From that period of the mid ‘70s to mid ‘80s there was a growing hard-rock scene and a ton of great albums in Canada. A handful of Canadian bands would make it big in the US and various parts of the world [see Rush, Loverboy, Triumph..], while others had hits, and breaks on major tours, but either fizzled out after a handful of albums, or they simply stayed active in Canada [and a few select regions], never really having a huge international impact, though few of these had their moments outside of our country, but for the most part remained largely ‘big’ at home. And I’m sure someone will debate or take exception to a few of my choices, there are a number of Great albums and bands not here, and that could lead to a much longer list, including such names as Helix, Kick Axe, Trooper, Prism, Toronto, and numerous others I’m sure. Feel free to leave me some feedback, corrections, general info, recommendations, etc….
A Foot In Coldwater – All Around Us (1974)
if you do not know this band – you are missing out. This 5-piece band should’ve been huge after a string of hit singles here, most notably the ballads “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” and “Isn’t Love Unkind (In My Life) in 1972. Band members had previously been in numerous Toronto area bands, and all members of the band Nucleus. Featured the vocals of Alex Machin, as well as wide ranging guitar talents of Paul Naumann, [keyboardist] Bob Horne, [bassist] Hughie Leggat, and [drummer] Danny Taylor. This, their 3rd album saw the band include 4 previously released tracks, including the 3 ballads that were all hit singles – the above 2 mentioned, as well as “Love Is Coming” (the lone track to feature Hughie Leggat’s vocals), and their best known and hardest rocker “Yalla Yae”. These guys could mix up heavy guitar rockers with Hammond organ and various other keyboards with songs like “It’s Only Love”, “He’s Always There”, “How Much Can You Take”, and cool instrumental “Para-Dice”. A shame these guys didn’t catch on and have more good fortune with record labels, could’ve been Canada’s answer to a number of the heavy British bands. After this album, the band’s label Daffodil went under, and Bob Horne left before the band’s final album in 1977 on Anthem. Reunion tour in ’88, and the odd reunion show over more recent years. Machin formed ‘Champion’ [w/ Brian Allen of Toronto and Mike Gingrich of Amish], and later fronted fellow Canuck rockers Moxy for a few years [no recordings], Hughie Leggat and his brother Gord would form Private Eye, then ‘Leggat’ [w/ Taylor] and pen the single “White Flags”, which became a hit for Blue Oyster Cult years later. Paul Naumann released a solo album “Feets Don’t Fail Me” in 2002.
RIP – Paul Naumann, Rick Lamb
Moxy – Moxy, 1975
Another of Canada’s greatest bands. Killer 2 guitar blues based rock, heavy, lots ofclassic songs,riffs, and the vocals of the late Buzz Shearman. Once dubbed as Canada’s answer to Led Zeppelin by a famous British rock journalist. The original line up also included Terry Juric [bass], Bill Wade [drums], Buddy Caine [guitar], and Earl Johnson [guitar]. “Can’t You See I’m A Star” was the band’s first single, even before the album was recorded and it’s heavy radio play in Toronto lead to a contract. It was during the making of this album that Caine was added as a second guitarist, and the legendary Tommy Bolin was brought in to play on a number of tracks, when [for whatever reason] the producer Mark Smith [see BTO] and Johnson had a falling out. Either way, this is a killer album and being a big Bolin fan – it’s an added bonus. Moxy, ‘the Black Album’ opens with the heavy ballad “Fantasy”; love the guitars as this one drifts off. “Sail On Sail Away” changes between acoustic verses and a powerful heavy build up and chorus, just classic late night rock stuff! This album caught on immediately in Texas where Sail On Sail Away, as well as Can’t You See I’m A Star, and another heavy rock track “Moon Rider”, would become FM radio favorites. This album contains 8 stellar cuts, with side 2 being the heavier side, with rockers “Time To Move On”, “Still I Wonder”, slower blues cut “Train” shows Buzz Shearman at his best, he just kills this one. Closing track “Out Of The Darkness” is another favorite here, love the heavy rhythm section, guitar exchanges, and frequent drum breaks. Nobody makes albums simply this strong any more. Jack Douglas and Ed Leonetti were hired to produce follow ups “Moxy 2” and “Ridin’ High”, and these are highly recommended though I’m less crazy about “2”. Shearman left after the 3rd album, and Mike Rynoski [aka Reno, pre Loverboy] was brought in for the more commercial approached “Under The Lights”. Personnel changes got silly for years, and tragically Shearman died in ’83 from a motorcycle accident. *a few members would appear on Lee Aaron’s debut album. Earl Johnson still carries on with Moxy today, with Nick Walsh of Slick Toxic singing, and released the 40th anniversary live show on CD & DVD last year.
