanned the crowd (he’s rather tall) and looked for the one thing that was different from the rest; the head that was bobbing all over the place. After all I AM a detective novel writer!” How cool is THAT!

I quick ran and checked my books with the rest of the swag that we bought and made it back just as BW kicked into the change-up opening number….. I Digress, RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX! Bam! It just JACKED the crowd! A COMPLETE muscular sprint to kick it off!

Y’all should watch all the vids that Melanie shot. She’s got front row sound and visuals from Friday night and front row balcony from Thursday….. focused sound and full sound….. do BOTH! I won’t go into all the specifics of each song because there are so many vids that blow away my descriptions!  Suffice it to say that we all sang, hugged, danced, stomped and jumped our way through that POWERFUL set.

I often scan the crowd when the light shines our way for familiar faces. I saw Darryl Melo and a few others, I think. But in the process of making eye contact I spot this one dude in a cap staring my way about 20 people away. I smile back and sing some of the lyrics and continue dancing…. Middle of the next song this dude is over my shoulder with a drink! He says “You look like the only one having fun here, so I figured I would buy you a drink and join your party!” I don’t drink and told him so, but I was flattered…. He was bumping and pushing and singing all the guitar licks….. trying a touch too hard….. Bet’s looking at me with that “WTH, are you some kind of drunk magnet!?” He was a kinda big dude but was harmless enough…. I rolled over and played dead and eventually he left. I have a soft heart for the affectionate drunk…. you just never know…. it can change on a dime (it did with me anyway).

Another moment of note happened in the midst of the music that I will never forget. One of the fans that shall remain nameless came up to me and told me how much something I had written regarding BW’s Albatross had affected their life. I was told through tears, that the wonderful lyrics as the genesis and the spiritual interpretation reflecting had changed a life. I know that this is one of the ways God works and I KNOW that music is a miracle channel from the Divine… I could barely hold it together myself! Being a part of the conduit that touches a heart is overwhelming!

The crowd and the show on the 17th in general was just knock down KILLER! After it was over we basked in the afterglow for a few moments and then hit the street! There was a drunken near brawl with a couple of irate ner’ do wells and an UNBELIEVABLY patient security guard. Lots of huffing and puffing that went on for too long….. in Jersey there would be blood.

Big Chris waved us onto the bus at the appropriate moment and Bet and I FINALLY got a chance to talk to Ian. The front lounge was full of good vibes! As always Ian was concerned about his and the band’s performance. I assured him it was stellar and that the show is bigger and tighter than ever! If ever they were ready for prime time it is now! While I am gushing, with my back to the front door, I hear someone yell “Buk!” I turn to see Eric Ratz all smiles coming our way. He gives me a big hug (He’s a big dude - nearly as tall as Ian). I was SO surprised! It was REALLY surreal to meet him. Ian, he and I then proceeded to talk about the show, the sound in the hall, the performance, which songs are killin’ from Ghosts, who knew what would become big etc and what should be on the next album! Inside I’m like, “Is this for REAL!!?? What the hell am I doin’ in this convo. Like my opinion matters!!!” Then again… I AM the customer! But really, surreal would be an understatement!

The lounge was bustling and we said our goodbyes… spent and ready for that nice queen sized bed at the Clarion. Bet and I meandered across the street to flag a cab and from the open window of a bar we hear “Buk! Betty!” We look up and see Missy Ross Brown and her husband Shawn. Missy is the first serious contact regarding Big Wreck that I ever met. She started the first Big Wreck fan site back in ’99 or so. We’ve been inter web friends since. We looked at each other like “Look how big our boys have grown!” She and her husband are wonderful people and exemplary of nearly all the fans we’ve had the pleasure of meeting!

We FINALLY made it back to crash, but had to set the alarm for 7:30 ‘cause we had a breakfast date with Bri before the bus moved on to the next gig at 9:00AM. Bet FINALLY had a chance to connect with B who has quickly become a close friend. We LOVE him like family! A run to the bus, hugs and kisses and it was all over!

We didn’t want it to end… so we didn’t let it. Before we went up to pack, against Bet’s protestations I went down to the twins room and roused them (it was cruel but necessary!). I gave them minutes to pull their act together, cause we were comin’ down to say goodbye! Packed and ready, we hung out with them for about an hour! You Canadians are so nice! Down home they would have told us to F-off it’s only 9:30! Bev and Melanie are the salt of the earth, natural, warm, engaging and always up for a laugh! We LOVE these gals! Friendships forged… and I think, lasting ones! We HATED leaving! WHAT A WEEKEND!!!

Thank you Big Wreck! Thank you Big Wreck fans! Thank you God for giving us second chances! It’s all to your Glory, Lord! We couldn’t IMAGINE a better time!!!

Big Wreck Danforth '14 - Praise the Lord and Damn the torpedoes Toronto here we come!

