Blue Peter: Falling Canada CD DLX RM 
- Don’t Walk Past
- Red Filters
- All Your Time
- Unchained Heart
- Head Over Heels
- Burning Bridges
- Right Stuff
- Water Off The Moon
- Night Duty
- Throw It Down
- Lap Of Luxury
- Steal Away
- Into The Parade
It was during random intervals of MTV ca. 1983 that I happened to see/hear Blue Peter for the first time. They were a Canadian band who managed the neat trick of having their single “Don’t Walk Past” played on MTV in The States at that time… without having a record released over here… ever! The band slotted right into the 1983 zeitgeist fairly effortlessly. They seemed like a post-New Romantic dance/rock band that might have been the Duran Duran to Spoons Japan, if that means anything! I think I even snagged the clip on one of my MTV all-nighters where I set a black tape to record for four and a half hours in the dead of night, to better get the stuff that wasn’t being pushed but that was still on their playlists [as published in Billboard at the time].
“Don’t Walk Past” was a nice piece of finely etched dance-rock that probably was a staple of CFNY-FM. The video was nice, as I recall. Shot on 16mm for a cinematic look. The song haunted me for, oh decades. <flash forward 25 years> It was 2008 until I finally did something about it! I snooped around and discovered that Universal Music Canada had issued several Blue Peter CDs, nicely filled with probably everything that the band ever released and then some, so I managed to order the import of “Falling” and finally had my curiosity sated.
The group were definitely walking a fine line of hip, New Wave credibility, and good old fashioned schmaltz, with New Wave winning the battle, most of the time. Vocalist Paul Humphrey had a set of pipes reminiscent of Alphaville’s Marion Gold for a sophisticated feel in the well-tilled Bowie/Ferry zone. Most of the songs were written by guitarist Chris Wardman, and the band acquired a new keyboardist for this, their final [and most successful] album in Jason Sniderman; scion to the most impressive Sam The Record Man retail empire. The ten tracks were produced by Steve Nye of Japan/Roxy Music/XTC fame, so they weren’t fooling around. I guess they couldn’t get John Punter since he was busy with Spoons at this time! “Don’t Walk Past” set the bar fairly high. Why not give a listen?
The drums over rhythm box as on display here is a familiar Canadian New-Ro trope. Spoons were all over that action on “Arias + Symphonies.” The busy JP6 arpeggiator add a little Nick Rhodes sauce to the goose here, but the freshest part of this mix is the extensive, instro middle eight with gently psychedelic overdubs and sound bites adding a little vertigo to the mix before wrapping it up back on point.
“Red Filters” captures the band’s MOR side with a cut that could have been a country tune in other hands. More typical is “All Your Time,” which has that Roxy Music “Flesh + Blood” feel via a prominent Fender Rhodes electric piano. It’s amazing, but even as late as 1983, I was still hearing music that sounded as if it were cut from the cloth that album was created from a good three years later; an eternity in pop.
Surprisingly, there was only one single from the “Falling” album, with “Don’t Walk Past” as the hit, but the band released an EP of remixes with four tracks given the remake-remodel twist. “Head Over Heels” was one given the extended remix treatment, but this cut should have been a 7″ from the album proper. The JP6 is firing away with fiddly little arpeggios redolent of the sound that Duran only used on “Hungry Like The Wolf” but explored further here.
Blue Peter were a band that I find likable most of the time. They were almost “hip” but they hedged their bets with a few really MOR ringers. “Right Stuff” could almost be a Laura Branigan pop number and its presence on “Falling” with such candyfloss/singalong melodies mark it as a song that guitarist Chris Wardman might have been better off letting someone else cover. Overall, “Falling” is a pretty good album with parts that are very good with a few head scratchers thrown in for maximum confusion. But what makes this CD a mandatory purchase are the bonus tracks.
The group split up a year or so after this album was released, but they made serious inroads into demos for their never released followup album. The last eight tracks of this CD are the previously unreleased “Vertigo” album given belated life. Quite frankly, these songs show the band having undergone enormous growth from the previous record! The “album” begins with “Water Off The Moon,” a much more sophisticated number that shows the group really benefiting from the tighter integration of Sniderman on synths after touring on “Falling.”
Sniderman also co wrote half of this material, which the band demoed at Sound Exchange studios with their engineer Kevin Doyle co-producing. It speaks volumes that this material smokes the recording made by Steve Nye the previous year! The band apologize for the sound quality in the liner notes, but there are only a few slight anomalies that rear their heads. The tracks were cut without overdubs and the mind boggles at what might have been done with this material in the studio with a hot producer. Actually, the songs are so good, they don’t need “production.” Check out “Equalizer.”
Yow! That shows the band touching on the fiery synth rock bastion of Icehouse at their apex. The tightly coiled rhythm guitars and spectral synths mark this as material that would have sat well on Icehouse’s “Measure For Measure” album; which had not been recorded yet! And there’s no MOR material here to sap the energy level. It’s definitely more rock than dance, and while that’s in keeping in the spirit of the encroaching mid-80s, in this case, it’s not such a bad thing.
This remains the only Blue Peter album I’ve heard, but after a 25 year wait, I’m disinclined to repeat the trick before I hear the band’s earlier material, which is still easily available as was this disc. I bought this for an an embarrassing pittance several years ago and more nooks and crannies of the band from 1979 to the 1983 period of this disc remain available. I’d be a fool not to investigate further.
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You’re the only blogger, other than myself, who has mentioned this under rated Canadian band, and it was a pleasure to read. Even fellow Canadian music lovers usually don’t mention them. A double bill with The Spoons, at a de-iced hockey rink was my very first concert (I think I was 12 or 13?), and I went right out and bought Arias and Symphonies and Falling and played them to death. Falling is the better record, but don’t stop there, pick up Radio Silence as well. As you mentioned they’re affordable, and contain all the period besides, etc. nice job!
ianbalentine – Welcome to the comments [extremely belatedly, as I just saw this] but I can only imagine what a double bill of Spoons and Blue Peter must have been to a young music fan like yourself. Wow! Though I still think you are insane to rate “Falling” over “Arias + Symphonies;” surely the best Canadian album of all time?!
I would rate “Cold war night life” by Rational Youth as the best Canadian album. Pure gold and godlike genius! Though “Arias & Symphonies” is a really strong and catchy record, I love it very much. In fact, Canada gave lots of fantastic “New Wave” LPs during that time, I could roll quite a list instantly. And yes, it’s nice that you mention Blue Peter – a band that kind of fell through the cracks but did their fair share of goodness. Probably as good a time as any to go and revisit their stuff :)
Vlad – Jordan in the comments has also mentioned Rational Youth…memo to self!