Once known as the “street-smart kid from Cabbagetown” who sang of winos, work and the human soul, Murray McLauchlan in the late 1970s became a casualty of changing musical tastes. As folk music lost its popularity, his fellow singer-songwriters Joni Mitchell and Bruce Cockburn were able to make the transition to jazz and new wave styles, taking most of their audiences with them. McLauchlan, desperate not to be left behind, abandoned his harmonica and simple arrangements for the lavish but vacuous sound of 1970s studio rock. In the process, he lost many listeners. With his 11th album, Timberline, the 35-year-old McLauchlan unabashedly returns to his acoustic guitar and simple, honest compositions which suit his tenor drawl. Restlessness is a recurring feeling on songs about trains, romance and the road. On Born This Morning, a dark blues number reminiscent of Bob Dylan, he sings: “The pressure’s on, to be in some scene ... I fight it, somehow I keep from going down.” Having just pulled himself from the edge of rock obscurity, McLauchlan’s words cut eerily close to the bone.
HAMMER ON A DRUM
The Pay ola$
Following their enormously successful 1982 album, No Stranger to Danger, the four graduates of the Vancouver punk scene who make up The Payola$ are already serious contenders for the title “old wave.” Exuberance and variety marked that recording, which also featured a powerful hit single, Eyes of a Stranger. But conformity to uninspired lyrics and a mostly predictable rock sound now characterize The Payola$. The apocalyptic No Prisoners is at first intriguing, but with its pompous sense of drama it soon begins to sound like a cross between The Moody Blues and Pink Floyd. Meanwhile, nine mundane metaphors of the “soar like an eagle” mould riddle Where Is This Love. Apart from the forceful imagery and off-beat rhythm of I Am a City and the clever reggae rant of Wild West, The Payola$ appear to be stuck in midgear.
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