Bet and I are raising our 8yr old Grandson and have recently moved Bet’s 91 yr old dementia-havin’ Mom into the house. I work from home, and between Helen’s deaf-as-a-post (I mean Golden Girls and The Waltons delivered at 120db from 9am ’til 9pm - I’m jealous of an al-Qaeda at a black ops site), cantankerous “sundowning” (look it up, it’s a thing) and our grandson’s constant needs, we lead a blessed but busy (insane actually) life. So our time alone…. away…. to re-connect…. to rejuvenate… to rekindle our romance…. that quiet time to just, be a “couple” is greatly cherished….. our solution…… ROCK SHOW ROAD TRIP! So when 3:30 am rolled around and the alarm went off and the waves of anxious uncertainty and worry began to wash over our home, conscience nagged, and responsibility reared it’s ugly head…. it was Praise the Lord and Damn the Torpedoes! Let them burn the place down! We’re outa here!

It was teeming and dark and it wouldn’t let up for the first 5 hours of our trip. I white knuckled it amongst the spray of the piggy-backed 90 footers while wiping the sleep from my eyes. You couldn’t tell it was daytime until about 9am. We stopped for breakfast at a Denny’s in Herkimer, NY. When Bet read the sign, Herkimer she says “Ehrmagehrd it’s Herkimer”…. and of course we did 10 minutes of stupid shit that only she and I get, but this is why we are perfect for each other. Sometimes that’s all you need to set us off… funniest girl I ever knew this Betty of mine.

As always, before these trips there is much anxiety for me on a personal level….. Hanging with the band, meeting new peeps, organizing a get together using Google Street View to be my boots on the ground, so much could go wrong….. I was a nervous wreck. We got to the hotel, crashed for a half hour and pulled ourselves together and headed off to soundcheck for whatever awaited us. I was told that we’d be “taken care of” by the band (well Ian and Brian) but I’ve been in situations with other bands when I was younger and it wasn’t so….. mix-ups, general f-ups and outright neglect…. those old experiences left me gun-shy. Well not so with our buddies in Big Wreck. Jawsh and Big Chris (LOVE this guy!) hooked us up IMMEDIATELY! Guest list! VIP! And much love!

At the front of the VIP line as we walk up, I see our long time Big Wreck buddy Barb Dalton. She was the first familiar Canadian face to welcome us to BIG WRECK WEEKEND! Bet recognized Feargal Daly and says “Hey, I know you!” (What a nice soft spoken young man. It was a real pleasure to get to know him. More on him later.) Barb had just gotten a ticket at the last minute from someone new to the Fan Page; the lovely, shy Lily Voula. I don’t think that they knew each other before the show, but that’s what BW fandom does…. it brings the peeps together. I’m gonna cry now.

Okay I’m back. We trundle in with the VIP’s and approach the stage….. Brian and Ian spot us and it’s “Hey Buk! Hey Bet! all bright smiles and handshakes! Now we’re REALLY here! The VIP experience is AWESOME! I love to hear the music and watch the band stretch their muscle….. lots of room to move (so I did) and little musical snippets of this and that to satisfy. We heard a full version of Control and some Kashmir slices amidst the sound man balancing act. Lots of very serious activity…. as these guys are meticulous! The raw power in that near empty hall had us PUMPED for the evening. Pictures were taken, hugs were given, and we spotted the two steady fixtures of all the band VIP pix, the Gloop and Gleep of fandom, the Bobbsey Twins, Bev and Melanie!!! (More about these lovely ladies later). And of course, there was our own personal Concert Goddess Melanie Lee!!! She’s responsible for all those FANTASTIC videos! She’s a no-nonsense dedicated documenter of shows! She’s got it down to a science and if anyone has ever tried to shoot even one song, you KNOW what a commitment it is…. she gets the WHOLE show! EVERY SONG! Gotta LOVE this kind of dedication! Hats off to you and your “sway” Mels.

Barb, Lily Voula, Melanie, Feargal, Betty and I are then off to “the Old Nick”…. we grab a spot and await the fan meet up. We squeeze into a booth and begin enjoying the company. Betty decides to rearrange the tables, and catches some shit from the staff and I quickly realize this place is gonna be a nightmare. Too late to change venues, we must forge ahead. More pile in, and stories of BW adventures fill the conversation. Our own young BW writer, Andrew Auld swings by and we get a chance to meet face to face having emailed and skyped for years. He’s from Halifax and has begun to stake out his career in advertising in TO (Are you reading, Scott Thornley? The kid’s bright AND talented!) 

