KIM MITCHELL -- GREATEST HITS
He affectionately refers to it as a "moving loaf of bread with a steering wheel."
Kim Mitchell has traveled a lot of terrain in his trusted Ford Van, so it seems only natural he's in the driver's seat, comfortably sitting behind the wheel and scouring the streets of Scarborough as he discusses his new album, Kim Mitchell -- Greatest Hits.
"I've had this van for 300,009 kilometres," says Kim with paternal pride. "This van has crossed Canada maybe four times, and it's seen a lot of creative talks, a lot of laughter, some tears and a big lobster feed. I can't say anything bad about it -- it's gotten me where I've needed to go every time."
Much the same can be said for Mitchell's brand of twin-cam, high-octane rock 'n roll. With veteran lyricist Pye Dubois occupying the passenger seat as chief navigator, and a fan base of over one million Canadians fueling his engines, Kim Mitchell has journeyed many miles serving as the helmsman relating to our personal experiences.
And what a wild, wonderful ride it's been.
Since the demise of brilliantly demented Max Webster in the late '70s, the Sarnia native has blazed new trails over six impressive albums, dating from 1985's akimbo alogo to last year's Itch.
As a songwriter, no one has better defined Canada's denizens or their fundamental way of life. Honest appraisals such as the reflective "Patio Lanterns" and the wistful "Easy To Tame" have become summer staples alongside the exhilarating "Go For Soda" and the rah-rah olé jubilation of "I Am A Wild Party."
As a guitarist, few receive the respect or the admiration from both peers and fans accorded to Kim as a tasteful, expedient master of his craft.
And as an electrifying performer who always delivers an enjoyable avenue of fun, smiles, and escape, nobody is a more consummate and adored entertainer than Kim Mitchell.
Fans swear by him, partying away into the small hours of the night at their summer cottages to the explosive strains of "Lager & Ale"; rocking coast-to-coast in neighbourhood bars to the savory punch of "Rock N' Roll Duty"; and igniting romantic sparks to the seductive balladry of "All We Are."
It's with his loyal followers in mind that his new album, Kim Mitchell -- Greatest Hits has been assembled. Besides offering another chance to crank up the car stereo to "10" and blare "That's The Hold" or "Rocklandwonderland" through the rolled-down windows and out into the summer haze, Kim Mitchell -- Greatest Hits -- also serves as a chronicle of personal experiences shared and identified with his fans.
"I've always said my fans are a reflection of me, and I'm a reflection of them," states Kim. "I've gotten to know them and their lifestyle real well. When they come up to me, they're usually holding two beers, and the first question coming out of their mouths is, "Are you doing Bala this year?"
Mitchell says he treasures the endorsement and the respect of his admirers.
"It's been very unconditional. They've supported me through some pretty unusual music. I appreciate that, and the fact they're still there. I may put out a weird album or a weird song that they're scratching their heads about, but it doesn't make me lose credibility as a musician in their eyes. That means a lot to me."
Carefully re-mastered by Kim to provide "optimum aural orgasm," (his words), 13 of the 17 numbers on Kim Mitchell -- Greatest Hits embody the sturdy chassis of a successful solo career than has lasted more than a decade.
As a special bonus, two brand new songs -- "Rainbow" and "No More Walking Away" -- are included as blueprints of the future.
A couple of additional classics -- including the very large Top 40 hit "Patio Lanterns" and "Lager & Ale," one of Kim Mitchell's most requested live songs -- have been retooled to what Mitchell considers to be their definitive versions.
"I just wasn't happy listening to `Lager & Ale' on the original album," explains Kim. "So that's what started the ball rolling. I asked my manager, `If you're putting out a greatest hits package, can I re-record `Lager & Ale?' Can we address this?' From there, it grew into a couple of new tunes."
The revised "Lager & Ale" is motored by a thundering guitar riff, and its harmonies have been streamlined, while "Patio Lanterns" has also ditched the layered vocal textures. The syncopated bass drum and an inverted melodic verse line adds an extra kick.
"We've been playing `Patio Lanterns' for a long, long time, and it just evolved into this different version than what's on the record. I call it my `farm rock' approach," laughs Kim." There's strumming acoustic guitar, and a B-3 whirlybird organ. It sounds alive, which is what I wanted."
As far as the new material is concerned, both songs were originally attended for inclusion on Itch, but Kim felt they weren't ready and took them back to the drawing board until he was satisfied with the results.
"I like the tune," Mitchell declares of "Rainbow," a smoking rocker co-written by CONEY HATCH co-founder and Juno Award winning singer ANDY CURRAN that's baked with rhythmic slabs of funk.
"There's no keyboards, it's a little funkier. It's melodic, and it's all the things I like in a song. Hopefully people will dig it."
"No More Walking Away" is a power ballad that resonates with the lyrical ingenuity of Pye Dubois.
"Precious heart don't be shy
I was alone until you opened my eyes,
Here and now in each others arms we will try
One small step at a time," sings Mitchell in a powerful declaration of intimate loyalty, as the melody crescendos into a mighty, soaring chorus.
Besides its fresh contents, Kim Mitchell -- Greatest Hits is a celebration of the past. It includes recent hit material, such as the philosophical "America;" the semi-country sway of "Some Folks" (both co-written by Mitchell boyhood chum JIM CHEVALIER), and the funky, horn-driven itch of "Lemon Wedge." It also includes the earlier finesse of the mesmerizing "That's The Hold" and the dreamy "Expedition Sailor," and serves as an overview of Mitchell's life as well as his sparkling career.
"It's stirred a lot of emotions, and a lot of memories -- both good and bad," concedes Kim. "This musical period that just passed has been my shadow. It's a reflection of where I am, where I've been, and where I'm going."
Kim Mitchell -- Greatest Hits also honors the twenty-year-plus association between the singing guitarist and his lyrical cohort, Pye Dubois -- an integral contributor to the Mitchell success story.
"I'm proud of his stuff, and thankful," says Kim. "He's a real fun guy and a really sociable cat to be around. He's really cool that way, because he's a man of words. So as soon as he starts talking, it's like `Wow!' He also has the ability to be really funny, really deep or really serious."
Mitchell's status as a phenomenally talented guitar wizard is also being saluted. Comfortable in all styles -- including the pseudo-rap intro of "Acrimony" -- Kim Mitchell's technical diversity is well documented in each of his six albums.
"I have a love for the guitar that seems to grow and grow," says Mitchell, "It's like an aerobic workout for the soul. Playing guitar, it really does get in there and whip it up inside me, and it's where I feel most comfortable.
"I really consciously dig deep, and try to let it speak naturally as opposed to thinking out stuff. It's more the Eddie Van Halen, natural, wherever-your-fingers-may-roam kind of feel."
Kim Mitchell has reached many other milestones. Several of his albums are multi-platinum, and he won the Best Male Vocalist Juno in 1990, proceeded by 1987's Best Album Juno for Shakin' Like A Human Being. He still holds the house record for attendance at the Kingswood Music Theatre for three straight sellouts, approximately totaling 40,000 patrons.
Now that Kim Mitchell -- Greatest Hits is out on the streets, Canada's foremost musical hero will be revving up the Ford for rock 'n' roll duty one more time, hitting the road for a series of recreational summer concerts.
While there isn't enough room to join him in the van, Kim Mitchell -- Greatest Hits -- is a personal musical odyssey that will serve as the next best thing.
©1995 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink
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