Danny Marks – Big Town Boy

Big Town Boy

On his Off The Floor Live! album, from 1996, Amos Garrett talks about all the clubs and acts he heard as a kid along Toronto’s Yonge Street – the Shays, David Clayton Thomas’ pre-Blood Sweat & Tears, with Freddie Keeler on guitar – over a John Lee Hooker boogie. Stuff we never heard “south of the border.”

Danny Marks has filled that void with a trip through space and time, back to the Toronto scene of the ’60s. Or I should say, the Toronto radio scene – because it’s a mix of local heroes, Canadian covers of English and American hits and B-sides, and the eclectic sounds that were streaming out of the radio when radio was cool. So the repertoire represents a regional scene, but isn’t confined to a regional sound; it encompasses all the sounds that were blasting into and out of Toronto – some blasted by Marks himself. And he recreates the Shays’ “Take Me Back” in perfect garage fashion, with a gnarly nod to the aforementioned Keeler.

Thanks to excellent, no-nonsense production by bassist Alec Fraser, with assists from Marks and drummer Leon Stevenson, the sound is great throughout, without resorting to nostalgia or gimmicks.

Similarly, Marks plays what the tune calls for, not what would show off his hottest licks. In other words, he’s got taste – even when all a song like “Tiger” needs is a repeated one-note bend through the 12-bar changes. The Fabian cover is one of the CD’s two non-Canadian entries, and if you’re thinking Fabian personifies the lightweight end of early rock and roll, you’re right – but Danny proves that “Tiger” is a cool song, nonetheless.

Our friends to the north got a lot of these songs second-hand – so the Sevilles’ classic “Charlena,” was a standard by Ritchie Knight And The Mid Knights; Young Jessie’s “Mary Lou” was a bigger hit by Ronnie Hawkins whose part-Canadian combo, the Hawks, later became the Band.

The album closes with Danny covering himself (as it were), with Edward Bear’s 1970 hit, “You, Me And Mexico.” All I need now is a compilation CD of the original (or, I should say, Canadian) versions of these songs. Marks has piqued my interest.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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