It’s starting to cook, when in comes Barbara Brown from Calgary. She flew in to Ontario to visit family (she’s originally from Oshawa) and collared her sister-in-law to stop by the fan meet on the way home from the airport! Just to get together. She’s a doll! She’s very gregarious and deftly spun her tale of adventures out in the west coast leg of the tour enjoying the hospitality of our own Dean Beardmore and his family. And there’s pix to prove it! So funny and upbeat, it was really nice to finally meet these peeps in person! You feel like you kinda know people from Facebook, but it can always go another way in person…. but not so far! Everybody that we’ve met through Big Wreck have been such warm and inviting people; Bet and I are overwhelmed.

I was nervous-talking too much (Melanie Lee leans in and tells Betty “He talks ALOT!), anticipating the surprise I had for the gang as I try to be diplomatic with a very hostile wait staff. Between making it clear that they did not like us clogging up their place, the “don’t eat rare meat” lecture the waitress gave my wife, the separate checks debacle, the over-all nerve of the wait staff, made for some tense moments. 

In walks Brian! Surprise! Everybody is shocked! I actually kept it a secret! It was his idea! He sits with us all for a while and then the rest of the guys come by! I looked over at Lily Voula and she was eyes-wide shocked! Unfortunately for us, the Old Nick was so un-accomodating, there was no place to hang. Ian and the boys were in and out with not much fanfare….. poor planning on my part, but the experience was made worth it by our band’s gracious attitude! I can’t thank the guys enough for it all. It began to POUR after the guys left so we painfully paid the bill and were off to the show. 

We did the lobby hang for most of the opening bands, catching up on people watching. Met up with the unforgettable Dixie Ann Dalton who was so much taller than I remembered! What a firecracker! Forget the NJ Pizza we smuggled across the border for Brian, DAD commandeered an easy bake oven or something’ and cooked some sweet potato pie for the boys! Had a chance to say hello to Ian’s wife Christine and Ian’s brother Marsh! Looked for Ian’s Dad, but did not see him… yet. It was so nice to catch up about the concerts we had seen and just people watch. I was CONSTANTLY looking for faces from FB. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to connect. People are shy sometimes, and I get that, but I’ve made it a point to get out of my comfort zone and connect, however stupid I feel.

We went into the show, feeling a bit exhausted but ready to rally….. once inside half of our crew hit the stage, Bet and I scoped out the sonic sweet spot midway back. Talking with some peeps, grooving to the pre-show tunes (Black Crowes and Dire Straights) I look up and see Ian’s Dad, Scott! So nice to formally meet face to face! Had an awesome conversation with him about his writing and the creative process in general. A truly class act….. He is so proud of Ian and how all the fans respond to his music!

The show starts and despite having experienced soundcheck, the MASSIVE show that BW is putting on now left me flabbergasted and  simply tore the roof off the joint! I recorded a bit of Friends and got flagged by a bouncer (my arms were tired anyway - I’ll leave the recording to the pros (Melanie).

War Baby is massively magnificent! Head in the Girl is a TOTAL chest punch hoedown! The Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Zep intro/outros are PERFECT seasoning for the Big Wreck stew. EACH song swung from delicate to hammer with grace and fury as needed. SUCH a tight outfit BW is!

I boogied through most of the show and was almost spent. My feet were stomped flat and and we were running on vapors… until Hey Mama! INCOMPARABLE! We burnt the last bit of energy in a day that began at 3:30am after only 3 hrs sleep. We were done….. there was talk of an post show party, but we had to sleep…. REGROUP…. and do it all again tomorrow!

Stay tuned for Day 2…. it gets even better! WOW!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Big Wreck - Ghosts Full Review - Track By Track

Big Wreck - Ghosts

In a world where digital fashion and throw away musical commodities rule the day, a sliver of rock music lives on in the distant echo from days gone by. The heart and soul of old classic rock has a timelessness that transcends the age…. but sadly those that know how to do it, old schoolers, are passing on. However, never has that perennial spirit bubbled up from the depths, filtered through the timeless, emotional, strata of classic rock more powerfully than Big Wreck's Ghosts. If Albatross was your foot in the door to enjoying Big Wreck, Ghosts will kick the door down with a vengeance.

All at once it's, Zep-powerful, Floyd-ethereal, Petty-catchy, Sting-classy, Genesis-full, Beach Boys-pretty, Boss-driven, Costello-clever, Beatles-warm yet fully in the moment Big Wreck. The types and styles of these tracks are rendered with a maturity of composition and playing that rivals the BEST of all these staples of the rock pantheon while sounding new and fresh. Like all BW records it's a densely layered cake. You can listen for months and all of a sudden hear a new wrinkle, catch a new counter melody and derive new joy. Absorbing the lyrical depth alone takes many listens…. cleverly turned lines reveal a picture that becomes more profound as it grows on you. Relationships with spouse, friends, business, the creative process, mythical ghosts or inner demons are on the table and each song is multi-faceted so that they can become interchangeable upon repeated listens.

