Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Coney Hatch "Four"

I’m not sure how many people can remember the first time they ever heard music. Most people might be lucky and remember around what age but not what artists. I however remember pretty much all of them. Thanks to my dad’s cassettes that he’d play in the car, I remember Van Halen and Boston being the first two bands I ever listened to who I liked enough to remember their names and want to hear more. This moved on to listening to my dad’s mixed cassettes in the car with artists that ranged from Don Henley to Rush to Ronnie James Dio. I was even introduced to some of the more obscure artists that my dad would listen to that I know a lot of people have never heard of such as Tygers of Pan Tang and Riot. I grew up with all of these artists and I credit this to my love for music and most importantly my love for classic rock.

On one of these cassettes, there were three songs by Toronto hard rock band Coney Hatch. Now, at the time, I didn’t quite understand how obscure some of these bands were. I was still merely a kid, and my social circle centred around fellow eight-year-olds or however young I was, and none of these friends I had then had even heard of the biggest names in classic rock, so I always figured that adults knew all of these artists and I was doomed to never be able to discuss these artists with my friends. As I started getting older and being more comfortable talking with adults, friends parents and such, I was able to discuss Supertramp and Rush and other well known bands, and it was around this time that I noticed there was a good number of artists who I enjoy that others have never heard of, such as the previously mentioned Tygers of Pan Tang and Riot, or artists who people may have heard of but knew the bare minimum about such as Whitesnake or Moxy. I was disappointed that Coney Hatch were also in this category.

When I got in to my teens early teens, I started expanding past what my dad had made me listen to and started branching out in to different bands and different songs by the artists I already knew. I found that Coney Hatch had a different vibe altogether from most other bands. While they are a hard rock band, they had a strong melodic side, thanks to the singing and song writing of rhythm guitarist Carl Dixon, and this was contrasted by the dirty sleazy side of the band thanks to the singing and song writing of bassist Andy Curran. I had managed to take much more of a liking to the melodic side of the band, particularly because the three songs that I grew up knowing by the band to that point were all such by Carl. I have, however, come to enjoy all songs by the band and appreciate the turns that are continuously taken throughout their albums.

I, as well as everyone who has ever enjoyed the music of Coney Hatch, was disappointed that the band only released three albums. They recorded their Kim Mitchell produced 1982 debut album and its 1983 follow up Outta Hand with ease, and generated music videos and hits as well as positive feedback with these albums providing such Canadian rock classics as Devil’s Deck, Monkey Bars and First Time for Everything. Then in 1985 they recorded what I believe to be their finest album Friction. The only problem is I seem to be one of very few who agrees with that, including the band. With the mid 80’s came the development of the pop-rock sound, where bands started adding keyboards and electronic hooks to their songs. Coney Hatch didn’t necessarily ride this wave completely, but there was a bit more of a pop-rock aspect to Friction than on past albums. I however enjoy the album most because I think it features some of their best work such as Girl From Last Night’s Dream and Wrong Side of Town (what I think is the finest Andy sung Coney song). After this album, I’m not sure if the band necessarily disbanded, but they sure didn’t do much in terms of keeping the band alive.

In the bands absence, each musician continued to do their own thing, including Carl Dixon’s stints in April Wine and The Guess Who. In recent years, however, the band has started playing shows together more consistently and even, to their fans delight, released a new album in late September. The album, simply titled Four, features all four original members, Carl and Andy with lead guitarist Steve Shelski and drummer Dave Ketchum, who wasn’t present for the bands Friction album.

On Four, the band goes back to their basics to say the least. The keyboards and such that were used on Friction, as well as other sporadic moments on their first two albums, are gone completely. Instead, the band just uses a straight ahead rock sound which is exemplified immediately on the opening track Blown Away, which is frankly as basic as a rock song can get, with an AC/DC inspired three-chord riff and pounding drums, glued together with a pretty exceptional pre-chorus and chorus.

The album is pretty equally split in terms of lead vocals. The album practically goes back and forth between Andy and Carl. Where Carl sings Blown Away, Andy sings the second track Boys Club, which shows a great amount of expected maturity in Andy’s ability as a singer and musician. While the song is more serious than such past Andy sung Coney Hatch songs such as Shake It or Some Like It Hot, it still contrasts anything that Carl sings on the album. Like most of Andy’s songs, the verses are, while not bad, they are simple, but it’s the chorus that sticks in your head, if not after the first time hearing the song then after the second time for sure. Andy’s voice doesn’t sound as though it has changed at all in almost 30 years.

Carl Dixon’s voice is in fine form and still has that operatic back tone that I always loved so much. However, with the sheer volume and energy of the songs on this album, he doesn’t show this capability quite so much. Down & Dirty is a relatively fast paced song that doesn’t give him the capability, but he does show it on the light-hearted song Revive. I’m not sure I’d call Revive a ballad, in fact Coney Hatch doesn’t have a lot of ballads, as melodic as they’ve been, but this song shows that they have most certainly not lost that melodic stand-out to their song writing. Devil You Know is a laid back blues-rock riffed song and Keep Drivin’ is the bands attempt at a good road song, which I think is a pretty good attempt.

Andy Curran continues to show throughout the album that he has changed as a musician. Do It Again sounds like absolutely nothing the band has ever recorded, it almost sounds like an alternative rock song; almost as if the band were to have recorded in the 90’s, the songs may have sounded a lot like this. Connected is somewhat like Blown Away, only a faster paced and Andy sung. However I find the song to be a bit less simple and far more catchy than Blown Away. Andy attempts his hand at reviving his sleazy side with the song We Want More, and frankly, when comparing it to past songs, he succeeds. It is not as memorable as his past songs, but I find it is musically intelligent to such songs as the previously mentioned Shake It and Some Like it Hot. Marseille, Andy’s last lead vocal on the album, is another simple AC/DC sounding track, it’s relatively slow pace and two guitar solos make the song clock in at 5:02.

The album ends with a ballad called Holding On. As mentioned before, the band doesn’t have as many ballads as one would think, the only notable ballad being To Feel The Feeling Again, which has become a classic of the band's. I think Holding On is almost every bit as good as anything the band has released in their history and is probably the most assuring moment on the album that the band is still every bit as good as they ever were. I don’t usually enjoy when albums end with a ballad, but I don’t seem to mind the choice this time around.

Though Coney Hatch aren’t the household name I believe they should be in Canadian classic rock, they have many loyal fans, including hard rock/metal television personality Eddie Trunk. The band did have stints in the 80’s where it seemed like they would take off, particularly touring as the opening act for Judas Priest in ’82. There are still many people who I have met in recent years who not only know, but love and grew up with the music of Coney Hatch. What I appreciate more is that this album isn’t necessarily an attempt to attract new fans, but to please existing fans, and it does just that.


Down & Dirty and Connected” –­ I’d almost have to pick two highlights to this album, it almost doesn’t seem fair to pick a Carl sung song when Andy does such a great job with his songs. We’ll say for this articles sake that the album has two highlights. Down & Dirty shows a somewhat different side of Carl Dixon, while he doesn’t usually sing songs that are really very “dirty”, he does a pretty great job at doing so, all while using that same melodic voice that his fans love. Connected is a highlight that not only shows Andy Curran’s never changing rock personality, but it also shows the no nonsense music approach of the album at its finest.


8 (Out of 10)

Track List:

Blown Away  
Boys Club  
Down & Dirty  
Do It Again  
We Want More  
Devil You Know  
Keep Drivin’  
Holding On  

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