Canadian Albums Turning 40 in 2017

1977 was the year that saw the first Star Wars film, now called A New Hope. It completely smashed all box office records becoming the highest grossing film of all time. Television viewers tuned in to watch Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, and Three’s Company. Debby Boone was all over the radio airwaves with her megahit “You Light Up My Life”. Toys Micronauts and Mattel’s hand-held game electronic football were selling like hotcakes. New York City had a blackout that lasted 25 hours and resulted in looting. The United States returned the Panama Canal to Panama. And the first Apple II computers went on sale.

Five Canadian albums released in 1977, yes, that’s 40 years ago, struck double platinum: Angele Arsenault‘s Libre, Burton CummingsMy Own Way to Rock, Raffi‘s More Singable Songs, Triumph‘s Rock ‘n Roll Machine, and, winning the Album of the Year Juno the following year, Dan Hill‘s Longer Fuse. 1977 certainly doesn’t win any awards for album covers. They were shaggy. They were sweaty. But as we know, it’s what’s under the covers that rocks.



100th Grey Cup to Feature Canadian Superstar Singers

The CFL has announced that the 100th Grey Cup, taking place in Toronto on November 25th, will feature a lineup of some of the biggest superstars in Canadian music.  Yes, belieb it!  Scottish import of country music Johnny Reid and the legendary Burton Cummings will headline a special kickoff show.  The halftime entertainment will feature Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Gordon Lightfoot, and Marianas Trench.  At last year’s Grey Cup halftime show, Nickelback performed.

The CFL has not indicated that they have invited any Francophone performers.

ATF Tunes: Heavenly blue eye, glistening with a tear

Few of us are willing to brave winters at Portage and Main, but many have, including one of the greatest Canadian rock vocalists of all-time. After attending St. John’s high school in Winnipeg, he joined an R&B group and, in 1965, replaced Bob Ashley as keyboardist for Chad Allan and the Expressions. When Allan left, his duties doubled as the new lead vocalist. The band transformed into The Guess Who. Our man, of course, is Burton Cummings. He co-wrote many of the band’s big hits with Randy Bachman, the latter leaving the band at their pinnacle of success to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Cummings carried on as The Guess Who’s principal songwriter. By the mid-70s, the band had run out of steam and Burton left for a very successful solo career.

As a soloist, Burton Cummings enjoyed a number of big hits: “Stand Tall”, “Break It to Them Gently”, and “I Will Play a Rhapsody” to name three. But our favourite piece from the great rock singer and keyboardist was never released as a single; in fact, we’re scratching the hair off our heads trying to figure out why. It is a masterpiece of musical composition, inspired lyrics, instrumentation, and production, and sung with such beauty as to bring a Stanley Cup final to a halt. The soaring song is off Cummings’ 1980 platinum album Woman Love and is called “Heavenly Blue“.


Heavenly blue shade fallin’ from a star
Is there no reason?
Heavenly blue eye glistening with a tear
 Was it displeasin’?
Or was it just in season?
‘Cause there was never anything to return to
 No reason there for hangin’ around
 Nothin’ you wer doin’ could help me put both my feet back down on the ground
 Now I’m heavenly blue, livin’ with the ghost of you
 Livin’ with the ghost of you

Heavenly blue days fading in with no sound
Sending me reeling
Heavenly blue night closing in all around
 Moments for stealin’
 Such a wonderful feelin’
But there was never anything to get back to
 No reason there for hangin’ around
Nothing like the time I found you such an impulsive ingénue
 Makes me heavenly blue, livin’ with the ghost of you
 Livin’ with the ghost of you…
With the ghost of you
In a story book, a story book about you
Watch ’em killing dragons
Climbing up the tower
In a story book about you…

Oh there’s just nothin’ left to get back to
 No reason there for stickin’ around
Nothing like the time I found you such an impulsive ingénue
 Makes me heavenly blue, livin’ with the ghost of you
 Livin’ with the ghost of you…


Song: “Heavenly Blue”
Album: Woman Love
Year: 1980
Artist: Burton Cummings
Origin: Winnipeg

More songs…

Burton Cummings to Receive Star on Walk of Fame

Along with six other Canadians, Burton Cummings will be receiving a star on the Walk of Fame in Toronto this year. The Winnipeg singer-songwriter led The Guess Who to international superstardom in the late 60s before launching his own successful solo career a decade later.

