by John Valenteyn, Toronto Blues Society
Colin Linden the producer, the songwriter, the band member is so much in the limelight these days that we needed a reminder of his solo career. His success at all of these roles is what has made
him such a central figure in our community. A career retrospective, surely justified even at this stage of his career, is just best thing the doctor could have prescribed.
It could simply have been a "Best
Of" compilation but courtesy of Rob
Bowman, there is much more here than songs from his four solo albums on
Columbia/Sony (When The Spirit Moves was originally on A&M Records and acquired by
Sony in 1997). Of the seventeen songs, just ten are from those albums. One of those albums,
South At Eight North At Nine (a line from "Black Horse Blues", a
Blind Lemon Jefferson song on that album), won the
Blues/Gospel JUNO in 1994, and was specifically intended as a blues album. It is the high point of his overt blues content as, with these "mature period" albums, he blended his talent for
blues into a more wide-ranging roots style.
His guide for this blend was, and remains, the music of
The Band, whose trailblazing all those years ago will continue to amaze. He had been listening to their
music for years and when he happened to be on a bill with three of them in 1987, he asked them if they would help out on
When The Spirit Moves. He would soon repay the favour by giving them their
highest-charting song ever, "Remedy" (co-written with Band guitarist
Jim Weider) which opened their first
post-Robbie Robertson Jericho album of 1993. His own recording of the song is here, previously
only available as a non-CD B-side.
Much of South At Eight North At
Nine was recorded at the Band's Bearsville studio and
Rick Danko, Garth Hudson & Levon
Helm appear on several of the songs. Danko and Linden became especially close and
Sad & beautiful world is dedicated to his memory.
The ten songs, from
Through the storm through the night and Raised by
wolves as well, alone would have made for a fine "best of" album indeed and they also benefit here from being heard outside of their previous context, something a good compilation must do.
This brings us to the six remaining gems
and why you must acquire this even if you have the other four: "They're Red Hot", an unrehearsed but just fine performance of the
Robert Johnson song by a 15-year-old Linden from a 1975 CBC
Touch The Earth show; "Mean Ole' Frisco", from an undeservedly obscure
Sam Chatmon LP he played on that was produced by
Terry Wilkins in 1979; his "New Matchbox", recorded live at Larry's
Hideaway (remember that club?) (taken from Colin Linden
Live, his first LP); "Whispering Pine", a slide version of the lovely Band
song (from a Rykodisc CD
Everybody Slides); "Just Like I Treat You", the highlight of
the Grammy-nominated Howling Wolf Tribute (on Telarc) and "Vale Of Tears", representing his work with
Blackie & The Rodeo Kings. I would have liked something from
National Steel with Colin James but I don't know what I would delete to make room for it. I think that's an indication of the fine job Rob Bowman and Linden have done here.
someone (are you busy, Rob?) is preparing a
further CD of songs he has produced and/or performed on, it would greatly enhance our appreciation of our roots music history - Bowman's superb liner notes already provide the framework. Visit
colinlinden.com and stay informed about a remarkable career.