Wed, Oct 31, 2012.
Hey happy birthday Great Big Sea. The band that became the biggest on the East Coast is celebrating twenty years together with a brand-new double CD greatest hits collection called XX. It's jam-packed with all their hits, plus six new tracks, 40 in all. Recognizing the famous duality of the group, it's split in two halves, the first disc called Pop Songs, the second called Folk Songs. You'll find tracks from all their albums, including the first, independently released disc from 1993, where the traditional Great Big Sea is done, the song that gave them their name. And what a different sound it was, very old-fashioned, Newfoundland, a squeeze box the main instrument. It wasn't long before we heard the other side of them, and the string of hits is quite impressive: Run Runaway, Goin' Up, When I'm Up, Ordinary Day. By the end of the decade they couldn't release a disc without getting East Coast Music Awards thrown at them. Don't forget, it got so one-sided that the band actually pulled out of the awards nominations after winning Entertainer of the Year every year. It wasn't fair anymore.
It's going to be a big year ahead for the band. Touring, new singles, celebrations. It's actually already started; this past Monday, the band showed up as special guests at a birthday party for their buddies and old tour mates, Blue Rodeo, who were celebrating their 25th birthday. The two bands have swapped songs and been pals for a long time. The show was at the Glen Gould Theatre in Toronto at our broadcast centre, and GBS did their version of Blue Rodeo's What Am I Doing Here? The nice thing is you can check out the live song already on line, because CBC taped the show, and it's already posted on our website, CBC Music, just go to http://music.cbc.ca/#/blogs/2012/10/What-Am-I-Doing-Here-Blue-Rodeo-and-Great-Big-Sea-play-Hurricane-Sandy
Also, if you're a big fan, you might want to invest a little more into the Great Big Sea story. There's a special edition of the XX collection available on the band's website, a much bigger boxed set that includes a lot more music, video and some very nice collectible extras. First, it's three CD's. The third is all unreleased before, and made up of a bunch of early demo tracks, and several other rarities from their career, recordings that didn't make their final albums. There's also a very early interview with the band done on CBC radio which they recently discovered, just after they got together. Shoot, I had one of those too! But I don't think I kept the tape. Whatta dummy I am. That disc is called Rogue Waves, and for now at least, it won't be available to buy except in this special box. The same goes for the DVD included, which has a brand-new documentary put together by the band, including footage of their early gigs, and material from an early film thought lost, introducing the band. As well, you get a 100-page book, stickers, posters, reproduction backstage passes, lots of sweet stuff for the collector.
There's only one thing missing from this party, and that's what every fan wants most, another Great Big Sea concert. And that is coming, just not right away. They've planned the birthday tour for next year, starting in March. The good news it includes New Brunswick, but sadly, just one show, and that's in Moncton at the Casino. It happens April 25th, and hey, tickets for that might make a nice Christmas present.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).