STREAM OF THE WEEK: Saskadelphia by The Tragically Hip
What’s better than getting previously unreleased music from Canada’s favourite band? How about getting it as a surprise?
Well, it turns out until recently the existence of this collection of music was a secret to even the band. Sure, they remember recording the songs during the sessions of one of their many classic albums Road Apples back in 1991.
Originally scheduled to be titled Saskadelphia (as a pun between the band's regiment of touring North America at the time between cities like Saskatoon and Philadelphia), the title was scrapped by the label for being “too Canadian”. However, as happens often, once the band selected which songs would make the album, the original sessions were tossed into storage and forgotten about. Then in 2008 Universal Studios Hollywood caught on fire destroying the King Kong ride, several backlot streets, and thousands of original prints for film, tv and music. Among the artists who lost original Master Tracks to the fire were Bryan Adams, Sheryl Crow, Nirvana, Slayer and Elton John. The Tragically Hip were also reported by the New York Times to have lost their tapes, but in 2019 they found out that in fact their tapes had been returned safely to Canada some years before the fire. At least one song, “Montreal,” may have been lost to the fire but the band have included a great live version from a 2000 concert at the Molson Centre, as it was known at the time.
Being just six tracks long it absolutely leaves you wanting more but serves as an amazing tribute to the power and energy that was Gord Downie. It also served as a healing process for the band as it gave them a project to focus on that allowed them to honour and grieve Gord in a healthy manner.
Calling these songs B-Sides is almost a disservice. After all, what could have been taken off Road Apples to make room? Big singles like Little Bones and Twist My Arm? Fan favourite Coredelia? The haunting Long Time Running (one of my personal favourite Hip songs). The heartbreaking Fiddler’s Green (written for Gord’s nephew who passed away during the recording)?
Saskadelphia delivers with the opening track Ouch which is Gord Downie at his best, delivering a passionate, voice-straining vocal delivery. Not Necessary wouldn’t sound out of place with any of The Hip’s albums at the time and Crack My Spine Like A Whip even incorporates some of the behind the scenes work from the studio in the intro. It’s touches like this that make fans feel like they are in the studio with a band in their prime in New Orleans, trying to harness the energy of their impressive live show.
The Hip will be performing at the Juno Awards on June 4th with special guest Feist but they insist they are done making new music after the passing of Gord Downie. However, with the fact that Road Apples is only the band’s second album – we can only hold out hope there exists more hidden gems like this for each of the band’s subsequent eleven studio albums.
One thing’s for sure: Gord may have left us physically but his music will live on forever.