Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Kim Mitchell - The Big Fantasize (2020)

Country: Canada
Style: Rock
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 13 Nov 2020
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I was excited to see Kim Mitchell's name crop up on the coming soon list and eagerly checked out the album when it dropped. It's his eighth solo album, his first in thirteen years, with five earlier albums when he was the lead singer for Max Webster. My introduction to Mitchell was his biggest hit, maybe his only solo hit, a quirky 1984 song from Akimbo Alogo called Go for Soda. Maybe that led me down a wrong path but, whenever I hear those names, I think quirky, unusual and offbeat. That's emphatically not what this is.

Yeah, The Big Fantasize was a big surprise me for me. The track that kicks off the album, Red Horizon, is soft rock and very soft rock at that. It's built entirely as a soft vocal over acoustic guitar, with some underpinning strings coming in later, and, quite frankly, it might play well to a country audience. No, it's not hunk in a hat generic but, if this works for rock fans, it would be the sort of folk who worship James Taylor.

Much of this album plays in this vein. Wishes is quintessential singer/songwriter material, but from a singer/songwriter who's playing it a little safe. The vocals are pure but there's a country twang that's creeping in on Montgomery. The Old Marriage Waltz, a quintessential singer/songwriter song title if I've ever heard one, is a little more powerful and Summer Lovers Autumn Wine and My Georgian Bay play in the same vein but with more urgency. They feel like this there's a band here, not just Mitchell under a spotlight, sitting on a bar stool with his acoustic guitar and microphone.

The soft song I liked the most is Time to Stay, which wraps up the album. It's a more thoughtful piece, with an effective electric guitar, very much in the vein of Mark Knopfler, if not utilising his particular vocal or guitar styles. I need to check out some of the other later Kim Mitchell albums, not because I feel a burning desire to listen to them, but to see how his style changed over time. Maybe he's played in this style for twenty years and I just never knew. I've never been more aware that my expectations are based on music that's three and and a half decades old.

The only song that played the way I expected this album to sound was 2Up2Bdown, the quirkiest title on the album and the quirkiest song, not to forget to mention the most upbeat, up tempo and downright rockin' song too. It feels rather out of place in this kind of company, the one and only rocker among eight softer songs. They're mostly quiet and introspective or, if they plug in, they're still restrained and designed around Mitchell's soft vocal. This one is perky, with catchy melodies, a bouncy electric backing and a penchant for messing around in between verses.

Now, I have to rate this on what it is not on what I thought it might be and, to be honest, Mitchell is good at this softer approach. I didn't hate any of these songs. None of them bored me, though a few did drift into the background a little. Time to Stay is a lovely song that gets deeper each time I listen to it; it's primarily voice and guitar but the keyboards are excellent and there's a glorious hint of sax right at the end when it's fading away. And 2Up2Bdown is fun and playful, just as I'd hoped the rest of the album could be.

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