Really LONG Reviews

Augst 18, 2002

The Casino Lac Leamy was once again the venue for a live oldies music show this past Friday, and I’m here to tell ya that this was one helluva show. There’s no substitute for the best music of the 50s, 60s and 70s, that’s for sure. And when you throw in some Temptations Walk, some David Sea soul singing, and a powerhouse band with a five-piece horn section (all white boys, interestingly), you just might be moved to tears for the happiness that good music can bring to a person. I know I was.

Here’s a bunch of guys who have been together forever. Yes, I did a lot of research on “The Temptations’ Review” and the current recording group known as The Temptations. All I can tell you is that both bands are really The Tempts, even though they have different lineups. How does this happen? Well, Otis Williams is one of the founding members of The Temptations. He carries on as leader of the group that is still actually releasing CDs. Dennis Edwards is not an original, but he very nearly was. In fact, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin (who he had actually replaced as lead singer) joined up with him shortly after The Temptations made it into the Music Hall of Fame to form a touring version of the group. And if you know your Soul music, you know that those two lads were at the top of the heap, both as leaders of The Temptations and as stars of the Motown Records empire.

“But how was it, Mike?” In a word: Incredible. The picture of the band above must be few years old, because all that hair is now gone, except for the fellow on the right (David Sea). And there’s some paunch, especially Mr. Edwards (centre). But other than that, it’s like no time has passed at all. The moves... the voices... the sheer power of the band... blended into a solid hour of entertainment and golden oldies like we rarely get to see anymore.

Yes, the volume of the band overpowered the voices, too often. And this did make a difference on pieces that I wasn’t too familiar with. But when they rolled into stuff like “Psychedelic Shack” and “My Girl”, no one seemed to notice or care. They only played for an hour, but every song was a hit parade mover, and I doubt if anyone left the theatre disappointed that night. Except for the “no encore” thing... which I’ve already graciously attributed to the fact that they had another show right after the one they put on for us. Wish I’d caught the review in the paper to see if they encored that one.

And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention David Sea again. He did an extended version of “I Wish It Would Rain” that involved his high-flyin’ tonsils and some members of the audience, and that’s the bit that first brought me to tears. Gawd I love this stuff.

Here are some links that will give you lots and lots of pictures and stories about the two groups and what they’re doing these days. Enjoy.

August 7, 2002
THE HOLLIES Live at Casino Lac Leamy

I remember the excitement in the hits generated by The Hollies in the 60s and 70s. It was around 1969 that Graham Nash left the band, taking his distinctive voice over to be part of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and later Young). I was living in a hotel with the family, not too far from Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia, in a little area called Black Point. That summer was a helluva time for me and my brothers: it was the height of the Rock ‘n Roll rebellion, Love was everywhere… and so was Vietnam, bra-burning, marijuana, long hair, Timothy Leary, the riots in Watts… you get the picture.

That summer I knew The Hollies’ special sound and harmonies would never be the same, but they continued to have hits… some bigger than ever, like “He Ain’t Heavy”, which recently the New York Fire Department adopted as its theme, following the crappy events of last September.

And the sound was definitely different. At the time, though, it didn’t matter a whole lot to me. The music world was on fire with group after group that amazed us all with innovative sounds, incredible lyrics, and righteous indignation all at the same time. What was one group, more or less, leaving my radar? There were plenty to take their place.

Ah, what a sad mistake. If only I had concentrated, put my mind to keeping all the good bands together… perhaps by sheer force of will I could have kept them going. Because today, the terrible lack of musical talent available to us is filling the black holes of rock with… well, more black holes.

So it was with great anticipation, as they say, that Chris and I hit the Casino Lac Leamy last night with our $50 tickets in hand to see The Hollies. Heck, until the ads for the show I didn’t even know these guys were still together. In fact, they pointed out that although the last time they were in Ottawa was 1976, they have in fact been together for 40 years now.

You’d think that 40 years of practice would get you a pretty good show. What was presented to us, instead, was a cheesy light-show opening not even worthy of a Grade 8 school play, with Zamfir’s emotional swirls building up to a crescendo of strings and a walk-on by the group members. Kind of useless. Okay, the fact that the theatre was only about 20% filled may have been an indication that nobody else knew (or cared) that these guys are still together, and perhaps stage lights are all they can afford.

The lead singer, tastefully clad in a cheap-looking sharkskin suit (wait, they still make sharkskin suits?) came on stage like a Vegas wannabe, with all the pathetic little moves and finger-pointing that Bill Murray showed us during his Lounge Lizard sketches on Saturday Night Live about 20 years ago. Yeah, this guy looked healthy and about the right age, but jeezuz: what happened to Rock ‘n Roll?

So we decided to delay our disappointment and wait for the music to tell the tale.

Well, it was a long wait. First off, they crucified the incredible Bus Stop. The leader’s voice is not Graham Nash, and he doesn’t try to sound like it either. But you’d think a group with this history would at least try to get their songs to sound the same on stage. In fact, he did lead singing on most tunes, which ruined a lot of them for me. He just isn’t a contralto, or whatever that level of voice should be. He’s way too low; even singing bass on the closing harmonies of the final tune of the night. And during Bus Stop they were all a little bit out of sync. Again, we gave them the benefit of the doubt, hoping the show would get better as they warmed up.

And it did get better. Once Tony Hicks stepped up to the mic, hat is. He’s an original member who looks too young to be, but he has that great Manchester accent that brings back the memories of the old British Invasion days. He told a number of good -humoured stories and was the real driving force behind the show. He is an accomplished guitar player, and also the writer of many of the Hollies’ hits. But even his cheery demeanor and falsetto harmonies couldn’t put The Hollies of the 60s into The Hollies 2002.

An interesting highlight was a version of a hit they had in Europe: Stop in the Name of Love, originally made famous by The Supremes. This was an upbeat rendition of the song, sort of like I might sing it in the shower if I was pretending to be a Vegas act. Too slick and not worthy of the band, unless that is what they really like to do. Okay, so we’re in theatre in a casino… does that mean you have to act like a Vegas show? Can’t we leave that to the likes of Celine Dion?

They did some fine renditions of other tunes, like Carrie Anne and Carousel, He Ain’t Heavy and Long Cool Woman, but even though Chris figures “Heavy” was sung originally by the guy on stage last night, none of them had the energy, the excitement, the “Holliesness” of the originals.

In the end, the crowd rose to its feet several times, and I think the boys on stage looked pretty happy about that. As I said, it was a small audience, perhaps even smaller than the night at the Ex that Gary Puckett and the Union Gap played a free concert that was poorly advertised. So you have to hand it to the lads for working their tailfeathers off. And most of the time they actually looked like they were enjoying themselves. There are still some great harmonies within the group’s voices, and the show was, overall, enjoyable.

But I’m gonna have to think twice before laying out the big bucks for the next Oldies group that comes to town. Of course, I already have tickets for The Temptations next week….

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