ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 12, 1995
By Steve Newton
While Tom Cochrane’s last album, Mad Mad World, spawned his biggest hit ever in the undisputably catchy “Life Is a Highway”, it was far from one of his best recordings overall. It included some pretty weak tunes—the worst being the ponderous title track—and was a small step down from the previous Victory Day, which was itself a setback in comparison to the superb Tom Cochrane and Red Rider disc of ’86.
The venerable Toronto rocker is back on the winning track with the new Ragged Ass Road, though, thanks largely to the songwriting talents of Vancouver’s own Annette Ducharme. Ducharme—who also added acoustic guitar and background vocals to the album—penned the standout tracks “Flowers in the Concrete” and “Best Waste of Time”, two passionate pop gems inspired by sharp-eyed observations of everyday life.
To his own credit, Cochrane is in top form on the uplifting opener “I Wish You Well” and the anthemic “Paper Tigers”, and his core band of keyboardist-coproducer John Webster, guitarist Bill Bell, drummer Gregor Beresford, and bassist Ken “Spider” Sinneave does a bang-up job throughout.
As if to make up for losing the impeccable guitar talents of departed bandmate Kenny Greer, Cochrane recruited Rush axeman Alex Lifeson to play on three songs, and his freak-out solo near the end of “Just Scream” combines with Cochrane’s Steve Tyler-ish screech to make it his heaviest piece of work in many moons.