KERRANG! ISSUE 31 DECEMBER 1982
Sheron Alton and Holly Woods of TORONTO are out to getcha
NO PUBLICITY, however sly, or sneaky or sick could have planned a better opening move. Just ask Toronto!
When this Canadian sextet first on the scene back in 1980, their debut album caused pandemonium both in Canada and the US – or at least the cover did. Depicting a rather ’too knowing’ young girl (no more than ten years old, surely!) standing on a sleazy street corner, under the LP title of ‘Lookin’ For Trouble’, the resultant uproar was deafening in the extreme.
Lead guitarist Sheron Alton recalls those days, with less than complete enthusiasm: “In Canada, they freaked out at the sleeve. We were mentioned on TV programmes about child pornography, for example. And in the States, some women’s groups tried to get the album banned.”
Eventually, when said LP trickled out in England, it was with a drastically altered cover.
“I must admit that I’ve seen worse sleeves than our original one. But, you know, this whole pornography thing wasn’t intentional just to get publicity. We were just so excited about having an album out that we never bothered to check the artwork properly.
“Besides, everything had to be done at great speed, and the idea of a little girl dressed in her mother’s clothes sounded fine at the time – if only we’d known how it was gonna turn out!”
Yet, if the sleeve proved controversial, then the music was hot, hard, and heavy. Indeed, it was undoubtedly one of 1980’s genuine high-spots. Twin guitarists Brian Allen and London-born Ms Alton were efficiently captivating, Scott Kreyer weaved neatly compact keyboard patterns, the rhythm section of bassist Nickie Costello plus Jim Fox (drums) boomed, and Holly Woods gave a vocal performance of teal torch-carrying stature. The Toronto-based outfit (well, where else would you expect them to be from – Aylesbury?) put out the LP on the then newly-formed Solid Gold label in their home territory and on A&M for the remainder of the world.
As Sheron explains “it sold really well in Canada, going gold (about 50,000 sales), and has now done about 160-170,000 copies so far.”
But…. the rest of the globe didn’t exactly get the Toronto message. Maybe part of the problem was the drawing of obvious comparisons (less than complimentary at that) to Heart.
“Yeah, this did affect us badly in the early days and doubtless when we finally come to England and also start touring the States, then we’ll find the problem still exists. But In Canada we’ve now come out of Heart’s shadow.”
In all honesty, there’s a vast gulf between Heart and Toronto – the former are more measured and production-orientated than the latter, who tend to place far more emphasis on dynamics and energy. Yet it has to be said that Toronto didn’t help their crusade for recognition in their own right by releasing last year such a thoroughly disappointing LP in the form of Terry Brown-produced ‘Head On’, on which vinyl disaster Toronto DO sound like a poor person’s Heart.
“I’d agree that ‘Head On’ was a let-down for us,” admits the lovely lead axewoman. “Part of the reason might have been down to internal strife over musical direction between Nickie and Jim on one hand and the rest of us on the other. Consequently, there was little cohesion. We also spent too much time on the production side of things, and didn’t come up with sufficient good material. And l think the public obviously felt the same way as it only sold about 110,000 copies in Canada.”
Well, whatever the excuses for this somewhat numbing vinyl blow, everything in the Toronto garden is a lot rosier now. For, the third installment in this continuing saga, the Steve Smith-produced ‘Get It On Credit’, is in Sheron’s words “more rock and more energy than the second album. It’s much more in line with ‘Lookin’ For Trouble’. We’ve actually left in some of the flaws to give it a rawer, more live feel.’
Clearly the recent departure of Costello and Fox (before ‘Get It……’was cut) has given Toronto (to paraphrase Skynyrd) ‘back their bullets’. New boys Gary Allonde (bass) and Barry Connors (drums) are much more ‘the business’ as are melodic songs like ’Run For Your Life’ and ‘Start Telling The Truth’
‘Get In On Credit’ (an apt phrase for the modem era?) represents Toronto’s first liaison in the US with small label Network.
“We’ve signed with this company ‘cos they aren’t huge and therefore can give us more personal attention than A&M ever could – there are just three acts on the label altogether! Al Coury, who owns the company, actually promoted the Beatles when they first came out to the US, so we couldn’t have a better person behind us!”
In Britain, ‘Credit’ is soon to be released on Epic, and plans ARE afoot in theory for Ms Alton and colleagues to heave themselves over here soon.
“I really wanna come and play. Being English by birth means that I, for one, would dearly love to make it in the UK.”
Perhaps someone, somewhere will follow up Toronto’s obvious interest in a Brit tour, and make sure they get over before the year is out. How about a double-header with the fabbo LA outfit Storm? In the meantime, check out ‘Get It On Credit’ – it certainly shows just why Toronto are, alongside Anvil, the most talked-about new Canuck hard rock band on the scene.