To celebrate the seven inductees, the Walk of Fame will be hosting a performance festival from September 29 to October 2. Musical performers will include Bedouin Soundclash, Burton Cummings, Trooper, Serena Ryder, The Parachute Club, Ashley MacIsaac, Chantal Kreviazuk & Raine Maida, Jully Black and John Kay & Steppenwolf.

More info can be found at the official website: HERE.

The following points help in understanding why and why not certain Canadians have been inducted into the Walk of Fame:

• Nominees must have been born in Canada or have spent their formative or creative years in Canada.
• Nominees must have a minimum of 10 years experience in their field and have an established body of work.
• Nominees must have had national or international impact on Canada’s Heritage.

“Tears Are Not Enough” by Northern Lights

Notable Canadian band manager Bruce Allen organized a project to record a charity single for African famine relief in response to Britain’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Jim Vallance in an interview told the story of how things came together in writing and recording the song “Tears Are Not Enough” sung by a supergroup of Canadian artists called Northern Lights.

…in 1985, David [Foster] returned to Vancouver for a year. He and his wife Rebecca bought a house in the same neighbourhood where Bryan Adams and I lived, but we didn’t see much of them. One day I ran into David in the lobby of Little Mountain Sound Studio, where he was producing an album for Paul Hyde and Bob Rock’s group, The Payolas. He approached me in a panic and said, “You have a home studio, right?” I replied that I did.

Visibly excited, David told me he’d just got off the phone with Quincy Jones, who’d just finished recording a Michael Jackson / Lionel Ritchie song for African famine relief called “We Are The World”. Quincy played the song for David over the phone, and said he wanted David to record a Canadian song for Africa — and it had to be finished in the next week or two so it could be included on the U.S. album release!

“We Are The World” was written in response to Bob Geldoff’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, recorded and released the year before (1984). Geldoff’s song raised millions of dollars for Africa, and had already made a significant difference to those suffering from drought and famine. Quincy hoped that a Canadian song might help make a difference too.

David already had a melody, borrowed from a song he’d been working on, and he had a title, “Tears Are Not Enough”, which had been provided by Paul Hyde and Bob Rock. It was nearly twenty years later (2004) when I finally heard the story behind the “title”:

Paul and Bob had been in the studio with Foster on the day that Quincy Jones called. Several weeks earlier they’d written a song called “Tears Are Not Enough”, and after the call from Quincy they played their song for David, thinking it might be suitable for the Famine Relief recording. “So, what do you think?” they asked, when they’d finished presenting the song. “Nice title”, David replied.

The next morning (Friday, February 1, 1985) David arrived at my home studio. He played me his melody on the piano. It was a pretty ballad with an interesting, circular chord progression. He also mentioned Paul and Bob’s title, “Tears Are Not Enough”, which I thought was excellent.

With the melody and the title we had enough to get started, so began recording the track right away. Using his Emulator synthesizer David laid down a piano, followed by a Moog bass, then a bell sound. I added drums and percussion. An hour or two later we had a “basic track” (it was only intended to be a quick “demo” recording, but it worked so well we ended up using it for the final recording).

Then we started working on the lyrics:
We can close the distance
Only we can make the difference
Don’t you know that tears are not enough

It was a good start, but David had to rush away for a session with The Payolas, promising to return the following day. I continued work on the lyrics while my wife Rachel [Paiement] wrote a few lines in French — after all, it was a Canadian song for Africa!

The next day Bryan Adams arrived from Los Angeles and hurried over to help. He looked at the lyrics I’d written so far and immediately suggested an improvement. “How about ‘we can BRIDGE the distance’?”, he said. It was perfect, and with that we were off and running.

We finished the lyric later that evening, then Bryan and Rachel recorded the vocals. The demo was completed at 4:00 a.m. the next morning.

Meanwhile, David enlisted Bryan’s manager Bruce Allen to help assemble a roster of performers. Bruce was well-connected in the music industry, and in quick succession Joni Mitchell and Neil Young agreed to participate. Then Kim Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. Burton Cummings came on board, and so did Geddy Lee and Corey Hart.

Comedians John Candy and Catherine O’Hara offered their services, along with legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer. Dan Hill, Jane Sibbery, Sylvia Tyson, Robert Charlebois … the list of participants grew by the hour.

I suggested we record the vocals at Manta Studios [in Toronto], where I’d recorded Bryan Adams’ first album (and also Barney Bentall, Lisa Dal Bello and Cano). The room was big enough to accommodate a large group, and I also knew that veteran engineer Hayward Parrott could handle the complex task of recording 30 soloists … plus a chorus of 50!

