Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life is a Highway is paved with Canadian gold from the '90s

The creators of television specials on Canadian music in the '60s, '70s and '80s are back again with Life is a Highway, a two-part look at the Canuck scene of the '90s.

The hour-long first episode aired last week and, even though it opened with a section on Bryan Adams, I still enjoyed it. I especially appreciated coverage of Spirit of the West, Rawlins Cross, Sloan, Thrush Hermit, Doughboys, Odds, Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies, Moxy Fruvous and Rheostatics. Some of these groups experienced substantial commercial success. All of them were deserving of it.

I learned that Brad Roberts came up with the chorus and title of the Crash Test Dummies hit "Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm" because he couldn't think of words to use in its place, while the episode also highlighted the contributions of the likes of kd lang, Tom Cochrane, The Rankin Family, Leahy, Great Big Sea, Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, La Bottine Souriante and Loreena McKennitt.

In addition to music from and interviews with these artists, the show also revealed the thoughts of other musicians and music industry representatives on their efforts to raise the temperature of the Canadian music climate, including Michael Kaeshammer, Ian D'Sa, Sam Roberts, Brendan Canning and managers Jake Gold, Jeff Rogers, Chip Sutherland and Mike Campbell.

Part two airs tonight on CBC's main network at 8 p.m. and will be repeated Saturday night on CBC News Net. A big part of its focus is on a quartet of women who became international superstars in the '90s: Celine Dion, Sarah McLachlan, Shania Twain and Alanis Morissette. Another Canadian female who became big at home but didn't quite reach such lofty heights elsewhere, Jann Arden, also gets her props.

Ron Sexsmith represents the male singer/songwriters, while Our Lady Peace, Blue Rodeo, The Tea Party and Big Sugar are among the primary rock bands. Bran Van 3000's eclectic approach gets more attention than most people who think of it as a one-hit wonder through "Drinking in L.A." might expect. I was especially pleased to see the groundbreaking Dream Warriors spotlighted, while Snow, Rascalz and Bass Is Base show the eclecticism of Canada's hip-hop community.

Like in hour one, there are lots of live performance and video clips interspersed with interviews with some of the aforementioned artists as well as Choclair, Luc Plamondon, David Foster, Maestro, Dallas Good and manager Terry McBride.

I entered the music industry in 1991 and edited its trade magazines throughout the decade until 2004, so Life is a Highway's content is very familiar to me and isn't as informative as the earlier decade retrospectives. But there's probably material that's revelatory to more casual music fans, and the shows are put together well.

Producer, writer, researcher and interviewer Nicholas Jennings deserves a breather. But after that well-earned rest, it's time to get on to a show on the 00s.

1 comment:

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