Ian Thornley, the maestro in this mix, pulls it all together with a wonderfully experienced craft and elicits timeless performance out of the band, Brian Doherty, David McMillan, Paulo Neta and Chuck Keeping. Live, many of these tracks will evolve to even greater strength, but on record the complexity weaves a visceral, emotional journey with a depth not heard in much modern rock. For Big Wreck fans, this is confirmation of what we all have been hearing underneath our Big Wreck tracks for years. This is potential realized. Most classic artists/bands, from Zep to the Beatles, that have transcended their timeline, have a golden period of 4-5 albums and nothing before and nothing after reaches the heights. Big Wreck just keeps getting better. 

You will be thrilled and amazed at this magnificent collection of music! (P.T Barnum is back!)

Here's a track by track…..

A Place to Call Home

Undoubtedly, any Big Wreck fan will have heard the single Ghosts, preview snippets, and or digital download previews of the entire album. The listening experience today is a stream of aural consciousness governed by an algorithm. Convenience rules, and has it's benefits. The juxtaposition of varied artists and multi-genre creates some nice symmetry and contrast. However, sometimes to experience an artist fully, a guided tour through his creative minds ears is required.

Do yourself a favor. Listen to this album from start to finish. It's a trip!

Home slices into your mind with a samurai sword unsheathing preparing for battle. It's just a tiny detail that you'll end up rewinding to hear, cause the volume wasn't adjusted, or your headphones weren't on yet… that pavlovian bell which sets you drooling. Or is it the steel on steel of locomotive wheel on the square wave AIC train. At high volume you can feel this in your chest; especially when the guitars sweep low. It builds in three phases. The first, just raw distorted guitar riff not unlike Caught My Eye, but this is all about down tuned menace vs CMY sexy strut. It's tight, compressed and up front; in the middle of you head, with good headphones. Then upsweep some warmer, lower guitar tones to lay the bed for the melody droning Big Wreck monks. From massive down tuned edgeless riff to ascending angelic three note wave the track gets it's full buzz on. Then from left to right, back to front, soft to loud the cymbal and drums walk front and center and the track, already thick as a mountain, opens wide and blossoms into the gorgeous Big Wreck chorus that'll punctuate this album throughout!

It's warm and enveloping even though the underlying riff is rather menacing. The melody and lyrics are sung with a multi-voiced longing. 

So how do you beg for what's your own
Pick the pieces, lick the wounds
Stoke the fire, fan the flame
Squeeze the clouds, until it rains
Would you champion the cause
'Til you find out what you've lost
Who do you dare to call your own
And where's the place that you call home?

Then a variation of a riff that longtime BW fans have known as the "unknown riff" makes an appearance. It's down tuned, slower and with the grinding vibration it takes on a whole new feel.
This very modern but has it's roots in 90's grunge. There are all kinds of little sonic lifts, pinging about in the background.

Another sweeping muscular guitar riff joins in on the second chorus and hip checks you through the thick chorus….

The second set of verses are bedded by that nasty riff and an accompanying monster riff that reverbs/wahwahs/down tunes and peals off as an accent. The vocals then step center, naked of the buzzsaw/gearshift riff and the peal off accent sets the groove.

Of course it's all accent and texture and grind. Very meaty sweaty stuff. That glorious chorus swells back up and pulls us out of the morass. It's very catchy, very hummable…. 

Ian doesn't let us out on a light note…. it stays all AIC heavy. Classic grunge feel, modern textures with a Thornley chorus. Just MASSIVE and magnificent!

I Digress

It's not often you hear the phrase "I digress" in rock music. But that's why we dig Ian's writing so much. As he has many times before, maybe this time better than ever, he takes that Zep shadow and light approach to high conclusion. The song kicks off with a modern rock riff pinched like "Rest of the World" only tighter. Dueling with the crunch is a stabby pattern that made me think of Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme. Everything is like chiseled points of sound calling and responding as Ian sings of an internal battle that has been raging for a long time. We've got dueling guitars doing call and response with the bass while the drumming rolls over the top repeatedly.

Is it imagination or jealousy?
My intuition failing me?
I'm gonna throw up from so much pride!

As he elongates his "priiiide" he lays those long deep bent sweeping Pagian notes… lots of tension is building… As if all this thinking is driving him mad!

Now the song transitions into "classic" rock mode for a bar with some Who-ish chords and a standard 4-4 beat (is that cowbell?) but just for a taste to set up the bouncy Brit-Pop chorus..

He's never gonna know what we've been through
He'll never open you
As I digress, I need tenderness
As I digress

And I MEAN bounce! Davey's bass playing propels this section as Ian's Beach Boy best croons over the top! It sooo catchy and warm you just want it to stay… it feels like LOVE!

But don't get comfortable… you're about to DIGRESS! 

Don't let 'em iiinnnnn!

