Sunday, December 09, 2007


Digitized from the original vinyl recording released in 1984 on Mercury / Polygram records.
Format: Mp3
Bit Rate: 320 kbps.
Produced By: Ian ThomasRecorded at Phase I & Eastern Sound Studios, Toronto.
Engineered by: Alan Thorne & Mick Walsh
Album Jacket Design: Bob Defrin & Sandi Young
Cover Photography: Frank Moscati
Picking Up The Pieces
Do You Right
The Crossing
She Don't Love You
Roll The Dice
Your Love Heals
Riders On Dark Horses
Lead & Background Vocals: Ian Thomas
Acoustic & Rhythm Guitars: Ian Thomas
Bass & Background Vocals: Dave Sawyer
Bass (Just Like You, Faces, Tinkerbell & Tycoon): Steve Hogg
Drums & Background Vocals: Mike Oberle
Lead Guitar: Dave Cooper
Lead Guitar (Just Like You, Clear Sailing, Faces, Tinkerbell & Tycoon): Josh Onderisin
Keyboards & Background Vocals: Hugh Syme
Electric Guitar (I Really Love You): Rick Doyle
String Arrangements: Milan Kymlicka
Ian Thomas, the son of a Welsh philosophy professor at McMaster University and a Scottish mother, was born on July 23, 1950 in Hamilton. His brother Dave is an actor, famous for his Second City and Strange Brew movie character, Doug McKenzie. At the age of six, Ian was taking piano lessons, and at thirteen he took up guitar. A year later, he began writing songs.Ian’s pop music career didn’t begin with the typical teenage garage band beating out Chuck Berry chords. Instead, he studied conservatory piano, orchestra technique and arrangement.
Still in his teens, he arranged music for the Hamilton Philharmonic and the Toronto Symphony.“It’s exciting hearing something you wrote come to life in the hands of an orchestra. I’d always liked classical music but, at the same time, I was getting interested in folk and rock music.”In 1966, he joined Nora Hutchinson in a folk duo, which expanded into the trio Ian, Oliver and Nora, and eventually became a five-piece rock band. In 1969 RCA Records signed the group and one executive labelled them Tranquillity Base because the U.S. moon landings were in the headlines during the period.“The evolution from my being an arranger and folk singer to being in a rock band was direct,” Ian says. “I became frustrated with the limitations of soloing, that I couldn’t make my acoustic guitar scream if that’s what I felt the song needed.”Tranquillity Base made an impressive debut with the single, “If You’re Lookin’,” written by Ian, but within two year’s time after signing, the group would be no more. Explains Ian, “After the single we returned to the studio to cut an album and a follow-up single (“In the Rain”), but RCA only had eight tracks in those days. We just couldn’t seem to reproduce the sound we were achieving with our live performances.” The album was never released and the group died a slow death in 1971, following a year-long stint as the house-band for the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.“As groups without singles tend to do, we had gravitated toward playing night clubs. Personality conflicts developed in the group. I left, my wife was pregnant, I was unemployed and had no idea of what to do next.”After chalking up television production credits for CTV’s, Barbara McNair Show, The Ian Tyson Show and CBC-TV’s, Music Machine, Ian found full-time work at CBC Radio in Toronto where he began as the producer of studio tracks for Ivan Romanoff’s, European Holiday program. He also produced the corporation’s first rock music program, The National Rock Marks.At the same time, he recorded artists for CBC Radio programs and transcription recordings which served as demos for talented artists who couldn’t afford the prohibitive costs of Toronto’s major studio facilities.“Unknown groups had an opportunity to audition and cut four or five songs for broadcast on the CBC,” says Ian. “It was an excellent experience for them and several got recording contracts as a result. I arranged and produced sessions for rock, folk and country artists and groups.”
