Colin Linden connects with “unjaded” hero Rick Danko on stellar When the Spirit Comes


By Steve Newton

A lot of people have rock dreams, whereby they imagine themselves up on stage, performing with their favourite musical idols. Most of the time these fantasies never come true. But once in a while–as in the case of Toronto’s Colin Linden–they do. His rock dream was realized when Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of the Band chose to play with him on his latest album, When the Spirit Comes. They’ve been heroes of Linden’s for as long as he can remember.

“From the time I was seven or something,” says the 28-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist, “when I got Music from Big Pink. I thought, ‘This is for me in a big way.’ ”

Linden first ran into Danko in  late ’85 at the Diamond club in Toronto, where he opened for the reunited, Robbie Robertson-less Band. Then he caught up with him again last summer at the Edmonton Folk Festival, and the two came to realize that they shared similar attitudes–toward the music business in particular and life in general.

“Rick’s way of looking at things is very much in keeping with what I feel about priorities,” says Colin. “He’s a very Zen guy and he has a very positive aura about him. He looks at the world in a truly unjaded way–and he sees a lot of shit. The prospect of playing with him was so appealing to me because he treats life with a lot of respect, and that’s a perfect vibe for playing music and playing it well.”

On When the Spirit Comes–which in this scribbler’s mind is one of the best Canadian records released this year–Danko lent his harmony, backup, and lead vocals to four tunes, including a remake of the deathless Band number “Chest Fever”. It was a song Linden’s band had been jamming on during rehearsals for the album.

“My manager suggested we cut it on a whim,’ says Linden. “And when Rick came to the studio a few days later, I played him what we had done–’cause I figured if we’re gonna use it, I wanted his blessing on it. And not only did he love the way we did it, but he said, ‘I’d love to sing on it.’ In the back of my mind that was just what I was hoping he’d do, but I didn’t ask about it–he offered. And I was just thrilled.”

As well as Danko and Hudson (who played keyboards on two tunes), Linden acquired the talents of another of this country’s top musical talents in Tom Cochrane, who sang harmonies on a couple of tracks. He just happened to be using the same studio the same day.

“I thought to myself, ‘Man, that’s one guy I’d love to sing with.’ And because he’s got such a great high register, I figured we’d be able to sing harmonies together real well.”

When the Spirit Comes is actually the third Colin Linden album to be released. He recorded his debut when he was just 20, a live album on the now defunct Ready Records, and his second LP, The Immortals, came out in ’86 on Stony Plain. His latest is his first on a major label, A&M, and it really showcases his immense songwriting abilities (with the exception of “Chest Fever”, he wrote all the tunes himself). It also gave him a chance to put his guitar-plaling skills up front.

“I’ve worked as a sideman quite a lot,” he says, “so I was always getting my guitar jollies playing with other people. But then I got the hankering to play a lot more guitar in my own band, and I just decided, ‘Leave some room for yourself to play, boy.’ ”

And play he does. Just check out the searing slide-work on “I Kick for This House”. Tunes like that one, as well as “Two Halves of a Whole”, “Miles Away from You”, and “Thy Will Be Done” are immediately likeable little gems with catchy arrangements and inspiring words. Linden says the the theme of the record is pretty well contained in the title track, “When the Spirit Comes”.

“The songs were inspired by a certain way of thinking that developed in us over the last little while. I would say that the record is about having things come to you a little bit more–about trusting your instinct and not trying to force the issues in your life. Let the spirit come to you, let yourself be inspired. Let yourself think a thought for the first time, or do something in your life because it hits you that it’s the right thing to do.”

Colin Linden will be at Klub Kaos October 12, and at the Town Pump October 14 and 15.



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