Now we've got the mania firing in all directions… this episode more frantic than the last…. 
Another walk through that dumb classic rock riffage as Ian lays it out…

Another idiot smiles and comments on your eyes
Whoever he is, he don't know yoouuuuu

And we're in love again… all chiming guitars and "oooohh-ooooo"s. It's such a schizophrenic song.

Back into the mayhem which has been turned up to a blistering pace. Davey is VERY Entwistle here Chuck Keeping doing fierce crescendos while POUNDING the beat! Out of this whirlwind stomps that Who inspired power chord that reminds me of  Ram Jam's "Old Black Betty". This section thumps up to the cliff and launches into this beautiful blue ocean sized vocal "YOUUUU!"

In midair it's caught by the pop section and lands softly in love… but wait… does mania win? In Big Wreck's world evidently it does. Love is the digression. 

As the hard beat lays the foundation, the cry of "DON"T LET EM IN!" wails out! Then they start the slow burn. Deliberate riffing plays under a long tortured solo that slithers up out of the mix. It undulates around and in between the riffing. Other guitars come up to support while still more make counterpoint. The layers build as the solo become more furious. The whole thing builds like a speed metal sprint while Ian plays triplets higher and higher, adding voice after voice. It seems like there must be 10 guitars cascading! Definitely born out of the extended Come Again road version with guitars locking in! THIS is a guitar wanking at it's BEST! 


Over a stripped down structure, killer baseline, a throwback disco beat, Floyd's picking pattern insert a big Thornley/Sumner chorus and you've got Ghosts. It's nearest rhythmic relative is Floyd's "Young Lust". Most of The Wall was in reaction/answer to the Disco revolution that was happening at the time; the driving beat that gripped pop music in the late 70's. It was completely anathema to rockers, but Floyd made it not only palatable, but kind of stamped the rock over the top of the whole scene. It is with this "ghost" that Big Wreck choses to dance. Ian's, respect for, and recognition of, Sting and the Police's echo of the same Floydian "ghosts", permeates the melody. 

The subtlety throughout the track, from the delicate picking pattern that swells behind the verses, to the
tight funk slide that kicks it off, shows a willingness to explore other flavors. Live, a little Floyd was sprinkled into the intro to Big Wreck's Ladylike over the years and now it's fair game for it's own tune. 

Ian sings of longing for home, being bound by ghosts. As a musician carves out his own ground, among the influences that shape him, what does he call his own? Especially when they're drawn from ones that still reverberate today. It is a familiar Big Wreck theme, like Defined, from TPAG. It's a musical journey, but a personal one too. How do we escape the Ghosts of our DNA, or familial patterns we've inherited? Dust and light. Flesh and Spirit. Always a depth in the lyric that we expect from Ian.

As I said before, this is some different territory for Big Wreck. Not different process-wise, because it mines 70's prog for inspiration, like many BW classics have, but different because Big Wreck has never so boldly taken on disco/funk. Even if it comes though a Pink Floyd filter. And WOW what results! The spare sections of Beat and Bass set up Ian's sexy Roy Buchanan toned solos. The authenticity with which Chuck Keeping and Dave McMillan groove through this track belie their rock roots. You'd think they was funked out forever! 

The huge chorus is forever burned in my mind, like it will be in yours. Melody rules on this album! The lines change in the last chorus as Ian is wont to do. And if my scars were tattoos, I could hide them in plain view… well he's doing it. The ride out is pure funk jam. Clean tone, sinewy lines, loose jam like Control and You Caught My Eye from Albatross with some tasty interplay.

Scars or influence; they're in plain view, and I for one, hope his Ghosts never let him go.

My Life

A defiant stance or honest appraisal? ML dives into the pop world hook first! With a stark, resonant piano as lead in, it takes even more pop ground than Ian's solo work ever did. Upon first listen, Cee Lo Green came to mind. No REALLY, it could be. It's such a mature track; deliberate and measured. The pacing allows the groove to bore into your brain, as the lyric addresses past missteps and the war within.

The track builds layer upon catchy layer; double-time piano, snappy drum and bass, chimey guitars, a slightly insinuating sparkly electric guitar line, all tiptoeing up to that catchy chorus… It's mine, this is my life, still trying' to get mine right.

There are many layers that reveal themselves within the rather simple structure. The reverbed guitar, that echos to the steady beat, bounces around giving the track that jello jiggle. The doubled sweet vocal lines step up on the "Mine, this is my Life…." showcasing Ian's pop chops!

Then we come to the solo… Jimmy Page at his Outrider best! A tight B-Bender flourish that stamps an eastern flavored classic rock signature into this pop gem. It is GORGEOUS, fluid and tight! 

Different, the farthest foray into trad-pop territory yet, but it still has the muscle, introspective honesty and class that we associate with Big Wreck. I LOVE where the Big Wreck wormhole takes me.

