APRIL WINE – Electric Jewels (That 70’s Guy Retro-Review)

April Wine Electric JewelsI’m back with another hidden gem of the 1970’s. Anybody remember 1973? A few albums you may have heard of that were released in 1973 included Dark Side of the Moon, Band on the Run, Houses of the Holy, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and of course Electric Jewels by April Wine. Ok, so you’ve heard of April Wine but can you go all the way back to their early catalog? Normally I like to showcase lesser known bands that should’ve been huge. That one or two album band that no one’s ever heard of but got played over and over and over in my circle of friends creating lasting memories to span a lifetime. This time I thought I’d shake it up a bit.

Well, April Wine are a huge household name here in Canada with numerous breakthrough hits worldwide spanning their career but it was those early days that kept them as our own little secret.

Electric Jewels was their third album released in November 1973. The lineup consisted of Myles Goodwyn on guitars and vocals, Gary Moffat on guitar, Jim Clench on vocals and bass and iconic Jerry Mercer on drums.  April Wine is one of those bands that because of their longevity had numerous lineup changes. Some fans like the early Henman Brothers one, some like the Steve Lang and Brian Greenaway years and some may like a combo of the later years. Although all fabulous, it was this lineup on Electric Jewels that I recall the most. It was this lineup that I saw live for the first time. It was this lineup that took April Wine to the highest ranks of rock for me.

In the spring of 1974, April Wine along with Fludd and A Foot in Coldwater came to Kitchener and Brantford. My buddy’s mom drove us to Kitchener for the show and waited around till it was over. Later that week we went to the same show in Brantford. In reality, these were my first real “rock concerts” I would attend.

April Wine were promoting this as the Electric Jewels tour. Since we lived in Brantford, we could walk to the show at the Brantford and District Civic Centre. I remember a whole clan of us going. It was general admission but they had chairs set up and you just grabbed what you could. Being young boys and girls out for the night it was easy to ignore the show and just run around and flirt. Not Brian. I sat there for the whole show as if in a trance as I watched every move and listened to every note. Wow, little did I know what I was becoming. The highlight that I remember most was seeing the disco ball light up at the top of the arena above the crowd (I believe it was during the song “Electric Jewels”). I’d never seen anything like it – starry and dreamy. On the musical side, it was watching Jerry Mercer‘s drum solo for the first time. This would start a trend that for every future April Wine show you would NEVER miss his solo. Sorry folks and fellow Canadians this is why he is my favorite drummer of all time!! He was the first to do the slow, raise and switch hands without missing a beat to the strobe light trick. It really freaked me out how he could do that!

Back in the day, we listened to AM radio. We heard a song we liked and went and bought the 45. Then they would release another single and we would go buy it as well. Over and over it went. Until one day someone got smart (or in most cases someone got money) and bought the whole damn album. In this case, it was my cousin with the job that picked it up. So with no further ado here is my recap of one of my definitive albums of all time!

                      April Wine – Electric Jewels – Released 1973 on Aquarious Records

Side One

  1. “Weeping Widow”ok where do I start with this gem? Probably in my top 25 songs of ALL time. Sung by Jim Clench this song is borderline metal for 1973 standards. It truly stands the test of time and if you are remotely unfamiliar with this song, stop reading this and scroll down to the link below and crank it! Pounding guitars, searing vocals and a rhythm that can’t be topped by too many other songs period. I had the 45.
  2. “Just Like That”Lightning fast, catchy as hell guitar, incredible scream-along chorus-paced song that rocks from start to finish – just like that! I had the 45 as well.
  3. “Electric Jewels”Find a lazy boy, dim the lights, put on those giant 70’s ear muff headphones, ease the seat back and enter wonderland. That’s what I did a million times I think to this song. Another instant classic April Wine song that includes all kinds of masterful ingredients. 6 minutes of pure bliss – not to mention some really nice Myles riffing as well. I had the 45 – of course I did.
  4. “You Opened Up My Eyes”a song that unfortunately didn’t get the rec room turntable airplay that most on this album did. But as the years somber on and curiosity gets the best of me, I often go back and enjoy this underrated classic. Slow but wonderfully sung and performed.