Michael Godin (A&M Records) contacted Manta owner Andy Hermant, who generously donated the studio. On Saturday (February 9, 1985) we flew to Toronto to prepare for the mammoth recording session planned for the following day.

During the flight we reviewed the lyric sheet and the list of artists and determined who would sing which line. We decided the song should begin with Canadian legend Gordon Lightfoot (“As everyday goes by …”), then move to Burton Cummings (“How can we close our eyes …”), then to Anne Murray, Joni Mitchell, and so on.

The session took place on Sunday, February 10, 1985. It was a bitter cold day, but hundreds of fans gathered outside Manta to watch the “stars” arrive. Gordon Lightfoot drove himself to the studio in a pick-up truck. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell arrived by taxi. Platinum Blonde arrived in a white stretch limo.

Just as Quincy Jones had done in Los Angeles, Foster taped a poster in the studio lobby that said, “Leave your egos at the door”. Everyone gave 200 percent, and at the end of the day we had the makings of a magical record.

One of the funniest moments happened during Neil Young’s performance. He’d sung his line once or twice already, but Foster still wasn’t happy and asked Neil to try again. When Neil asked why, David told him he was out of tune. “That’s my style, man”, Neil shot back.

For me, one of the highlights was sitting on the studio floor a few feet from Joni Mitchell while she carved graceful lines in the air with her hands as she sang. Another special moment was meeting Richard Manuel, singer and pianist for “The Band”. In fact, Joni Mitchell and “The Band” are two of my biggest musical influences. I was in “fan heaven”, meeting them and hearing them sing lyrics I’d written!

After completing the vocal session in Toronto, David and I returned to Vancouver and booked time at Pinewood Studios and Little Mountain Sound where more instruments were added to the track, including Loverboy’s Doug Johnson and Paul Dean, who contributed keyboards and guitar. Steven Denroche, a member of the Vancouver Symphony, was called in to play French Horn…

One important Canadian artist unable to attend the Toronto recording session was Bruce Cockburn, who was performing in Germany at the time. Cockburn ‘s manager, Bernie Finkelstein, wondered if there wasn’t a way Bruce could record his vocal at a studio in Germany and have it edited into the finished product at a later date. It was a nice idea, but to meet our deadline Bruce’s contribution would have to be filmed and recorded sometime in the next 48 hours. In a moment of weakness I volunteered to fly to Germany!

The good news is, Air Canada provided a free ticket. The bad news is, there were no direct fights — so I had to fly from Vancouver to Toronto, Toronto to London, London to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Hamburg … a 44-hour round-trip. I arrived in Hamburg just in time to catch Bruce’s performance at a club on Tuesday evening. I met him backstage, for the first time, after the show.

I’d brought a cassette tape of the song, which Bruce hadn’t heard yet. But before I could even play the tape, Bruce dropped a bomb. He said he hadn’t yet decided if he wanted to participate in the project!

Bernie had neglected to tell me that Bruce hadn’t made up his mind yet — and I’d just spent 22 hours on a #$&@ airplane! In my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged stupor my first reaction was to reach across the table and grab Bruce by the throat with both hands. Instead, I used every ounce of diplomacy I could muster. I told Bruce how magical the session in Toronto had been … how it was truly a special project, and that everyone was looking forward to his involvement, which was true!

Bruce eventually came around, and he agreed to meet me at a Hamburg recording studio the following morning. It took less than an hour to complete Bruce’s audio and video recording, then it was back to the airport for the 22-hour return flight to Vancouver (via Frankfurt, London and Toronto).

I met one of the film people at the airport in Toronto during my two-hour lay-over, and I handed him the Cockburn footage to edit into the video. After spending a much-needed night in my own bed in Vancouver, I flew to Los Angeles the next morning to deliver Bruce’s audio track. Foster and his assistant Chris Earthy met me at the airport, and we rushed over to Kenny Roger’s “Lion’s Share” studio where Cockburn’s vocal was edited into the audio mix that engineer Humberto Gatica had nearly completed.

“Tears Are Not Enough” reached #1 on the Canadian charts and helped raise more than $3-million for African Famine Relief.