Hey Mama

I used to love this track called Hangman's Jury by Aerosmith. It starts out on a backwoods porch just harmonica and an old slide acoustic and progresses through a modern treatment, building instruments, vocals and power as it grows; acknowledging it's Rn'R roots while infusing it with raw power. Well, Hey Mama started out as a straight up Zep tribute back when it was a solo demo by Ian, leaked in '02. While the original demo had tons of heart (a fan favorite) it only hinted at what would become of this track.

THIS is the game changer IMHO. Many times a demo is infused with an immediacy that gives it life and then it gets mushed in rendering it to final. Full production robs it of it's original vibrancy and power. Well not so with this Mama! The rootsy guitar pattern, the droning background chords, the tasty mandolin echo the same Appalachian mountain music that inspired Zep originally. Ian rasps "Hey Mama, hear me holler! Hey Mama, watch me pray! I buried you out in the backyard, I hung you high in a tree, yeah that was ME". This is some creepy backwoods drama about to throw down. Shadowing the vocal lines the guit/mando/drone heaps layer upon layer until a MASSIVE stuttering drum beat kicks it to life. 

So full, so powerful…. background vocals or effects laden guitar patterns fill in behind the lines "An empty house on a hillside, An empty boat on the sea" and it's bouncy, familiar and otherworldly all at once. Like when Jimmy Page played that boogie pattern in the beginning of Celebration Day on Zep III. It was just sooo from-another-planet yet firmly based in the delta blues. Mama continues this Celebration tradition in the BEST possible way. You can't help but dance along while the song goes on about betrayal and loss. Chuck's furious drumming and absolutely bouncy baseline (Dave McMillan channeling JPJ) gives this track a life not heard from Big Wreck since The Oaf. As a matter of fact, I think it out does The Oaf in it's pure Zep spirit! 

As it hits it's stride "She forgot about forever, and I'm stuck in yesterday" what's that?… Beatle-esque Octopuss's Garden "la, la, las" or guitar lines? Whatever it is, it adds soo much body and mood! You cannot help but get up and just ROCK!

As Ian screams "HEAR ME HOLLAR!" the band does one of those Pagian throwaway breakdowns just to loosen your spine. At full bore now this track hums along until a clipped "I'm STUCK in YESTERDAY!" spews and the first hair-stand-on-end moment comes.

Big Wreck have uncovered the most amazing lost Zep riff of all time. It's a down turning, elevating BEAST of a riff! You will head-bang and rock to this reflexively. And it's delivered with all the majesty, mystery and MASS that it deserves. All you want to do is hear it MORE… LOUDER…. and then…. tease…. the band drops into this sweet little slide eddie… just because they can…. light and dark… tight but loose…. nice warm summer vocals and mandolins…. the baseline to walk us out…. but, what happened to that riff? Where's that confounded riff?… Ian's was "stuck with yesterday" but now he launches into a mega "I'M STUCK WITH TODAY!" over the top of… THAT MASSIVE RIFF! 

This riff is such a behemoth. It's the culmination of years of distilling Zep's essence, of playing the Immigrant Song in shows, of exorcizing that Pagian possession that Ian sang of in Overemphasizing and Defined by what We Steal. It has the majestic power of Kashmir, but DRIVES like the Immigrant Song. 

The power thrown by the whole band into this ending is indeed worthy. The riff stomps, grinds, moans and groans over furious badass bass and Bonham-righteous drum flourishes while Plant-like guitar wails on the high end. The final chord rings on in afterglow with feedback and vocal like the last heaves of Godzilla. THIS is what Big Wreck is all about. THIS is what every Zep tribute from Heart's Barracuda to Rival Sons Pressure and Time ascribes to be. THIS is the 2 million hit youtube song. THIS is what my best bud (1st generation Zep-fan) said "If they had survived, THIS is what Zeppelin would be playin'!" You can't ask for a better endorsement. 'Nuff Said.


Swelling up with a measured Page-Midnight Moonlight-like strum introducing the haunting melody line, Diamonds is all about mood and emotion. Haunting turns upbeat as the bright counter melody takes hold. A real classic English countryside vibe. As the track builds toward the chorus with all the nice chiming guitars, then various percussion, tabla, sticks and a sinewy eastern sounding slide guitar all coalesce to set up the change. 

Huge drums, almost military cadence and the plaintive slide line, now massive like only Ian can do, dominates!  The chorus is MEGA! The melody is reminiscent of Ian Anderson from Thick as Brick's Skate Away. It undulates while climbing triumphantly yet pulls up just short to tease the next verse. 

The lyrics speak of longing for a deeper relationship, or lost connection. An admission of weakness, a plea for understanding and a wonder at love's loyalty. All expressed with a loving, longing, yearning which is made manifest in the thick slide line.

The beat skips along and tumbles down as the chorus become immense. Like a diamond, whose quality only reveals itself as a refraction of pure light, the protagonist, in recent darkness acknowledges his separation from the source and longs for understanding. The melody beautifully embodies the sentiment. You WILL find yourself singing along.

