rollingstonesThe recent 50th anniversary resuscitation of The Rolling Stones and their accompanying ‘Grrr’ CD coaster alongside the Black Sabbath reincarnation and ‘13’ CD has left mixed & cynical reviews and split fan-bases of the devout. This week have two Canadian acts who have released new albums for all the right reasons.

ARSON – Not Always About You
Vocalist Rudy Tuesdai (aka Rude Van Steenes) navigated the short-lived proto punk act Arson through Toronto’s exploding Queen Street circuit Arson2from 1978 through 1982. He and guitarist Marcel La Fleur were joined by Tony Lester and Nick Neurotic and rehearsed in the Old Rose Theater on Queen Street. Steve Goode, from The Poles, rounded out the line-up on bass before being replaced by Spike Bandito (Mark Gammage) in 1979.

The group fought tooth and nail for their own gigs including opening slots for soon-to-be legendary punk outfits The Ugly and The Viletones. Toronto promoters The Garys helped the band out by slotting them in on Dead Boys tour dates alongside London, Ontario band The Demics.

ArsonArson would be recognized as one of the first independent acts to self-finance and organize their own tour taking them through Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Long Island and two weeks in New York City on the heels of the self-produced 7″ single “(Living With the) White Folks” b/w “Coho? Coho!”

By 1982 Arson had run its course.  Van Steenes then formed Glamatron! Followed by New Wave success story Vis-à-Vis.

In the fall of 2010 Van Steenes and La Fleur reconvened Arson with bassist Shawna From Torawna (Sluts On 45, Outbred Inlaws) and drummer Tim Timleck (Carole Pope, The White, Universal Honey) who would be replaced in 2011 by David Quinton-Steinberg (Mods, Jitters, Stiv Bators Band). Several live performances to test the waters for a full-blown Arson revival has led to the new 2013 CD ‘Not Always About You’.

The self-produced 11 track assault lives up to the old school promise of Arson’s heyday. In fact, this is an aural documentary of Arson’s heyday nearly 35 years later; These tracks were all written by Van Steenes and La Fleur in 1979 and represent the band’s most popular set pieces – updated using digital recording technology to give you a front-row recreation of their live shows in Glamatronic Sound TM.

Though Arson was shuffled into the First Generation Toronto punk deck of cards, one listen to tunes like “Love On a Leash”, “Art School Fool”, “Social Eyes”, “Not Always About You”, and “Motor City Suicide” and 20/20 hindsight reveals that Arson were/are actually a true-blue American Rock’n’Roll band owing nothing to the Ramones and everything to Iggy & The Stooges, MC5, and The New York Dolls – bands that also informed Arson’s contemporaries The Dead Boys whose late singer Stiv Bators comes to mind in Rude Van Steenes’ vocal delivery.

But Rude has a unique twist to that voice that includes his former British New Wave leanings on tunes like “Resurrection (Starting Fires) and the pre-Psychedelic Furs-ish “Kiss So Violent” revealing that Van Steene’s Bowie influence is more authentic than PF singer Richard Butler’s ever was.

And if La Fleur’s solid Keith Richards guitar anchors Van Steenes’ Mick Jagger, then rhythm guitarist Bart Lewis is Johnny Thunders, bassist John P. Sutton is Jeff Magnum and drummer David Quinton is Keith Moon.

To paraphrase the final track on the disc, these aged rockers still act young, dumb, and are having too much fun.

THE COOPER BROTHERS - SouthboundOttawa brothers Richard and Brian Cooper started their career on the momentum of Beatlemania and played eastern Canada in such outfits as What The Cat Dragged In. They decided to form their own band in 1971 following Richard’s suspension from the University of Ottawa for spending too much time on the road instead of working on his Masters’ Degree in English Literature. By 1974 The Cooper Brothers had their own band and released 3 unsuccessful singles under the production guidance of Les Emmerson (Five Man Electrical Band). Richard Cooper felt that the material, which consisted of all cover tunes, wasn’t where they should be focusing and decided to start writing original material. The Cooper After attracting the attention of Polydor Records The Cooper Brothers had a minor hit with the first release entitled “Finally (With You).