Lyrics and Vocalists

As every day goes by, how can we close our eyes (Gordon Lightfoot)
Until we open up our hearts (Burton Cummings)

We can learn to share and show how much we care (Anne Murray)
Right from the moment that we start (Joni Mitchell)

Seems like overnight, we see the world in a different light (Dan Hill)
Somehow our innocence is lost (Neil Young)

How can we look away, ’cause every single day (Bryan Adams)
We’ve got to help at any cost (Liberty Silver and Loverboy’s Mike Reno)

Chorus (sung by the nine singers above):

We can bridge the distance
Only we can make the difference
Don’t ya know that tears are not enough

If we can pull together
We could change the world forever
Heaven knows that tears are not enough

It’s up to me and you to make the dream come true (Carroll Baker, Ronnie Hawkins, and Murray McLauchlan)
It’s time to take our message everywhere (Corey Hart)

C’est l’amour qui nous rassemble
d’ici a l’autre bout du monde (Véronique Béliveau, Robert Charlebois, and Claude Dubois)

Let’s show them Canada still cares (Bruce Cockburn)
You know that we’ll be there (Rush’s Geddy Lee)

(Chorus – all 18 singers above)

And if we could try (Bryan Adams and Don Gerrard)
Together you and I (All 44 Singers)
Maybe we could understand the reasons why (Zappacosta and Dalbello)
If we take a stand (Rough Trade’s Carole Pope and The Payola$ Paul Hyde)
Every woman, child and man (Salome Bey, Platinum Blonde’s Mark Holmes, and The Parachute Club’s Lorraine Segato)
We can make it work for God’s sake lend a hand (Loverboy’s Mike Reno)

(Chorus – all the above singers plus Paul Anka, Liona Boyd, actor John Candy, Tom Cochrane, Tommy Hunter, Martha Johnson (M+M), actor Eugene Levy, pop pianist Frank Mills, Kim Mitchell, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer, Jane Siberry, Sylvia Tyson (Ian & Sylvia), dj Barry Harris, actress Catherine O’Hara, and Wayne St. John)

The “Tears Are Not Enough” project was one of the finest moments in Canadian music history.

Les Yeux de la Faim

It didn’t receive much attention outside of Quebec but Francophone artists banded together to record an additional charity single for African famine relief. Celine Dion, Rene & Nathalie Simard and others lent their voices to the beautiful “Les Yeux de la Faim“.

Burton Cummings

Born: 1947, Winnipeg
Solo Career Debut: 1976
Genre: Pop
Some Achievements:
– 3 major Juno Awards (Album of the Year in 1979 for Dream of a Child and Male Vocalist of the Year in 1977 and 1980)
– 4 songs in the Year-End Top 100 (CHUM FM)
– 6 Platinum albums, including 4 multi-Platinum
– Star on the Walk of Fame (2011)
– Inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (2005)
Biggest Hit:
Stand Tall” (1976/7)
– 24th biggest song of 1977 in Canada; Top 10 hit in the U.S.
Some Other Hits:
– “I’m Scared” (1977)
– “My Own Way to Rock” (1977)
– “Break it to Them Gently” (1978)
– “I Will Play a Rhapsody” (1979)
– “Fine State of Affairs” (1980)
– “One and Only” (1980)
– “Heavenly Blue” (1981)
– “You Saved My Soul” (1981)
– “Take One Away” (1990)
Cummings learned the piano as a boy and sang in Gilbert and Sullivan productions at high school. He played in a local band called the Deverons for three years (sax and keys), and then was invited to join what would become, in the views of many, the greatest Canadian rock band of all-time. Burton Cummings was the most important member of The Guess Who: their lead singer, keyboardist, and primary composer. Randy Bachman who co-wrote many songs with Cummings left the band to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and The Guess Who continued on but saw a steady decline in popularity through the 70s. In 1976, Cummings decided to leave the band, and he embarked on a very successful solo career.
Just prior to going solo, Cummings provided backing vocals for Eric Carmen’s second album, Boats Against the Current.
His first single, showcasing his well-known rich, sculpted rock voice, was his crowning achievement: “Stand Tall” a million-seller that became the biggest Canadian song of the year in 1977. This song, along with “I’m Scared”, have been played more than a million times each on radio making them two of the most air-played songs in history. He toured the U.S., opening for such acts as Seals & Crofts, America, and Alice Cooper.
A slew of hits followed, including “Break it to Them Gently” and the gorgeous “I Will Play a Rhapsody”, both featured in the 1978 album Dream of a Child that went 3x Platinum in Canada, the biggest-selling of all-time up to that point.
In the 90s, Cummings was pianist for Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, touring Europe. In 2005 he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 2009 was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.