Posts Tagged ‘Sass Jordan’

The Freedom of Music: Gettin’ Sassy in the S.U.N.

December 16th, 2012
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Late spring 1982. I was done school and wondering, what next? Plan A was guitar player: Rock Star, back-up player, studio musician, any and all choices where acceptable. Hey, I wasn’t picky – I just wanted to make gobs of money doing what I loved doing.sidebar-1

When an 19-year old decides what they want from life, they often then need to get an apprenticeship to learn their craft. In the music world, the apprenticeship is playing in a band. Rehearsing daily, learning a lot of songs in a short time, developing some stage craft and learning a few moves without throwing the song off are all requirements of the job. To that end, I set out to find a band.

At the time, there was a musicians classified service out of Toronto. You registered with them, then called the number daily and they would give you contact info of people looking for what you were offering: “guitar, rock” in my case. Using this service, I went on a number of auditions for various bands at various levels. Dutifully lugging my number 2 guitar – a Gibson S1 that I never could get the hang of playing (#1 was a beautiful, and now extremely valuable 1979 Antigua Stratocaster – sold in the mid-1980’s for a relative pittance, that a friend had borrowed and was using on the road) – around Toronto.

One day I went to a house where the band was living. They were older and had a female lead singer. The band was set up in the basement and the gig would require me to live at the house with the band. They had a record deal, I was told, and we were to work on developing the songs as well as gigs to keep the money flowing. All that’s required was to pass the audition.

The audition did not go well. I always struggled with the intonation on the S1 and was basically out of tune the whole time. As well, I could never get the S1 to do my bidding in any real way. Top it off with the fact that I wasn’t that good, and these guys were, and looking back I can only marvel at how nice they all were to me. I had forgotten I even went on all these auditions until something jogged my memory a few years back. Thinking about it after 20-years, I realized I had tried out for Sass Jordan’s band.

Tell Somebody, her first album and single, would propel Jordan onto the charts six years later and ten years later Jordan would release her masterpiece, Racine, still one of the best Canadian albums ever produced. Just imagine what she could have done if she’d taken a chance on a young, not very good guitarist back in 1982: the mind boggles.

Lately, Jordan has teamed up with an internet pal of mine to produce one of the best rock records of the last few years. I began interacting with Michael Devin when he was playing bass for Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience and I wrote a bio of him and other relatively unknown members of the band. Devin moved on to Whitesnake with his favourite rhythm section partner, Brian Tichy, and together they spent 2011 touring the world in rock star style.

Moving to guitar, Tichy and Devin teamed up with Jordan and drummer Tommy Stewart to form S.U.N. (Something Unto Nothing). The four decamped to an abandoned cabin in “the mountains of Canyon Country,” and spent two weeks writing songs. The result was a hard rocking album straight out of the 70’s that inspired it.

When two Zep-heads like Tichy and Devin formed the rhythm section for former Coverdale/Page singer David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, I expected a Zeppelin sounding album. It wasn’t so, and these guys so influenced by 70’s rock still sounded like an 80’s band. That problem has been corrected on Something Unto Nothing. Opening with Burned the Zeppelin connection is obvious: Burned is Black Dog dressed differently. Even the production sounds more open and ambient in the Jimmy Page style, rather than the tightly compressed sound that most producers go for these days.

That’s not to say Something Unto Nothing is just a Zeppelin clone. It is influenced, not taken from. Many of the songs play to singer Jordan’s strengths, tight melodic lines interspersed with occasional bursts of belting it. Did Me No Good is a great example of this, while Mobile Again shows off how good the rhythm section is, playing off the funkiest groove I’ve heard in years.

The album’s first single, I’m The One, is doing fairly well charting in the mid-50’s in the weeks since the albums release. It is, again, just a straight ahead piece of rock and roll, well played and fun to listen to. If I Was You slows it down a touch, sounding like a classic Sass Jordan song on first listen. Mid tempo Wide Ocean, bluesy , S.U.N. a Bad Company-esque 7 minute power ballad: all excellent songs that get better on repeat listenings.

The bottom line is, if you miss the days when rock music was loose, fun and ambient, if you miss when rock was considered danceable and dynamics where encouraged, you’re gonna love Something Unto Nothing.

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