It’s a bit of an understatement to say that Sass Jordan is one of Canada’s top female rock vocalists of this or any time. The record speaks for itself. And with an infectiously upbeat, ebullient personality, her trademark powerful, raucous voice, and an impressive catalogue of hits stretching back nearly three decades, her legacy as both a popular and important Canadian recording artist is secure.
But Jordan is not one to simply rest on her laurels. Even after the seismic shifts that the music industry has undergone over the past 15 years, Jordon continued to write, record and release new music, and remains a significant draw as a live act, performing regularly throughout Canada, and also in Europe and the U.S.
“My touring schedule fluctuates from year to year, but for some reason there have been a lot of calls for shows this year, especially in the second half of the year. Some years there have been lots, but there seems to be more and more and more,” Jordan said.
“But I actually don’t know why. It’s a solid question. I know one thing, it seems to be that what they call classic rock seems to be enjoying a renaissance. There are way more of the quote unquote ‘classic rock’ bands out there right now I find, and they seem to be the ones doing the best business, outside of the country acts which are so big right now.
“It is interesting to look out into the audience and see a lot of younger people these days too. And it wasn’t like that for a while, so I think that could be part of the reason. It could be because of classic rock radio and satellite radio, and maybe some of these kids who are into vinyl are getting my stuff that way, or are just being turned onto classic rock artists in general, and really loving the music. I really can’t say for sure, but I am definitely lovin’ it.”
She has recently confirmed a number of small-scale, intimate shows throughout Ontario in the fall. Before then, she will be playing a Labour Day weekend show in Moncton on Sept. 2, and then sharing a bill with Trooper on Sept. 9 at the CFB Kingston Family Fun Festival.
Formerly a background singer to the well-known Montreal pop band The Box (Closer Together, Ordinary People, Carry On) she moved out front to become a solo artist in the late 1980s, releasing her first album Tell Somebody in 1988, which featured three hit singles, including the title track, Stranger Than Paradise and Double Trouble.
Racine was her second album, and took her in a grittier, bluesier direction, reminiscent of the music created by The Black Crowes in the U.S. at the time. Rats was even heavier and more intense emotionally, but when it was released in 1994, came on the heels of the Seattle sound taking over the music industry, and was not as big a seller as it should have been, based on the excellence of the songs and performances
“When Rats came out, it was right after Nirvana and that whole thing, so it was seen as passé. That kind of blues rocky stuff was out of fashion and they you put on top of that that I am female and then it’s even more impossible to sell. The fact that it did as well as it did was pretty remarkable, considering the climate that it came out in was so unfriendly towards what I was doing. It’s more so now, but at the time it was not a traditionally female, feminine type of music,” Jordan said.
“And I remember being told very specifically by the record company that the radio programmers were coming back to them and they were absolutely horrified that there was a girl singing the word ‘pissing’ [from the song Pissin’ Down]. They said, ‘oh my God, we’re never going to play that on our radio, you can’t have a girl saying pissing.’ Isn’t that unbelievable. And now you look at the rappers and some of the things they say, female hip hop artists too and it’s incredible. I was seen in a different vein than people like Courtney Love, because she was directly associated with Nirvana and she was brand new.
“I was seen as what was called Album Oriented Rock. So Rats not doing as well as it should was all down to timing and fashion. But if you hang in long enough, like me, then you end up coming back into fashion. And people have been saying they want to hear more of that music again, we’ve talked informally to a lot of fans and they say they would like is to do the same thing with Rats that we did with Racine, but you know what, I really want to do something new.”
Racine is Jordan’s most commercially successful album and spawned five singles, four of which made the Canadian top 20 charts, with Make You a Believer and You Don’t Have to Remind Me making the top 15 in the U.S.. Those two tracks, as well as I Want to Believe, Goin’ Back Again and Who Do You Think You Are still get regular airplay on classic rock radio and satellite stations.
“I think I am probably the worst person you could ask as to why it was a hit. I have no idea why that album worked. My first three albums all worked to a certain degree. Racine was the biggest seller, for sure, but why? That’s impossible for me to say. I guess the songs just struck a chord with people. I think in general people like the music that I make because of the energy it’s made with. That’s the only thing I can think of,” she said.
But when it came to celebrating Racine’s 25th anniversary this year, instead of doing what many artists do on such occasions – remix or remaster the album with a couple of bonus or live tracks – she decided to truly revisit the album, re-recording it in its entirety, but with a very specific vibe in mind.
“I was thinking, ‘what can we do that’s different?’ And then we thought of the idea of re-recording it, but we through instead of bringing it up to date, like making it sound like it’s from now, why don’t we push it back in the Misty Mountain Hop days of the 1970s and make it as if we were actually recording in in the 1970s. We would all live together in the studio and record live off the floor. We won’t use any Autotune or click track or anything like that,” she said of the Racine Revisited project.
“We just pretended like we were in the 1970s, and you can really hear that on the album, it sounds amazing. It’s not even that drastically different from the original one. Although of course it is different because there are different players on it. I have Rudy Sarzo [Whitesnake, Quiet Riot, Ozzy] Brent Fitz [Slash, Econoline Crush, Theory of a Deadman] Derek Sharp [Jordan’s partner and current lead vocalist for the latest incarnation of The Guess Who] and Chris Caddell [from Jordan’s touring band, who also plays with Colin James]. So there is going to be a different sound and a different vibe and it’s not the exact same moment in time or recorded at the same place.
“I think it’s true enough to the original to not be upsetting to someone who really loves the original, but it’s different enough to make you go, ‘oh, that’s kind of cool. I wasn’t expecting that.’ And I picked players that I had known for years, that I have been playing with a lot and I knew exactly what they could do.”
Jordan’s last album was the roots/folk-inspired masterstroke From Dusk ‘Til Dawn which came out in 2009. She then released the Something Unto Nothing (S.U.N.) album in 2011 with Brian Tichy (Dead Daisies, Whitesnake, Foreigner) but hasn’t released any new original material since.
That will change next year, as she confirmed that here will be a new album coming out sometime in 2018.
“There is something coming next year, and that’s 100 per cent for sure. It’s going to be a full album, under my name although I don’t see a reason to put a whole lot of songs on a record any more, especially if you’re doing it on vinyl too. I mean you can do it however the hell you want now and it doesn’t make any difference. But actually vinyl sounds better with about eight songs, according to the mastering guys, so I might just do an eight-song album,” Jordan said.
“Think about Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin and all your favourite records from the 1970s and early 1980s, they were all about 18 minutes a side. But in the 1990s people were going well over an hour, and putting 13 or 14 songs because of CDs. I would rather have eight great songs anyways than 12 songs where two of them aren’t so great. It’s quality over quantity for me.”
She said the music on the as-yet untitled project is going to be very much in the Racine and Rats vein.
“I have a lot of new music in the pipeline and some of it is really bluesy and some of it almost country-rootsy, which is more like Racine, whereas Rats was more gritty blues rock. But this new stuff is definitely in those veins – that’s what I do best, so you’ve got to do what you do best,” she said, adding that in the current world climate, people want music that will allow them to forget the troubles of the day and let off some steam.
Fans looking to order advanced copies of Racine Revisited – which is due out Sept. 15 – can do so on Jordan’s website, where they can also check out upcoming tour dates. For details, visit www.sassjordan.com.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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