April Wine had debuted many years before this 1978 classic album, and achieved a good deal of success on the singles charts in Canada, as well as drawing regular crowds across the country. Along the way they had a couple of early hits in the US, but didn’t pursue the US market much in the way of touring, and despite a number of strong albums, the band needed a jolt. Forever For Now (1976) had originally began as a Myles Goodwyn solo album, and despite having a few hit singles, the album was softer, featuring a number of ballads, and lacking any memorable rockers, and it would not get released outside of Canada. And despite the press surrounding the El Macombo gigs sometime later (opening for the Rolling Stones) the Live At The El Macombo album wasn’t a breakthrough either. Looking to add something new & a spark to their sound, the band hired another guitarist – Brian Greeenway [ex Mashmakan, The Dudes] in time for a summer tour in ’77. He would stay with the band following the tour, as the band went on to record a new album. The impact of this change was immediate with their seventh studio album First Glance, released in March of ’78, produced by singer/guitarist/songwriter Myles Goodwyn at Studio Tempe and Le Studio in Quebec. The album had been preceded by the single “Rock n Roll Is A Vicious Game” in late ’77 (even getting a US release on London Records), a ballad about a rock star dealing with the rock n roll life ups and downs (harmonica courtesy of blues artist Jim Zeller) . It would be one of the hits from the album, and a live favorite for years to come.
Soon after the band was signed by Capitol in the US to distribute their albums (as well as the UK & Japan), and First Glance would be released there in September of that year. The Capitol Records’ edition featured a different cover, with the band photo on the front with a brand new logo over top (created by Aquarius’ Bob Lemm); the logo that would grace many album covers to come. the first two tracks in the running order were also altered. But the Canadian (Aquarius) LP, which came in a nice gatefold cover with plenty of color and individual band member pics on the inside would kick off properly [to me] with “Hot On The Wheels Of Love”, a lyric influenced by some of the trouble Goodwyn got in to in his younger years – in this example it’s about stealing a car to go meet up with a girlfriend. Steve Lang would get a rare co-writing credit on that one; a great rocker, featuring a bit of theatrics with Greenway voicing the cop involved in the chase.
The album’s biggest song (and the band’s most important to date) was “Roller”, which ended side one. It featured an unforgettable hook on 3 guitars, that was another story based song about a woman who liked to gamble. The song was picked up by an FM radio station in Flint, Michigan, and became a huge hit on US radio, and a top 40 hit on Billboard in the spring of 1979. The song would go on to become one of the band’s trademark tunes, and regular show closer with the “bye bye” ‘s put in as the song comes roaring to a halt. “Get Ready For Love” was the follow up single, which didn’t do much, but it’s another strong track that would feature in the band’s live set. April Wine – Get ready for Love 1979 – YouTube
Brian Greenway would contribute the track “Right Down To It”, another good rock track, which had been demo’d by The Dudes. He also took lead vocals on the track “Let Yourself Go”, which was issued as a single in Canada. Side 2 would start with another hit, in the powerful ballad “Comin’ Right Down On Top Of Me”, which began with piano and vocal before the band came in, giving this a good bit of bite; great guitars and vocal on this. Lyrically, during this period Myles Goodwyn was penning some of his most memorable songs, plenty of cool stories and thoughts put down, and less of songs about relationships and ‘rock’. The 2nd half also features 2 of the band’s most underrated classics in “I’m Alive”, an upbeat anthem which has that same kinda punchy feel and vocal to it as “Don’t Push Me Around”; the other being the album’s closer “Silver Dollar”, a slower scary tale, loads of awesome guitar throughout this one from Goodwyn, Greenway, and Gary Moffett; a mere 5 and a half minutes, but quite an epic; too bad it wasn’t stretched out longer (minor complaint in side 2 being a bit short). April Wine – Silver Dollar – YouTube
First Glance began the band’s most successful era; with the band receiving their first Gold record in the US. They would soon be on a few major US tours opening for Blue Oyster Cult and Styx, followed by a pair of highly successful albums and headlining tours in North America, and trips to the UK and Germany. Aquarius Records would also issue Greatest Hits in 1979, which included 14 of the band’s hits covering up to First Glance, as well it featured the same band photo that featured on the US version of that album. For me it is a toss up between First Glance and the follow up Harder…Faster as the band’s best; they definitely seemed to have more energy and edge on these 2 albums, despite the band’s 1981 Nature Of The Beast being their biggest seller.
RIP Steve Lang and Nick Blagona.