The Vinyl Connection Music Catalogue is quite large, but relatively simple in structure.
Artist name, Album name, Year, Format, and a general field into which I push anything from colour of the vinyl to a bonus DVD. There are all kinds of useful or interesting things that could be included: date of purchase, original or re-issue, some kind of ‘play count’. The possibilities are many. But the one that would be very useful for the ROCKIN’ ALL OVER THE WORLD project would be the artist’s Country of Origin.
Wanting to feature the great northern country of Canada, it would have been very handy indeed to sort the spreadsheet by country. Why bother, you ask. You’ve got The Band, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, kd lang. What more to you want? Well, something a bit different.
OK, you reply, what about Crash Test Dummies, Cowboy Junkies, Barenaked Ladies, Sloan. All well and good, but still not quite there. The truth is, I would really like to surprise my Canadian friends with a left-field choice that might evoke a grin (or maybe a furrowed brow). Something, you might say, that is the opposite hemisphere to Bryan Adams.
Guy Lombardo. Active from the 1920s through 50s. I have a couple of albums and one of them is early jazz and also an early coloured vinyl artefact. But the music isn’t especially memorable.
Oscar Peterson. How many folk realise the famed jazz pianist of the flying fingers was born in Montreal? Though I enjoy Oscar very much, I’m not really in the mood to do a jazz LP right now.
After an intriguing hour of research, I narrowed it down to a handful of bands I really like and would enjoy sharing.
The Besnard Lakes. Fascinating band who could broadly be described as “Indie”, but one could add post-rock, psychedelic or even shoegaze. Dense involving music that rewards immersion.
Karcius. A band fusing a range of styles and influences: Rock, Pop, Classical, Jazz, and Ambient. I only discovered this Montreal band a year or two ago and have two albums, both of which are outstanding.
Druckfarben. Also a new band to me. Wonderfully creative and engrossing progressive music. Sounds like they’ve absorbed lots of influences from my favourite prog artists and mixed up a tasty new dish.
And the winner is…
Nash The Slash!
Yes, the mysterious and (kind of) anonymous multi-instrumentalist who played violin, keyboards, mandolin, while performing with a bandaged head à la The Invisible Man.
Nash The Slash.
Born James Jeffrey Plewman in Toronto in 1947, he played live regularly, recorded soundtracks to silent films, and released a dozen or so EPs and LPs. Retiring—or as the man himself put it, “rolling up the bandages”—in 2012, Nash felt he had done his time on stage, observing that the contemporary scene had little place for eccentrics. Costumes and instruments were donated to the National Music Centre in Calgary, Alberta.
I have one Nash The Slash album. It’s a ripper, from the disturbing cover story to the slightly unhinged musical excursions.
The Allmusic guide describes Nash’s music as a blend of Gary Numan, early Pink Floyd, Jean-Michel Jarre, and The Stranglers. The first of those is clearly audible and not especially mysterious as Nash toured the UK in 1980 supporting Mr Numan. Not long after he began recording his second long player, a totally solo effort entitled Children Of The Night (1981).
Opening with a rock roar, “Wolf” soon morphs into a violin-led romp quoting from several compositions, including Prokofiev’s Peter And The Wolf. Although the simple programmed percussion is a tad monotonous, the slashing fuzz mandolin and other distorted strings are brilliant. Segueing into a jaunty (yet slightly sinister) cover of Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve” is, um, unexpected. It’s like a mash up of a surf ditty with “Monster Mash”; so daft you can’t help but chuckle.
The title track has a threatening vocal over a repetitive Jean-Michel Jarre synth beat; these “Children of the Night” are doubtless the sweet little ankle-biters featured on the back cover of the LP.
“Deep Forest” is a brief instrumental interlude, leading into “In a Glass Eye”, a really interesting collection of violin+effects with subtle underpinnings over a Casio beat. Nash’s singing is great, the sonic textures are exciting…a nightlife highlight.
Side two has the similar eclectic—or rather, eccentric—mix of originals and interpretations. Nash’s brilliant version of “19th Nervous Breakdown” manages to be both earnest and cabaret, while “Dope on the Water” would have to be a favourite on the Deep Purple tour bus.
In fact it’s tricky to pick a favourite on the second side. The wonderful effects on “Swing Shift” show clear influences of producer Steve Hillage (Gong, solo; great guitarist). Another inventive little instrumental leads into Nash’s magnificent “Dope (Smoke) on the Water” (where he seems to be making up the lyrics after listening to the original on a small transistor radio). I would dearly love to have heard this in concert—Nash was a veteran live performer—but the chances are low as he died in 2014 at the age of 66. It is not known whether the musician was embalmed.
The “Danger Zone” (the final, brilliant, Yellow Magic Orchestra meets Merzbow track on Children of the Night), is a fitting epitaph to a clever, amusing and very entertaining album. So thanks, Nash The Slash of Ontario, Canada. You made me smile and dance. Under the bandages, I’m sure you were smiling too.
* The idea of Rockin’ All Over The World arose from WordPress stats, which show a delightful range of countries in the daily/weekly/monthly league ladder. This is #7 in the series. Other posts can be found by entering “Rockin’ All Over” into the search box on the right.