Donna Marchand is a talented composer/lyricist/performer from Toronto, ON. You could add social/human rights activist, lawyer etc. to her roster of interests and achievements, and you'd be correct on all counts. 'in from the cold…' is a thought-provoking and insightful CD. It begins with "And On the Evidence". Its rousing intro carries its energy throughout the entire song. Marchand's powerful vocals are solid and forceful. Brian Didier plays some heavy duty bass lines, while Marchand sings, "You would turn on your own cousins to write your history!" That phrase effectively sums up injustice to our fellow man. "Ghostdance" is an invigorating seacoast mariner's ballad. Didier's strong bass lines complement Lorne Nehring's pulsating snare drum accompaniment. Evelyne Datl's tambourine and Kye Marshall's accordion rhythms add fullness to this piece.
"Minuet for the Staircase Children" has a down-east folksy feel to it. Marchand sings of "a sea-sick sailor, and an old photograph." Her rousing acoustic guitar rhythms complement Shelley Coopersmith's fine mandolin and violin playing. Sherry Shute's slide guitar playing is atmospheric and inventive. Lyrics like "Mama says so, and Papa says no, and grandma says life isn't easy", reflects a life of simple hardship very effectively. "Safe and Sound" is a rebel rouser. It begins with sounds of howling wind, footsteps, and a 'fateful' knock on a door. Echoes and reverb are employed very effectively part way through, evoking vivid vocal imagery. Marchand is one creative lady! Her vocals stand out well, as does Datl's rousing violin and Coopersmith's accordion playing.
"Shaking the Foundation" has a noticeable gospel/soul feel to it. Marchand's strong lead vocals are added to by the beautiful background vocal harmonies of Jani Lauzon, Louise Lambert and Gloria Mae Eshkibok. Some sweet guitar licks are again courtesy of Shute. Dennis Keldie's Hammond B3 riffs permeate the musical atmosphere. Marchand tells the listener that, "there's some rumblin' in the walls", and "you watch while the floors open up on you". The solid rhythm section backs her up all the way. "Businessman's Blues" is another insightful tune, with references to the 'last fish' 'lost resources' and 'poisoned rivers'. It begs the question, "what are we doing to the environment, and each other?" Shute's superb slide guitar and scorching guitar licks, come across as an incredibly live guitar jam. Playing this good, deserves a repeat performance wherever this fine band entertains. This lineup's a real pleasure to listen to. Marchand's powerful vocals here as on the other tracks; demonstrates her commanding vocal presence throughout this entire excellent CD.
"A Little Bird Told Me So" offers some tranquility, but also some stark imagery too. In "Fear and Hunger", Neil Chapman's haunting guitar riffs seem stimulated by Paul Antonio's rousing drumming. Marchand's moaning harmonies add atmosphere here. "Letter from San Francisco" is a song of relationship breakup, retrospect and regret. "Letter From … " runs rampant with metaphors such as "alone in this night, I must let go", "into the bottom of the well, into the flood", "I guess I got too close, I got burned" - interspersed with reminiscences and regrets.
"The River and the Sea" has a tranquil 'found peace' air to it. Didier's bass lines add purpose to Marchand's vocals, accompanied by Coopersmith's fine mandolin and violin playing. The orchestration here is first rate! Marchand asks "What can you see in the river, that you can't see in the sea … that you can't see in me?" The lyrics are deep, as the 'sea of imagination' she 'fishes' her imagery from.
"Where Are All the Children?" evokes in its title and the subject of its lyrics, Marchand's main interest -- children's rights. She's hoping to become a judge, so she can further her hopes and dreams in the areas of social injustice and inequality. Lorne Nehring's violin accompaniment seems to cry despair. Chapman's insightful guitar riffs offer kindness and hope. The sounds of marching and orders to "keep file" are heard, as they flow appropriately into "If They Take Us In the Morning". Marchand's rousing, spirited vocals sing "If they come before the morning, I'll be here in your arms" - seemingly a love song within a 'war zone'. "In From the Cold", the title track, is a moody, atmospheric concept piece. Marchand sings "Out from the fire .. In from the cold". Chapman's leads cut through the murky atmosphere of Keldie's moog synthesizer/organ riffs, while the Angels of the Homestretch Choir sing moody background harmonies.
The final tune on this thought-provoking CD, is the only instrumental -- simply entitled "Peggy's Waltz". It's altogether different in mood and concept from the rest of this inspired musical commentary on injustice and life's ups and downs -- albeit amid ingenious, indigenous creativity. It's light, airy, friendly, happy and incredibly well orchestrated. It features classical guitars, a tuba, french horns, violins and cellos. It seems to suggest the sentiment, 'If the world was better, and our lives were better, it would always be like "Peggy's Waltz"' -- safe and warm, 'in from the cold'.
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