Revisited: Superior Cackling Hen

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Revisited: Superior Cackling Hen

From the million-record-selling stadium band to that guy who used to sell cassettes on Queen Street, Torontoist readers share their stories of the city’s lost-but-not-forgotten musical acts. Today’s Revisited review comes from Cameron Gordon.
2007-04-10RevisitedBTC.jpgSuperior Cackling Hen
Bourbon Tabernacle Choir
Yonder Records/Sony
No band epitomized the communal spirit of early 1990’s Toronto more so than the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir. Their seasonal blend of soul, rock and funk made them a top live draw during that time and endeared the band to such mainstays as the Barenaked Ladies and the Rheostatics. Yet more than ten years after the fact, their presence on CD is virtually non-existent due to label wranglings and other factors.
A decent compilation, 1985-1995, is still available through Sony but none of the full-lengths are currently in print. Luckily, if you keep your eyeball to the grindstone (or something like that), you might find one of their albums popping up used or on eBay (I’ve seen copies of 1995’s Shy Folk selling for more than $40).
I bought this CD copy of Superior Cackling Hen at Refried Beats for $10.99 and not a moment too soon as my cassette version that I had dubbed from the Toronto Public Library system was/is in pretty rough shape. Featuring 13 solid tracks of funky Bourbons’ goodness, it’s an awesome album that still sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1992.
Tracks like “Grow,” “Build Me a Box” and “Two Clowns” are high-energy scorchers that are bound to put a smile on your face but it’s in the softer, more soulful moments where the band really shines. Especially in the distinctive vocals of Kate Fenner. Like a shot of whiskey tempered with licorice, Fenner croons through “Afterglow” and “You Can Come From Here” like a winterized version of Ella Fitzgerald. Playing yin to her yang is co-vocalist Chris Brown, whose own unique strand of blue-eyed soul adds much to the mix.
By the time the album wraps with the gorgeous “Song For Sam and Richard,” you’re left with a long lost CanCon classic. Let’s just hope more Bourbons’ stuff eventually resurfaces on CD before another generation misses out on the vintage 80 proof of these songs.
Torontoist Asks: Where Are They Now?
Torontoist could not read this review without wondering what happened to the stalwart members of the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir. With so much talent in that band, they couldn’t have simply disappeared from the musical landscape.
Using sophisticated investigative research techniques (a Google search), Torontoist discovered this unofficial BTC fan site. As suspected, the former Bourbons have been busy in the years since the band’s breakup. Read the band’s history on the site to learn more about what Chris Brown, Kate Fenner, Jason Mercer, Dave Wall, Chris Miller and Gene Hardy have been up to. The site also features music, radio interviews and video clips to help rekindle those Bourbon memories.
What lost Toronto music do you have in your collection? Send an album review (and a scan or photo of the cover) to Revisited and share your story!

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