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The Freedom of Music: Nothing Comes Easy

October 9th, 2011
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I slipped out the door at 9:00 last Friday night, hoping I wasn’t too late already. The 515 Concert club is a 15 minute walk, and the doors open at 9, so if there’s a crowd… Earlier my sister-in-law had commented that there was terrible traffic in downtown Hespeler, perhaps, said she, they were waiting for the 515 to open.

sidebar-2It seemed to me it could be so. The 515 is not that big, tickets were not sold in advance, and at $8.00 to see a band as good as Canadian classic rockers Moxy, why wouldn’t there be a good sized crowd?

Moxy started in Toronto in the early 1970’s. Their first album, known as the Black Album because it was black with the block letter logo, isn’t just a good album, doesn’t just have Tommy Bolin adding lead guitar parts to it, it is one of the best albums of the early 1970’s. Not Canadian albums – combined with Moxy II, they are the best hard rock Canadian albums full stop – but overall. In a year that featured the best of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, were Elton John was going by the handle Captain Fantastic, Aerosmith had Toys in the Attic and the Who were writing themes songs for the CSI franchise, Moxy stands up with the best of it.

Their second album, known as the red album because of it’s red cover, otherwise almost identical to the first album, was just as good as the first and had on it a big time hit, Cause There’s Another. Touring heavily behind Moxy II, Moxy’s brand grew and they became fairly big in Canada and Texas (To this day Moxy has a strong Texan fan base).

Trouble was, however, brewing and lead singer Buzz Shearman had both a drinking and a throat problem. Touring for their third album, Ridin’ High, took it’s toll. Within a year Buzz along with guitarist and main songwriter Earl Johnson had left the band. Despite the fact that future Loverboy lead singer Mike Reno, then going under the handle Michael Rynoski, the changes took away the momentum that Moxy had going.

I’ve seen them four times, at my high school with Rynoski singing, and twice after Shearman rejoined the band: at the Canadian Music Festival in 1979 and opening for Triumph at Ontario Place somewhere in the 80’s. At the Ontario Place show the power went out halfway through the set, an impromptu drum solo kept the music going for a couple of minutes until the power came back on, proving their professionalism.

The fourth time was last Friday.

Showing up at 9:15 and fearing the worst, I wasn’t prepared for what was there. Less than a dozen people milled around the bar, and the room where the stage sat was empty. I took up a choice seat, assuming it would fill: it never did and I spent the show moving from seat to seat, getting the best vantage point I could.

Nonetheless, Moxy is still a great band. The rhythm section is one of Canada’s best, Kim Hunt and Jim Samson from 70’s prog-rockers Zon, and guitar duties are being handled by original member Earl Johnson. Singer Russell Graham is a spot on Buzz Shearman, handling his songs better than Buzz himself could by the end of the 70’s. It was, in short, a great show and what a damned pity it is that virtually nobody was there to hear them.

They played all the songs you would think to ask to hear, Fantasy, Sail On Sail Away, Moon Rider, Nothin’ Comes Easy and “Moxy’s Stairway to Heaven,” Cause There’s Another. It was a great show and Johnson is such a good guitarist you don’t even notice that he’s playing two guitar parts all night as a single.

It was a great night of rock and roll in Hespeler and if you thought to go and didn’t, yes, you missed something. But that’s OK, I had a great seat.


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