After more than 5 years it is time to say good bye and this blog shuts its doors.

Thank you very much for all your support through out this time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mainline feat. Joe Mendelson & Michael McKenna 1973 No Substitute

Genre: Blues
Rate: 256 kbps CBR / 44100
Time: 00:34:22
Size: 62,86 MB


The first McKenna Mendelson Mainline album, Stink, appeared in the second half of 1969. Stink was received not just as a great album of electric blues , but as some sort of revelation. This must have puzzled many of Toronto's veteran blues players and listeners. The blues had been a part of the Canadian musical landscape for a long, long time; certainly the immortal Robert Johnson wouldn't have bothered to cross the border in 1937 to play without an audience. From those days right into the 1970s, bars and nightspots in all of the major Canadian cities were included in the club circuits plied by American blues, jazz-blues and rhythm and blues orchestras. There was also a great deal of homegrown talent -- both black and white -- playing shuffle music, rhythm and blues, and electric Chicago blues to appreciative audiences from coast to coast.

It was the vibrant Toronto blues and R&B world of the 1960s that gave us McKenna Mendelson Mainline. Lead guitarist Mike McKenna spent the previous year ('67-'68) in the bluesy Ugly Ducklings, but he had already developed a 'local hero' tag by playing hard electric blues as a member of the legendary Luke and the Apostles. Earlier still he'd been in Whitey and the Roulettes, a young group that became the Rogues then the Mandala once Domenic Troiano took over on guitar. (The Roulettes didn't record, but trivia buffs might like to know that Mike played on the Apostles' single, "Been Burnt", and the Ducks' last single, "I Know What To Say".)

While guitarist and singer Joe Mendelson was himself no novice -- having been playing in artsy blues and jug bands around Yorkville as far back as 1964 -- he had certainly not been part of anything especially big. In the summer of '68 Mendelson spotted an ad saying that Mike McKenna was looking to put together a blues band. Unable to stifle the urge, Mendelson called to say that running such an ad was an incredibly naive thing for a guitar hero to do. Out of this inauspicious introduction a surprisingly productive partnership was born!

Together, McKenna and Mendelson made arrestingly earthy music, which soon attracted another of Toronto's rock gods of the day, bassist Denny Gerrard. Gerrard's recorded work up to then (with the Paupers, on a couple of Richie Havens cuts, and on "I Dig Rock and Roll Music" by Peter, Paul and Mary) doesn't really show him off to advantage. However, his legendary talents had served him well on the stage of the Monterey Pop Festival, where his work with the Paupers was (and still is) considered a highlight. But, whatever his own international potential, Denny loved the roughness of Joe's style and wanted to be part of it.

Another ad brought in drummer Tony Nolasco, who was at the time young and fresh off the bus from Sudbury. While Nolasco may have lacked in experience and flash, there was something very attractive in his style.

The group succeeded in moving from the Night Owl coffee house in Yorkville to higher profile work such as opening at the Rockpile for John Lee Hooker. (By that time, Gerrard had long since been replaced by Mike Harrison from Grant Smith and the Power, most of whom would soon form Motherlode. Though not possessing the brilliance of Denny Gerrard, Harrison was a very good bassist, with a simple style that was well suited to the blues.)

When the group told Hooker of their plan to head to London -- McKenna in particular was excited by the British blues boom -- Hooker suggested that they team up with him there. While they never did meet up with Hooker, McKenna Mendelson Mainline were well enough received in London that they were given the opportunity to record. The result, Stink, was recorded in a single day in June 1969. Shortly afterwards, the group headed home to Toronto.

Hard on the heels of Stink's immediate local success, the small Paragon label issued the vinyl version of this disc, McKenna Mendelson Blues, a collection of tapes recorded in the group's very early days in September 1968 . While Stink remained in print in Canada for years, and has been available on CD for some time, this album has never been particularly easy to get hold of. Many long-time Stink lovers will be pleasantly surprised by what they hear here. The grooves on these songs are often stunning - in the middle of "Ramblin' On My Mind" even tough Joe Mendelson can be heard letting out a joyous whelp at the sound he was helping to create.

