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MUSIC REVIEW (Rock)
Mike McDonald Band
Is This Thing On?

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Label: Independent Released: 4/1/2000


So this little package arrives in the mail one day, enclosed is a simple note: "Hi Steve, here's the new CD, it ain't Jr. and it ain't shit. - Mike". Well, I thought about just scanning that note and making that the review but I thought enquiring minds might want to know more...

Mike McDonald has long been a mainstay of the Canadian music scene, originally in his band Jr. Gone Wild and for the last 3 years or so under his own moniker, The Mike McDonald Band. Naming a band after yourself puts the onus on you to deliver... fortunately Mike takes both the business and the craft of recording and songwriting seriously, as is well evidenced by this CD (and how long it took him to create it) and by the weekly email newsletters he sends out, discussing the business and promoting himself and other artists.

From the opening guitar chords the production on "Is This Thing On?" is clean and deliberate, and nary a word is wasted in the lyrics: every song is carefully assembled for your listening satisfaction, from subject matter and literary references as diverse as James Bond, Wuthering Heights, The Guns of Navarone and The Bible. I get the impression that Mike spends a lot of time reading.

The album is thickened up by the presence of various instruments including organ but most notably by the presence of sisters (I'm assuming) Stephanie and Amber Suchy, who thicken the mix with their backing harmonies and call and response vocals. I found aural images of The Pursuit of Happiness coming to mind with the one-male-two-female vocal formula and ironically enough the lyrics to one song mention "the pursuit of happiness" (not the band) so maybe it was a subconcious thing on Mike's part.

Mike knows a little too much about songwriting and has been perfecting his craft for too long to try anything stupid, so this album does not stray too far from the sound that made Jr. Gone Wild popular: country-tinged rock with an occasional foray into more straight-ahead rock, but always distinguished by his nasal twang. If you liked Jr., you'll like this album; if you hated Jr., give this album a try anyway, the catchy melodies and interesting subject matter may just hook you. There are a lot of hooks here to get caught on.

Steve Donnelly Email WWW

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