For Ian, evaluating the work of other artists taught him to look at his own work more objectively, resulting in a new flurry of creativity and ultimately led him to signing with GRT Records in 1973 and recording the self-titled album, Ian Thomas. It yielded two hit singles, “Painted Ladies” and “Come the Son,” and was produced by John Lombardo.It was no secret that “Painted Ladies,” a nice little rocker, was one of the biggest hits of late 1973 and early 1974. Hearing that song over and over, a piece of clockwork confection, the song lodged in the minds of thousands, and on every chart in North America.His success however, was so complete and so swift, earning him a 1974 Juno for Most Promising Male Vocalist, that it overwhelmed even him.“ “Painted Ladies” was a good ice-breaker,” Ian recalls. “The only problem was that everyone wanted to hear more of the same, and by the time it was released (which was a year after it was recorded), I’d already compositionally evolved past that. I’d outgrown that stage in my musical development. I had evolved dramatically in my musical thinking, yet the crowds continued to clamour for “Painted Ladies.” ”“As a result, I quickly lost my young Top 40 following and it took a long time to attract an audience that appreciated both lyric and musical content. It took me two years of dogging the song to finally get accepted as being able to say more than ‘oohooh, feelin’ fine mama’.”Incidentally, he quit his CBC producer job only prior to his trip in 1974 to Britain to record his second album Long, Long Way with Adam Mitchell producing at London’s Trident Studios. “The record company suggested I get a band together. I wanted to make sure it would be financially reasonable because I was comfortably off. I had a solid salary, a decent house, wife and kids, and I was doing something which was fun and dandy financially.”After his enormous international success with “Painted Ladies” he could have just kept grinding out a proven formula or produced a new album as an extension of that hit. He nixed that idea and over the next few years Ian’s albums and song titles started displaying overt hints that he was a major songwriting force.The title track from Long, Long Way is five minutes of excellence, following “Painted Ladies” into the top 10 in many areas of Canada. “Mother Earth” also succeeded as a single in the early part of 1975. That same year, Ian self-produced his next album, Delights. While it was more of a transitional LP, it did have its finer moments in songs like “Captured in Your Dreams,” “Julie ” and “The Good Life.”But it would be Calabash, released under the Ian Thomas Band moniker in 1976, that gained some serious attention.
The album had every ingredient needed to please critics everywhere. It rocked with “Liars” (the first hit single taken from the LP), got sentimental with “See Us When You Can” and “Goodnight Mrs. Calabash,” and added the haunting lyrics of “Mary Jane.” Calabash also contained a second Canadian hit in “Right Before Your Eyes.” America took note and placed a recording of their own in the U.S. top 50 in 1983.Clearly, the pressure was on following the huge success of Calabash. After a couple of changes in band members, the Still Here album arrived in 1978. Ian’s superb production can be heard on every track. From the eerie opening track, “Just Like You,” through “Sally” and the west coast hit of “I Really Love You,” onto the hit single of “Coming Home” and more sentimentality with “Tinkerbell,” Still Here doesn’t let up for a moment. It came very close to topping the appeal of Calabash. Supporting Still Here in night clubs also cemented the Ian Thomas Band’s reputation as a top notch live act.With the exception of a slight disco feel to the hits, “Pilot” and “Time is the Keeper,” the band’s sound remained much the same with 1979’s, Glider album. And like with Still Here, side 2 of the LP was aimed at more of an album rock audience, with the songs “Beast of Phobia,” “Nero’s Spell” and “Voices of the Children.” Wrote Toronto Globe and Mail’s Alan Niester in 1979, “Glider is something of a rarity among albums by a Canadian artist. It is music with an intelligent, thought-provoking theme running throughout.”Unfortunately, when the seventies expired, so did GRT Records, leaving Ian to look elsewhere.
