Updated: Apr 28
TOQUE: Canadian - a close-fitting knitted hat, often with a tassel or pom-pom on top.
It's no secret that I have been a huge Todd "Dammit" Kerns fan. Ever since I first saw him perform with ELECTRIC in Saskatoon, later to become AGE OF ELECTRIC, with his brother John Kerns and their "other" brother friends and bandmates Ryan and Kurt Dahl. I first bought the demo cassette 'The Latest Plague' off the stage at the former A-4 Club here in town. I've followed Todd through the mini success with AOE, a small stint with STATIC IN STEREO along with brother John, while the Dahl brothers went on to form alt-pop group LIMBLIFTER. Todd released a solo album and subsequently moved to Las Vegas where he joined SIN CITY SINNERS. When GUNS N' ROSES guitarist Slash was auditioning vocalists for a new band, Todd tried to fill the slot but it was eventually given to amazing ALTER BRIDGE vocalist Myles Kennedy. All was not lost though, as Todd Kerns was hired to fill Bass and backing vocal duties in the new band SLASH Featuring MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS.
That brings us to another amazing Canadian musician and fellow CONSPIRATOR Brent Fitz. Brent was hired on as Drummer when Todd joined on Bass to complete the rhythm section for Slash. Brent himself is no slouch, as he toured with the legendary Kenny Shields & STREETHEART back in the early 90's. His travels brought him to Los Angeles where he connected with many big names in rock & roll like VINCE NEIL, ALICE COOPER, BRUCE KULICK and many more. He had stints in big name Canadian bands like HARLEQUIN, ECONOLINE CRUSH, and THEORY OF A DEADMAN too. His friendship with Todd Kerns and their partnership in SLASH Featuring MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS eventually caused the two to create a Canadian tribute band called TOQUE, which would tour and play classic rock cover songs from Canadian bands from yesteryear like TROOPER, HARLEQUIN, STREETHEART and more. Todd and Brent are joined by Cory Churko (SHANIA TWAIN, KELLY CLARKSON) and Shane Gaalaas (B'z, MICHAEL SCHENKER, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN).
Technically, TOQUE got it's start back in 2012 when Todd Kerns, Brent Fitz and Cory Churko performed in Winnipeg for a charity event to help raise money for Cancer research. The setlist was full of great tunes like the ones on the 'Give'r' album and no doubt solidified the idea for TOQUE then.
Now, you may ask why the hell am I reviewing a cover album, and why am I reviewing it now when TOQUE's 'Give'r' was released on Dec 23, 2016? Simply put, it's still new enough and it's a special year for Canada with our 150th year of Confederation coming July 1st, 2017. What better way to celebrate than thirteen remakes of killer Canadian classic rock. A veritable soundtrack of summer and definitely made to blast on Canada day!
TOQUE - 'Give'r' (Promo Video)
In the 1980's here in Canada, everyone who was anyone owned at least one K-Tel record. K-Tel was famous for putting out compilation albums of the hits of the day. All the big department stores like Zellers, Woolco, Eaton's or Sears all carried the latest K-Tel compilations. My personal favs were 'Hit Express', 'Rock 82', 'Rock 83', 'Masters Of Metal', 'White Hot' and of course great compilations of all Canadian bands like 'Electric North' which featured BRYAN ADAMS, SHERIFF, STRANGE ADVANCE, ALDO NOVA, THE PAYOLA$, HEADPINS, CONEY HATCH, RUSH and more! In my case, these records were how I was exposed to a lot of Canadian bands aside from the CANCON (Canadian Content) rules for Am/Fm radio stations up here. They were always great compilations from cover to cover. Obviously, this and our overuse of EH! is why the band chose K'EH-TEL as their boutique record label name to play on K-TEL's impact Eh!
The same goes for TOQUE and their new album 'Give'r'. Each cover/tribute song was excellently chosen and it's hard not to listen to 'Give'r' in it's entirety each and every time. Songs by the Canuck biggies like LOVERBOY, ALDO NOVA, KIM MITCHELL, PLATINUM BLONDE, APRIL WINE, HONEYMOON SUITE, TROOPER and more. Surprising to hear one of my favorite, lesser known Saskatchewan bands QUEEN CITY KIDS from Regina, who had a minor hit with "Dance" (heard below) from 'Black Box'. It's always been a fav of mine and played here at Pure Rock Radio over the years and every so often. ORPHAN's "Lonely At Night" was a bit of a strange and super obscure choice for sure, and probably my least favorite of the 13. I was pleasantly surprised to hear CHILLIWACK's "My Girl (Gone, Gone Gone)" from 1981's 'Wanna Be A Star'. I truly wore that record out from CHILLIWACK in the early 80's.
TOQUE - "Dance":
TOQUE's cover art depicts the band name scrawled with urine. A delightful Canadian male pastime and right of passage during our long cold winters, to write things in the snow while you pee outside in the cold winter. You can see two feet, a Toque and what I can assume is a bottle of beer also in the cover image. Every single Canadian can remember a scene just like that one sometime in their lives, so it's fitting for a collection of Canadian classic rock tunes.
It's not just how amazing the original songs are here, it's also the tight musicianship on each and every track. Todd's voice is strong as always. His range and ability makes it seem effortless. With Cory, Shane and Brent to pull it all together cohesively and pay tribute to these classics like they deserve to be played. Attention to detail was not overlooked for the sake of having fun with these songs.
This collection of Canadian hit covers by TOQUE, neatly wrapped in a package called 'Give'r' is a MUST for your collection and a great soundtrack for your Canada Day long weekends at the lake or BBQing with family and friends in the summertime (despite the wintery cover art). Best of all, I spy with my lil' eye many more albums by TOQUE! Because the pool of amazing Canadian music is so very deep. I'd love to hear them doing PRISM's "Take me to the Kaptin" or anything from RUSH? BTO, THE GUESS WHO, RED RIDER...the list goes on, but for now you can rest assured that 'Give'r' from TOQUE is a fitting tribute to Canadiana and a country rich in diversity and talent in the True North Strong and Free!
Track list: 1) Fantasy (4:56) - ALDO NOVA 2) Dance (3:56) - QUEEN CITY KIDS 3) Working for the Weekend (3:44) - LOVERBOY 4) Thinking of You (4:34) - HARLEQUIN 5) My Girl [Gone, Gone, Gone] (4:13) - CHILLIWACK 6) Go for Soda (3:29) - KIM KITCHELL 7) Crying over You (3:42) - PLATINUM BLONDE 8) On the Loose (4:32) - SAGA 9) Roller (4:21) - APRIL WINE 10) Lonely at Night (4:19) - ORPHAN 11) New Girl Now (3:34) - HONEYMOON SUITE 12) Raise a Little Hell (3:43) - TROOPER 13) Action (4:47) - STREETHEART
Favorite Track(s): "Dance", "My Girl [Gone, Gone, Gone]", and "Crying Over You" Note: hard to narrow down to a couple tracks ;)
RATING: (out of 5 stars): 5! Amazing trip down memory lane! This is truly what it's all aboot!
BUY at ITUNES: