That 70’s Guy is back again to present another round of my “Retro Review” series. This time I am pleased to review A Foot in Coldwater’s 1977 release Breaking Through. First things first, lets’ get this out of the way right off the bat. A Foot in Coldwater (also known as AFIC) is my all-time favorite Canadian band and sits within my top five bands of all time. Breaking Through is the 4th album and one of the lesser-known gems that came near the end of their career as a band. It’s just so damn good.
The band was formed in Toronto in the early 70’s consisting of members from three local bands – Nucleus, Lords of London and Island. The original core group consisted of Alex Machin on vocals, Paul Naumann on all guitars,
Hughie Leggat on bass and vocals, Bob Horne on keyboards and Danny Taylor on drums.
AFIC was such an early inspiration in not only my love of music but as a young person growing up during the delicate and venerable years from 12 – 17. From the early Daffodil albums that consisted of the Canadian mega-hit “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” as well as timeless classics “(Isn’t Love Unkind) In My Life”, “Love is Coming”, “Who Can Stop Us Now” and “Paradise”, AFIC was always by my side. From those early years of sitting beside my AM radio listening to CKOC’s Top 40 countdown and trying to catch their songs perfectly on my tape deck to those 14-year-old “supervised” mixed parties with the lights down low.
AFIC truly was the soundtrack of my youth.
By the time Breaking Through came around 3 years later, we were seasoned veterans in rock and roll, girls and partying – well at least we liked to think we were. It was the summer of 1977 – innocent times, good times and A Foot in Coldwater wanted one last crack at making memories with us. Next to Heart, Kansas, Foreigner, Triumph they grabbed a foothold for that summer’s shenanigans. From “parents away” parties at Irwin’s house to bush parties at Whiteman’s Creek to seeing them live once again in Cambridge with Max Webster. Breaking Through was king!
Let’s give it another spin, shall we?
A Foot in Coldwater – Breaking Through – released 1977 on Anthem Records
- “Save It All For Me” – a good start after 3 years. Good classic AFIC with the gang in top form. Most noticeably is Hughie’s thumping bass and Alex’s superior voice. Considering this album has never been released on CD, it was a treat digging these songs out of the vault to hear once again.
- “The Night’s Still Young” – an instant classic and an album highlight. While AFIC were great at ballads they could sure rock with the best of them and this is no exception! Spent many nights cranking this baby loud and clear! A first-rate rocker with a sweet Naumann solo!
- “Play My Guitar” – another gem that brings back the goosebumps of times gone by. A song about girls and guitar playing – what more could a 17-year-old dream about? Love the lyrics and of course Paul’s stunning guitar work. A truly magical experience.
- “Goodnight My Love” – a beautiful timeless masterpiece. Alex’s soothing voice just floats through the air in perfection. AFIC had an unusual way of making ballads not sound like ballads.
- “Why” – I just love this song, seriously. A chorus to die for. Leggat’s heart-stopping bass beat and Paul’s gentle plucking. The song is damn near perfect. I cannot listen once and leave. This is where I say – This should’ve been a huge commercial radio hit.
- “I Knew She Would” – a slower, softer little acoustic song in the vein of classic Very nice.
- “Driftaway” – a great rocking tune fueled with attitude and some fabulous guitar mixed with keys! I believe they still play this one live. Nice riff! Get the Led out!
- “Yes I’m Smiling” – on this, they return to their classic early 70’s sound. This anthem could fit on any of the first two albums. A bit rock, a bit blues a bit funk – this one has it all – highlighted by a 2 & ½ minute Danny Taylor drum solo right in the middle – and a damn fine one I might add. Odd but good.
- “Breaking Through” – the last song ever on an AFIC record may be one of their best. A soft start within a thunderstorm, then it kicks into high gear with another wonderful chorus and guitar solo. I keep thinking how much Alex’s voice was one of the finest ones in the business. They’re a lot of singers that sound great in their surroundings and then there are others that have a natural gift. He is one of them.
There you have one fine staple of Canadian music history from a legendary band. Just a note, by 1977 – three years between albums (which were an eternity back then) AFIC was down to only four members – minus Bob Horne who had left the year prior. The album didn’t do well commercially and the band broke up shortly thereafter. The sun had finally set on A Foot in Coldwater.
I consider myself very fortunate to have seen them in concert a few times as they were an amazing live band. Leggat’s pounding bass, Machin’s scream, Horne’s vibrating Hammond and Taylor‘s thundering drums made it all come alive. But not to be outdone in the mix of magic was Paul Naumann’s absolutely truly terrific style of guitar playing. I mention his name every time the “Who’s Canada’s best guitar player” question comes up. He’s right up there with Alex Lifeson, Rik Emmett, Frank Marino and Randy Bachman.
His style wasn’t all about constant blistering solos. It was about feeling and making his guitar sing to match the moment – acoustic and electric. Just listen to “Alone Together”, “He’s Always There Watching You” or “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” (later made popular by Helix). He was one of a kind who passed way too young.
Music was different in the 70’s. AFIC was the epitome of Canadian music where bands just wanted to be themselves and make good music. If a big hit came their way, fantastic. In the 80’s I felt that a lot of Canadian bands that were influenced by them tried too hard to Americanize themselves with the explosion of music videos.
AFIC still make give the odd performance here and there with various members coming and going but their music will live forever and I am grateful for that.
“Soon the whisper of your sweet voice will take the call from my fingers and let me play my guitar”
Brian “That 70’s Guy” Ronald