It didn’t take long for Anthem Records (owned by the members of Rush), to sign the talented Hamiltonian, and the label started the ball rolling by releasing The Best of Ian Thomas in 1980, which contained a new single, “Tear Down the Wall.”In the meantime, Ian dropped the ‘Band’ title, made a couple more adjustments in his selection of studio musicians and brought back John Lombardo to help with the production of his next album. The Runner did not disappoint.“If I was absolutely obsessed with making it,” he says, “I’d move to Los Angeles. But I don’t like L.A. I think people like Gordon Lightfoot and even Ted Nugent have been able to make it from a so-called ‘remote’ setting. Your work is on the road. Obviously, I’d like to crack the international market and, perhaps, that’s why I’m taking a little more time in writing. Anthem really believes in me and I’m really happy with this new album.”More consistent and arresting than anything he’s done before, the 1981 album is a joyous celebration by a gifted craftsman. And even though it was a full-fledged rock album, songs on the LP gained a lot of attention. Ian had minor hits in Canada with “Hold On” and “Chains,” but Santana had even better luck, taking “Hold On” to number 15 in the U.S. in 1982. Chicago borrowed “Chains” and included it on their multi-platinum LP, Chicago 16. A couple years later, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band saw the sheer brilliance of The Runner’s title track, and turned it into a rock masterpiece and international hit.“The people I’ve met who are obsessed with making it,” he continues, “seem to come up short as human beings. As an artist I’d like to be known as myself, not as a phoney wad of theatrics. I’d like international success, but only on terms I can cope with.”
Before his next album, Ian teamed up with brother Dave in 1983 to record some music for the soundtrack of Dave’s movie venture, Strange Brew. Also featured in the recordings was Rick Moranis, the other half of the Bob & Doug McKenzie hoser team.Finally, in 1984, Ian released his next Anthem Records album. Riders On Dark Horses was another rock LP, with co-production credits going to Max Norman and Mick Ronson (guitarist with Mott the Hoople). It was a solid album throughout, with “Picking Up the Pieces” and the title track as highlights. Even brighter however, was the infectious radio-friendly single, “Do You Right” (and oddly enough it did not appear on 1995’s, Looking Back compilation).More outside help in the production department came for 1985’s, Add Water LP. It was a more accessible album, with songs like “Freedom of a Young Heart” (with Alfie Zappacosta on background vocals), “Harmony” and “Touch Me.” Fellow Anthem recording artist, Kim Mitchell, also made a guest appearance on electric guitar, but the album would be Ian’s last for Anthem Records.
Several years later, Ian landed at Warner Brothers Records. This time, he used a new set of musicians to record tracks in Britain and Canada. Christopher Neil, who had worked extensively with Mike + The Mechanics, helped produce a few songs on what turned out to be one of Ian’s very best albums. It was classic rock at its finest, and Levity became his first record to be made available on CD. The compact disc is now a highly sought-after collector’s item, and for good reason. The album contains excellent songwriting and musicianship in songs like “Levity,” “Losing Control,” “Back to Square One,” “Modern Man,” “All About Her” and “Let the Stone Roll.”Soon after, Ian also recorded a self-penned Christmas song. It was released for the 1989 holiday season, and was titled, “Because It’s Christmas.” Unfortunately, the track was made available only to radio stations on the Reveillon and Volume 29 promotional CDs.
Warner Brothers was soon looking for another full-length album, so in 1990, Ian was back to work in the studio. But after rehearsing new material with a band that now consisted of himself on vocals and guitar, Peter Cardinali on bass, Rick Gratton on drums and Bill Dillon also on guitar, jams were developing outside of the ‘solo artist’ concept. Songs were quickly turning into very much a group effort. Hence, The Boomers were born. What We Do was released to world-wide acclaim in 1991.It was a more laid-back effort, and gone were most of the rocking electric guitars and synthesizer enhancements. The Boomers forged a stripped-down sound and discovered huge followings in Canada and Germany, on the strength of songs like “The Matter With Me,” “Love You Too Much,” “I’m Alright,” “Wishes” and “Rise Above It.”A second Boomers CD, Art of Living, continued the love affair with fans in 1993. The title track, “You’ve Got to Know” (which earned a SOCAN award for the most-performed song of 1993), and a remake of “Modern Man” (originally from the Levity LP), quickly became favourites. Two other songs were also recorded by outside artists. “To Comfort You” soon showed up on Bette of Roses, the 1995 album from Bette Midler, and the following year, Anne Murray’s self-titled LP included her rendition of “Good Again.”The other members of The Boomers worked on side projects over the next few years, while Ian tried his hand at film scores, record production and a little bit of acting. He also saw his excellent Looking Back compilation CD released by Anthem Records. But The Boomers were all back at it for 1996’s, 25 Thousand Days, now on Alma Records (a label started by Cardinali in 1992). The title of the album approximates the average life span of a human being.Ian reflects, “Most of the songs on this record are about that journey, the 25000 days may only be part of it. Whether that is true or not, the quest remains the same. Most of us are looking for something we can hold to ourselves as truth. The truth is revealed in so many ways, but some people are satisfied with pat answers and perhaps end their search too soon.”The title track, “I Feel a Change Coming” and “Saving Face” continued in The Boomers tradition, with Cardinali now also helping out with production. Below the lyrics to each track in the CD booklet were comments from the band.Regarding “I Feel a Change Coming,” the band makes the following note about racism: “Isn’t it sad that as the world becomes a global village through media and communications, there are those amongst us that would have us revert back to more primitive times.” “Saving Face” received these thoughts: “I am fascinated by the concept of saving face. In politics a thin facade of lies can prevent a war.”
