Sunday, December 27, 2009

Milk Crate Classic #7: April Wine - Stand Back

Ever since the idea of the Milk Crate Classics was allocated to me I knew that sooner or later, I would cover April Wine. From day one, the question I have rolled in my mind is "Stand Back" or "The Whole Worlds Goin' Crazy"? These two albums always stand side by side in my memory, and they have these past six months while I mentally debated the relative merits of covering each. I had reached a tentative decision with myself whenaprilwine13 I decided to listen to the album of choice: "The Whole Worlds Goin' Crazy". One side of the album was all I needed to change my mind. "The Whole Worlds Goin' Crazy" is so unbelievably dated and, I hate to say it, mediocre. What was one of my all time favourites came crashing down around more mature sensibilities.

"Stand Back" was April Wine's fourth album (fifth if you include the live album), and the first completely free of the founding Henman brothers. It was a springboard to some moderate success that would come in the mid seventies, notably with "The Whole Worlds Goin Crazy" and "First Glance." Yet I always thought it a bit of a second rate album, the one that wouldn't stand up over time. And that annoying song Oowatanite, who would listen to that in 30 years time? So 30 years later when I hear April Wine on the radio, why is it always that song? If not that, then Tonight is A Wonderful Time To Fall in Love or the ballad I Wouldn't Want To Lose Your Love. I would never have dreamed that I Wouldn't Want To Lose Your Love would sound better than Crazy's Like A Lover, Like A Song; the latter always seemed so much deeper. I realized some years ago that deep in pop music usually means piled higher, and Like A Lover, Like A Song is no exception. How could such a notable know-it-all be so wrong? I'm still not sure, maybe "Stand Back" was difficult to digest then because it wasn't as trendy. The music had much more merit in it's own right than other, more timely albums from Canada's Spinal Tap.

aprilwine12Going through the album, most of the songs are good in their own way. Oowatanite is, it turns out, just a great rocker. It affords an early glimpse at the stadium rock-stars that April Wine eventually became. It's worth noting that when April Wine was selling out the C.N.E. Grandstand every August, this was the opener. Great way to start a concert and a great way to start an album. Victim of Your Love, Baby Don't Got Some Soul and Tonight is A Wonderful Time to Fall in Love all hold up well over time. Some old favorites still sparkle, as well. Cum Hear the Band was always a song I enjoyed, and it's still a nice song. One of my all time April Wine favorites comes from this album, as well: Not for You, Not for Rock and Roll is still what it advertises, a good, straight ahead rock and roll song.

All the joy at discovering this long lost classic aside, "Stand Back" has always had it's weak moments, and still does. Sloe Poke is still a lame attempt to sex up the album (as is the spelling on Cum Hear the Band) and Wouldn't Want Your Love (Any Other Way) is a little too pop for even my tastes. As well, I have never got Highway Hard Run, and I still don't. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those tripe heads who think rock and roll songs should say something or mean something - Barney Bentall can leave Jelly Roll just as it is and I won't mind. But Highway Hard Run seems to be attempting something and, I think, fails miserably. It is just not a very good song. However, the song truly deserving of never being played again is Don't Push Me Around. I used to think this was a good song, many probably did. But the chorus must be re-heard to be believed:

            Hey man I said don't push me around.
            Hey man I'm 18 and I've been around.

As well, such truly charming lines as

            I've got an old Cadillac
            I like to sit in the back
            and flog the dog between the covers of sex-teen.

"Stand Back" is a good, not great, old album. April Wine was still five years away from becoming one of the biggest rock bands in the world, but "Stand Back" was a prelude to what was coming. The sign of what was to come was there for all to see, and I have finally seen it.