RIP – Buzz Shearman, Bill Wade, Brian Maxim
Streetheart – Meanwhile Back In Paris, 1978
Formed in Winnipeg and based in Regina, Streetheart was one of Canada’s longest running and consistently successful hard working bands. Formed by [bassist] Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, [keyboardist] Daryl Gutheil, and [singer] Kenny Shields, who were joined by [drummer] Matt Frenette and [guitarist] Paul Dean [ex Scrubbaloe Cane]. Co-produced by the band and producer George Semkiw, who’s credits would include everyone from Duke Ellington to Bachman Turner Overdrive to Funkadelic to Trooper, Triumph, Pagliaro and dozens of others. The band’s debut was preceded by a 3 track ep, and the album was a hit right off the bat with the single “Look At Me”, and other radio favorites and classics like “Pressure”, “Can You Feel it”, “Street Walker”, “People”, and perhaps the band’s finest track – “Action” [a line in this song taken for the album title]. Love the closing number “Just For You”! A good mix of bar room rock n roll, hard rockin, a bit funky at times [Sinnaeve’s bass play a major part of the band’s sound and style], harmonies, . Streetheart’s debut being pretty different to anything else out that the time. Dean would leave after this album to form Loverboy and Frenette would join him after the 2nd Streetheart album “Under Heaven Over Hell”, which was a strong follow up. That album was produced by Manny Charlton of Nazareth and engineered by the legendary Nick Blagona. In 1993 the original line-up reunited to play most of the debut again, along with a few other classics. This was released in 2014.
Teaze – One Night Stands, 1979
From Windsor, Ontario – Teaze formed in 1975 and released 2 no-nonsense hard rocking albums to minimal success, but a tour of Japan made the band’s stars their immediately, and the resulting album “Tour Of Japan” is a great intro to this band – with guitarists Mark Bradac and Chuck Price, drummer Mike Kozak, and bassist/singer Brian Danter. Tour of Japan was issued on Aquarius, with outstanding packaging. Big things were expected, as Aquarius called in Myles Goodwyn of April Wine to produce the band’s 3rd studio album – “One Night Stands”. The album, in retrospect is their finest, with improved writing and well produced, not to lose the band’s direct hard rock approach on tracks like “Back In Action”, “Young And Reckless”, and “Reach Out”, and including a number of absolute classic different tracks in the country feeling ballad of “Loose Change”, the closing epic “Touch The Wind” – a bit progressive, haunting, and with a guitar break sounding not unlike Ritchie Blackmore, and perhaps the band’s best loved classic “Heartless World”, which starts out acoustically and builds in to a powerful moving track, with Danter’s vocals being the highlight here. Loose Change was chosen as the single, instead of a rocker, and the album and subsequent tour did little to further the band’s status. There would be one more album in 1980, “Body Shots”, and despite featuring 2 singles, Canadian radio didn’t pick up on the band much and sadly Teaze folded in ’81. Despite still having a following of old fans, and a few CD releases, the band never returned. Bradac went on to become the Pawn shop guy on reality tv [tho releasing a solo single over a year ago] and Danter went on to become a minister and release Christian music. I did interview Chuck Price years ago, but it has since disappeared from the www, and I am hoping to find it somewhere in piles of old floppy discs!
Harlequin – Love Crimes, 1980
Winnipeg based aor rockers Harlequin, featuring the vocals of George Belanger (who still fronts a version of the band). These guys had a string of hit singles here, right from their debut in 1979. Much in that Canadian radio friendly guitar-keyboard rock style of fellow Canucks like Loverboy and (later) Honeymoon Suite, but heavier on the first few albums. “Love Crimes” was their 2nd album, produced by Jack Douglas (largely known for his work with Aerosmith, and Douglas produced Harlequin’s first 3), and featured the band’s biggest hit “Innocence”, as well “Thinking Of You”. The first 2 were the hardest rocking, and guitar heavy, as this album featured a number of classics in “Its All Over Now”, “Sayin Goodbye To The Boys” and personal fave “Love On The Rocks” – Glen Willows guitar making this the closest thing to metal these guys did, almost reminds me of early Def Leppard (both band’s may as well have packed it in by ’83!). Such a great album! A few more hits, and a lighter sound and then poof.
