April Wine - "Caught In The Crossfire"
I decided to take a trip down memory lane last weekend and dug some LPs from thirty years ago or so out of the archives. First up - and I never got further - was April Wine's The Nature Of The Beast, one of the first ten albums I ever bought and one I haven't listened to since high school.
I could be patronizingly smug and say that this album is "competent hard rock", but I see it as more of a grab bag, as heard all over Side One. At times it's Grade-A meat rock, like the so-cool-at-age-fifteen "Sign Of The Gypsy Queen." At times it's unintentionally hilarious, like the vocorder use in "Now It's All Over." At times it hints at a unique hard rock/new wave meld like in "Wanna Rock", which is not to be confused with their "I Like To Rock" from the prior LP. (Where they also covered King Crimson!) (And just to be a show-off, I gotta point out that "Wanna Rock" also shouldn't be confused with "Can't Stop Rockin'", a song recently recorded by members of Styx and REO Journeywagon.) The album's biggest hit was a glossy power ballad, "Just Between You And Me", that featured a line sung in French, which on Saturday made me want to find a place in town that serves poutine.
"Caught In The Crossfire" ends the first side, it's a sci-fi tale complete with bad laser sound effects in the chorus. How bad? My Excel program makes a deadlier-sounding effect when I delete the contents of a cell. The tune deals with some poor guys who are, yes, caught in the crossfire. But not just any crossfire, this was taking place during a "new age war." New agers are bad enough, but BATTLING ones? Astrologers vs. Past Lifers? Who wants to be stuck in the middle of that? But then we hear: "My buddy said he had a space van." Sounds like he just dropped it in real casually too: "I got a sixer of Molson, a bootleg copy of Strange Brew, and uh, a space van." But what a van it turned out to be, it could outrun warships!
This song also mentions "The Empire", which is very Star Wars; but also mentions a "neutral zone" which is very Star Trek. Fortunately, April Wine never had to face up to Jack Donaghy:
For four years I've had to make do with what passes for men around here, with their untucked shirts, boneless faces, their Stars, both Wars and Trek.
Side Two? It features "Big City Girls" AND "Bad Boys", and also a pun worthy of Paul Westerberg in "Future Tense": "I feel a little unbalanced between the pros and con men."
The lyrics sheet on the inner sleeve breaks down 1) exactly when choruses are to be sung, and 2) who does each guitar solo (The Wine had three guitarists.) That's detail! Try and find that in the iTunes Store.
Then there's the album art. The cover photo indicates that one of the three guitarists morphs into a half-man, half-tiger during their live shows, which must have made Ted Nugent's loincloth shtick look tame. On the back cover, frontman/songwriter Myles Goodwyn wears a scarf with his Canadiens jersey, which he tucks into his jeans.