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Golden Seals, The
Storybook Endings

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MapleMusic Has It

Label: Independent Released: 6/1/2001

A while back, I was relaxing at home on a Saturday night, listening to David Wisdom’s fine CBC show, RadioSonic. Wisdom, who has recently been replaced on the West Coast by The Smuggler’s Grant Lawrence, is known in music circles for having great radar – probably developed from all those years with his ear to the underground. As a listener, I was never surprised when he uncovered a diamond in the rough. On that particular Saturday night, D.W. played a track from a band called The Golden Seals, and I immediately knew he had discovered another gem. Maybe I’m just a tad daft for wanting to, but I decided this Golden Seals thing required a bit of a look-see. After all, whoever would name their band after a defunct NHL franchise, an herbal remedy for chronic constipation, a type of plumbing glue, or a stamp on hashish is worth spending some time investigating, right? Now fast track to a couple of months later, to another Saturday night - only this time I’m relaxing at a Greenfield Main show at Bumper’s Roadhouse, trading disks and chatting with The Golden Seals’ own Dave Merritt. Sometimes one can’t help but notice what a funny, weird and small world it is at times. As the room filled up with a sea of baseball caps for Andrew Vincent’s set, Dave Merritt spoke easily about his musical journey – past and present. One of first things you find out about Dave is that he’s no stranger to the Canadian music scene - having played with London Ontario’s Adam West and running an independent label for many years. The second thing you discover, and most importantly, is he’s just a plain old-fashioned nice guy. "I've just recently gotten back into Canada – so this is kinda weird but cool," Dave says as he explains to me the Seals' name, the music on Storybook Ending, and his current living arrangements / relationship with Bytown. Maybe he feels weird because in 1997, he left Canada for the States, moved to North Carolina, and when it was time to return, two years later, he set up shop at Andy Magoffin's House of Miracles studio in London (Magoffin also fronts his own band, The Two Minute Miracles) where he completed Storybook Endings. Now, he finds himself in Ottawa, promoting a new Cd, getting critical acclaim at a time when it was least expected, and sitting in a roadhouse discussing music stuff with me. Yeah, I guess that’s a little weird. "People have been really good. After the NXNE shows, radio, press, everything just picked up – to the point where I've got to decide just how far I want to push this thing” explains Dave. Throughout the evening, our conversation unconsciously revolves around musical ideas - sprinkled with apologizes. He apologizes for making a pop record - Like that’s a bad thing to do. Then apologizes for borrowing from the Beatles - Like that’s a bad thing to do too. Finally, apologizes for making a record that counts for something – its too bad more people don’t feel that way - Really! When I finally got the apology bug (about my own material), we both laughed, and called it a night. And I went home to listen to his disk. Speaking of which, the music on Storybook Endings is much like the person behind it – honest, witty, relaxed, refreshingly complex, and on time. It is easily one of the best Canadian records out there right now. The disk opens up with the song, Iron In The Fire - recorded to sound like something straight out of another century. Algernon follows nicely. My Lousy Autumn Sky, the Wonderful Towers of Watts and Frownland are all exceptional works. Merritt’s vocals are expressive and unrestrained. He appears to be so smitten with the sound of keyboards that he uses as many as possible on the Cd (Hammond, Rhodes, lap, Wurlitzer, goodwill, Italian). More than anything, this album is filled with pure, sweet misfit brilliance, sudden truths and gentle reminders of things that should not be explained. But what strikes me the most about the music is it’s openness – everywhere there is room to breathe, notes fling themselves freely, far away from crowded confines that usually populate disks these days. "Sure, I took some time to make this record - but everything’s relative. You know, if someone would have paid me Billy Corgan size money to make a record, I’m not sure if I could have done away with it all. Wait! What am I saying! I’d find someway to spend that dough!” Dave chuckles. “Let me know what you think about the disk, ok?” The trouble with asking for an honest opinion is that you are liable to be told unpleasant truths you would rather not hear. So here’s one. Despite Dave’s claim that much of the disk’s sound is steeped in Beatles influences, I had a tough time figuring out the ties. Why the Beatles? Is it because horns, and similar chord phrasings are used? Nah, the only way to sound like the Beatles, is to be the Beatles. And that’s getting harder to do every passing day. I think that when someone states upfront that they were weaned on the Beatles what they are really saying is that they believe in a 3 minute universe, that they lean towards melody, often squeezing chunks of it in between stripped down, shimmering rhythm changes. And Dave does lots of that. I remember another Ottawa act, Starling, was once given that tag: “Oh, they’re great, but they sound like the Beatles”. Please! I’m not sure why people feel the need to find something, anything negative, when it’s all good. Plus, it was almost forty years ago, that the Beatles wanted only to hold your hand, and thanks to them, bands today are still trying to reconcile with the 2 warring factions that eventually slayed the Beatles: experimental and accessibility. Dave Merritt is well aware that there can be art in pop. He does appear to be committed to experimenting within the pop format, and trying to bridge the gap between art and commerce - two apparently polarized things. Note: the cover art is reminisant of the Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 era. Anyhow, Storybook Endings is not really an ending but more of a beginning - for I’m certain that we’ll be hearing more from The Golden Seals.

Golden McDonald Email WWW


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