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The Blue Shadows

On the Floor of Heaven - Deluxe Edition Reissue – 2010 (Bumstead)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by The Blue Shadows

Deluxe double-disc reissues are typically reserved for albums that have had some landmark effect in their time, whether through sales, or influence or both. But in the case of this debut record from short-lived Canadian country group the Blue Shadows, the exact opposite holds true. Not only was it virtually unknown in the U.S. it wasn't even released here; so, not surprisingly, outside of a few reviewers (including this one, who only came to know of the record as a Canadian ex-pat who made periodic returns to the homeland), the record completely escaped critical notice in the U.S. For all intents, then, this reissue is serving as an introduction, 17 years after its initial release, to a record and a band that can be said without exaggeration to have a singular sound.

The band itself parsed that sound with the catchphrase "Hank goes to the Cavern Club," and songs like If I Were You serve as jaw-dropping illuminations of that characterization. But the music of the Blue Shadows also brings to mind the classic meldings of country and pop produced by Roy Orbison, and especially through the incredible harmonizing of principals Jeffrey Hatcher and Billy Cowsill, the Everly Brothers (when you hear songs like A Thousand Times, it's hard to believe that you aren't listening to the Everlys). And it swings towards harder country sounds, too, with the steel and ringing Rickenbacker combo of the mournful title track, and the shuffling honky-tonk of The Fool is the Last One to Know. The reissue supplements the original album with a handful of outtakes that stand tall alongside their released brethren, as well as covers of Haggard, Jones, Joni Mitchell and Arthur Alexander. But its real virtue is in finally making this masterpiece available again, and available to the wider audience that it deserves. Better late than never.