Formed in 1971 under the leadership of Allard Barkhouse, Snakeye originally started out as a blues based outfit. Therefore, their first effort, 'Blue Feelin' (released in 1975) is probably not of interest to melodic rock fans - unless of course you happen to be a die hard collector. After a 5 year hiatus, Snakeye finally got around to releasing album number two in 1979. In the intervening years there had been various changes in band personnel and a shift in musical direction. In their own words, you could say that Snakeye shipped out their blues pretensions, and shaped up as a progressive hard rock band. Drummer and lead vocalist Allard Barkhouse pipe's are a deadringer for Kenny Shields of Streetheart - although his dulcet tones are probably a little less rough around the edges. Naturally then, Snakeye evoke comparison with early Streetheart, albeit with a more straight forward 'no frills', and less 'new wave' approach. I would say that 'Shape Up Or Ship Out' is fairly typical of the sound peddled by a lot of Canadian melodic hard rock bands of the late 1970's - that is to say musically competent, a good sense of melody, and slightly left-field from their mainstream US counterparts. Messrs Lake and Moore operate as a tight unit, their lead guitars harmonising as effectively as those of Bill Kelly and Jerry Hludzik did on Dakota's debut album which was released the same year. Their opening guitar tones on 'Walk It Off' being the best example of this.
Even though the band had no full time keyboard player as such, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the material on the album was not as two dimensional as I'd anticipated (fellow keyboard and pomp lovers will surely understand my comments). There is a good deal of light and shade on the album, the mellower moments of 'Just A Feelin' contrasting nicely with the brooding See The Son' which was originally aired on 'Blue Feelin'. Here it is given a complete overhaul and is virtually unrecognisable from the pedestrian (i.e 'dull') original. This is an epic number which opens with swirling synths, its pompous undertones give fellow Canuck's The Hunt (circa 'Back On The Hunt') a run for their money. 'Believe Me Lady', also from their debut is similarly re-vamped on 'SUOSO' and given the hard rock make-over. Perhaps the most obvious Streetheart comparison come in the shape (pardon the pun..) of 'Looking Through A Window' and the title cut, the latter of which has some great talkbox guitar a la Peter Frampton. Both tunes have that unmistakable late seventies groove - think Streetheart's 'Look At Me' from 'Meanwhile Back In Paris' and you'll have some idea of what I mean. The dreamy album closer 'I'm Coming Home' shows that Snakeye hadn't completely forgotten their roots. It's a lengthy blues orientated workout which they've perform in exemplary fashion. Mercifully it doesn't fall into the trap of being ersatz blues - ie a tedious overlong workout designed to massage the guitarist's ego.
Despite their obvious potential the band failed to make any headway and eventually disbanded in 1982 - This gives you an idea as to the quality of the competition back then in the halcyon days of melodic rock. Amazingly, the band played a reunion gig last year with fellow Nova Scotia old timers Molly Oliver and Oakley, though whether this will prompt the re-release of their back catalogue on CD or any new material remains to be seen.
In 2003, Allard barkhouse released a 2CD set called 'Snakeye - 1971-1979', containing most of the tracks from the two Snakeye albums along with several previously unreleased tracks. CDs have been for sale at reunion gigs in their native Nova Scotia over the past few years. The 2CD set contains 30 songs, 17 on disc 1, 13 on disc 2.
Talking of which, fellow Nova Scotians OAKLEY also privately released their one off 1980 album on CD within the last few years. They also occasionally get out and play reunion gigs as well.
Allard Barkhouse: lead vocals, drums
Steve Russell: bass, vocals
John Lake: guitar, vocals
Drew Moore: guitar, vocals
Neil MacKinnon: keyboards
Glen Torreson: guitar
Produced by Allard Barkhouse
Engineered by Harold Tsistinas
Recorded at Solar Audio Recording
Mastered at The Lacquer Channel Limited
Artwork: Rand Gaynor
Photography by Terry Pulliam
Recording Supervisor: Ralph Cole
Technician (Live Sound): Russ Wood