Mendelson himself is desperately raw and powerful throughout, and certainly deserved any special recognition that came his way. McKenna of course plays up a storm, but in a somewhat different style than on the better -known Stink. Here he wrenches notes from his guitar using a harsher tone and some fuzz (listen to "Bad Women" in particular), reflecting the accepted Toronto style of the time; presumably his love for British blues soon pushed all that aside. Denny Gerrard plays it straight for the most part, though in a wonderfully punchy way, but occasionally he unleashes one of his trademark staccato bass runs (not to mention the yodelling bass run on "Bad Sign"). Tony Nolasco, though just a kid in the eyes of the others, does a superb job of holding it all together, and in a funny sort of way sounds to be the true heart of the group. (He also deserves the Charlie Watts award for drum-miking if he did it himself.)

For whatever reasons, the group's magic was never meant to be left intact. Mendelson decided to go solo before the end of '69, and future punk-funkster Rick James, of all people, was called in as a replacement to complete a handful of contracted gigs. McKenna immediately moved into a new 'supergroup' version of Luke and Apostles, with singer Luke Gibson, drummer Pat Little, bassist Denny Gerrard (again) and guitarist Danny McBride. (For the record: Gibson had been with Kensington Market as well as the original Apostles; Little had been with the original Apostles, and would later be in Chimo!, Heaven and Earth with Rick James, Flagg, Diamondback and Fludd; Gerrard would later be in Jericho, Heaven and Earth, the Great White Cane with Rick James, and the Lisa Hartt Band; McBride is probably still in Chris DeBurgh's band, who he's been with for years.)

Fortunately for McKenna Mendelson Mainline fans, Mike quickly tired of the Apostles, and in the summer of '70 played the Scarborough Fair festival with Mendelson, Nolasco and bassist Zeke Sheppard. This lineup solidified into a productive new version of Mainline, which toured Australia and recorded two great albums - Canada Our Home & Native Land and The Mainline Bump 'n' Grind Revue. The rocky road of personnel changes, breakups, reformations should probably be left for whenever those albums, and the final No Substitute LP, are issued on CD.

For now, let's just say that Denny Gerrard hasn't been heard from since the Lisa Hartt Band in the late '70s, Tony Nolasco hasn't been heard from since his involvement in Rick James' about-to-blossom career in the mid-'70s, Mike McKenna has never stopped playing blues and blues-rock for long (either with his own groups or as a member of Downchild -- though we shouldn't forget the largely blues-free stints with Diamondback and the Guess Who), and Joe Mendelson has managed to stay in the public eye as a singer of songs, a painter of prime-ministerial bums and a tireless writer of letters to editors.


01 - Meet You Beat You 02:19

02 - Sometimes 02:36

03 - Do My Walkin' 02:22

04 - Get To You 05:23

05 - Dictator 04:12

06 - Digging The Holes 02:45

07 - No Substitute 03:03

08 - I've Been Lucky 01:55

09 - Give It To Me Straight 07:18

10 - It's Been A Treat 02:29

Mainline feat. Joe Mendelson & Michael McKenna here:

Thank you Canadian Music for sharing this album!

Ziddu (Accepts parallel downloads! No waiting!!)



KDNYfm said...

Hey Mile,
thanx for the final piece of my Mainline digital albums. I own all of the original albums on vinyl and several on CD. However, I'm sure I saw another live album besides Bump and Grind and Last Night at the El Mo...but for the life of me, I cant find it again! I thought I had kept a link to it but obviously I cant find it again?!? Maybe I'm dreaming, but if you have any way of checking, I'd be very happy if you can help.

SouthernBluesRock said...

Hi Al,

the only information about another live album is an independent release from 2007 called Bootleg Live or Live Bootleg. I found it on Mike McKenna's webpage

Another album seems to be an issue called Biscuit Meets Mainline but could not find any further informations.

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