I put this record on having literally no idea what to expect. What I got was a great big ball-busting blues album that has some great harmonica, a lot of killer slide guitar and lyrics that, while not exactly profound, seem to fit right in with the rowdy nature of the album as a whole. The album starts with "Blind Girl" a song that sounds like it could have been recorded by The Who or Zeppelin. This might seem odd of a Toronto based blues band makes complete sense when you look at the fact that the band actually had its first big successes in England playing the same clubs at the same time as those monoliths of the English rock scene. Kind of a reverse Beatle-mania thing I suppose. The rest of the album touches on all sorts of different aspects of the blues, from the twangy almost country sound of "Get Down To" to the 8 minute long extended jam on "Going to Toronto" with some great dirty guitar playing. This album is full of energy and kind of all over the place and is going to take a little listening to to really get a hold of.
The more I learned about this band and the more I listened to the album, the more I liked them. These guys were rocking Yorkville when it was cool, poor and bohemian. They were neck deep in the same cultural movement that brought about Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Rochdale College, and Margaret Atwood. This album is pretty heavy and when you put it in the context of early 1970's Toronto these guys seem to have captured it perfectly. The more I listen to what seemed initially like a crazy string of high energy songs, the more you can see that they are not so all over the place at all. I like to think of this album as a rowdy house party. Every song is a different guest with a different personality, who while they all may seem different at first, all have one thing in common, they have come to have a killer time. This album is tied together by its ridiculousness, well that, and some of the best dirty harmonica and slide guitar I have heard in a long time. (The final track is a highland reel played on the harmonica and is worth buying the album for all by itself) "I am Normal" says it best when it has a bunch of people chanting "I am normal" in what are decidedly not normal voices. On this album crazy IS normal, and it invites all the other weirdos to the party, just as long as you are ready to get rowdy.
During the research for this writeup I came across perhaps one of the most telling facts about Mainline: They were picked as the last band to ever play the El Mocambo, one of the mainstays of the Toronto Rock Scene for over 60 years. Both Mainline and the Elmo are from a time when Toronto wasn't the financial capital of the country, Montreal was. Toronto had kids and counter-culture, and places like Yorkville were young, full of energy and experimenting with all of the new ideas and philosophies that came along with the hippies in the 60's and early 70's. Canada, Our Home and Native Land is a reflection of that frenetic energy that really is a little harder to find in Toronto these days. If Joni Mitchell and Neil Young were the poets of their generation, then Mainline was their Drunken, Horny younger brother. They may not have had the grace and mystique of their older siblings, but everyone made sure to be at their party