Side Two

  1. “Come On Along”Another classic April Wine song that probably has one of the most catchy sing your heart out choruses and a matching fabulous riff to compliment it. There’s no mistaking those dual guitars and the brilliant guitar to fade out the song.
  2. “Lady Run, Lady Hide”the first single I heard from this album. A haunting song with some lyrics that really had my 13-year-old mind full of curiosity. Why is she running, why is she hiding? People may die? I still don’t know why? I had the 45. Geez, why didn’t I just buy the album?
  3. “I Can Hear You Calling” – Another song that popularized itself in my brain from being a B-side of a 45. Great beat, catchy hook and some nice bass grooves from Mr. Clench.
  4. “Cat’s Claw”A song that goes real deep within the rock memories of my life.  I sink back into that time whenever I hear it. Sung by Jim again, this magical tune has an amazing aura and feel to it with the best guitar solo on the album. Note: the version on the April Wine Live album is, simply put, outstanding with an extra long guitar solo at the end. I still remember my buddy bawling his eyes out to this song as it affected him that much. Sorry, Mike I just had to add that.
  5. “The Band Has Just Begun”Concluding the album is a crowd favorite. A staple in their live shows (even to this day). Fast, direct in your face and simply put, a great song. Thinking back in 1973 they were just beginning knowing what was to come after.

I never thought they could top their previous release, On Record, but man, oh man did they ever! Of course, April Wine continued on for years as a top concert draw putting out solid releases one after the other. AM Top 40 radio classics mixed with hard guitar driven classic album cuts. I continued to see them many times during these years and was especially proud of our Canadian boys when they stood up to be noticed during the resurge of rock during the NWOBHM time. Playing the Hammersmith Odeon in London and participating in the inaugural Monsters of Rock – Castle Donnington 1980 Festival alongside Rainbow and the Scorpions. Well done boys! I rocked out with them just recently and they still sound GREAT!

Do yourself a favor and grab a copy and give it a spin. You will not be disappointed! That I can guarantee.

Brian “That 70’s Guy” Ronald

BUY: Electric Jewels

Official Website / Facebook

“Weeping widow, don’t you cry
Dressed in black; I don’t know why
All the time that you’ve been waiting
You should feel like celebrating”

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COMMENTS

  • Thanks Brian,

    What a great review and wonderful flashback. My introduction to big rock music and my love of April Wine started with this album too. I remember jumping around the living room as a 13 year old and sawing ferocious chords on my air guitar to ‘Weeping Widow’ and ‘Just Like That’. My version of your story takes place in Halifax and I saw them on the ‘Electric Adventure Tour’ at the Forum. As a budding young drummer, watching Jerry Mercer’s drum solo left me with my mouth wide open and thinking I had just seen God himself on the drums. The one handed roll on the snare drum, gradually speeding up and switching hands, with the strobe light flashing and dry ice fog rising over his Crystalite Fibes was an impression I’d never forget.

    A few years later, as a full blown groupie fan, during the Goin’ Crazy tour, I got to meet the band backstage. I asked Jerry whatever happened to those magnificent Crystalite Good Fibes that I though were the coolest drums on planet Earth. “I still have them and am trying to sell them!’ he said. Barely able to speak after recovering from the shock, I quickly had my autographs and the phone number to reach Jerry at Aquarius Records in Montreal. It took a while but my Father finally agreed to fund me buying those drums. As a 17 year old I thought I had hit the jackpot! Almost 40 years later, I still do! I have owned and played those magnificent Crystalite Double Forte Fibes drums and added a ton of stuff over the years. They sound and look better than ever. ( You can see one of the tom-toms in the first pic)

    Every time I hear ‘Stand Back’, ‘Electric Jewels’ and April Wine ‘Live’ ’74, I smile and enjoy listening to my drums on the radio. I love April Wine and Electric Jewels was the album that was my favourite as I came of age. Thanks for a great review!

    Kyle Miller, Vancouver BC

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