The solo is pure Ian Thornley at his most magical slide best! If you liked the slide work in Albatross or Under the Lighthouse, this showcases it to a whole new level. Somehow the sound combines the Hibernian and Middle Eastern styles at once. Bagpipes and violins; BOY would I love to hear an orchestral arrangement of this!

A rousing, triumphant chorus concludes and then the coda walks us off in percussion and guitar chords droning on into the distance, setting up a reprise of the slide's haunting moan. Like a bestial bellow over a far away hillside the melody reverberates. It touches the heart like nothing Ian has done to date. This track is a classic beauty.


Like I said in the intro, as if sifting through the bones of the era of the dinosaurs of classic rock, which had it's roots in folk and the blues but was shot through with electric power, Friends gives us a perfect example of Ghosts' essence. THIS is the archetype that suggests the pool of inspiration that Ian Thornley so adroitly pulls from.

It begins quietly. We strain to hear this folk/blues/middle eastern tinged acoustic pattern as if played though and old radio tuning the dial. Astride this pattern, steps the MASSIVE riffs of Big Wreck. Confidently picking up the rhythm of the riff and augmenting it, Thornley throws a sexy Pagian swagger into it and OWNS the Zep imprimatur. With all the slippery shimmy of Dancing days and the bash-crash of the Kinks/Page You Really Got Me the band hammers out an age old tale of friendship, dissolution and reflection.

To re-enforce the middle eastern roots, the cadence and melody is that of "the snake charmer song". You can read about it here: http://www.shira.net/streets-of-cairo.htm Incorporating simple snippets and aurally collaging the influences, Ian gives us crumbs to follow, passionately explaining, what I think, is the journey from original Big Wreck to it's modern counterpart. The use of the "snake charmer" song might just have more meaning than just whimsy in regards to the music biz. All the whimsical underpinnings are delivered with anvil strikes and spewed realization. Hard, thick, bottom heavy riffs chug along accented by slices of lap steel ringing though the mix… when the song abruptly drops off the cliff into a pool of refreshing reflection.

As one more day just fades away
With words too proud to say
And my head's still overflowing

It drops us into a dreamy, chiming, power ballad expressing the regret of inaction to rekindle an old friendship. Swooping slide guitars swell under the melody as the drum cadence shuffles and the bass bubbles… for a spell.

The funky slide kicks it back in to gear and there's more expository lyric. The guitar parts get more meaty and staccato…. lyrics delivered more fiercely. Another dive back into the pool where the baseline takes a lingering walk through.

As if crafting a steel weapon, the song pounds us into shape and then dips us into the tempering bath repeating the process to prepare us for the battle at the end.

Breakdowns a'comin'! Dissonant overlapping long guitar notes and a one two snare set up the Pagian "For Your Life"-like stuttering riffs to follow… two, three, hey! And out of the darkness into the present.

And now we're stuck up in a pregnant pause
But we're not barefoot at all

I include these lines in the review to point out the clever use of familiar phrases. Being "barefoot and pregnant" means to be burdened with child and ignorant of outside options. The record biz keeps their thumb on a band like a bad man exercises control over his woman by keeping her burdened with child and captive. The artist, "pregnant" with new music is ready to deliver, but now Big Wreck are seasoned professionals with the wherewithal to explore new options; no longer "kept". There's always a clever twist of a phrase to be found in Big Wrecks' music. In fact the lyrics change in the last verses, as piano chimes in to sweeten, revealing even more about the root cause of friendships lost and old patterns that "keep a good man down". 

After a herculean shout the stop/start stutteringly intricate riff plays in and out with the drums and bass and the tune tumbles along with a virtuoso power display born in the dueling guitar portion of All Is Fair on tour in 2012-13. VERY thrilling! 

Still Here

A distant drone… a one-two picking pattern, tension escalates and an ominous guitar treads forward as it swells louder it turns around and blossoms into a very vibey cascading echofest. The cool drums lay down a slick groove. If Control was all cool desert night drive, this is a cool tropical jungle, thick with reverb flittering about like so many insects. The aural foliage is dense and colorful.

Ian lays out a tale of betrayal and dashed expectations. Sounds like the age old tale of the hopeful artist in the cynical record biz. Promises, promises. However, this is not the angry, reactionary, rage-junkie stuff though. It's more waking dream than nightmare. 

So while they satisfy their want to ink a deal
A world of status finds a home, oh no
With all the stories, new and old
We're thinkin' this is all a dream

The mood and delivery is very restrained even in the soaring vocal lines. No bombastic drums, just cool Fleetwood Mac groove. This keeps growing on me. It will sneak up on you…. and once it does, you'll find yourself just aping the groove, for months to come.