Aldo Nova – Aldo Nova, 1982
Montreal rocker Aldo Nova made a huge impact in Canada and charted in the US with his debut album, and the single “Fantasy”. And I know his inclusion here is borderline, due to his commercial success outside of Canada, but I’ve included him for the sad fact that he disappeared so quickly. Nova wrote, produced, and, as well as did all the vocals and instruments, aside from drums and bass on half the songs. “Foolin Yourself” was also a hit, but the album contained so many great pop driven rockers in “Heart to Heart”, “Under The Gun”, “It’s Too Late”, as well as the ballad (and 3rd single) “Ball And Chain”. His 2nd album [“Subject”] was less successful, tho it featured the anti drug storied “Monkey on Your Back”, as well as a cover of Coney Hatch’s hit “Hey Operator” (Nova had intentions of producing the band at one point, but that didn’t quite work out), and stand-out rocker “Hold Back The Night”. His 3rd album was a pop album, largely forgettable. Went on to have more success as a writer (Celine Dion among the many), and he co-wrote and played guitar on Blue Oyster Cult’s 1983 hit “Take Me Away”, and worked with Cyndi Lauper. Such a shame. I interviewed Aldo way back, pre internet. Gotta post that one soon too…
Santers – Racing Time, 1982
Toronto based trio Santers, were based around the songwriting, guitar work and vocals of Rick Santers. “Racing Time” was the band’s 2nd full album (there was an EP in there somewhere), and produced by Jack Richardson (The Guess Who, Alice Cooper) . Melodic hard-rock, guitar heavy, but not exactly metal, IMO. I loved the first 2 Santers albums! This one featured the hit “Mistreatin Heart”, as well as faves and heavy rockers “Road To Morocco”, “Winter Freeze”, “Two Against The World”, as well as semi-ballad “Still I Am”. The band opened shows for Ozzy Osbourne, but after a 3rd album split up. The first 2 are highly recommended, but Rick Emmett (Triumph) produced the band’s “Guitar Alley” album, which featured stand out hit “Can’t Shake You”, as well as a cover of Free’s “All Right Now”, and it’s a softened for radio play. Rick Santers apparently turned down the to audition for Kiss early on, and post-Santers went on to tour with Triumph and release an acoustic based solo album years later. The guy is one of Canada’s most overlooked players and writers, sad there seems to be little new from him over the years. A posthumous 4th album was released years later. *These guys also helped on Lee Aaron’s “Metal Queen” project. A few Santers reunion shows have occurred, most notably 2012’s Firefest in the UK. Brother (drummer) Mark Santers would go on to back Carl Dixon (post Coney Hatch), and (bassist) Rick Lazaroff went on to work in radio.
Coney Hatch – Coney Hatch, 1982
Well, this is an easy choice for me. Had this album on cassette, in like grade 5 or 6! It featured the 2 big hits (and band’s best known songs) – “Monkey Bars” and “Hey Operator”, as well as a pile of favorites like “Devil’s Deck”, “Stand Up”, “You Ain’t Got Me”, “We Got The Night”. I think pretty much all of these tracks have been in the band’s live show over the years. Produced by Kim Mitchell (Max Webster), a very in your face hard rock approach, 2 guitars, 2 singers… with bassist Andy Curran providing a more ‘punk-ish’ approach, while guitarist Carl Dixon would add a more melodic commercial appeal, but wrap it up with Dave Ketchum’s heavy drum approach and Steve Shelski’s lead guitar, and the Hatch was off to a great start! Unfortunately, by the 2nd album name produced Max Norman (Ozzy) was brought in for the follow up and proceeded to take back a bit of the band’s edge, searching for more commercial appeal. “Outa Hand” still featured just as many solid and stand-out tunes, but lacked the raw energy and multi-guitar parts of the debut. Ketchum left after Outa Hand, and Friction was a bit more ‘radio’ friendly, with the band going bust soon after. A reunion of the original line-up took place following Carl Dixon’s near fatal car accident in Australia. And in 2013 with the excellent “4” album, but not much happened to plug it or tour, oh well. Since then Dixon has released more solo stuff and wrote his autobiography [highly recommended!]. Here’s hoping this wasn’t the last of the Hatch!
Headpins – Line of Fire, 1983
Formed by Chilliwack member’s [guitarist] Brian ‘Too Loud’ McLeod and [bassist] Ab Bryant, and Matt Frenette [ex Streetheart] on drums. By the time the band recorded they were fronted by Darby Mills, with Frenette switching places with Loverboy drummer Bernie Aubin! The Headpins made an impact with their debut “Turn It Up”, with a couple of hits and plenty of radio play. Based around McLeod’s distinctive guitar sound and Darby Mills huge vocals, “Line of Fire” remains my favorite of the band’s trio of albums. No room for ballads or acoustics with this band – straight ahead big sounding rock! I got this album for Christmas, the year it came out, and still enjoy it. And tho the band’s debut may have a few heavy classics, particularly “Breakin Down” and the hit “Don’t It Make Ya Feel”, I prefer Line Of Fire for a solid listen through of great songs – “Mine All Mine”, “Feel It”, “Just One More Time”, “Celebration”, “I’ve Heard It All Before” and the heavy title track… Lots of cool rockers, outstanding vocals, and attitude! Both “Feel It” and “Just One More Time” being hits in Canada. The band released one more album, “Head Over Heals”, which featured a few standout tracks, but IMO seemed to suffer from a more radio friendly approach, still it sold well. The band would do tour dates with the likes of Whitesnake, Kiss, and ZZ Top [where they were thrown off tour for doing encores after great receptions].
