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Greg MacPherson - Night Flares (Cover Artwork)

Greg MacPherson

Greg MacPherson: Night FlaresNight Flares (2005)
G7 Welcoming Committee Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: adamAdam
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Greg MacPherson's traditionally had a very assertive singing style, a commanding tone that's at the core of all the Strummer and Springsteen comparisons he's garnered. While that element's certainly a large part of this record, there's something else at play here. Night Flares is surprisingly vulner.
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Greg MacPherson's traditionally had a very assertive singing style, a commanding tone that's at the core of all the Strummer and Springsteen comparisons he's garnered. While that element's certainly a large part of this record, there's something else at play here. Night Flares is surprisingly vulnerable at times, shockingly so on the initial few listens. It's as if the road-weary traveller has returned home to find all his personal problems waiting right there where he left them.

Since he's gained so much attention as a solo performer (and is following up an EP which documents that phase) the question is raised of what differs Greg MacPherson the band from Greg MacPherson the man. The answer is not a lot, as Greg's voice and socially conscious lyricism is still the star of the show. While the full band quite ably fills out the sound, by the time the album-opening "Two Haircuts In One" completes it's clear that this is still one man's vision. The listener doesn't need to change gears much when moving between Greg's acoustic material and his fully arranged songs. Backing him on the record is a nice selection of talent from his home of Winnipeg. Weakerthans drummer Jason Tait is behind the kit for a majority of the album, with Derek Houge and Arlene Fabre filling the role on select tracks. Singer-songwriter Steve Bates plays second guitar and shares a few songwriting credits (primary on "Pressure"). Mike Germain rounds out the main quartet and alternates between guitar and bass duty. The one guest on the record is Keri McTighe of fellow `peg band Nathan, who contributes the chorus to the up-tempo "Southern Lights."

The first half of the record sees the full band and studio used to its full potential, although the production is kept suitably raw. On "Kingston" guitar, drum and keyboards bubble under hauntingly tracked vocals. MacPherson's penchant for writing conversational, down to earth social commentary shines through here: "Put your finger anywhere on the atlas baby / Somebody's there living hard / From the uranium mine to the soup kitchen line / Or right here in your own backyard." This leads to the foreboding and well arranged "Cutting Room" and "The Show Is In The Basement." The latter starts off much like a solo track, with narrative first-person lyrics, only to hit the verse "Now you see I run against the crowd" and explode into a noisy, abrasive conclusion. It's a breathtaking change when you're not expecting it and a highlight of the album. With lyrics spoken as if describing a dream, the down-tempo "Pressure" marks the halfway point and would make an ideal break between album sides.

"Hotel Motel" is the record's anthem, that one song that's destined to become a staple of any future set list. It precedes "Blind Date," and the only place where Night Flares really stumbles. Here's a track with six minutes of music and only 10 lines to spread between them. It's a pace killer. It's a shame too, because the song actually works in and of itself. The restrained tempo is purposeful, as it clearly evokes the lyrical content of being stuck in an awkward and failing social situation. The following "California" clocks in at the same, and leads to the same situation of an ill-sequenced but otherwise great tune dragging down the momentum. Written from the perspective of arriving on a plane, it paints the old Canadian lyrical cliché of longing for the golden state in its most anticipatory light. Fortunately "Man Overboard" speeds things up before the conclusion, with Greg rediscovering his aggressive side. There's something guarded and wary about his vocals, as if life on the road has made him witness to every personal and social disaster imaginable. When he embodies this spirit, he can shout like the only sane person in a room crowded with oblivious, doomed people. "The Sun Beats Down" drops the tempo again, but as the closing song on the record it feels more natural.

While marred by a few unfortunately sequenced tracks, this is too essential to ignore. Night Flares is a collection of fantastic songs from one of the most genuine and definitive singer-songwriters in Canada.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (April 22, 2005)

I disagree with this review. I think that Blind Date and California are placed perfectly. They give some breathing room between the two uptempo songs before them and give a glimpse into a more mellow, rather than aggressive G-Mac, sort of like Remote Control on his last full-length, Good Times Coming Back Again. I would actually argue that California is one of the strongest tracks on the album, although it is not a new song, it has never been released on CD before. And having seen him live just a few nights ago in Vancouver, I definately have to reccommend this to everyone. You can just tell in his lyrics and voice how passionate he is about everything he creates in his music. And when he plays his guitar, he doesn't use a pick, he strums with the tips of his fingers...ouch. Definately one of my favourite cds in the past long time. I even got to talk to Jord in Vancouver and harrass him about the new Prop cd coming out...apparently G7 is lazy (wow, who knew). But when we threatened to fly a plane into G7 HQ, Jord replied, "you'll have to fly pretty fucking low".

Anonymous (April 21, 2005)

"Winnipeg has Propagandhi, Weakerthans, Greg MacPherson, The Guess Who, Comeback Kid, 60 Stories, I Spy"

Don't forget Neil Young

Anonymous (April 21, 2005)

The Dean Malenkos are great too; probably the best punk band in Canada as of right now. Check them out.

-Chinatown

adam (April 21, 2005)

Constantines are not from Winnipeg. They're from Guelph Ontario and currently residing in Toronto.

-adam

Anonymous (April 20, 2005)

yeah Winnipeg has Propagandhi, Weakerthans, Greg MacPherson, The Guess Who, Comeback Kid, 60 Stories, I Spy, Constantines,

Anonymous (April 20, 2005)

Winnipeg is definitely not my favorite town, but they have consitently provided us with some quality music over the last decade. The new G-Mac record is yet another example of why Winnipeg is at the forefront of the Canadian music scene.

Anonymous (April 20, 2005)

A great album. I wouldn't exactly classify it as "rock." Most songs seem a bit restrained--in fact, that's the only weakness I can find. I wish some of the tracks were a bit more aggressive. Still, you can't fault Greg's awesome songwriting and lyrics. Highlights: The Show is in the Basement, Man Overboard, and Southern Lights.

By the way, what's up with the track listing in the back of the digipak? The order of tracks 6 through 9 is incorrect....

-Chinatown

Anonymous (April 19, 2005)

This is awesome rock n roll music - everyone should listen

Inspection12e (April 19, 2005)

This doesn't sound anyting like Rocky Votolato.

Anonymous (April 19, 2005)

Intrigued?
www.bangupjob.blogspot.com

gladimnotemo (April 19, 2005)

I don't know about this, but I've been on a huge G7 kick for the last week, if only for Randy and Propagandhi.

moneenerd (April 19, 2005)

The best thing G7 and Greg Mac ever put out.

Anonymous (April 19, 2005)

very excited to hear this. The maintenance EP was great, and hes a genuinely nice guy.

wyzo

Anonymous (April 19, 2005)

I just saw Greg play 2 nights ago. Jord from propagandhi was rocking the skins. I had to leave early and missed about the last song or two, but Greg's incredible voice and charisma on stage is always a treat. 2nd best show i've been to this week ... number 1 is bedouin soundclash ... it has been a great week.

Anonymous (April 19, 2005)

sounds kind of like rocky votollato

Tim-PunkInternational (April 19, 2005)

I agree with the gist of Adam's review, but I was hung up on the flaws of this album. Couldn't get into it.

swingline (April 19, 2005)

ehhh... meh.

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