Ian sings even more languidly than on Control. Little echos of the Police swirl about. Intimate voicing on the verses draw you in. Parts remind me of Porcupine Tree's Arriving Somewhere But Not Here.

The vocals are treated differently on this verse…. 

So while they satisfy their want
You're signing on the dotted line
Word to the wise
You'll never see what you're trying' to find

A word from some wise counsel? Ian's inner voice? Careful what you wish for. Regardless, they're nowhere to be found and he's still here! Still here pursuing music for the love of it…. not chasing a market. Compose it and they will come. Great song…. but wait, it's not over….. 

During the outro it gets REALLY interesting… there's this nice dissolution of the riffs into long reverbed peal offs. It gets heavy and you just expect the fade, but from out of the dense chaos walks this sexy samba. A latin walk to the end with bongos, timbali, guiro (look it up), acoustic guitar… so cool… so sexy. You'll want hit repeat immediately.

Off And Running

This track, out of all the others, touches on an area of music that Ian dabbled in when he collaborated with Casey Marshal on a project called Fairfield. It had a classic Eagles/California pop sound done with incredible chops and taste. THAT is a project that I hope one day Ian and Casey will re-visit. 

The individual instruments, loosely coalesce, each joining in until the drums kick and they take residence under the loping slide riff. It feels like Zep doing Tom Petty doing Ten Years gone….  all the accents are country licks. The drums are flat and in the back and the Davey's baseline lopes like SpaceHog's "In the Meantime". There's even a B3 in the background!!! On a luscious album this song sits in the "lushest" of pockets!

All those wires that froze a man
They can't keep up with me
If you hide in broken-promise-land
You can't get too close, ya see

Ian sings with his best laid back TP inspired attitude… VERY cool. Big lush chorus. Tasty background vocals by, guess who???? Casey Marshall!

Off and running through the backdoor
Off and running through the fields
As long as I can find the way home
Too often I run for what's real

The guitar work on this track won't attract attention like, Million Days, but to me it is even MORE exquisite! The accents, the fills, the beds are like candy. The bass notes are given lots of room to define themselves. The separation on the guitars really allows this track to breathe. You can't help but to get swept away.

And of course it turns and the HAMMER drops. Just like in Ten Years Gone when Jimmy launches the B-17 bombers at the 3:20 mark, Big Wreck runs for what's REEEEALL! ZEP, ZEP, ZEP…. that's what's real! Chuck lays down pure Bonzo and the riffage wraps thick! Ian admonishes as the guitar accents like banshee thrusts!

How would your life be
Right without me
I know where my peace of mind will come from

Blown wide open
Out in the open
How much further 'til I never come back

Then that velvet riff comes back…. that overwhelming chorus… Eagles-ish background vocals… run, run, run…. soooo much to listen to…. and we're out… except not.

The B3 rides out like Church…. the full last minute is solely the melody lovingly teased out of the organ…. the feel is incredible… it's almost Holy! The hair WILL stand!

Come What May

Come What May, slashes where the Canadian single Ghosts, glides. Like bookends on the album's stylistic forays, they frame the range of approaches on this magnificent effort.

The opening sounds like a tighter, less bombastic Foo Fighters riff. Then it takes on a bit of the Police. Ian dabbled with a Police-ish feel on Tiny Pictures' Man Overboard, but it felt caught between Big Wreck's heavy pacing and that punk Police clip. CWM has finally figured out that formula. The chord progression is VERY Andy Summers. Even the that baseline has that Synchronicity feel. Big Wreck are again mining the very BEST of the 80's in this track. It is also one of those tracks that displays the lineage between the roots rock of Springsteen, the poly rhythms of the Police and the frenetic drive of the Foos.

When I first heard this I played it like 10 times in a row. It's so bouncy and energetic! Certainly the fastest Big Wreck track to date. It has an almost punk pace.

As spare and tight as the guitars are, the bass is full and meaty and drives the track. Chuck is channeling pure Stuart Copeland in both style and swing. It swells full in the chorus and an audience of Ian's joins in to "Throw myself in the river!" It gets sooo full that I can almost hear Sprinsteen's Roy Bittan piano chops banging out in the background!

That back and forth between tight and explosive only lays more distance between in the second section. The guitars go totally tight slash as Ian sings 

I'm fed up with the pace of saving face
I'm squeezing what I can't replace

Squeezing what he considers the precious parts of life… until they are missing pieces… again. Squeeze tight until it releases… and oh it does. The chorus is amazingly cathartic! The bass and drums pound it out and Ian throws in one of his great tumble down bumble bee accent runs that we all love. As we all long for deliverance and Ian pleads to be baptismally cleaned in the river… we are pleading for a signature solo to carry us off…. but not this time…. it's a sweet cup of Ian a cappella that would make the Beach Boys proud!  What a way to end a track!

Surprise! An 8 count and the chorus slams back in! So DAMNED EXHILARATING!