CooperLPAs a newly expanded seven piece, manager Alan Katz landed them a distribution deal in the US with Gary Cape’s Capricorn Records in Macon, Georgia. With Cape also acting as producer (right up through their final LP), by the summer of 1978 they finally had their first legitimate hit with “Rock and Roll Cowboys” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjXl6YmMr_c . The follow-up, “The Dream Never Dies” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Enh-dsa00ro, became an American hit for US country singer Bill Anderson but also charted on the Billboard Hot 100 for The Cooper Brothers as did “Show Some Emotion” and “I’ll Know Her When I See Her” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B86Z1EvbPw4.

With the collapse of Capricorn Records in 1980 the band lost their third album which was already completed – called ‘Reach for the Stars’ – and floundered without a record deal.  They brought in Les Emmerson (Staccatos/Five Man Electrical Band) as fresh blood and produced one more album – ‘Learning to Live With It’ – on the indie label SALT, before the group disbanded following a long cross-Canada tour in 1983. They reunited for a one-off Children’s Wish Foundation charity fundraiser at the Ottawa Civic Centre in 1986.

In October 2006, ‘The Best of the Cooper Brothers’, under the supervision of Gary Cape, was released by Pacemaker/EMI and the band performed for the first time on stage in over twenty years. This led to a number of sold-out live dates throughout Southern Ontario including a memorable Ottawa Bluesfest concert in front of 25,000 people while opening the show for James Taylor. The experience also sparked Dick Cooper’s songwriting muse and before long the Brothers had enough material for a new album.

CooperIn September 2009 with old friend Colin Linden in the production chair, the Cooper Brothers went to Masterlink Studio in Nashville to begin recording with session musicians including Audley Freed (Black Crowes, Jakob Dylan, Dixie Chicks), Dan Dugmore (Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor) Kevin McKendree (Brian Seltzer, Lee Roy Parnell), Lynn Williams (John Hiatt, Delbert McClinton) and Steve Mackey (Trisha Yearwood). Special guests included Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, Delbert McClinton, and Chuck Leavell. After additional recording back in Ottawa and Toronto the CD was mixed in Los Angeles by John Whynot (Colin James, Bruce Cockburn, Lucinda Williams). The twelve song album ‘In From the Cold’ was released in October 2010 and was well received.

This past year, the brothers began work on a new CD at the Tragically Hip’s studio in Kingston with producer Colin Cripps (Blue Rodeo, Junkhouse, Crash Vegas) at the helm. From the opening title track and first single, Southbound, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9Rfnvk44as this new release by the brothers is an 11 song masterpiece of precision  Country Rock that ignores the slick and lifeless Country cliché conventions being churned out from Nashville currently and revisits the 1970s pop-leaning Country that gave the Coopers their distinctive commercial appeal.

In fact, to this listener’s ears the Coopers transition well between the Southern Rock guitar boogie/slide work of Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers and ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’ period Clapton on tunes like “Southbound”, “The Last Time I Saw Georgia” (about their dealings with Capricorn Records), “Maybe This Is the Night”, “Five Point Five”, and “Club Shangri-La” through the Southern California Folk Rock of The Eagles, Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco on the amazing spaghetti Western guitar-driven “Bordertown”, the bittersweet prairie haunt of “What I Leave Behind” and the beautiful heart-breaking balladry of “Bridges “ and “Love’s Been a Stranger”.

And just to keep listeners on their toes the real surprise on the disc is a sneaky little McCartney-esque pop ditty buried late on the album entitled “Havana Nights” which recalls the intimacy of Macca’s self-titled debut in 1970.

Colin Cripps has handled the production masterfully focusing on a dry, crisp sound – vocals front and centre with not much on them but a touch of reverb – giving the songs an intimate immediacy. Dick Cooper’s lyrics come alive on the tongue of brother Brian; lyrics that are some of the most articulate and void of Country’s go-to-clichés to grace an album since Henley wrote “Desperado”.

The Cooper Brothers have created a thinking man’s Country Rock fusion. Southbound is the new New Country album we’ve been waiting for.

Send your CDs to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

One Response to “JAIMIE VERNON – July DISCoveries”

  1. You should have mentioned The Coopers and Les Emmerson’s penchant for charity, Jaimie. Few bands have given so much to various causes. For that alone, I give them much respect. The music is icing on the cake.

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