Monday, January 4, 2010

Sons of Freedom and Ratsilo

My recent Sons of York post got me thinkin' about Vancouver's Sons of Freedom. In the late '80s and '90s, I saw the band innummerable times, from the Albert to the Winnipeg Arena and all points in between. Frontman Jim Newton and the three Dons (Harrison, Binns, and Short) had cool painted lab coats, the most powerful rhythms I've ever heard or felt live, and an extraordinary mix of sounds. Post-punk, wiry angular guitar and deserate-yet melodic vocals rode in the middle of bass and drums that sound like Black Sabbath one minute, then Bad Brains the next, but might sound like Bad Company on the next tune. Touring on the back of first self-titled album, Sons of Freedom was hipper than hip, and even aging stars like Robert Plant sung their praises (when he went to see the band at the Spectrum, loads of awestruck rockers came out of the woodwork, following the guy into the washroom...why, I don't know). The band was shoved into the "alternative" category when it was just coming into popular use, but they also threw in an occasional pretty ballad and opened for The Tragically Hip. I interviewed Newton a couple of times, and on both occasions he called me to set up an interview; it was refreshing to deal with the artist as opposed to intermediaries such as record label people, managers, and so on.

But something went sour with their deal with Slash. Subsequently, the first album maybe wasn't promoted or distributed as well as it could have been, but it's also been deleted for a long time. Thankfully, the band, or at least Jim Newton, has made the album available for free download. I wish the album could be remastered and rereleased with a live show, because the band was amazing live; pounding bass, jagged shards of guitar, thundering drums, and passionate vocals.

Sons of Freedom - Super Cool Wagon (download mp3 here)

Sons of Freedom - The Criminal (download mp3 here)

Sons of Freedom- Mona Lisa (download mp3 here)

Sons of Freedom - F**k the System (download mp3 here)

The second album, Gump, came out on Chrysalis. A little more commercial, a little less dark, it looked like the band was destined for great things. The band was playing even bigger venues, the live show was still mesmerizing, and the band was getting some video play. According to Wikipedia, Gump debuted on the Canadian campus radio charts at the number 1 spot; Nirvana's Nevermind debuted the same week at #2, so that should give you an indication of the band's potential at the time.

You're No Good

Call Me

USA Long Distance

But after playing a schwackload of shows and recording enough material for a third album, the band broke up. A few years later, an album called Tex was released, which consisted of previously-recorded tunes. Sons of Freedom did a bit of touring and a little bit of promotion around the album, but the group dissolved again. All of Sons of Freedom's albums are now available on iTunes, even though only Tex is available to purchase and physically touch with your grubby little fingers.

Walkie Talkie

Jim Newton and Donn Binns have a new band now called Rat Silo, which Jim calls "more lighthearted" than SOF. Check out some songs from their two albums here, let me know what you think.

Rat Silo - Getupgotoworkgohomegotobed

Rat Silo | MySpace Music Videos

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