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Classic Rock News And Views
December 18, 2009
With the exception of our Canadian friends to the north, most rock fans usually respond with a blank stare when the name Max Webster comes up. It’s not the first time I have talked about the Canadian rockers here and it probably will not be the last.
Fronted by Kim Mitchell, Max Webster’s notoriety here in the U.S. seems to have been limited to opening for Rush and a single that ran its course in the early 1980’s when Rush contributed to the track entitled “Battle Scar,” which was on the group’s 1980 album, Universal Juveniles. I can recall hearing “Battle Scar” on the radio during that time, but was likely due solely to the fact that Rush was featured. I trust I’m not alone in my assertion that Max Webster never enjoyed the popularity they deserved here in the states.
These days Kim Mitchell still performs here and there, and also holds down a job as a DJ on Toronto rock station Q107. During 2007 Mitchell released Ain’t Life Amazing, an album that has a less polished and more “live” feel to it than his earlier solo material and that of Max Webster.
Former Max Webster keyboardist Terry Watkinson seems to have finally settled down in a place where he feels content and fulfilled. Now living in Winnipeg, he has indulged in his love of creating works of art. With some of his pieces going for around $4,000, I’d have to say that there’s little doubt that the man can paint.
After a stint as a medical illustrator, Watkinson decided it was time to pursue his true passion for art and begin painting. Starting out after a move to a tiny, poorly-lit apartment in Winnipeg, he found himself painting with his easel leaning against his fridge. Things have changed a bit since then.
Now living in a sunlight-drenched condo in the city, Watkinson still enjoys writing music, but does not perform. Although he does admit that he had “a blast” when he took part in the 2007 Max Webster reunion show at a Toronto club.
Looking back, Watkinson concludes that he “kind of wasted a lot of time in my younger years,” but now says that his partying days are “pretty well” over. At this point in his life, the 69-year-old is content to – as he puts it — “settle down and produce the best work I can.”
Sounds like he’s done pretty well so far.
For the full story, check out the Winnipeg Free Press.
July 24, 2009
Although most rock fans on this side of the Canadian border probably say “Huh?” when they hear the name Kim Mitchell, he remains a favorite of mine whom I first discovered when he was fronting Max Webster. I thought they were brilliant and like so many other classic rock groups, their music stands the test of time and still retains a prominent slot on my regular playlist.
Although it seems Mitchell is semi-retired from the stage these days and probably spends more time behind the microphone at Toronto rock radio station Q107 as the afternoon drive time jock, he still like to bask in the bright lights once in a while to the delight of his fans.
“Everything about being on the road is a pain in the ass, but when you go out on stage and the light hits us…it’s wonderful,” Mitchell says, and he’ll be enjoying that feeling when he headlines the Lumberjack Heritage Festival that’s taking place in Kapuskasing, Ontario this weekend.
A decade or so ago, Mitchell was recognizable as the rocker with the long hair and OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) ball cap, but these days he sports a look more akin to that of Chickenfoot axe man, Joe Satriani. Gone are the ball cap as well as the hair, and he’s surprised when people still recognize him.
With regard to the change, Mitchell describes a scene that influenced him to take his personal appearance in a new direction. “It was about 10 years ago. I was loading equipment into the van. It was windy, the rain was coming down. The hat blew off my head into the mud and a truck ran over it. I went over to pick it up and I decided, ‘you know what, it’s time to move on’,” he says.
Fortunately for his fans, moving on did not mean he had decided to stop rocking. His last album, Ain’t Life Amazing, was released in 2007. Kim Mitchell fans like myself are hoping he has a few more left in him.
Check out The Northern Times for more.
February 21, 2008
This is the first in a series that I plan to do with the hope of introducing some lesser-known classic rock artists to people who may have never heard of them. These certainly are not unknown artists, but I feel that they never really got the attention I believe they deserved from the music industry here in the U.S.
First up is Canadian rocker Kim Mitchell, who I was first introduced to back in the 1980′s when he was fronting a band called Max Webster. The group managed to get some U.S. radio airplay with their song "Battle Scar," which featured the guys from Rush as guest musicians. Any small measure of popularity Max Webster enjoyed here in the U.S. around that time was likely due to that association with Rush.
Kim Mitchell launched his solo career after Max Webster broke up around 1981 and was awarded with at least three Juno Awards for his work between 1983 and 1990.
In 2004 he switched gears and decided to give radio a try and stepped in as the afternoon drive time DJ on Toronto’s Q107, although he never gave up playing music as evidenced by the release of Ain’t Life Amazing last year, his eighth studio album.
Personally, I’ve got just about all of Kim Mitchell’s music going back to the Max Webster days and I still believe the work he did with Max Webster and that he continues to do today does not attract the attention it deserves — at least hear in the U.S.
Due to the obvious restrictions involved when placing music on the web, I’ve decided the best way is probably to use the vast collection of content on YouTube to give readers a taste of the classic rockers that I believe more people should know about.
The YouTube content I choose for this series will depend heavily on the quality of the sound. I’m a notorious sound quality snob and could not bring myself to use fan-filmed footage of some concert that’s accompanied by sound that suggests to me that the event was actually recorded inside a cave somewhere. Despite how good the video quality might be.
The video below is of the professionally-produced variety like you might find on VH1 or MTV and is from Kim Mitchell’s 1989 album, Rockland.
October 17, 2007
I’ve been a big fan of Kim Mitchell’s stuff since the Max Webster days. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single track from Kim that I did not like. I guess the intro to “Acrimony” of his Itch album comes closest to something I don’t care for, but I think that was kind of tongue-in-cheek on his part.
With that said, I must admit I was a little disappointed when I had my first listen to Kim’s new album, Ain’t Life Amazing. Before you get yourself all prepared for a crappy review, hold on just a second and let me tell you what happened next.
Well, I listened to it again. And again. And Again. And guess what. Did this album ever grow on me. I’m not sure I am ready to say I like it better than his previous stuff, but the more I listen to this new album, the more I like it.
I’ve always been the kind of guy that often has to listen to a new song or new album a number of times before I can decide if I like it or not. And that is exactly why I usually wait awhile before I pass judgment on anything new.
Now in the past, the “listen to it ten times” rule has not applied when it came to listening to Kim’s stuff and I’ve been on board the first time around. However, when compared to his older stuff, this album is different.
What’s different about this new album? If I had to describe in one word what makes this different from his other stuff, I would have to say “raw.” That’s the way it strikes me.
If you’ve read some of my other recent reviews, you know I am not a fan of live albums. I’m a sound freak and I want to hear the music as pure and as controlled as it can be. Studio conditions, everything mic’d up perfect and engineered to audio perfection. That’s what I like.
And that’s where this album kind of departs from the kind of studio-quality sound I love. No, it’s not that the sound on this album is bad. However, it has an almost “live” sound to it — minus the screaming crowds and lousy acoustics.
That’s probably a big reason that I was turned off a bit after my first run-through with this album, but I’ll tell you, I’ve adapted to it and now I’m really getting into it. Might I prefer it done in a more traditional studio quality way? Maybe, but it’s not something I am worrying about.
My personal favorite tracks from this album are: “In The Stars Tonight,” “N’Awlin Nights,” “Ain’t Life Amazing” and… Oh hell, I think I’m about to list just about every damn song on the album, so why bother?
To sum it up: It’s Kim Mitchell, it’s a bit more raw than his previous stuff and it rocks. What more can I say? I just hope he keeps on writing and keeps on recording because he’s still got it.
August 11, 2007
Kim Mitchell sounds like a happy guy these days. And why not? He’s got a brand new album that he says he is proud of “top to bottom” and a job that he describes as one “one of the coolest jobs in the world.” I’d be hard pressed to argue with that.
Life has taken some unexpected turns for Mitchell lately and fortunately for him, all of them seem to be in the right direction.
In a recent interview, he talks about his new album as well as how he got started in music as a kid taking guitar lessons.
The radio gig he took not long ago was part of his plan to settle down a bit, and as he put it, “maybe moving to a small town somewhere to teach little kids guitar and maybe date their moms, single moms.”
Somewhere along the way he was bitten, or perhaps I should say re-bitten by the writing bug and he found himself writing music again. This, as Kim Mitchell fans appreciate, turned into Mitchell’s latest album, Ain’t Life Amazing.
Like myself, and probably most of the other people reading this, Kim Mitchell appears to be a die-hard classic rock fan and says that he does not listen to a lot of new rock. I don’t wonder why — so much of the new stuff these days is just crap.
He does not provide any hints in this interview regarding his intentions to keep writing or whether this might be his last album. Maybe he doesn’t even know yet! Here’s hoping he has a few more left in him before he calls it quits.