Tonawanda News

September 22, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: The best rock bands, north of the border

By Thom Jennings
The Tonawanda News

— Living in the Western New York region gives music fans the opportunity to be exposed to some great Canadian music artists that may not be as popular in the rest of the country. During a recent conversation with a reader of this column, (might I add, it’s always great to hear somebody actually reads it!) the topic of great Canadian bands came up.

Anyone who has read this column on a regular basis is probably aware of the fact I am a huge fan of Triumph. I first saw the band back in 1980, and own all of their recordings. In their heyday, they were the premiere arena rock band. I love the DVDs of their live shows, but they don’t do them justice.

For some reason, Triumph wound up having a huge following in Texas. It’s kind of ironic that Triumph was most popular in a state that borders Mexico.

Another band that came up was April Wine. For many years they were on my bucket list of bands to see live, the other acts were Jefferson Starship and Paul McCartney, both of whom I have seen. In spite of my love of great April Wine songs like “Just Between You and Me,” “Enough is Enough” and the hard-rocking “Roller,” I have never caught them live.

Another band that came up was Chilliwack. Rolling Stone once coined them “the finest Canadian Rock band,” a lofty statement at a time when The Guess Who was still on the charts and Rush was an up-and-coming power trio.

No look at Canadian artists would be complete without discussing Gowan, the stage name for current Styx vocalist Lawrence Gowan. He had a hit with the song “Strange Animal,” and let’s be honest, there have been some big shoes to fill in bands, but the fact that Gowan took the place of Dennis DeYoung, one of the greatest showmen and singers in arena rock history, says a lot.

Another name that came to mind as I was perusing my iPod Classic for Canadian artists was Alanis Morrisette. Before Taylor Swift made a career out of songs about ex-boyfriends, Morrisette wrote and recorded the quintessential scathing indictment of an ex-lover. Many people joke that if she had stayed angry she would have remained popular, but if you listen to the material she has recorded since “Jagged Little Pill” you will have a greater appreciation for what a massive talent she is.

I also cannot forget the Barenaked Ladies. “Rock Spectacle” is one of my favorite live albums of all time, and it captured the band at their musical peak. Songs like “Brain Wilson,” and “When I Fall” are masterpieces. The band forges on without Steven Page, but it just isn’t the same.

I’ll wrap this up with one of my favorite guitarists, Kim Mitchell. I missed the whole Max Webster thing and was introduced to Kim’s music when a friend gave me a cassette tape of “Akimbo Alogo,” one of the finest albums in my collection. Kim’s solo career has been filled with great songs like “All We Are,” “Rockland Wonderland” and  a song that always makes me crank my radio up to eleven, “World’s Such a Wonder.”

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at