Political thoughts would find themselves on the next Boomers album as well, but not before a six year break, during which Ian had to deal with the death of his father. Midway was released in the fall of 2002, and closed with the song, “Politically Correct.” But philosophies of life and mortality would be even more prevalent. “I Want to Believe in Something,” “I Don’t Feel Particularly Old,” “Life Goes On” and “I Remember” all qualify.“I am always looking for a tighter way of saying things,” Ian says. “Sometimes the words can take as many as ten or twelve drafts. I don’t want to be repetitious. The concept of a song has to excite me before I can write and it’s not easy. It’s hard work, but it’s a great feeling when you’ve finished a song.”
After The Boomers saga came to a close, Ian met up with some old friends from the north land. Some reminiscing soon turned into a flurry of ideas, and before long rehearsals began for a new project. Along with Murray McLauchlan (“Down By the Henry Moore”), Marc Jordan (“Marina del Rey”) and Cindy Church, Ian released a live CD and DVD of a performance titled, Lunch at Allen’s, available through EMI Records. It’s very much an acoustic setting for the songs, with the DVD adding commentary and four extra live tracks.Ian co-wrote and produced a new group track, “Perfect World,” and sang lead on “Painted Ladies,” “To Comfort You,” “Life Goes On,” “Right Before Your Eyes” and “Rise Above It” (DVD only). The foursome toured Canada through 2004, 2005 and 2006, with more dates scheduled throughout 2007 and into 2008.During that time, Ian has also squeezed in a number of solo dates across Canada, performing songs that span 35 years of music. The fall of 2006 saw the release of his first novel, Bequest. In early 2007, a second Lunch at Allen's CD, Catch the Moon, was issued. It contained 12 studio tracks, including 2 new songs from Ian. “Walkin'” and “Grateful” serve as bookends to the album, which also boasts a new recording of “You've Got to Know.” And if all that wasn’t enough to keep the man busy in 2007, Ian and brother Dave toured Canada with their two-man stage show, Dave & Ian Thomas: Comedy and Music: What More Do You Want?Ian Thomas is a superb pop artist, a star of the first magnitude in Canada, with an uncommon melodic flair and lyrical sensitivity. Peter Goddard, music critic of the Toronto Star has described him as, “a fine craftsman-like songwriter.”Ian likes to call himself “an anti-star,” and lives quietly in the rural town of Winona, outside Hamilton, Ontario, with his wife Cathy. He says, “I’m still in business, still creative. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been allowed to do what I want to do.”
READ THIS for more information on this album.


Blogger haggah said...

Hey, Mr. Music Guru I'd really like to know more about RIDERS ON DARK HORSES by Ian Thomas. My Name is Hermes BTW.....handles are acceptable if that's how you want to be adressed. I live in Pelotas, Republica Federativa do Pampa Brasil. Thanx in advance

Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 10:27:00 AM EDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home