Darby Mills left after the third album and released a solo album in 1991; McLeod tried to carry on with Chrissy Steel, before the band split up [the 4th album being issued as a Chrissy Steele solo album]. Sadly McLeod passed away in 1992. Mills resurrected the band in later years with Bryant and Aubin and still perform.
RIP – Brian McLeod
Orphan – Lonely at Night, 1983
Winnipeg based Orphan, fronted by Chris Burke-Gaffney released 2 albums in the ‘80s. After Orphan blended members with up and coming band The Pumps, the band would also include Steve McGovern [guitars], Brent Diamond [keys], and Ron Boisvenue. This album was more pop-rock, with keyboards playing a bigger part than most other albums on my list here, but it definitely included plenty of memorable melodic rock tunes, great hooks, synths, and harmonies throughout this. Featured the hit single “Miracle”, as well as cool rocker in “What Kind Of Love Is This”, and favorite pop driven tracks “Any Time At All”, “She Told Me” and the title track. A gem of an ‘80s aor-rock album. The band made one further album “Salute”, which was a bit too over-produced with keys, effects, and pop aimed, and less rock for my liking. Burke-Gaffney went on to work with new artists in writing, producing, and management.
RIP – Ron Boisvenue
Kim Mitchell – Akimbo Alogo, 1984
When guitarist / singer Kim Mitchell left ‘70s Canuck rockers Max Webster his first release was an EP, and a few of those songs like “Kids In Action” and “Miss Demeanor” got a good bit of radio play in Southern Ontario, and it looked promising. When “Akimbo Alogo” came out in ’82 – it was huge! A number of tracks being hits on the radio and heard regularly, with biggest hit “Go For Soda” being picked up by anti-drunk driving groups and further pushed. Lots of great guitar rockers here with “Diary For Rock n Roll Men”, “Lager & Ale”, “Feel It Burn”, and “That’s A Man”, as well as ballad “All We Are”. A killer album at the time, but I quickly lost interest with subsequent albums being less guitar heavy, and aiming for further commercial appeal. Mitchell would going on to become something of a Canadian icon, welcomed anywhere to huge crowds, and for years was afternoon DJ on Toronto’s Q107 FM radio. Recently he suffered a heart attack. Here’s hoping for a good recovery.
*for further info and references used here, check out >
*also, check out Sean Kelly’s book “Metal On Ice” and accompanying CD that revisited a handful of classic Canadian rock tunes! http://www.amazon.ca/Metal-Ice-Tales-Canadas-Heroes/dp/1459707095
6 thoughts on “Some Favorite Canadian Rock Albums of Long Ago”
Johnny, I liked that album as well. not so crazy about cover tunes, but Shot Down In Flames is one of my favorites.
*Also, did not know – Darby Mills recently released a solo album [Flying Solo], at her site http://www.darbymils.com
I really liked their version of Donnie Iris’s The Rapper. I know Darby has performed in classic rock shows in recent years but…and I’d have to check her bio…she pretty much disappeared in the ’90s. It’s too bad Darby wasn’t heard much during those years but maybe she didn’t adapt to the popularity of grunge. There’s a Behind the Music clip of Mike Reno saying that Nirvana killed Loverboy’s career but what really did them in was trying to repeat their successes and giving us more of the same.
Rick Lazaroff also recorded in a jazz trio with Orphan Demirs…Windmills, I believe. It was a great album reminiscent of the ECM European jazz. Rick’s talent did not get enough attention or exposure; he soared when he played, and lived when off-stage.
So true. Though I didn’t appreciate it back in the early days of their career, seeing them play at the Gasworks and the Knob Hill Hotel. I was all about Rick Santers’s guitar playing, and it was always the Santers brothers doing the interviews. Laz stayed in the background. Then again, you can’t have a great power trio without a top notch bass player.
Yeah…Laz stayed at our house for a while back in 81, and the brothers would visit…all up in his tiny room, instead of using the living room…a larger and communal space. Dreams of grandeur flew through their heads…lol.
guess all Ric’s friends, and Santers band were a bit off when Rick joined Triumph. Can’t blame him, but he did hit big time, eventually…back up to well liked band.